Tonight my family, like many others, tuned in to watch President Obama lay out his plan to revive our nation’s economy.
We were pleased to hear a plan that addresses the nation’s twin needs to spur job creation and fight employment discrimination. And I am proud to report that we, NAACP activists across the country, have had a lot to do with the focus that each is receiving in the White House.
Economic growth and job creation are top priorities for all American families as the unemployment rate hovers above 9 percent nationwide. When one considers that that figure jumps more than 16 percent for black communities—not to mention more than 40 percent for young black men in many communities—it becomes painfully clear that job creation is not enough.
We need to spur job creation and fight employment discrimination at the same time.
Fortunately, the President understands, and offered the sort of "both/and" plan we need more of in America.
The President recognized that some parts of the country have been disproportionately impacted by the unemployment crisis – and that those areas should receive special consideration for tax incentives and stimulus funding. This means that hard-hit urban areas like Detroit and Cleveland, along with countless rural communities from coast to coast, will receive the assistance they need.
President Obama discussed transparency and the urgent need for a higher level of accountability in job creation. It’s not enough to simply create new jobs—we need jobs that are based here in the United States if we are going to build an economy that works for all Americans. The President’s plan will ensure that companies receiving tax incentives to create new jobs prioritize those jobs created here at home.
The President also announced an urgently needed strategy to address youth unemployment. We know that with an unemployment rate upwards of 25% our young people have struggled more than any other demographic. By putting a focus on youth job development, the President is making an investment in the future of all our communities.
These are all policies for which the NAACP has advocated, alongside many of our allies in the civil and human rights communities.
However, we also heard the President call for an end to employment discrimination against the unemployed. Simply put, he issued this charge because we asked for it.
In my job I travel around this country virtually every week. As I do I talk to NAACP activists like you. They have made it clear that it’s already difficult enough to find a job in this economy, but for those who have been out of work months on end, that gap on the resume can make getting hired nearly impossible.
This rapidly increasing form of employment discrimination is compounding old familiar ones like racism and sexism, and if we are to turn this economy around we must understand that fighting employment discrimination must be as high a priority as job creation.
When I sat down to meet with the President in the Oval Office in July, I relayed the specific concerns our members had expressed about job discrimination including the confounding problem of employment discrimination against the unemployed. The President responded very clearly that he would address the problem immediately. Tonight, we heard him commit to the nation do just that.
Tonight President Obama outlined an agenda – one that is pro-civil rights, pro-human dignity, and pro-American Dream for all. I am proud that the NAACP has been involved in the discussions and work that laid the groundwork for these historic initiatives, but I also know that our work will not end with a speech and a plan.
It will take a continued commitment to see these ideas through. I urge you to challenge your member of Congress to support President Obama’s strategy and to fight to create jobs and combat employment discrimination in your home town.
Together we can reach the bold vision that we have been fighting for. It begins with achieving the “both/and" agenda to spur job creation and fight employment discrimination our President laid out tonight.
Benjamin Todd Jealous
President and CEO
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