You Can Be Anything You Want (But what does the black community need)?
by B. Mchie
Whether coming from a successful black person, a role model, parent or mentor we often hear the phrase, “I tell my children that they can be anything they want to be.”
African Americans work hard, yet nearing 60 years after the 20th century civil rights movement, our level of representation in many occupations lags severely behind our percentage of the general population. This blog uses data and opinions to request that we add more specific details to the titles statement.
American history shows that between Jim Crow and Affirmative Action many African American homes motivated their children to pursue careers to serve our overall community needs. The plan was to break down remaining racial barriers for a wider pathway for our future through our youth. My uncle became a doctor for this reason. He realized professional enjoyment for three basic reasons,
1. It provided income to raise his family.
2. It increased availability to help heal people (especially blacks) through medicine and healthcare.
3. His success enabled him to pursue all the additional things he loved.
We have been underrepresented in the following fields listed below. As part of the 2010 census, the top ten careers in which African Americans are underrepresented point to some specific needs that our children could fill!
1. Classroom Teaching
African American men are underrepresented in teaching at an alarming rate, making up only two percent of all educators.
In 2005, the numbers of black students enrolling in law school reached a record low, according to Black Enterprise. Plus it was found that blacks consistently failed to reach the most lucrative levels of the profession.
3. Science & Technology
Blacks are also scarce in the STEM professions, an acronym that refers to the interrelated fields of science, technology, engineering, and math..
Blacks are acquiring PhDs at a rate that is higher than ever before. Unfortunately, minorities are kept out of academic jobs at the top levels. Minorities represent fewer than 7% of all full professorships according to a special report on Nature.com, while we account for 16% of graduating science PhDs.
5. College Athletics
African Americans are underrepresented in college athletics on all non-playing levels, ranging from coaching to program directorships. Blacks within the field are often regulated to areas that do not feed into higher positions, and are judged more harshly than their white counterparts.
Civil rights and ad industry leaders have called out the advertising industry for being almost 40% more discriminatory than the general job marketplace. Tragically, the situation is worse today than it was 30 years ago. Blacks interested in advertising would face a steep climb, but the numbers show this industry sorely needs us.
Construction tends to be a union-driven industry based on contacts and an old boy network mentality. This tends to be an important industry for producing stable employment, so increasing our involvement must be a priority.
8. Media & Technology
Whether it is web production or television, blacks tend to be absent from both the creative and executive media ranks. The over indexing of African-Americans as Twitter users points to the reality that there are many possibilities for blacks in media – but it is up to us to continue to push for greater inclusion.
9. Health Care
Currently, minorities make up 25% of the U.S. population, but only 10% of the health care force. The field is wide open for our greater and greatly desired participation.
Much remains to be done to address the perception that blacks do not have a refined sense of style that can sell to the masses, despite the revenue generating effects black icons. Black style professionals, ranging from designers to photographers, need more African-Americans to push for greater integration in this field by entering it, and fighting for parity.
As African American’s in 2017 we can afford to re-think our tendency to be all about me and switch back to being more about us. This community first pursuit for us rather than the individual had more success than today’s young adult families may realize. This village concept made it through the 1950’s and was part of the backbone that nurtured the voting and civil rights bills before Malcolm and Martin were killed. Corporations that include more people of color have greater adaptability, provide an environment in which all voices are respected, and offer a greater range of products based on input from diverse perspectives. It is also imperative that industries relate more honestly and thus effectively to the consumers they serve, and have their target audiences on their payrolls, as the diversity of our nation continues to explodes.
Regarding on field/court or on stage/set performance in entertainment and athletics, is our community employment therein at a point of diminishing returns? These are professions where we are overrepresented; we could re-route this pipeline feed other industries. Today, if every athletic scholarship pursuit by a black woman or man was rechanneled into the list above for one generation we could be more independent as a community. African Americans are in a prime position to capitalize on these developments, expanding into professional arenas that heretofore have been barred. As more firms seek revolutionary means to generate new profits, African Americans have more incentive than ever to push into pioneering careers.