Tag: unemployment rate

Kind of Like a Doogie Howser Episode

The state of Latino health is grim — grim, grim, grim. We have higher rates of diabetes, obesity, hypertension, you name it.

Hispanics are also doing pretty sucky when it comes to education and employment. If only there was a way to combine all these issues…

Well, a California job-training program is trying to peg multiple issues with just one stone. Medical Pathways trains high schoolers in the Latino community for health care occupations. The goal is to provide real-world experience to disadvantaged kids while improving the overall health of the community.

The program guides students — primarily Hispanic — through four years of medically focused science classes, such as anatomy and physiology. The students run community health fairs, where visitors — again, primarily Hispanic — get information about different health issues and receive free services, such as getting weighed or having their blood pressure taken.

Many students put in enough hours for a medical assistant certificate, which gives them a head-start on snagging better-paying health care jobs. Other students are inspired to become doctors or nurses.

No, it’s not an ideal solution. But it’s certainly creative and effective. And that’s a start.


Dropping Back In

Whenever some data point or statistic about Latinos in America gets published, it is most likely grim. Whether you’re talking about household income, unemployment rate, educational status, media representation, or some other indicator of societal pull, it probably is bad news for Hispanics.

Well, there is some good news for once. In a sign of hope, the nation had its lowest high school dropout numbers last year, and in large part this was because of a steep decline in the dropout rate among Latino students.


The Latino dropout rate reached a record low of 14% in 2013. As recently as 2000, it was 32%. For you non-mathematically inclined, this means that just over a decade ago, about one out of every three Hispanic kids didn’t graduate. That is beyond abysmal. It is pandemic.

So while the dropout rate for Latinos is still double the overall rate of 7%, this is a positive development. And the surge is even more significant since the number of Hispanic students has increased steadily over the years. Yes, in terms of pure numbers, more Latinos than ever are graduating from high school and enrolling in college.

So don’t tell me I never have something positive to tell you.


Loud and Proud…Or at Least Loud

Decades after James Brown first exhorted his brethren to say it loud (“I’m black and I’m proud), another group of oppressed Americans — gay people — adopted the idea and found resounding success in proclaiming their pride.


But African Americans, gays, and (presumably) gay African Americans are not the only people who are proud of their culture.

Latinos are well-known for bursting with pride for their heritage. However, while such expressions of ethnic boosterism are practically required on Puerto Rican Day, or during Hispanic Heritage Month, or — Lord help us — Cinco de Mayo, such statements often come across as just empty phrases.

After all, do we have good reason to be proud?

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What? Me, Worry?

A year ago, I wrote about how the Great Recession hit Latinos hard. At the time, I was hopeful that the worst was behind us. Perhaps that was my natural Hispanic tendency to be optimistic.

After all, Latinos “are worse off, but they are still more positive about where the country is going” compared to most Americans. In particular, “Latino small-business owners are among the fastest growing and most upbeat [groups] in the nation,” and they “worry less about job security and are more positive and humble.”

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Show Them the Money

I used to write for a website whose target audience was upscale Hispanic men. My job was to find the hippest, most happenin’, muy caliente places and products.

Of course, I soon grew weary of writing for guys who think $5,000 stereo speakers are their god-given right. But I also got tired of explaining the gig to people who asked, “Just how many rich Latino guys can there be?”

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Victims of a Changing World

Recently, I received some hate mail from a white supremacist (see previous post). It’s a rare, but not unprecedented occurrence.

Her sentiments were ignorant and bizarre, of course. And clearly, they in no way reflect the opinion of most Americans. I wondered, however, how many individuals would agree with one of her statements, which was that white people are being oppressed.

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It’s Us or Them

I once took a freelance gig editing a book about conspiracy theories. It was an encyclopedia of crazy shit like Mkultra and the Bavarian Illuminati and Area 51.

The book was a highly entertaining read, but it didn’t exactly keep me up at night. I just don’t believe humans are competent enough to pull off fake moon landings and shadow governments and the like. So I’m not prone to yelling, “Conspiracy!” and attributing sinister motives to shadowy figures.

But it’s not a conspiracy to say that Hispanics and African Americans have long been played off one another. And the reason for this is clear: It maintains the status quo.

After all, if America’s two largest ethnic minorities are busy fighting each other, they have little energy to combat the power structures that hinder their mutual growth.

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The Skills to Pay the Bills

My wife has warned me, for my own sanity, to stop torturing myself. But I can’t help it.

Whenever I read a news article about immigration or the dismal economy or some other political topic, I scroll down to the Comments section to see what the theoretical average American thinks about the situation.

This is always a mistake. The ratio of insightful comment to shrill diatribe is about one in ten.

