It seems that we have a nasty feedback loop in regards to black male youth as of late. There are a number of issues that need multiple posts to unpack.
The last quarter-century or so has seen a devaluation of blue-collar labor, as a combination of automation reducing the need for factory jobs and streamlined shipping logistics making it easier for foreign goods to get to the US and decrease the pricing power of US labor. This paragraph from an otherwise-valid piece on America's strengths hit askew with me-
Eighty-six percent of all international transactions are made in dollars. The dollar is the most important hard currency in circulation and the shelter currency in turbulent times, such as today. The unemployment index, about 4.7 percent, is one of the lowest of the developed world and, while it's true that industrial jobs have been destroyed, they have been replaced by more placid and creative forms of earning a living in the service sector and the so-called information economy.
For blue-collar guys, that's cold comfort. Service-sector jobs are not all that well-paying and are often female-oriented. Anecdotally, I've seen a the waiter-to-waitress ratio increase in the last decade or so as there are fewer entry-level jobs in manufacturing, construction and other blue-collar areas. To the extent that some anti-black bias crops up, black male youth would have to counter both a pro-female bias and an black-guys-as-ganstas stereotype to get service-sector jobs.
The information economy is a bastion of whiteness, with Asians seemingly outnumbering blacks. Poorer folks are going to have less exposure to computers in general and an urban culture that looks down its nose at academic learning would make it difficult for an inner-city black kid to worm their way into a tech job. Not impossible, but harder.
Folks that aren't overly interested in academics have a lot fewer options than their grandparents did. They're increasingly on the outside looking in, with dwindling job prospects and increasing frustration. Blue collar whites are actually seeing mortality increasing due to the stresses of an economy sliding away from them. That's a good chunk of the Trump vote, especially when you add in some lower-level professional positions that are poorly served by classic laissez-faire econ or progressive doctrine that is big on handouts and light on creating blue-collar opportunities.
Black middle-aged folks, who saw old-school racism up-close as kids, are more jaded about the economy and thus less surprised when things went south for Joe Shoprat be Joe black or write. That downturn in white health hasn't quite hit them.
Their kids have a different mix to deal with. They have less opportunities for blue-collar jobs and have to overcome a system of struggling schools and a pop culture glorifying bohemian attitudes and being against book learning almost as much as Boka Haram. Throw in a overall culture that treats a traditional family as merely one option among many and a welfare system that discourages marriage and makes Uncle Sam a better provider than an underemployed Joe Shoprat, and the deck seems more stacked than a game of Three-Card Monte for a young black guy who's not on a college-prep track.
Sadly, it's likely to only get worse. I was re-reading a 2004 post of mine, and this passage struck me as a bit dated-
People look down their noses at telemarketers, convenience-store clerks, fast-food cashiers who ask you whether you want to supersize it, Wally-World associates and a lot of other low-wage, low-prestige jobs. Half of the population's going to be below the median, both in pay and in prestige. What we need to work on is to create a thriving society where the average keeps going up.
Someone's going to have to pick up the trash, man the school cafeteria, drive the trucks and stock the grocery-store shelves. Hopefully, those people will move on to better things, but let's respect those who are there and the businesses who hire them.
That might not be true circa 2030. Self-driving cars are being beta-tested and trucks won't be that far behind. Robotic inventory-helpers are also on Google's drawing board; I've not heard of robotic trash collectors, but teaching a robot to grab and dump a standardized trash can on the curb would seem like a logical extension of current tech.
I recall the Memphis sanitation strike of 1968; MLK was in town going to bat for black workers when he was assassinated. The slogan of the black trash collectors was "I am a man." By the 60th anniversary of that strike in 2028, they might be a robot instead, immune to the desire to strike for better working conditions.
That will be discouraging to blue-collar folks if and when it comes. Telling them to take STEM classes and get with the program has echoes of "Let them eat cake."