Willie Wilson’s excellent op-ed on Black youth unemployment offered specific recommendations to address this generations-long problem.

But it had a glaring omission: the “family business” factor. Not only in the blue-collar sector, but most prominently, children — mostly sons — follow in their parents’ — mostly fathers’ — career paths. Police work, firefighting, even elected office is passed down, along with jobs as carpenters, plumbers, electricians, and other occupations, even unionized ones with apprentice programs.

In another, loftier realm, “legacy admissions” are a longtime fixture in Ivy League and other educational institutions. Because status and inheritance weigh in, so should racial and ethnic quotas, arguably.

Across our society, personal connections count for more than personal qualifications. Famously, a Chicago Machine minion in the old days reportedly used to say, “We don’t want nobody that nobody sent.”

Because this is so deeply embedded in our culture, finding a fix is very difficult, and making it happen would be even harder. But recognizing and owning our complicity in the problem is the start. Then consciously setting aside preference favoring “my kind” when recruiting young people for job training would make a real difference over time, for all of us.

Take the thumb off the scales of justice and equity.

Fred Reklau
Oak Park

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