Reasons for not hiring black people

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.


Update January 16, 2017

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his “I Have a Dream” speech said he hoped that his children would be judged by the content of their characters and not the colors of their skins.

martin.luther.king.jrMore than 53 years later, this is still a dream.

As Michelle Alexander has written, mass incarceration of black Americans, many of them for drug offenses and other victim-less crimes, has provided an excuse to disenfranchise black voters in some states and deprive them of protection of civil rights laws everywhere.

As Greg Palast has documented, Republican state governments systematically cancel black and Hispanic voter registrations for bogus reasons.   And as Black Lives Matter points out, black people are sometimes killed by police or gun-toting whites without justification, with no consequences to the shooter.

And, as I have written before, old-fashioned racial discrimination in jobs and housing, which supposedly was outlawed under the civil rights laws, still exists today.  That is the main subject of this post.

Testers find that sellers, lenders and employers will favor the less qualified white person over the more qualified black person.

With all the talk nowadays of government favoritism toward African-Americans, I don’t think there is any rational white American who would want to trade places with them

Statistical disparities between races may have some non-racist explanation.  But the examples I’m going to mention, and which I listed in a previous post, are set up so as to rule out any non-racist explanation for the biases.

  • A group of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania sent out 6,500 letters to professors at the top 250 universities in the USA.  The letters were identical except for the names of signers – Brad Anderson, LaToya Brown, Depak Patel, etc.  The white men got on average a 25 percent better response than white women or blacks, Hispanics or Asians, and that was true even when the professor was female, black, Hispanic or Asian.  Professors at private universities were more biased than those at public universities, the study found; the humanities professors showed the least bias; the business professors the most.
  • A sociologist at Northwestern University sent out four groups of testers in Milwaukee—whites and blacks, some of which listed criminal records on their job applications and some that didn’t, but otherwise were made to be as identical as possible.  The whites with criminal records had a higher chance of success than blacks with clean records.
  • racism-in-a-resume-92ebdafd521c4b23b83023db292f4f40Researchers for Abdul Lateef Jameel Poverty Action Lab sent out nearly 5,000 applications in response to more than 1,300 help-wanted ads.  They were divided into high- and low-quality applications, each with an equal number white- and black-sounding names.   The well-qualified whites got good responses, but the well-qualified blacks got 50 percent fewer.
  • Researchers at Harvard Business School found that white hosts were able to charge 12 percent more on average that black hosts for Airbnb rentals for virtually identical properties at similar locations.
  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development sent out 8,000 pairs of testers, one white and one black, Hispanic or Asian, to look for places to rent or buy in 28 cities.   More than half the time, they were treated the same, which is good.   But in many cases, the minority potential renter or buyer was asked to pay more, shown fewer units and/or charged higher fees than the white renter who had come by a few hours before.
  • The Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston sent out pairs of testers to buy houses in eastern Massachusetts.  They, too, found that black and Hispanic buyers were on average charged more and offered less than white buyers.

The evidence shows that black Americans and other minorities compete on a playing field that is tilted against them.  Now you could say that represents progress of a sort.  In Dr. King’s day, African-Americans were barred by custom and sometimes by law from even getting on the playing field.

White racism was loud and proud in the USA of 50 and 60 years ago.   Now racial prejudice is concealed and often unconscious.  You could say that this, too, represents progress of a sort, although I would never have the nerve to tell a black American that he or she should feel satisfied or grateful.

Some of us white people think the playing field is tilted the other way—against us.   There may be individual instances in which a white person is treated unfairly because of race, but no rational white American would want to trade places with a similarly-situated black American.

We in the USA are still a long way from Dr. King’s dream.   We need to remember that.

Update February 26, 2019

The following is from a study published in the Harvard Business Review.


Discrimination, given how it often manifests subtly, is notoriously difficult to measure in any context. And until recently we have not had much information that we could use to reliably assess changes in discrimination over time.

However, in our recent study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, we were able to analyze trends in discrimination by performing a meta-analysis from all available field experiments pertaining to one area: racial discrimination in hiring.

We focused on experiments performed since 1990, when field studies became more numerous and their methodologically improved. We analyzed data from 24 field experiments, which included data from more than 54,000 applications across more than 25,000 positions.

We chose field experiments as a sample because they are widely regarded as the most valid method to assess discrimination. They generally come in two major types: Résumé audits, done through the mail or online, submit fictitious résumés with equivalent qualifications and ethnically identifiable names. And in-person audits — done with trained pairs of testers, white and nonwhite — have participants apply for jobs.

