Respond to This!


Dear Standard Classes:

Please read the following  NY Times story and respond in the comments section after this post.


Dr. K


In Job Hunt, College Degree Can’t Close Racial Gap

Damon Winter/The New York Times

Johnny R. Williams, 30, would appear to be an unlikely person to have to fret about the impact of race on his job search, with companies like JPMorgan Chase and an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago on his résumé.

But after graduating from business school last year and not having much success garnering interviews, he decided to retool his résumé, scrubbing it of any details that might tip off his skin color. His membership, for instance, in the African-American business students association? Deleted.

“If they’re going to X me,” Mr. Williams said, “I’d like to at least get in the door first.”

Similarly, Barry Jabbar Sykes, 37, who has a degree in mathematics from Morehouse College, a historically black college in Atlanta, now uses Barry J. Sykes in his continuing search for an information technology position, even though he has gone by Jabbar his whole life.

“Barry sounds like I could be from Ireland,” he said.

That race remains a serious obstacle in the job market for African-Americans, even those with degrees from respected colleges, may seem to some people a jarring contrast to decades of progress by blacks, culminating in President Obama’s election.

But there is ample evidence that racial inequities remain when it comes to employment. Black joblessness has long far outstripped that of whites. And strikingly, the disparity for the first 10 months of this year, as the recession has dragged on, has been even more pronounced for those with college degrees, compared with those without. Education, it seems, does not level the playing field — in fact, it appears to have made it more uneven.

College-educated black men, especially, have struggled relative to their white counterparts in this downturn, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate for black male college graduates 25 and older in 2009 has been nearly twice that of white male college graduates — 8.4 percent compared with 4.4 percent.

Various academic studies have confirmed that black job seekers have a harder time than whites. A study published several years ago in The American Economic Review titled “Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?” found that applicants with black-sounding names received 50 percent fewer callbacks than those with white-sounding names.

A more recent study, published this year in The Journal of Labor Economics found white, Asian and Hispanic managers tended to hire more whites and fewer blacks than black managers did.

The discrimination is rarely overt, according to interviews with more than two dozen college-educated black job seekers around the country, many of them out of work for months. Instead, those interviewed told subtler stories, referring to surprised looks and offhand comments, interviews that fell apart almost as soon as they began, and the sudden loss of interest from companies after meetings.

Whether or not each case actually involved bias, the possibility has furnished an additional agonizing layer of second-guessing for many as their job searches have dragged on.

“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?” said Terelle Hairston, 25, a graduate of Yale University who has been looking for work since the summer while also trying to get a marketing consulting start-up off the ground. “You even worry that the hiring manager may not be as interested in diversity as the H.R. manager or upper management.”

Mr. Williams recently applied to a Dallas money management firm that had posted a position with top business schools. The hiring manager had seemed ecstatic to hear from him, telling him they had trouble getting people from prestigious business schools to move to the area. Mr. Williams had left New York and moved back in with his parents in Dallas to save money.

But when Mr. Williams later met two men from the firm for lunch, he said they appeared stunned when he strolled up to introduce himself.

“Their eyes kind of hit the ceiling a bit,” he said. “It was kind of quiet for about 45 seconds.”

The company’s interest in him quickly cooled, setting off the inevitable questions in his mind.

Discrimination in many cases may not even be intentional, some job seekers pointed out, but simply a matter of people gravitating toward similar people, casting about for the right “cultural fit,” a buzzword often heard in corporate circles.

There is also the matter of how many jobs, especially higher-level ones, are never even posted and depend on word-of-mouth and informal networks, in many cases leaving blacks at a disadvantage. A recent study published in the academic journal Social Problems found that white males receive substantially more job leads for high-level supervisory positions than women and members of minorities.

Many interviewed, however, wrestled with “pulling the race card,” groping between their cynicism and desire to avoid the stigma that blacks are too quick to claim victimhood. After all, many had gone to good schools and had accomplished résumés. Some had grown up in well-to-do settings, with parents who had raised them never to doubt how high they could climb. Moreover, there is President Obama, perhaps the ultimate embodiment of that belief.

Certainly, they conceded, there are times when their race can be beneficial, particularly with companies that have diversity programs. But many said they sensed that such opportunities had been cut back over the years and even more during the downturn. Others speculated there was now more of a tendency to deem diversity unnecessary after Mr. Obama’s triumph.

In fact, whether Mr. Obama’s election has been good or bad for their job prospects is hotly debated. Several interviewed went so far as to say that they believed there was only so much progress that many in the country could take, and that there was now a backlash against blacks.

“There is resentment toward his presidency among some because of his race,” said Edward Verner, a Morehouse alumnus from New Jersey who was laid off as a regional sales manager and has been able to find only part-time work. “This has affected well-educated, African-American job seekers.”

It is difficult to overstate the degree that they say race permeates nearly every aspect of their job searches, from how early they show up to interviews to the kinds of anecdotes they try to come up with.

“You want to be a nonthreatening, professional black guy,” said Winston Bell, 40, of Cleveland, who has been looking for a job in business development.

He drew an analogy to several prominent black sports broadcasters. “You don’t want to be Stephen A. Smith. You want to be Bryant Gumbel. You don’t even want to be Stuart Scott. You don’t want to be, ‘Booyah.’ ”

Nearly all said they agonized over job applications that asked them whether they would like to identify their race. Most said they usually did not.


