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Are African Americans Taking The Biggest Hit Because Of The Down Slope Of The Economy?

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Dr. Ernest Levister, Jr.
Clinical Psychologist Dr. William Thomas PhD

Thousands of Americans are without jobs. Others are losing their homes, facing cutbacks in hours or furloughs. The fewer buffers we have, such as second income or strong social support, the worse things are: In some ways the situation is reminiscent of the Great Depression. Listen to the words of governor Alf M. Landon who described what it was like to be governor of Kansas in 1933:

“Men with tears in their eyes begged for an appointment that would help save their homes and farms. I couldn’t see them all in my office. But I never let one of them leave without my coming out and shakin’ hands with ‘em. I listened to all their stories, each one of ‘em. But it was obvious I couldn’t take care of all their terrible needs.”

Who hurts most? According to the annual “State of Black America” report, recently released by the National Urban League, Blacks are far more likely – than whites – to be poor, out of work or in jail. And are “hurting worse” because of the economy.

Researchers at the University of California at Davis have found that while financial upheaval appears to affect all people similarly, some people and families fare better or worse than others. They found that children in families whose parents put family first and continued to communicate despite hardships fare better in the short and long term than those who allowed the crisis to facture them.

Similarly, children whose parents maintained strong community ties did much better over time than those who were not as involved in their communities. Youngsters were not terribly bothered by not having a lot of stuff.

What bothered them was when their parents became angry, irritable and withdrawn.

Children whose parents were connected to church, school and civic organizations lived their lives in much the same way they had prior to economic hard times.

Hard times are not new to Black families. We’ve weathered previous storms because we are a resilient people who use what we have ---- intelligence, mother wit, a belief in the value of education, and most of all, faith in a Supreme Being.

William Thomas, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist in private practice with offices in Rialto and San Francisco, California. He can be reached at (415) 566-2621.

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