By examining the rates of callbacks, or invitations to job interviews, for white and nonwhite applicants with equivalent qualifications, these studies provide high-quality measures of rates of discrimination in hiring.

Broadly, our meta-analysis of callback rates from all existing field experiments showed evidence of discrimination against both black and Latino applicants. Since 1990 white applicants received, on average, 36% more callbacks than black applicants and 24% more callbacks than Latino applicants with identical résumés.

When it comes to Latinos, we found some evidence of a decline in discrimination over the past 25 years. Because of the small number of field experiments including Latinos, however, statistical tests indicate the evidence of decline is inconclusive.

For black applicants we found no change in hiring rates over time. In the figure below, the dots represent results from 21 studies contrasting white and black applicants, based on a total of 42,708 applications for 20,990 positions. The line shows the overall trend. The line slants slightly upward, but it’s statistically indistinguishable from a flat line.

Source: Hiring Discrimination Against Black Americans Hasn’t Declined in 25 Years


What, To the Black American, Is Martin Luther King Day? by Chris LeBron, assistant professor of African-American studies and philosophy at Yale University, for The New York Times.  The title of this article / talk is based on the title of a speech by Frederick Douglass.

Is Everyone a Little Bit Racist? by Nicholas Kristof for The New York Times.

Five Studies That Prove Racism Is Still Way Worse Than We Think by the staff of   Example No. 3 misquotes a linked article, but there is good information here, presented in a highly readable way.

It Pays to be White by Jeanette Wicks-Lim for Dollars & Sense.

Evidence of Racial, Gender Biases Found in Faculty Mentoring by Shankar Vedantam of National Public Radio.

Digital Discrimination: The Case of by Benjamin G. Edelman and Michael Luca for HBS Working Knowledge.

Discrimination in Housing Against Nonwhites Persists Quietly, U.S. Study Finds by Shaila Dewan for The New York Times.

Racial discrimination continues to play a part in hiring decisions by Lee Price for the Economic Policy Institute.

1968-Present: Housing Discrimination Today Evidence of Racial, Gender Biases by the Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston.

Are Emily and Greg More Employable Than Lakisha and Jamal? by Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan for the Abdul Jameel Lateef Poverty Action Lab.

Think you’re not racist?  Research uncovers our secret prejudices and ways to overcome them by Alice G. Walton for Chicago Booth Review.

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25 Responses to “Reasons for not hiring black people”

  1. cjwatford Says:

    When i was a young girl straight from a rural town in Eastern North Carolina, after graduating from high school i moved to Washington, DC. There i applied for a job over the phone, after getting a face to face interview, i was told that even though i was articulate, the positon had already neen filled.. No matter how much we complain about , we will always be considered to be inferior, equal opportuntiy and all. We will never be free in world with so much to offer, but only to the ones that look like the sterotype of what success should look like. I am not mad at the way the world is, i am ashamed that we only see the obvious . not what the person has to offer, or is it that because of the color of our skin, we intimidate those of another color, but underneath the blood that flows through our blood is just the same, and when we realize this , we will be no more.


  2. Ron Says:

    Here it is in 2013, and the results are still the same. But now it has expanded to not only Blacks, but Hispanics as well along with the older age group. If you are 40 and older, you are less likely to get hired even with a degree. Very shameful. Nobody in the world does this but the United States.


  3. philebersole Says:

    Holden, you’re right on the facts. We white Americans are far from being the most racist people in the world and, in my opinion, we’ve come a long way in my lifetime, especially Southern white people.

    My purpose in writing this post was not to make white Americans feel bad. It was to point out an important fact that many people don’t know or choose to ignore. It is the fact that the US playing field is still tilted against black Americans and that racial discrimination against black people, while not as ironclad as in the past, still is part of American life.


    • TruthPill Says:

      Yes, its definitely not everyone of any particular race, but its always good to hear from people who acknowledge the existence of problems, that’s the only way to seek solutions.

      These companies need to be exposed, so that they are not supported by those that disapprove of their outlook. It shouldn’t take attacks toward our Nation to get people to see eye to eye, if skin tone doesn’t matter at that time, it shouldn’t matter at any other time.


  4. Krista Says:

    Sadly enough, I have the same story in common with cjwatford in 2013 on the west coast, as she did back in the day in North Carolina. I was interviewed by telephone, but when I showed up for the in-person meeting, in which i was dressed well and held my own, suddenly their interest cooled and I was never contacted again.


  5. Penny Says:

    The idea that anyone dark skinned with a degree or two from an Ivy League university “must be” a token child or an Affirmative Action baby – that’s not just the 1990’s, that’s still the attitude today. I can’t count how many times I’ve gotten the “black” treatment at an interview after they were nothing but thrilled to speak with me over the telephone. When the interviewers see that this is what this Yalie looks like – I never hear from them again. I hesitate to finish a PhD online from Johns Hopkins because that may make my situation WORSE.


