Black people continue to be unemployed at twice the rate of whites in the United States, and various studies show that racism, rather than other factors, is likely the cause.
The pattern has been consistent statistically for about 60 years, notes D.C.-based reporter and writer Andy Kroll in an eye-opening article published today in TomDispatch.
Yes, for whatever reason, black people tend to have criminal records at disproportionately high rates compared to whites. And employers -- perhaps not always unfairly -- tend to choose job prospects who aren't ex-cons. The sickening truth is, though, as Kroll notes, status as an ex-con doesn't seem to be as important to employers as race.
In one study conducted in Wisconsin in 2001, two white guys and two black guys went looking for jobs. One in each pair took turns pretending to have a criminal record. Employers, it turned out, were far more likely to call back a white ex-con than a black person with no criminal record.
Another study in the early 2000s, Kroll points out, proved that employers were less likely to call back applicants with perceived "black" names.
Kroll says that the latest unemployment stats indicate a history repeating itself:
Nationwide, the unemployment rate for black workers at 16.2 % is almost double the 9.1% rate for the rest of the population. And it's twice the 8% white jobless rate.
Though that stat holds up on average over the decades, occasionally the gap narrows. For example, Kroll writes, racist hiring practices seem to have lessened after a few years of well-publicized laws that established civil rights for blacks. After the gains made in the late 1960s, unemployment in 1970 stood at 5.8% for blacks and 3.3% for whites.
Solutions to the problem aren't clear, unfortunately. Kroll's article contains no easy answers.
For instance, should money be spent on job creation programs for black people that give less preference to whites, Hispanics, Asians or Native Americans?
At the least, it seems like employers need to re-examine their hiring practices -- and perhaps their own hearts.