1950s and before. Black people are an inferior race.
1960s. Black people lack seniority, experience and educational qualifications.
1970s. Black people are the products of dysfunctional families and a culture of poverty.
1980s. Black people would rather be on welfare than work.
1990s. Black people who appear to be qualified are really beneficiaries of affirmative action.
2000s. Black people have equal rights, and yet they still complain.
2010s. Black people are the real racists, and white people are victims.
Note: This is sarcasm. I don’t actually believe there are valid reasons for refusing to hire black people.
I am not beating a dead horse here. Although racial prejudice has greatly diminished in my lifetime, and overt racism has ceased to be respectable, it is still true that testers find people with stereotypically African-American names have greater than average problems being hired, and employers will hire a white person with a prison record over an identically-qualified black person with a clean record.
In 2001, a pair of black men and a pair of white men went hunting for work in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Each was 23 years old, a local college student, bright and articulate. They looked alike and dressed alike, had identical educational backgrounds and remarkably similar past work experience. From June to December, they combed the Sunday classified pages in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and searched a state-run job site called “Jobnet,” applying for the same entry-level jobs as waiters, delivery-truck drivers, cooks, and cashiers. There was one obvious difference in each pair: one man was a former criminal and the other was not.
If this sounds like an experiment, that’s because it was. Watching the explosive growth of the criminal justice system, fueled largely by ill-conceived “tough on crime” policies, sociologist Devah Pager took a novel approach to how prison affected ever growing numbers of Americans after they’d done their time—a process all but ignored by politicians and the judicial system.
So Pager sent those two young black men and two young white men out into the world to apply for perfectly real jobs. Then she recorded who got callbacks and who didn’t. She soon discovered that a criminal history caused a massive drop-off in employer responses—not entirely surprising. But when Pager started separating out black applicants from white ones, she stumbled across the real news in her study, a discovery that shook our understanding of racial inequality and jobs to the core.
Pager’s white applicant without a criminal record had a 34% callback rate. That promptly sunk to 17% for her white applicant with a criminal record. The figures for black applicants were 14% and 5%. And yes, you read that right: in Pager’s experiment, white job applicants with a criminal history got more callbacks than black applicants without one. “I expected to find an effect with a criminal record and some with race,” Pager says. “I certainly was not expecting that result, and it was quite a surprise.”
Pager ran a larger version of this experiment in New York City in 2004, sending teams of young, educated, and identically credentialed men out into the Big Apple’s sprawling market for entry-level jobs—once again, with one applicant posing as an ex-con, the other with a clean record. (As she did in Milwaukee, Pager had the teams alternate who posed as the ex-con.) The results? Again Pager’s African-American applicants received fewer callbacks and job offers than the whites. The disparity was particularly striking for ex-criminals: a drop off of 9 percentage points for whites, but 15 percentage points for blacks. “Employers already reluctant to hire blacks,” Pager wrote, “appear particularly wary of blacks with known criminal histories.
Other research has supported her findings. A 2001-2002 field experiment by academics from the University of Chicago and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for example, uncovered a sizeable gap in employer callbacks for job applicants with white-sounding names (Emily and Greg) versus black-sounding names (Lakisha and Jamal). They also found that the benefits of a better resume were 30% greater for whites than blacks.
via Mother Jones. [Added 7/7/11]
Click on White ex-cons get jobs faster than Blacks with no criminal record for the results of a Princeton University study of employers in New York City. Click on Study shows racial discrimination for a study by the University of Chicago and Massachusetts Institute of Technology on how people with typically white first names are hired much more readily than people with typically black first names. Click on Overcoming Racial Discrimination for evidence of the persistence of racial discrimination in American life. Scroll down for the findings of testers mentioned above. [Added 8/19/13]
I can confirm this by “anecdotal” evidence from my own life. I have a white friend who was fired from her job as manager of a “Christian” book store after she refused to follow her supervisor’s order to not hire any African-Americans or members of other minority groups, and is now working at a less desirable job at Wegmans Food Market. She has no documentary proof that this was the reason she was fired, and the people who won’t be hired by her successor will have no knowledge of why they weren’t hired.
Beyond this overt racial discrimination, there are subtle prejudices which the people who hold them are unaware or don’t think are prejudices. It is good that there are federal civil rights laws to forbid racial discrimination, but there are limits to what laws can do.
There are a lot of white people who think black people have nothing to complain of, but few if any who would be willing to trade places with black people.