By Harry Colbert, Jr.
“We’re in crisis and the threat needs overwhelming force to address it.”
That’s how Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari summed up the nation’s employment gap between Blacks and whites. Kashkari said the Black unemployment rate is two times the national average and that should be of concern to all Americans. He admits he doesn’t yet know why the disparity exists.
“We’re working to understand why there is this disparity. That’s the question we’ve been asking and to be honest, I haven’t gotten a good answer to it yet,” said Kashkari, who offered his critique following a meeting with Black residents of North Minneapolis at the offices of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC), 1101 W. Broadway Ave., Minneapolis.
While the national unemployment rate for Blacks is dismal at 8.8 percent compared to a 4.3 percent unemployment rate for whites; the rates in Minnesota are downright appalling. The unemployment rate for Black Minnesotans is at 14.1 percent – the second highest in the nation – compared to a below national average unemployment rate of 3.7 percent for white Minnesotans.
In a closed meeting with several Black residents, the Minneapolis Federal Reserve president did his best to assure everyone he was committed to doing what he can to get everyone working, even if he has to figuratively live a day in someone else’s life. Rosheeda Credit accepted his invitation. She said she needs Kashkari to see what it’s like to try and survive as a single mother with few employment opportunities. Kashkari agreed, but a date for the interaction has yet to be determined. Kashkari, who had an unsuccessful run for governor of California, said he spent a week living as a homeless person in order to better serve those living in the poorest conditions.
Kashkari was urged to meet with Black North Minneapolis residents by Anthony Newby, executive director of NOC. Newby said if the Federal Reserve could step in during the banking crisis of 2008 it should be able to step in and offer assistance in 2016. Kashkari said while the Federal Reserve’s goal is to achieve maximum employment for all citizens, most likely, a reduction in Black unemployment would be the result of acts from Congress rather than any action taken by the nation’s banking system. But if there is anything the Federal Reserve can do, Kashkari said he is willing to explore every option and he is in it for the long haul.
“This isn’t a one meeting and done type deal,” said Kashkari.