Race and Class: Blacks Still Taking the Hit

— Malik Miah

IT TOOK TEN months before the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) stood up and challenged President Barack Obama. In a surprise move, 10 CBC leaders refused to participate in a key House financial committee vote in December until some more relief is provided to Black businesses.

Black politicians and civil rights leaders have been understandably careful about criticizing the first Black president. Yet facts on the ground, especially the super high unemployment in the Black communities, forced their hand. While their challenge is mild, it is significant.

The impact of the Great Recession has been greatest on Blacks as well as on other ethnic minorities. Official unemployment is nearly 50% higher for African Americans than for whites. What’s most striking is that the Black middle class, including those with Ivy League educations, are having a hard time finding jobs.

The issue of “race” once again is becoming a hot topic in the Black community as qualified professionals and skilled workers with equal or better résumés than whites are being turned down for jobs — going instead to whites with lesser qualifications. It is a reminder of the pre-civil rights era.

At the same time, the gains of the civil rights revolution make it possible for Obama to be president and the Black elite to still hold some major jobs in big business. But there are clear signs of erosion.

One example reported in a front page story in The New York Times entitled, “In Job Hunt, even a college degree can’t close racist gap (December 1, 2009),” notes that many Blacks are altering their names to sound more “white” to get interviews.

A study published in the American Economic Review reports that applicants with Black-sounding names received 50% fewer callbacks than those with white-sounding names.

Getting the interview, of course, doesn’t mean you will be accepted in a tight private sector job market where most interviewers are generally white. (Government jobs are different where enforcement of anti-discrimination policies is stronger and more minorities are employed.) Even if you can get into the door for an interview, it doesn’t mean the most qualified person gets the job. There is little talk about “reverse discrimination” in this environment with double-digit unemployment. For the most part affirmative action in hiring is nonexistent.

One University of Chicago graduate applying for a business money management position in Dallas told the Times of how one hiring manager became excited while talking to him over the phone about how lucky the company was to hear from someone with a top business school education.

But once the company representatives met him and saw that he was Black, “Their eyes kind of hit the ceiling a bit. It was kind of quiet for 45 seconds.” The company’s interest in him quickly cooled.

A Yale University graduate commented, “It does weigh on you in the search because you’re wondering how much is race playing a factor in whether I’m even getting a first call or whether I’m even getting an in-person interview once they hear my voice and they know I’m probably African American?”

De facto Discrimination Lives

As the Dallas example shows, while it is illegal to discriminate, employers know how to avoid hiring Blacks without blatantly or overtly violating the law. Articles are now appearing in major papers and websites about white and Black professionals seeking identical jobs where the more qualified Blacks don’t even get return calls from recruiters. The old maxim, “last hired, first fired” is not applicable since these qualified Blacks can’t even get in the door.

On top of this, the bailout of Wall Street provided few funds for small businesses. Loans and lines of credit are nearly impossible to find. This is doubly true for Black businesses — this is credit redlining.

Some 14 years ago the government began tracking the number of hungry Americans facing what it euphemistically calls “food insecurity.” Today the Department of Agriculture calculates that there are some 49 million Americans — 26% of Black households, 14.6% of white — without enough food. Millions of adults only eat one meal per day and a record number of families rely on food stamps.

The oldest and most respected civil rights group, the NAACP, is now calling on President Obama to take firmer action on the jobs front and the economic recession’s disproportionate impact on Black Americans.

Other Black leaders are also criticizing Obama’s decision to spend billions more for the war in Afghanistan (up to $40 billion per year) while few dollars are going to help the poorest communities save their homes and get jobs. Obama never mentions the special problems facing Black working people.

Racial Reality of Joblessness

The data make clear that race does matter when it comes to joblessness. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in November 2009 unemployment for whites was 9.3%, but 15.6% for Blacks. Overall the unemployment rate was 10% (much higher when those who have given up and the underemployed are added). Long-term unemployment (those persons jobless for 27 weeks or more) continues to increase. It is twice as high for African Americans.

A second statistic also shows the color divide. Black men working at full-time jobs make $622 per week, which is 74.5% of the $835 median for white men.

The unemployment rate among men with college degrees in 2009 is 4.4% for whites, and 8.4% for Blacks. For those with high school diplomas, unemployment is 10% for white men, and 15.9% for Black men. For those with less than a high school degree, it is 13.9% for white and 24.2% for Black men.