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Not That I’m Bitter or Anything

First, thanks to Profe for his supportive comments on my last post. Second, thanks to my old friend, the Bitca (!), for springing up on the blog and reminding me why I love her. But for the record, Ms. Bitca, I don’t drink screwdrivers. I find them a bit girly.

Nevertheless, drinking heavily is well within my right. As I wrote in that post, I was recently laid off from my job of six years. It’s disgruntling to go from analyzing the plight of unemployed Latinos to becoming part of the story.

Again, I’m not worried about the future or in dire financial straits, for which I’m grateful. But naturally, I want to get the unemployment monkey off my back, if for no other reason than I would like to continue affording luxuries like, say, food and shelter. But as you might expect with an overly analytical blogger with lots more free time, I’ve pinpointed an additional frustration with this mess.

As a first-generation Latino, I feel an irrational need to get back on the payroll quickly so I can resume being a role model for my community. In some sectors of Hispanic society, I can achieve this lofty status, whether I want it or not, simply by getting a good-paying job and staying out of jail. I am aware of the hopes of my brethren urging me on, pushing me toward success as defined by the majority culture. For lack of any other goal, I want to be an outstanding, nonsterotypical member of society, an upper-middle-class big deal.

This is just the latest example of how ethnic minorities perceive the world in subtly different ways than white people do. I’ve written about this before. We tend to pinpoint clichés (e.g., being unemployed) and recoil from them like vampires catching a glimpse of sunlight. White people, in contrast, likely have the freedom to obsess exclusively on their individual problems, taking the occasional break to get angry that they didn’t invent YouTube (actually, I share that annoyance).

It’s a tricky balancing act, however. Because once I get that respectable white-collar job, I still have to be careful not to morph into The Man. But that’s the subject of another post, and in any case, it certainly is not an immediate danger.

That’s because the road to prosperity is closed for repairs, at least temporarily. But, of course, I will eventually get back on it.

Did I Jinx Myself?

In my most recent post, I wrote that the economic collapse has hit Latinos particularly hard. This pain is not confined to day laborers and construction workers (although they are hurting more than others), but also extends to those Hispanics who have ventured into the white-collar world… like your most humble blogger.

Yes, recently I was laid off from my day job. Thus, the Fanatic has joined the 8.1% of Americans, and 11% of Latino males, who have said adios to regular paychecks. My company, hereafter referred to as “the ex-job,” canned four other people the same day. For the conspiratorial among you, let me be quick to point out that my fellow downsizees are all white. They include a woman who devoted twenty years to the organization and another who is a single mom.

I was surprised to get the news, of course, but not shocked. The ex-job is struggling, and if the economy doesn’t stop hemorrhaging, I fear that the thirty or so people who still work there will be joining me in the nation’s cool new fad of updating resumes and emailing LinkedIn requests.

At the same time, I would be lying if I said that I don’t harbor some hostility toward the ex-job. I worked six years as a business writer for them, and it’s impossible to not feel like a sap when your boss says, “Your performance has been excellent, thanks for your great work and loyalty, and now… bye.”

One reason for my WTF reaction is that despite the very real fact that it is a business decision, there is also a personal judgment being made: You (the freshly unemployed) have been determined to be less valuable to the company than those who remain. You are more expendable.

Since my number came up in the great economic-misadventure lottery, I haven’t been depressed or even worried (my wife and I are in better financial shape than many people in a similar situation). But there are still bursts of anger, which I’ve always thought is the most productive of the negative emotions.

Nothing sets off this anger more than the banal clichés thrust at me by well-meaning friends. In the past few weeks, I’ve learned that it’s always darkest before the dawn, that what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger, that there’s a reason for everything, and that God never gives us more than we can handle. By the way, I find this latter statement theologically dubious – people who commit suicide, for example, obviously got a lot more than they could handle. But speaking of the Almighty, I’ve also heard that when God closes a door, he opens a window. If you’ve just been blindsided with a layoff, however, you don’t feel like God has been messing around with doors and windows. You think that he just dynamited your house.

Still, I remain optimistic about the future – not just for me but for all of us. Common sense, the laws of economics, and basic karma all say that we’ll pull out of this financial freefall soon.

Perhaps the Obama plan will be the answer. At the very least, maybe the stimulus package will help me land a construction job. I hesitate to look into this, however, not because I’m too good or genteel for blue-collar labor, but because I was really looking forward to continuing Hispanic America’s infiltration into the white-collar world. Also, I’m much better with words than I am with a backhoe. Trust me on this.

So until I land that next office gig, I will be sharpening skills, hustling for freelance gigs, and networking like an overly caffeinated, extroverted state senator up for reelection. And of course, I will remain thoroughly and completely fanatical.

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