When President Obama got elected, there was jubilation among all. The American voter had finally transcended race conflicts and elected the first African-American president. Diversity-touting websites celebrated with eloquent editorials and announced that a new era had begun for Black leadership and opportunity. Nothing could stop equality from reigning now. Right?Well. An article in the Times points out that the very election might have built resentment among people and that it has manifested itself into a cause for despair for young Black professionals. The article quotes job seeker Winston Bell, 40 and Black, as saying, "You want to be a nonthreatening, professional black guy." So, white and Hispanic managers who traditionally tend to hire white and Hispanic employees, now seem to be doing it even more. And with much fewer jobs on the block, Blacks seem to be suffering, more precisely, Black men.
The Black unemployment rate has risen disproportionately since 2007 compared to other races. And the statistics presented in the article are compelling: 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.
The article also goes on to discuss job strategies college graduates from prestigious universities are deploying to avoid focus on their skin color. Barry Jabar Sykes becomes Barry J. Sykes while another job seeker with an MBA from University of Chicago and work experience from J.P. Morgan removes mention of his membership with the African-American business students association. What is worrying though is that education--long known to level the playing field for all races--isn't cutting it anymore. While most of the job seekers quoted in the article admit discrimination is probably not intentional in most places, it is the argument of "cultural fit" that gets them every time.
While fewer profits have meant cutting down on HR initiatives at promoting diversity, statistics and sentiments like these point us in a direction that has taken a backseat among many other pressing issues this year, i.e., equal opportunity employment. It might be time to pick up the baton again and reinstate those diversity programs among those of us who are hiring.
To read the aforementioned article in the Times, click here.
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