Workplace equality for blacks remains elusive

The below intern blog is a commentary on the effects of race in the work place based on the article that can be found below the commentary.

As a student, you are told with more education you increase your chance of getting a better paying job. This saying doesn’t seem to apply to the college-educated African Americans who are “twice as likely to be unemployed as their white counterparts”. A report from the Washington, D.C. – based Economic Policy Institutes states “the unemployment rate for whites with bachelor’s degrees was 5.5 percent, while the rate for blacks was 9.9 percent”. Why is this so? Some may say some African Americans aren’t able to attain a higher educational degree than their bachelors. Others may question which educational institution did the person receive their education from. I feel as though this problem stems from the embedded philosophy that African Americans aren’t the best workers in comparison to whites. This discrimination formulates a workplace bias. How are African Americans suppose to learn the skills necessary to compete with their white counterparts if they aren’t given a job within the field? Without the access to these opportunities, it’s hard to see a progression in the African American community.

Workplace equality for blacks remains elusive

College-educated blacks are almost twice as likely to be jobless, data show.

By Randy Tucker, Staff Writer

Updated 1:37 PM Monday, January 17, 2011

DAYTON — An often overlooked aspect of Martin Luther King Jr.’s fight for racial equality was his push for jobs for African-Americans.

In fact, the King-led march on Washington in 1963 was officially titled the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.’’

At the time, Jim Crow laws in the South, inadequate schools in black neighborhoods across the country and widespread workplace discrimination left most blacks without the necessary education and job skills to climb the economic ladder.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 helped open the doors to colleges and universities that previously were off-limits to blacks. But it’s been an uphill battle for many blacks to turn that access into jobs — the key to political, economic, and personal independence.

College-educated blacks are almost twice as likely to be unemployed as their white counterparts, according to a recent report from the Washington, D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute. The unemployment rate for whites with bachelor’s degrees was 5.5 percent, while the rate for blacks was 9.9 percent.

Derrick Foward, president of the Dayton unit of the NAACP, attributed at least some of the disparity to continued workplace bias. But the bias that hamstrings blacks today is far less overt and harder to prove than the outright discrimination that was common in America 40 years ago, he said.

“A lot of employers say they have diversity and inclusion programs, but that doesn’t mean the good ol’ boy network doesn’t exist,’’ Foward said. “Even if you have your degree, sometimes you’re not afforded the opportunity that other people are afforded because you’re not in that network.’’

Andrew Grant-Thomas, deputy director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University, said he “strongly suspects’’ that discrimination has played a role in current employments trends.

“The notion that a college degree protects you from racial discrimination is clearly not the case,’’ he said. “We have so much evidence of continuing discrimination against African-Americans in every arena you could think of.’’

As an example, he referred to a 2003 study in which two professors from the University of Chicago and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) sent fake resumes to employers using the names of black and white job candidates to test whether they might discriminate against job applicants with “black-sounding” names.

The resumes with the names of white applicants were 50 percent more likely to be contacted for job interviews than those with black names, the research found.

Concrete evidence of widespread workplace bias remains elusive, however. And, in any case, it’s only part of the problem, Grant-Thomas said.

“If you’re really trying to explain the employment discrepancies among very educated folks, you have to first look at the human capital all college educated people have,’’ he said. “African-Americans lag behind whites and Asians in terms of how educated they are, with many only having college degrees as opposed to advanced degrees. And you also have to look at work experience, and the kinds of degrees they have.’’

Algernon Austin, a researcher with the Economic Policy Institute, said the reasons for the high rate of black unemployment are open to debate.

But no matter what the reasons are, employment figures compiled by the think tank show a disturbing trend: Unemployment for African-Americans is projected to reach a 25-year high this year, with the national rate climbing to 17.2 percent and the rates in five states, including Ohio, exceeding 20 percent.

“I can’t tell you why the unemployment rate is so high for African-Americans, but the implications are devastating,’’ Austin said.

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