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
.

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 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.

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.

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