The BLS statistics among women are similar — 4% for white women with a college degree compared to 6.9% for Black women. For those with a high school diploma, 7.4% for white women, compared to 11.4% for Black women; and 13% for white women with less than a high school degree compared to 18.3% for Black women.

The BLS statistics are raw data compiled from across the country. The fact that the racial gap is consistent for all social categories indicates that race and racism is structural in society. Accordingly, special measures (enforced by the federal government) are required to help African Americans overcome structural discrimination. These must include affirmative action programs and push back against employers who will find ways to interview but not hire African Americans.

Many Black elected officials in Washington are beginning to see that uncritical support to Obama is not a smart policy. Anger is growing in the Black community. Unemployed African Americans will not get jobs or be trained by “waiting” for the first president who happens to be Black to help them.

Civil rights leaders have been less forceful in these efforts, however, because of a reality that concerns them — the increase in right-wing and racist smears and threats against Obama.

Rise of Hate Groups

There has been a qualitative increase of hate mail and threats directed at President Obama since he took office. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) based in Alabama has reported on the significant rise of the militia movement that is infused with racist ideology. Its report, “The Second Wave: Return of the Militias,” cites the following evidence:

• Fifty new militia training groups, including one composed of current and former police officer and soldiers.

• The convening of so-called “citizen courts” and “grand juries” that have issued indictments against President Obama for treason and fraud.

• “Sovereign citizens” who subscribe to the ideology that whites have a higher citizenship status than others and do not have to pay taxes or obey other laws. They engage in “paper terrorism” such as filing bogus property liens against enemies.

• The introduction of states’ rights resolutions in the legislatures of about three dozen states. The governor of Texas has gone so far to talk about “secession.”

According to its founder Morris Dees, as of the end of 2008 the SPLC documented 926 hate groups in America — a record number and an increase of more than 50% since 2000.

While many of these rightist efforts and militias have existed in the past, what’s new is the reality of the first Black president. Coupled with their hostility to immigrants  — legal and undocumented — the smear campaigns of Fox News and the energized extreme right with its racist and other neo-fascist language, create a climate that enables blatant discrimination.

These elements were on vivid display at the well-organized intervention by the conservative base of the Republican Party at the town hall meetings on health care last summer. Many opponents of Obama brought weapons and displays of Nazi and racist images to intimidate officials and those with genuine concerns. On her book tour Sarah Palin’s demagogy, with her direct appeals to not-so-subtle white nationalism, “Obama is not like us,” could not be clearer.

Glenn Beck of Fox News summarized the views of the racist fringe and mainstream neoconservative movement when he said President Obama “has exposed himself over and over and over again as a guy who has a deep-seated hatred of white people or the white culture.” (July 28, 2009)

What Needs to Happen?

The rise of overt racist talk, militia groups and more “confident” bigots attacking Obama requires a response. The response should be more than to simply protest the racism of the right. It must center its demands on the government to act on issues of urgent need for society. This includes taking up traditional civil rights issues like jobs, affirmative action and health care for all. It means opposing Obama’s push for a deeper war in Afghanistan and toward implementing the Bush agenda abroad.

Ultimately the only way to reinforce civil rights laws, push again for affirmative action in employment and take on de facto discrimination in hiring requires public protests and action. The concern that the “Black” president cannot be openly criticized, since the racist right is after him, is a mistake.

The small steps taken by the Black Caucus in Congress, the NAACP and others to demand a change are openings to do more. What’s needed are marches for jobs, health care, defense of women’s rights and other issues that were won by the civil rights and other social movements. Without public protests and counter mobilizations, the airwaves and streets will continue to be dominated by the ultra right and the neoconservative forces.

There are many white working people sucked in by the energized anti-Obama, government-is-bad-at-everything campaign as symbolized by the Palin book signings and town hall protests. They still can be neutralized or even won over to the antiracist and progressive side if a revitalized left movement emerges. White people’s social consciousness, along with the struggles of all working people in this country, rose in the 1960s when a minority Black community led the civil rights revolution that transformed the country.

