Keep Your Head Up
When I finished my Master’s degree in 2008, I contemplated becoming a college professor until my magazine took off. Teaching college students would be different than teaching grade school because I wouldn’t have to motivate students to apply themselves in order to secure a bright future.
However, because of the recession and exorbitant Black unemployment rates, many of my students have entered the “real world” and have found nothing but rejection when they attempted to enter the workforce.
According to the Labor Department, Black unemployment rose to a staggering 16.7 percent (and 19.1 percent amongst Black males) in August, while White unemployment fell to eight percent. Since 1972, Black unemployment rates have been consistently double that of their White counterparts.
“(August’s) numbers continue to bear out that pattern that minorities have a much more challenging time getting jobs,” said Chief Economist Bill Rodgers of the Heldrich Center For Workforce Development at Rutgers University.
Many factors can be blamed for the high Black unemployment rate such as discrimination, fewer Blacks receiving college degrees and location, but those factors do not matter to a Dean’s List student who just wants a chance to showcase his/her talents in corporate America.
I constantly read Facebook and Twitter posts by my former students and I understand where their frustration is coming from. Your entire life you are persuaded to go to college because a quality education is your gateway to success. But when you reach your educational goals, you realize that very few outside of your college campus are concerned about your future success.
Fortunately, I empathize with my students because I have been there, and technically I am still there. I graduated college right after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, a time when the prospects of finding a job were as bleak as they are now. I decided to enter law school, but when I realized that was not my calling in life, I did not know which direction to turn because I did not have a plan B.
Desperate to find any kind of work, I applied for hundreds of jobs and received three interviews and no job offers. After finally landing a few freelance journalism gigs, I realized writing was my talent and I decided to enter the graduate journalism program at Texas Southern University (TSU).
While sitting in my first graduate school course, and still unemployed, I developed the idea for Regal Magazine and have been going strong for approximately five years, despite finding advertising dollars scarce.
As a result of the lack of advertising dollars, I decided to go back to TSU to teach part time in the same journalism department that birthed Regal Media Group. I have taught for almost two years now and have recently accepted another adjunct professor job at nearby Lone Star College.
My goals of becoming a media mogul with multiple online magazines, radio and television shows have not died, they have just been postponed until a later time. Furthermore, the high Black unemployment rate should not discourage my former students or any recent college graduates from pursuing their dream job, but it should make them aware that dreams come true at the right time, and not always on our time.
I now live by the saying, “if they have a paycheck, then I’m there.” That saying should be the mantra for anybody trying to find success, despite the high Black unemployment rate. At 32 years old and 10 years removed from my undergraduate days at Southern University, I still have to motivate myself to keep pushing until my dreams are realized, and I encourage all who suffer from high Black unemployment to do the same thing.
Smith is publisher of Regal Black Men’s Magazine, a publication dedicated to the African American community.
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