Black unemployment is at its lowest point on record, yet it’s still well above the jobless rate for white, Hispanic or Asian Americans. The unemployment rate for black Americans fell to 6.8% in December, the lowest level since at least 1972 when the Labor Department began tracking the figure. It marks a swift comeback for black workers, who suffered through extremely high unemployment during the Great Recession. Black unemployment peaked at 16.8% in March 2010, well above the peaks for other demographics.

Despite significant progress, unemployment for black Americans today is still far higher than other groups. White unemployment was 3.7% in December; Asian unemployment was 2.5%; Hispanic joblessness was 4.9%.

In Hickory Hill, unemployment is at 12% for African- Americans, the highest in the city of Memphis! Is this because they are lazy?! Not by any means!

A disproportionate number of black Americans tend to work in industries that have many low-wage jobs, such as retail, restaurants and bars. Median weekly earnings for black Americans last fall were $696 compared to $887 for whites and $1,010 for Asian Americans. Hispanics’ median weekly earnings were the lowest at $655, according to the most recent Labor Department figures.

Tennessee is one of six former slave states that does not have a minimum wage law, so the default is the national minimum wage of $7.25 per hour or $290 a week. A person would have to work 88 hours a week just to be able to afford rent!

Poor people aren’t lazy they just don’t have any straw.

God sent Moses to set his people free from slavery. He heard their groans all the way in heaven. When Moses asked Pharaoh to let the people go to worship and make sacrifices to God, Pharaoh asked, “Who is God that I have to listen to him?” Whenever you make a request on behalf of God to a leader who thinks he’s god he will always take it out on the poor and vulnerable.

Pharaoh accuses the poor slaves of being lazy and instead of giving them more resources he passed a tax bill to take away more of their straw but demanded they double their output!

This tax law we just passed is the greatest transfer of wealth from the poor to the wealthy since slavery in America! We are expected to do more with less. The new tax bill will reduce taxable deductions to non-profits and cut much needed social programs that were supplementing the poor. We spend 638 billion on the military and 130 billion on the poor.

Here’s what the spirit of Pharaoh does to the poor today:

  1. Do not supply any more straw for making bricks. Make the people get it themselves! But still require them to make the same number of bricks as before. Don’t reduce the quota. They are lazy. When you refuse a living wage, increase taxes, and take away social programs the government is telling poor people to make more bricks with less straw and then calls them lazy for not doing it! Poverty blames the victim and accuses them of being irresponsible as the tool against the impossible.
  2. Load them down as punishment for wanting to seek God’s truth. “Load them down with more work. Make them sweat! That will teach them to listen to lies!” It’s amazing that Moses asks for a reprieve to worship and make sacrifice to God. They didn’t ask to leave. They asked to worship. Before there was an economic threat to Egypt of slaves leaving the more imminent threat was slaves learning. Spiritual empowerment precedes  to economic empowerment. Pharaoh will attack your finances to dissuade you from turning to your faith. The people didn’t want to hear anything else Moses had to say because Pharaoh increased their work load.
  3. They scattered in search of stubble to meet their quota. We are a resilient people.  We have for centuries found a way to worship and work in spite of Pharaoh’s evil, egotistical agenda. We all know that the children of Egypt eventually were released and the Egyptians had to transfer their wealth to the Hebrews on their way out. We are on our way out of financial bondage in America but the way out still involves God leading us out. It requires a stubborn leader who continues to speak truth to power even when his own people grow weary of hoping against hope. 

Even in the midst of trying to make bricks without straw we cannot give up on God and we cannot give up on the dream of financial freedom. We as a people will get to the promised land of living wages, affordable homes, universal healthcare, immigration reform, criminal justice reform because we are reviving the poor people’s campaign and we will go to the Whitehouse on the steps that slaves built to tell old Pharaoh… Let My People Go!

Dear God,

We will not give up until we go up. We will no longer be content with Memphis, Tennessee being number one in people living in poverty.  It’s time for your people to come out of poverty in Egypt. We will organize ourselves to go tell Pharaoh to let our people go from minimum wages, let my people go from mass incarceration, let my people go from failing school systems, let my people go from xenophobic laws that deport hard working immigrants who just want to fulfill their dream of becoming legal American citizens. God let this be the year of jubilee where we are finally released from the yoke of slavery and indebtedness.

In the name of Jesus!