  6. TruthPill Says:

    If a company doesn’t hire you for an obviously bias reason, list all of that information to expose the company. Feel free to keep your name and info disclosed, but that store location and the people involved deserve to be exposed. You can’t be sued for slander if only listing factual information, and others may come forward based on someone finally speaking out.

    Secondly, if they shun you based on race, instead of your character, experience and work ethic, then shun their business. Don’t support any businesses that look down upon you based on race. Tell everyone you know to do the same also, if they disapprove of such things, if they accept them, you may want to inquire their outlook towards you.

    Beware, because some companies won’t hire you, but the employer will use your address at times to hire undocumented workers or someone whom needs an address. If you receive something in the mail with your address on it, and someone else’s name, it may not be a coincidence. Trust me, there is plenty of dishonorable crap going around, but its seldom exposed because all the attention is usually intentionally placed on a specific person or race by individuals taking advantage of the assumption in order to hide criminal activity in plain sight.


  7. Mitch Stone Says:

    I live in Canada I got out of school about 8 years ago. and still I have not been able to find a job while all of my white collogues are gainfully employed in the field I picked which is audio engineering. I have applied to all kinds of studios and radio stations and no reply’s. Until one day I decided to take my picture off my website and instantly started to get interview’s but when I would go to these interview’s “sorry the position has been filled.” One interviewer even commented on oh you sounded white on the phone. He then told me hey you should start to look for work else where we don’t hire your kind in this profession. So here I am 33 years old no job no hope in the near future of having a job. I am back in school studying to work in electronics I just hope I am not told sorry we are not hiring Niggers

    Racism in Canada is as Canadian maple syrup and hockey. DO not come here if you are coloured spread the word.


    • Henry jones Says:

      I call MAJOR BS on this. An interviewer at a large conglomerate said out loud “oh, you sounded white on the phone”???

      Not buying it. You or someone else would have sued their asses off.

      Descrimination definitely does happen, but it’s covert. No company is gonna risk going out of business with such a blatant public racist statement. Nice try.

      It’s lies like this that make it hard to squash descrimination when it actually does happen.


      • Truth Says:

        OK,then try getting a lawyer after something like happened to me in Indiana. Its still happening. The racist whites(not the non racist whites)anywhere you go talk of a race war. Oh, and the tone you take with the black canadian suggests you feel like its OK to talk to him like that. Well guess what, its not! Either fight for rights or don’t,but don’t expect us to be quiet so we can be white washed quiet. I don’t need your approval or friendship. I need equality. Too many double agents faking to fight for us.


    • Tendai Says:

      That’s what I’m going through funny enough I’m thirty three all my university colleagues got great jobs relevant I am continuosly scraping the barrel my mum thinks I should have done nursing.In the UK black people could be more educated and yet someone with no qualifications will get that role. My last interview the interviewer wouldn’t even look at me or my cv. When I looked for work internship the university arranged it I went and the interviewer said I wouldn’t fit in as he’s office is quiet. It was ironical that it’s an all white office in an all white neighbourhood I grew up.that says it all but I will not give up.


  8. Todd James Says:

    What hasn’t been disclosed is the nature of the criminal offenses in question. I admit, though, that on the surface the statistics appear to be disturbing. It would be nice if we could examine the data to determine whether or not other factors were involved (past employment histories, reasons for leaving previous employers, etc). Still, I do suspect that it’s probably less likely that an African American will be hired than his or her Caucasian counterpart.


    • Henry jones Says:

      I second that todd. It definitely does happen, but then I hear from the subject himself what he did or said and I’m like “ah yeah I wouldn’t hire you either”

      I kid you not when I was a property manager I had to turn down janitorial.contracts (from everyone white black Latino etc..) because there were no options. This building was awesome and everybody wanted the contract because you could charge major bank to clean it.

      In talking with this one black guy he literally Flipped the f out on me, saying I was racist etc. I tore him a new one telling him exactly what I said above and said because of his attitude I would never hire him, not because of his color, but I don’t want him violently lashing out at my customers.

      So yeah, the study doesn’t take that into account. People bring a resume written in pen on a torn out notebook with mispellings and then get angry…I don’t care how pasty white you are. You do that to me and you definitely won’t get hired.


  9. Henry jones Says:

    This study would actually have some merit if it was much larger scale (applicants and companies) Plus there are no controls.

    Location, interview Performance, detail of the record, company history. ..