9 responses

  1. It’s sad to say how unsurprising and unpredictable this article is. For these young men, who have done everything in their power to get through GREAT colleges in order to start their lives, it should not be so difficult for them to find the jobs that they are looking for (and get them). The worst part about it is that most, if not all of them, would have gotten these jobs that they were turned down from is they had painted themselves white and gotten voice transforming machines. I think that racism, or “cultural fitness”, is pure ignorance and that people should grow up and realize what century we are in. The fact that we are in a recession should also be slapping these business owners/managers in the face until they understand that good work is good work. No matter who is doing it.

    -SPC =]

  2. i agree with stephanie in that the article is unsurprising. These young men like many others have worked so hard and got so far only to be turned away time after time, because of race. It is a sad reality but one we are still dealing with in the 21st century.

  3. prior to this article i have been aware of the invevitable/everpresent racism in todays society. In regards to this article i am disheartened by the fact that the average african american with a top notch college education is less likely to receive a job against the average white man with only a high school degree. this seems strikingly unsettling and makes no sense. once again african americans have to find wise and cautious ways to beat the system just so that we can survive. changing your name to make it sound more “white” or being unsure as to whether or not to fill out the ethnicity portion on an application. what kind of life is that to live? you might as well go ahead and just say that we are being forced to supress our own ethnicity/culture or f you want to be extreme BEING! why is it like that or rather why does it have to be like that?

  4. It is hard to admit but this article is extremely true and sad!! There are so many people who, no matter how hard they try, they just cant get a break because of their names!!! The gov’t would probably disagree with this article because they do not want the world to see how racist it really still is after all these years! It is a shame that you are hired for a job on your skin color more then your ability to work!

  5. I agree with the above three comments. As a young man attending an HBCU you start to wonder what goes on in this country we living in and here is proof. As Sydellia says,”n regards to this article i am disheartened by the fact that the average african american with a top notch college education is less likely to receive a job against the average white man with only a high school degree. this seems strikingly unsettling and makes no sense”, and it doesn’t. My skin doesn’t determine who I am. Not everyone is the same, God gave us a will and a duty to carry out his plan for us. We were all taught to become what every we want to be right? Well how can we and its minorities against the world. This so called “white mans world”. The land of the home and the free doesn’t even have equality on its land. Intelligence is not enough, Intelligence plus character is the goal of education-Martin Luther King Jr. to these business owners don’t judge from the color of my skin but from my educational background. Because you never know my help will may benefit your business.

  6. This article is very sad, but true. Things like this happen on a day to day basis. It is very disturbing to know that you can be a very well educated woman/man of color who went to college got his/her degree and was top of the class, but because of your name you can get turned down before the person has even met you. Even if you do have a name that seems “white” just as i do, when you go to the interview it is a whole different story. I myslef have been a victim of this discimination in the workplace. I believe the manager thought i was white because of my name, and she was all excited about giving me an interview. Then when it was interview time she realized i was not white, and her facial expression said it all. I hope that one day your name or race will not determine whether or not you get a job.

  7. When I read this article, it constantly reminded me of how my mother went about choosing my name. In my house we are very aware of how your name can affect your future. When my mother chose my name she wanted something unique, and something that employers really couldn’t tell if it was Black or not. My middle name however, is a Black name, but since it’s my middle name I just use the initial. This article is a bitter truth, but it didn’t bring anything to my attention that I wasn’t already aware of.

  8. Throughout this article I concluded that things in “new society” hasn’t changed a bit since the “old days”. I found this article to be very realistic and factual, due to the fact that it seems as if blacks as a race are almost always discriminated against on a day to day basis. Unsuprisingly, the men who had recieved education from a few of the most prestigious institutions that are expected to help boost ones ability to recieve a career and or job. I agree with this article which spoke about President Barak Obama. I believe that the “white” employers are highly upset and discouraged by the black presidency that the United States of America are now under. So, disappointed that the employers feel the need not to want to hire anyone who isn’t of their culture or race. Although this is a sad reality, I truely believe that this article states all true and harsh facts that blacks must all cope and suffer with. It brought about situations that are occuring in today’s society and life for the oridnary African American.

  9. Reading this article has really made me recognize how much damage your name can have on your future outbeing.
    I do agree that some names african americans tend to create after giving birth are a little outlandish but who are we as society to tell them there name is unfit. We can’t blame they child they’re brought in a world given this name. But we can’t blame the parents neither for giving the name they sought as best fit for the there newborn. I also do agree that now a days it doesn’t make a difference if you have a degree verses if you don’t because every one is losing in this recession. The only people who don’t lose out are the rich. But this has been happening long before the recession is this is why I push myself to earn and recieve not only my bachelor’s degree but a advanced degree. Which in my case would be a master’s degree and hopefully a law degree, along with a certification in accounting to set me apart from my counterparts. I would never abandon my heritage though on a resume or application I would list my race and every african american club I was apart of because ultimately thats what makes me and best fit for the job. If they didn’t want to hire me because of my race then I probably don’t need to be there anyway. I put my faith in god in through him I know that anything is possible. With god on my side who can be against me?

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