It's frustrating to keep listening to politicians proclaim that the recession is over.
"We are poised for progress," President Obama said in his recent State of the Union address. "Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again."
While the recession may be officially over, try telling that to millions of struggling black and Latinos.
In January, unemployment rates for these groups were alarmingly high (15.7 for blacks and 11.9 percent for Latinos), and the future doesn't look rosy. A recent report from the Economic Policy Institute predicts that the unemployment rate through 2012 will remain more than 15 percent among blacks and around 11 percent among Latinos, and that it could take up to a decade or more before pre-recession levels of unemployment are restored.
More and more families have long ago spent down their savings, and more and more people are struggling to afford basic needs such as food, housing, transportation and medical care. In New York, for instance, a recent report on hunger in the city found that one-third of New Yorkers have been forced to reduce their food intake to get by financially.
Black and Latino families are continuing to disproportionally experience economic hardship, points out another report from the Boston-based research organization United for a Fair Economy. The reason is that they entered the recession with a meager cushion. In 2007, blacks had only a dime and Latinos 12 cents of assets compared to every dollar whites had.
"Very clearly, they don't have the wealth to withstand and to endure economic hardships in the same way white families are able," says Mazher Ali, a co-author of the report.
The unemployment figures also make clear what millions of black and Latinos already know: that the recession is far from over, and it won't be over until they have a decent job that allows them to meet their basic needs. We need to implement policies that specifically target those communities hardest hit by the recession.
"Even if the black educational profile was the same as whites, blacks would still have a much higher unemployment rate. So, we need a stronger commitment to anti-discrimination and targeted job creation," says Algernon Austin, director of the Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy at the Economic Policy Institute.
But it will be difficult to implement the right policies if politicians refuse to acknowledge that even though the recession is supposed to be over, it doesn't feel like that for millions of people. All the happy talk about the recovery doesn't do a thing for those who see no recovery in sight.
Eva Sanchis is a writer for El Diario-La Prensa. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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