ATC 144, January-February 2010

Please stop confusing "Race" Groups with 'Ethnic' Groups

.
Please feel free to work to inform Americans that ....
the ETHNIC term of "African-American" (AA) is NOT
a 'Synonym' for the RACIAL term of 'Black American'
(BA) -- the two (2) terms are actually referring to two
(2) entirely DIFFERENT GROUPS of people -- AND that
many of the true AAs find it to be very offensive that
our society works to force them to "carry the statistics"
(particularly the 'negative' ones -- ex. AIDS / HIV Rates,
STD Rates; Crime Rates; Out-Of-Wedlock Birthrates;
Higher-Education Drop-Out Rates, STD Rate; etc.) --
for all of the many, many, many diverse BA groups
and communities that are currently living in the U.S.
.
https://www.facebook.com/allpeople.gifts/posts/300777016632181
.

The life of being black and educated.

I totally agree! I am African American and I live outside the United States and I am just American. When I fist said African American people were confused. The questions began "Are you from Africa?" So I stuck with American. When you leave the United States your just American no matter shade you are! I feel like it give racist a chance to define and separate us from the world. The treatment really disenfranchise men and women of color around the world. Before I finished college I applied to over 1800 jobs and only one reply during 2012. I gave up and moved over seas. My family thought I was not trying. I would even go up to locations for positions with hiring signs and their excuse was the position was filled. I have done stake outs to see and see several applicants go in and out the store. Once I come up I the famous line. I gave up on American jobs. I honestly sometimes believe that since Obama's in office I have less chance of getting hired because it's the way of ( Black Men and Women) from success and to crush dreams. I know it may sound far fetched but is it? Being discouraged in America's job racism;moreover,I left to find employment and to grow! I find America still needs to sort out its' racism and their problem with educated ( Americans with darker shade). It still amazes that after spending 10 years in school and gathering great desirable skills. A white middle or high school drop out can get employed faster than I can.

Blacks aren't being hired BECAUSE the president is Black

Certain jobs are being reserved for White applicants. I was working a contract position and once it came out that I was making more than my white co-worker, they ended my contract and hired a white girl. We are being penalized for voting for Obama. Most Blacks voted for Obama. If that's not true than why is it that I get more interviews using my middle name than my ethnic first name. And why do I pass phone interviews 100% of the time yet I pass face to face interviews only 25% of the time or less!

I'm a very bubbly person. I have a very friendly personality and I've done excellent in sales positions throughout my career. That doesn't stop my White interviewer from asking me if I am confrontational and do I get along with my co-workers. I find these questions stereotypical and I am certain that those questions aren't asked to Whites.

Amen Brother!

Black professionals are fighting tooth and nail for a seat at the table these days. I never wanted to confront the notion that we are fighting so hard because our president is black.

We are applying for all kinds of jobs that require advanced degrees or certain technical training. Some people have worked fulltime jobs while pursing their education in the evenings. Not a easy feat to accomplish!...

This employment scene is scary and treacherous.

I'm white and am always asked

I'm white and am always asked about my ability to get along with team members. I take that as an opportunity to show that I recognize disputes occur and am able to work with team members to resolve those conflicts. Those are standard questions in the interview process.

I'm starting to see it

I'm really starting to see the effect of racism. On more than on occasion prospective employers really like my resume, really like me on the phone, but seem to cool off in person. I'm starting to get really frustrated.

racism

I'm glad you have said this I have truly been experiencing the same damn thing.

I agree with this. Majority

I agree with this. Majority of White employers want 'sameness' and just don't want to deal with Blacks. They'll hire their friends or relatives with little experience and won't consider an educated Black applicant. Yet, many Whites will deny discrimination.

White privilege is protected under laws/policies in which they benefit from. These laws/policies aim to maintain disenfranchised Black ppl. That's why highly educated Blacks aren't promoted because it's a way of keeping us subservient; and with no authority. Whites don't want Blacks in any position of power. Hense, this is all under the umbrella of Racism. It won't change because this doesn't affect White ppl.

