Educator brings attention to racial inequality in jobs and COVID-19

Local News

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Black Americans have the lowest average income of any race group -- which could be linked to education and virus exposure

(WKBN) – It’s Black History Month, which allows us to recognize the contributions of Black Americans and bring attention to inequalities.

K.L. Allen thinks Black History Month can teach us about the past and motivate us toward the future. He sees education as the main way to fight historic inequity.

Allen hopes acknowledging the inequities Black Americans have faced in the past can serve as inspiration for students today.

“This is the time to remove some of those generational barriers,” he said. “This is the time to look at things different and that’s what education does. It’s such a great ROI because all education’s not equal, just like life is not equal. So that’s the parallel.”

Allen hopes he and other educators can support students to work toward their goals and limit inequity in the future.

A study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics looked into income and education by race. The overall average pre-tax household income is a little over $70,000. Asian Americans have the highest income on average, whereas Black Americans have the lowest of any race group with an average of a bit under $50,000 each year.

Allen thinks this is tied to education.

The same study found about 70% of Asian American families had someone with at least a bachelor’s degree. That number was closer to 26% for Black families.

Allen said there are also inequities when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, we reported on the higher rate of COVID hospitalizations and deaths among people of color, but how have jobs played a role in that?

Many people have been able to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The AFL-CIO said communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 because of their jobs. The union federation said jobs like meatpacking and food processing left people vulnerable to the virus.

Allen wants to support students through educational programs so they can also avoid jobs that would leave them vulnerable.

“There are certain roles that will open you up more to COVID. It’s proven — I mean, the union shows that — and so being able to work from home where you remove yourselves from COVID, a lot of the unknowns, it comes back to the education piece of the house,” he said.

He thinks this more flexible working style will last past the pandemic and these educational moves will benefit students long-term.

In talking about these educational goals, Allen quoted Martin Luther King and Langston Hughes. Relating to Hughes’ poem, he didn’t want students to let their dreams be deferred, but instead work toward making sure they explode.

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