    Some equally qualified folks lost the job to a similar candidate because they botched the interview.

    We had a black guy and a white interview with us. As far as skills experience and education they were a mirror image. We hired the black guy because he performed much better in the interview.

    But…what if the opposite were true? And the black guy botched the interview so we hired the white guy? We’d be called racists, and you friggin know it.

    So interesting article, Phil. And descrimination does happen, but to EVERY GROUP. Even women. Regard less of race, and even whites. But we cant say that can we, be a use that’s racist…


  10. Cindie Says:

    Yes…some people DO say, “you sound white”, and then recoil in horror when they realize you are not.


  11. Kai Brantley Says:

    Its not sarcasm, its racism. Since when the hell did white racism become sarcasm? We are not racist. We are fed up, and ready to do what our ancestors expect us to do. At the same time,we never invented racism. So any form of racism that racist whites get from us, they deserve. You guys downplay everything you do, and amplify the little we can do when it comes to that,and everyone knows it.


  12. Henry Jones Says:

    @Truth Folks get attorneys all the time, and have sued and won. So dont sit there and tell me that racist whites have not been sued. They have, and they should be.

    If this happened to you, then its your fault for not pursuing it. In the friggin PC climate we have, people JUMP at the mere impropriety.

    Take that muslim on that airline flight who claimed she was insulted by the racist white flight attendant. And that the pilot came out of the cockpit and “apologized for his white privilege” Who the heck talks like that, outside of’s offices?

    Yet, folks bought it hook line and sinker and didnt even bother to vet it out, and the flight attendant was fired. Later, it was proven that the muslim made the whole thing up. No apology, the attendant wasn’t given her job back, nothing.

    So dont give me this crap that no lawyer would take a case in which a white descriminated against someone. Happens every 30 minutes on CNN.


  13. Joe Murphy Says:

    Blacks are consistently the worst performers in my corporation.


  14. Kai Brantley Says:

    Some places its about class; Everywhere it’s about race.from “blacks are inferior” to “blacks are the real racists, and whites are the victims”, nothing economically or worldly has changed.And what’s more racist than being called “black” and not an Israelite, which is our true culture stolen by edomites? Changing for themselves, holding back the world. I forgive you. We must come into the fold of the good olive tree together, still.


  15. yea Says:

    i see other black people with jobs and junk and i can’t get one.. must be something i specifically do wrong.. i had a few jobs though..


  16. Reasons for not hiring black people — Phil Ebersole’s Blog – FROM THE BEGINNING TO THE NOW Says:

    […] via Reasons for not hiring black people — Phil Ebersole’s Blog […]


  17. Fred (Au Naturel) Says:

    Today’s discrimination is nowhere as absolute as it once was. There was a time within my lifetime that for a skilled job the return call rate for well qualified black applicants would have been almost zero and the opportunity for blacks to even become well qualified was very limited.

    That *doesn’t* mean that it isn’t still a big problem or that it is somehow acceptable today. It is insanely difficult to get past “us” and “them” to “we”. Each generation has become a little less problematic than the last. For the longest time, you mostly saw whites in television and movies. Samy Davis Jr., Bill Cosby, and Sidney Poitier were the rare outliers. Before them, there was nothing.

    Today we have many black superstars. I see little kids in a mostly white school with their Black Panther t-shirts and jackets and lunch buckets. Interracial couples have become commonplace in television and movies. And a black man has been elected twice as president.

    I remember 50 years ago very clearly. Young people only know today. That makes today *the worst time they have ever seen*. It is human nature to discount that which is before one’s time. Trump is an ass and a bad bump on the road. If you want terrifying, you want Jim Crow and the Klan with a topping of Joseph McCarthy. Yet those aberrations no longer run the government.

    Eventually, Trump will be gone. It was the incompetence of the Democratic Party that got him elected by a minority of the popular vote where a minority of eligible voters bothered to visit the polls. Hopefully, we won’t replace him with a Democrat that is equally bad.

    Progress has happened, slowly but continually, despite our atavistic tendencies to separate humans into “us” and “them”. We all have that tendency without regard to what our own background is. We tend to divide along many other fault lines as well. Gender, nation, lifestyle, ideology, sexual preference, religion, race, and perhaps most important of all, economic class. The anonymity of the internet allows people to spew all manner of vile and unforgivable things in their own echo chambers.

    Laws have their place. But laws cannot change the human heart.

    And that is the challenge that faces us. To become humans first and not competing groups fighting over status and resources. To stop putting the small things that make us different ahead of the large majority of things we all share. This is just as important for the have-nots as it is for the haves. It is the only solution.

    Liked by 1 person

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