Racism’s Not Dead (Part 1 of 4)

Ryan Flynn –

When the economy takes a downturn, usually the saying “last hired, first fired” comes into play. However, this saying isn’t entirely accurate. In 2010, an article by the University of Southern California tested this “last hired, first fired” theory. Their results showed that although African-Americans were not hired last when the economy was booming and were fairly well represented, when the economy started to take a downturn African-Americans were the first to be let go. So therefore, “last hired, first fired” is not quite true, at least when multiple races are involved.

However, it takes getting hired to be able to be let go. This is where it becomes trickier, although with the proper facts and statistics, the problem is clear.

National Bureau of Economic Research Fellows Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan conducted a 2003 field experiment on hiring practices with race being the deciding factor. In help-wanted ads in Chicago and Boston they sent in resumes with either commonly used white American names (Emily Walsh and Greg Baker were used) or common African-American names (Lakisha Washington and Jamal Jones were used). What they discovered was that for the “white name” group it took approximately 10 resumes sent for each callback they received, whereas for the “African-American name” group it took 15 resumes for each callback.

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In 1954, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics started collecting data on unemployment, the unemployment of white Americans stood at 5%, whereas African-American unemployment stood double that at 9.9%.

Now of course this was pre-Civil Rights, so many people would say that makes sense that the two totals would be so far apart. It has definitely gotten better since then, correct? Wrong. In 2013, white American unemployment stood at 6.5%, whereas African-American unemployment stood at 13%, which is still double the rate.

In this 60 year time period, there is not one year where the unemployment of these two races was equal or close to it. African-American unemployment has always been higher.

Drew DeSilver writing for the Pew Research Center sums up the last 60 years of data very cleverly:

“The widest gaps, when black unemployment was as much as 2.77 times that of white unemployment, came in the late 1980s, as the manufacturing sectors that employed disproportionate shares of African-Americans shriveled. The smallest gaps, ironically, came in the summer of 2009 during the Great Recession; white unemployment rose so high, so fast, that the black jobless rate was ‘only’ 1.67 times higher.”

Sociologist Devah Pager looked at this issue and theorized that prison and socially-perceived stereotypes about the two races in association with prison contributes to this divide in job practices. Pager asked for two African-American male applicants and two white American male applicants (all with similar educational experience) and sent them out to apply for jobs. However, in each group one person had a criminal record.

What she found was the white applicant without a criminal history received a callback 34% of the time, while the white applicant with a criminal history received a callback 17% of the time. The African-American applicant without a criminal history received a callback only 14% of the time, and that dropped to 5% with a criminal history.

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Yes, you read that correctly. A white male with a criminal record was more likely to receive a callback than an African-American male with NO criminal record.

Racism is not dead. It is only a bit more subconscious. However, with statistics it can easily be shown to still exist in an extremely big way. Over the course of my next four articles, I will be looking at many aspects of American culture to show that the problem still exists and that without speaking out on the issue, everyone is at fault.

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