The State of Black Asheville

Dr. Dollie Mullen and Dr. Dwight Mullen listen to the audiences’ concerns during the meeting. Photo: Renato Rotolo/Urban News  
by Johnnie Grant

Members of the Asheville community assembled in Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church to hear some long-awaited news regarding the statistics released by the Census Bureau. Drs. Dwight and Dollie Mullen, both political science professors at UNC Asheville, gave a detailed account of the statistical information and about rising poverty rate in our community. The news was anticipated, although not unexpected.

“If we have only weak job creation now—after the official end of the recession,” Dr. Dwight Mullen said, “we perhaps may see a weak or jobless recovery. If so, the black poverty rate will continue to increase indefinitely. Looking beyond the recession, the question to ask is: will we see strong job creation? Will the black community have accessibility to jobs? The number one priority in fighting black poverty must be the creation of jobs with good wages, and eliminating job discrimination. Racial discrimination is still an obstacle to black economic success,” concluded Mullen.

Photo: Renato Rotolo/Urban News  

According to the Economic Policy Institute, there are three ingredients
necessary to reducing black poverty: (1) job growth that reaches black
communities; (2) a national and local commitment to lowering the poverty
rate; and (3) a renewed commitment to fighting discrimination in the
labor market. Without these three ingredients, we will continue to see a
large black poverty gap into the future. 

Local business consultant DeRothia G. Williams, an owner of Dee Williams and Co., Inc., noted that more than 57 percent of African Americans in Asheville live below the poverty level. In comparison, only 16.7 percent of their white counterparts live in poverty. “This may be one of the worst [rate differentials] in the 11 or 12 largest cities in North Carolina,” concluded Williams.

Update: The U.S. Senate failed to pass the Jobs Act on October 11, 2011. The American Jobs Act contains tax breaks for businesses that hire new workers, an extension of temporary cuts in Social Security contributions made by wage and salary earners, an extension of federal jobless benefits, and federal funding for road construction, school renovation and other public works projects. Senate Majority Leader, Democrat Harry Reid, argued in favor of the plan, noting that the Senate version called for raising federal taxes on people earning more than $1 million a year to offset expenditures.

“This legislation asked the richest Americans to give their fair share to get our economy back on track,” said Reid. “The president’s plan will put construction crews back to work, building the things that make our country stronger — roads, bridges, dams, sewers, water systems, and up-to-date schools where our children get the best education possible.” Reid accused Republicans of blocking economic progress to weaken President Obama before next year’s general elections.

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