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Nadra Kareem Nittle

Is Discrimination to Blame for Soaring Black Unemployment?

By July 23, 2012

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To say that the African-American unemployment is high would be an understatement. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the black unemployment rate was a whopping 14.4 percent in June 2012. That's nearly double the white unemployment rate of 7.4 percent for the same timeframe.

The economic recession has hit minority groups particularly hard, with Latinos losing more wealth than any group and blacks struggling with sky-high unemployment. Given that one must be actively searching work to be classified as jobless by the federal government, the unemployment rate is not a reflection of the anonymous masses who've simply stopped looking for jobs during the economic recovery. So why are so many more blacks trying to land employment than whites? Many African Americans, including two readers of the Race Relations site featured in a panel on the subject in The Guardian, say discrimination plays a role.

Race Relations reader Joyce Witherspoon has been looking for work for the past six months. She recalls going in for two job interviews at companies that didn't have any blacks on staff. Witherspoon told the Guardian, "I am convinced that even with my qualifications...they would not hire me." And they didn't.

Another Race Relations reader, Lorrie Brown, says she's heard a litany of excuses from potential employers about why she wouldn't be a good fit. But she's taking the rejections in stride, even though racism may factor into why she's been turned down for work so many times. Brown told the Guardian:

"There is not much I can do about existing perceptions or what the hiring managers prefer or require, I can only redirect my approach, choose to work in a different field, work hard to find jobs in an industry or company that values my diversity and just keep moving."

That's certainly sound advice.

Additionally, some minorities are taking control of their employment predicament by turning into entrepreneurs. Rather than waiting for a boss to pick them from the crowd, they've decided to be their own boss. Of course, that option isn't available to everyone. However, if you have skills you think would benefit an employer, you may be able to offer them directly to the public on your own.

To read more about the experiences of unemployed blacks, check out the Guardian's panel on the topic here.


July 24, 2012 at 11:02 am
(1) Lavatior says:

I don’t think the problem is as simple as discrimination. We simply lack the proper skills to retain employment. I thank God that I have a job. But I know that I have to keep upgrading my skills to ensure that I will maintain a one. I train and go to school constantly now. But I have a few friends who have fallen on hard times. Of course, there will always be discrimination, especially against us. But that can be overcome if you maintain a set of skills that are being highly sought. Of course, it pays to be educated and if there is any place where “Blacks” are under served that is it.

July 25, 2012 at 7:29 pm
(2) BH says:

I agree with your ideologies… They are great to have. You have confidence in your hard work. Unfortunately, every minority will always be discriminated unless it is represented firmly by the government. Two things have to happen. First, minorities need to educate themselves. Take initiative, stop commiting crimes, and pick themsleves up! The second, is run for office. Do not complain about things you or your generation is not willing to fix. I am a first generation Mexican American and have learned that people on this Earth will treat you maliciously if you give them a reason to.

July 26, 2012 at 2:32 pm
(3) Lavatior says:

I’m sorry. I don’t agree with that at all. Racism just makes no sense to me. I don’t treat all Mexicans bad because of a run in with a few. I don’t go around wondering if they are here illegally. I deal with individuals, not with races. And I expect for anyone I meet to treat me the same way. I do not expect to have to provide explanations for the bad things other “Black” people do simply because I share the culture. I think it is silly and rather dull to try to blame folks for the problems of others. If a person can get an education and become a benefit to this society, they have more than fulfilled their obligation to this society. And they certainly don’t owe me a thing, especially if I am not their father, mother, son, or daughter.

September 7, 2012 at 2:37 pm
(4) TTT says:

People can and will treat you maliciously even if you don’t give them a reason to. I looked this topic up because I have done everything ‘right’. I worked VERY hard, finished h.s. with honors and a few scholarships. Went to a great Big Ten college, excelled as a leader in many areas and achieved an assistant-ship for Grad School for my masters. Achieved years of experience at high profile companies …only 2 over 7 years, and 6 years at one company. Yet, I have not been offered a job that is parallel to my experience and education. There had been a few interviews where I know I was flatly discriminated against because of my race. I’ve never committed a crime…and by the way, we need to stop stereotyping ourselves as minorities .

The disparity in unemployment is the result of discrimination and I can say so because I lived it. I’ve been unemployed for over 2 years now.

It is a hurtful experience and hurtful reality. …the Bush Recession took the progress that too many minorities have worked for decades to achieve. I am the first of my family to graduate college. …It is even more hurtful to witness that the American Dream is real….they just don’t want to be real for you. …The best thing we can do is to at least level with ourselves about the reality in this country, and respect ourselves for acknowledging the truth.

October 29, 2012 at 2:05 am
(5) Fooey says:

I’ve read some comments and I’m surprised at some of the comments that claim that blacks are not skilled enough, educated enough to get employment. That racism is not the whole factor but it may be somewhat a factor.
I know someone who returned to a previous employer in which she worked for 20 years. She returned as a temp for an associate that she had trained before she left 5 years before. A permanent job came up and she had 15 years experience in this position. When she went to the interview they told her that they knew she had the experience but she had to answer some “analytical” questions. Later she was told that she didn’t get the job that a friend of the hiring manager who was a part time store clerk with no experience got the position. She was was told that her 15-20 years experience with the company, her degree that she acquired didn’t matter. She was an outsider. My point. Blacks could be 150% qualified and whites could be 75% qualified and the white would get the job even without a high school diploma. True Story I’ve seen white females sleeping with managers get managerrial positions without a high school diploma. I have even seen the worse clerk be promoted to a managers position and when the compnay found out that the new manager had no high school diploma they gave her a chance to get a GED.

June 11, 2013 at 1:47 am
(6) james says:

Caucasians in the United States cherish their racist heritage and are disturbed by potential competition from minorities whom they feel are inherently inferior no matter their comparatively superior qualifications. Superior qualifications of minorities are marginalized by Caucasians claiming minorities have an unfair advantage over them because of Affirmative Action and quotas and their apparently superior education is meritless so their bigotry is justified. Most agencies and companies dominated by Caucasians officially decry discrimination but covertly suborn and praise managers that act out their personal prejudice in employment, promotion and retention. Most Caucasians express they are devoid of racism and discrimination but consciously, subconsciously or unconsciously actively engage in or sustain discrimination against minorities.

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