Why the minimum wage is racist

By Dr. Harold A. Black



When I was growing up, my parents made me and my brother work. In elementary school, they decided to put in a basement by digging out the dirt under the house. My brother and I had to take out so many wheelbarrows of dirt before we could go out to play. In high school, we were made to work during the summers doing menial work for minimum wages. We washed dishes and bussed tables. We didn’t complain—we now had money of our own. I bought books and records. We never thought of those jobs as menial. We knew that we were not going to earn that low wage as adults. We were living at home so any monies earned were disposable and not used for rent or food or utilities. We knew we were going to college. Although my parents went to HBCUs, my brother wanted to be an engineer but was barred from going to Georgia Tech so he went to Purdue. I wanted to follow him to Purdue but was forced to go to the University of Georgia when that university was ordered to desegregate. The state was paying my brother’s out-of-state tuition when Tech was segregated and took away that funding when Georgia was ordered to admit its first black students. Dad could not afford to send us both out of state and told me to find an alternative. I found the University of Georgia. While at Georgia, unbeknownst to my parents I worked to supplement the money they sent me monthly. One of my closest friends was the head waiter at a local restaurant and I waited tables for a couple of years making enough money to buy a motor scooter and later my first car. I never told my parents any of this for they insisted that I devote all of my time to school. When they found out about 20 years later my mother said that she felt like “giving me a whipping.”

Working at low-paying jobs proved invaluable. They taught me to be responsible, to get to work on time (Dad used to say that “on time was five minutes late”) and to be disciplined. Today, much of the issues facing our youth, especially our black youth can be traced to the existence of minimum wage laws which limit their employment opportunities. When the first minimum wage law was passed, black youth employment was actually higher than that of white youth. Indeed, the first minimum wages were enacted because black youth were being hired at wages lower than white youth much like illegals will work for lower wages today. The legislation was a success making black youth less competitive with whites at the higher wage. Now for black kids, the unemployment numbers are depression-like. The youth have been rendered unemployable. They have no skills and little prospect for gaining useful skills that are legal. While they would be able to find work at lower wages, the current minimum wage keeps them unemployed. Every now and then a proposal is made to enact a subminimum wage for teenagers. It is always a non-starter. It is argued that this would exploit the youth and would benefit big business. They know better and simply want to maintain the poor as wards of the state. Now Bernie Sanders is pushing an increase in the minimum wage to $17 per hour even though virtually all studies show that raising the minimum wage increases unemployment. Fewer youth will have the skills necessary to merit the higher wage. Although Sanders argues as if heads of households are working at the current minimum, the truth is that only two percent of heads of households earn the minimum wage. The increases in unemployment will be mostly among young people who reside with their parents (or parent).

But Sanders and his ilk do not care about the consequences of their actions. The minimum wage is anti-poor and racist. It was enacted to lessen the competition by blacks for low paying jobs and to create welfare dependency. It worked. Some states have recently increased their minimum to $15 an hour. The early results show that businesses that employ these workers are forced to automate and replace people with technology. Obviously, sanity is missing in the minimum wage argument.