Race and Class: Blacks Still Taking the H

Although sad. Its is true.
I worked for a supermarket company as a AP clerk then a Dept Specialist 1987-2007. I resigned in 2007 to take care of my daughter and find a job closer to home. The long work hours and extensive traveling two and a half hours on public transportaion interfeared with her care. My oldest daughter was caring for her while I was at work but at this time she was entering college.
I experienced a great deal of racism while working at this place because I was the only black in the department. I was told by the HR manager that if I experience any problems to contact her. Two weeks later she was gone. I endured the racism from white managers and black one that were hired just to get rid of me. I tried leaving but the black manager gave a bad reference to a position that I applied for and I didn't get it. I needed the job so I stayed.
In 2011 after not securing any full time work I wrote this company and asked them if they needed any help. They did someone was going out on leave and I filled in for her. It was a temp job but I was happy to be working. I prayed for another job to open (perm) It did a long time co worker was retiring.
I applied for the position and was confident that I would get it because I had performed a simliar job for 15 years.
I didn't get the job the black hr manager claimed that I was an outsider and was unqualified. The job went to the friend of the hiring manager.
The person who got the job wasn't nearly qualified and if she had a diploma I would have been surprised. She was a part time clerk at store level. The hiring manager has hooked up all of her friends from the stores to work at jobs that are way over their heads. These same store clerk are totally unaware of the many facets of their position. I found that the women on maternity leave failed to perform all the many facets of the position because she had no experience and core abilities. She worked previously with another manager who had to get rid of her because of her failure to grasp the work. This was known throughout the office. It was also known that she didn't have a diploma. Yet they found a reason not to give me the job. The black HR was hired to deflect talk and lawsuit of racial bias & discrimination.

Racism at work

I am in mangement, A boss who is black and gives directives to white people.Some whites did not like it so I was let go... twice. Now what am I supposed to do.

More and More these days

It's getting worse and worse with passing time; it's as if, these days, brown skin (of any ethnicity) and a college degree or two or three, especially from "good" universities, ensure that you will NEVER WORK AGAIN and will wind up on welfare right alongside those who did not bother to finish high school. That's who we wind up sitting next to in the Food Stamp office - those who dropped out of high school and had babies out of wedlock and who are thus getting AFDC or TANF (whatever they're calling it now) while we who "bothered" going to college and trying to rise ABOVE that lifestyle are winding up schlepped right into it anyway - and all we have in common is skin pigmentation. I'm not knocking them - I'm just saying that I didn't go to Yale and get a Math teaching license to be collecting Food Stamps ANYWAY because no one wants a Yalie Math teacher who even "looks" Black.

Then after all the school you

Then after all the school you can't get a job and your credit gets ruined because you cannot payback your student loan. Then you cannot qualify for a business loan to try and start your own business because your credit is ruined due to a student loan being in default.

I am stuck- we all are stuck.

It makes me very angry.

Racism in IT

I work in IT and I don't think there is a field where there is more racism. I got out of college in 1986 and since then it has been a constant uphill struggle. You would think that after working in IT for more than 20 years I would be riding a Rolls-Royce by now, but nothing could be further from the truth. In the late 1990's IT managers began recruiting workers from India because there was a shortage and the Y2K problem , but the flow of workers from that country never stopped. As a matter of fact 25-30% of IT jobs are outsourced to that country. The Indians knew that they had to hit the weakest point in the link and that was Black IT workers. Therefore they became more racist than the whites. Currently the Indians have taken over about 80% of IT jobs. This works fine for whites because they never wanted to see black in those positions. In my opinion, RACISM plays a HUGE part in the outsourcing of IT jobs more that any other industry. It is one thing to be a racist, but it is another thing when you try to hold people back regardless of their credentials.

Response to Above Comment

To the commenter above, I'd say the reason so many folks of color don't finish high school isn't because they "did not bother," but because they faced the same kinds of racist, systemic obstacles that you have. Poverty, a racist criminal "justice" system, systematic discrimination, etc. prevent people from even getting started on the "right path" just as similar obstacles prevent those who've taken that path and got degrees and so on from getting or maintaining jobs afterward.

racism

Too many people of color are taking the hit for the first non all white president. It's a shame how business and contractors have shed a huge number of minorities with little press from media outlets. Govt/private agencies which suppose to protect these groups should be dissolved for sitting on the sidelines and watching. Yes eeoc, ig, ombuds, congress, arbitrators and etc.....

I'm a vet and have been gainfully employed for over 25 years and still experience racism and poor managers in 2014.

