n 1988 and 1989, some Chicago employers were very candid about their disdain for black workers–especially poor ones–in groundbreaking interviews they granted two university researchers.
“When asked whether they thought there were any differences in the work ethics of whites, blacks, and Hispanics, 37.7 percent of the employers ranked blacks last, 1.4 percent ranked Hispanics last, and no one ranked whites there,” Joleen Kirschenman and Kathryn M. Neckerman wrote in “We’d Love to Hire Them But…,” an essay in the 1991 anthology The Urban Underclass.
In one exchange with an interviewer, a suburban drug store manager said, “It’s unfortunate, but, in my business I think overall [black men] tend to be known to be dishonest. I think that’s too bad but that’s the image they have,” the unnamed drug store manager said.
“So you think it’s an image problem?” the interviewer asked.
“Yeah, a dishonest, an image problem of being dishonest men and lazy. They’re known to be lazy. They are [laughs]. I hate to tell you, but. It’s all an image though. Whether they are not or not, I don’t know, but it’s an image that is perceived,” the drug store manager said.
“I see. How do you think that image was developed?” the interviewer asked.
“Go look in the jails,” the drug store manager, replied, laughing.
Full of frank answers from employers about why they dislike black workers, this essay — partially available in Google Books in pages 206 to 227 — is a must-read for every American, exposing the overt racial bias that existed in the American labor market 20-something years ago. Unfortunately, it’s still very relevant today.
In 2006, when the ABC news program 20/20 investigated employer’s reactions to names often perceived, according to the book Freakonomics, to be black, they found similar biases. Resumes with ‘white names’ got downloaded 17 percent more than resumes with black names, even though the content of the ‘white resumes’ was identical to the ‘black ones.’
Never mind that many of the ‘black names’ are actually classical European or Middle Eastern names. (Maurice and Andre are French. Darius is Persian. And Xavier is Latin. So I’m guessing that somehow it appears that when we use names from other cultures, we taint them.) More than 5 years after this investigation, people are defending this racial bias. Here’s a comment posted February 2011 on a forum that isn’t a white supremacist forum in response to the 20/20 investigation (Yes, it was typed in all caps):
Yesterday, when TheRoot.com revived this investigation by linking to it, the comment thread over there got interesting. Their readership is pretty conservative, so there were a fair amount of commenters urging the rejection of African and so-called Afrocentric names. But there were also some left-leaning black nationalist voices. Here’s one who said something interesting.
Obviously, America has a sickness. And lest we be confused, the sickness afflicts some black employers too, who also look for signs to weed out black applicants, according to “We’d Love to Hire Them But…” If your name is WASP-y, the next thing racist employers will do is check your address to see if you live in a