Thursday, April 18, 2013

Underrepresented African American workers in Illinois

Because I am from Illinois, I was looking at articles from Illinois and ran across an interesting find today. The article, based out of Austin, Illinois, which is a suburb of Chicago, talked about how African Americans are underrepresented in the work force, and especially state agencies. Of the states 44,500 workers, only 9,400 are African American, and less than 10 percent of these workers work for state agencies. Even sadder, is that this number has stayed the same for over three years. This is especially interesting because in December 2012, a law was passed in Illinois that gave the Illinois Department of Management Services the responsibility of ensuring that state agencies take steps to hire more African Americans, and also created the African American Employment Plan Advisory Council to help achieve their goals. However, since the passing of the law, there has been no noticeable increase in African American employment in state agencies throughout all of Illinois because no one has enforced the law as of yet.
            The numbers I read this article were very alarming to me. It is obviously harder for African Americans to get employed, especially within state agencies, which probably dates all the way back to right after slavery. Although hundreds of years have gone by and a number of laws and amendments have been passed to try to ensure equality and put an end to segregation, the work force needs to have more attention paid to it. While it may be easier to focus on Civil Rights that directly threaten people’s freedom, labor rights are just as important because it ensures quality of life.  These numbers also means that African American unemployment rates are much higher than other races like whites, at least in Illinois and probably in other states as well. High unemployment rates usually means a lot of people are homeless, and it can also increase the amount of crime like it has in Austin, Illinois. 
            This piece reminded me of class discussions about discrimination and also how the Civil Rights Movement is a continuous movement, rather than a movement with set time periods and events. I also think it is important that this underrepresentation is in northern states like Illinois, to remind us that the United States struggles with equality as whole, and not just the South. I think it is vital that when Illinois focuses on creating more jobs in the future, they also ensure that African Americans are receiving the same opportunities as other races in the work force, and especially in state agencies.

What do you think Illinois should do to help enforce this new law? Do you think African Americans in other states are just as underrepresented in state agencies as they are in Illinois? 

Makenzie Martin 

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