The Plan

I think the plan is that white people have for black people is to keep us broke and in debt so we could be nothing more than an a Economical slave. Even if we do get a job (that's all it is a job)they pay us just enough to get back and forth to work. I don't want to sound racist or anything but I have to say that these so-called undocumented people who are illegally entering this country has to go. After reading the top part of this website Race and Class: Blacks Still Taking the Hit by Malik Miah, I don't think he realize how right he is. But I will say an even bigger truth. White people will always HATE black people, and until we fight them and fight for our rights to have equal everything they will continue to play god with our lives and the lives of others who they feel are beneath them. As much as respect Obama I feel he like most politicians has let us down. The reason being, why would send troops to go another country when we have all the problems here in america? Just as they have hungry people over there, we have the same problem over here etc.

I agree with most of what you

I agree with most of what you have to say but want to challenge the comment on undocumented people: immigrants, and especially undocumented immigrants, are exploited by the political and economic system in much the same way that Black people are. They are equally victims of the prison-industrial complex, they are equally victims of low-paying jobs, assaults on political rights, etc. It's the same system oppressing everyone--the enemies are the rich and their politicians, not immigrants.

This country will never be a

This country will never be a color blind society. It just won't happen. So don't expect anything from that. Whites will always prefer their own (which is true for everybody but since whites are in power this makes it bad for everyone else). Do not expect this to change.

My advice to African Americans? You have to set up your own country within a country. That's the only way you'll achieve equality--because it sure as hell will never to given to you in a white society.

Your advice is similar to

Your advice is similar to Marcus Garvey's, to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad's, and many others that for some reason became the enemy of the white U.S. Gov't in America , in South Africa, in Australia, in Israel, in the Vatican in Rome, in Great Britain( what you would call a world wide cullusion) and we can't leave out the Arabs that still to this day will not allow the actual facts about who were the Kemetic people (Egyptian)with schools of higher learning that is undeniable,
in it's African source.

All True

Living in a swing state like Columbus,Ohio where right wing policies and agendas prevail despite voting left wing. African Americans that were employed with the Veterans Affairs were systematically dismissed even after filing claims of abuse and intimidation with the American Federation of Federal Employee Union. Claims disappeared union representatives replaced and upper maagement just simply refused,ducked, dodged proper arbitration policies. In the case of myself a seven year employee at a rating of GS-7 as a certified medical supply technican and procurement clerk. I have seen an unusual amount of African Americans walked out the door on bogus dismissal with the VAOPC Columbus, Ohio every since President Obama took office. It took that clinic almost 6 months to replace the picture of old commander in chief. It happened to me in May of 2011 with my case mysteriously abated and by the standard of Ohio Unemployment Bureau ruling my discharge was unjust.

Racism

After reading quite a few on the comments on this and I have to admit I am new to this site I will have to say I read quite a few of very interesting comments, my being 65 years of age and retired and yes I experienced the things that Martin Luther King and many other did and went through to get us too were we are now. I have also notice that a lot of our people have become very complicant in the success that was achieved via the methods Martin and again other did to achieve that success.

Talk is cheap, talking about the problems Blacks/African Americans are experiencing will not solve the problem, we that have been given the success that we have experience needs to be paid forward and talking about it is not going to get it. Yes there are people, organization, even political actions that are trying to take that back we can't allow that, we as a people have to organize and March on the White House I don't care if President Obama is living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, still march anyways, view vocal about the employment problems, living situations etc that are effecting our Race once again. I have 3 grandsons and a Great Granddaughter that I want to be successful in life they speak about going to college and there success in life and I want that for them because my working and my husband working everyday to afford our children to succeed and they did.

As far as the Senate and Congress I see them as a bunch of losers, all they do is bicker and spew threats about what they are going to do if the President does this they are all worthless, but we as a race should not let that stop us from paying forward and make sure our children succeed in there life. So talk is cheap, these black organization etc need to get off of there butts and not be afraid to confront the President even if he is Black/African American, we need to contact this organization and brainstorm on how we are going to MARCH on Washington and change what is happening to our people let the world know expose these Politicians including the President if need be so that we can continue to be successful as well as to assure our children are successful because there is more than enough to go around, if the Hispanic/Latino Population can march on the White House/Capital Hill and demand Full Rights for over 600,000 illegals in this country then we can do the same thing because we are not Illegals we are 100% American Citizens demand that they TAKE CARE OF HOMEFRONT FIRST!!!.

Discussing this situation is great thing, but Organizing as well as being very vocal and mobil on the situation as far as jobs, etc speaks volumes and it will also tell the World exactly what is going on right here on the HOMEFRONT.

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