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Yes, Black Unemployment Driven By White America’s Favors For Friends.

March 29, 2013 by  
Filed under News, Opinion, Weekly Columns

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( There’s a comforting-to-white-people fiction about racism and racial inequality in the United States today: They’re caused by a small, recalcitrant group who cling to their egregiously inaccurate beliefs in the moral, intellectual and economic superiority of white people.

The reality: racism and racial inequality aren’t just supported by old ideas, unfounded group esteem or intentional efforts to mistreat others, said Nancy DiTomaso, author of the new book, The American Non-Dilemma: Racial Inequality Without Racism. They’re also based on privilege, she said — how it is shared, how opportunities are hoarded and how most white Americans think their career and economic advantages have been entirely earned, not passed down or parceled out.

The way that whites, often unconsciously, hoard and distribute advantage inside their almost all white networks of family and friends is one of the driving reasons that in February just 6.8 percent of white workers remained unemployed while 13.8 percent of black workers and 9.6 percent of Hispanic workers were unable to find jobs, DiTomaso said.

This week, the professor of organization management at Rutgers University and her ideas have captured the attention of the business press. There was a blog about her book in The Wall Street Journal and a story in Bloomberg Businessweek. DiTomaso, who is white, has gathered evidence that racism and inequality actively shape the labor market and make it far harder for black workers to find jobs.

“Across all three states where I did my research, I heard over and over again [white] people admitting that they don’t interact very often with nonwhites, not at work, not at home or otherwise,” said DiTomaso about the 246After The Fall: Scenes from New York in The Great Recession interviews with working-class and middle-class whites she did over the course of about a decade in Tennessee, Ohio and New Jersey. Her research included detailed job histories and information about the way her study participants obtained jobs over the course of their careers.

“That was true for just about everybody unless they were still in college,” DiTomaso continued. “Others would allude to some college friend or experience. But since then, they had not had much contact with blacks. So how would they pass opportunities and information across race lines?”

DiTomaso concludes, based on her research, that most white Americans engage, at least a few times per year, in the activities that foster inequality. While they may not deliberately discriminate against black and other non-white job seekers, they take actions that make it more likely that white people will be employed — without thinking that what they’re doing amounts to discrimination.

“The vast majority assumed everyone has the same opportunities, and they just somehow tried harder, were smarter,” DiTomaso said of those she interviewed. “Not seeing how whites help other whites as the primary way that inequality gets reproduced today is very helpful. It’s easy on the mind.”

So white Americans tell a neighbor’s son about a job, hire a friend’s daughter, carry the resume of a friend (or, for that matter, a friend’s boyfriend’s sister) into the boss’s office, recommend an old school mate or co-worker for an unadvertised opening, or just say great things about that job applicant whom they happen to know. But since most Americans, white and black, live virtually segregated lives, and since advantages, privileges and economic progress have already accrued in favor of whites, the additional advantages that flow from this help go almost exclusively to whites, DiTomaso said.

DiTomaso’s findings aren’t exactly new, said Algernon Austin, director of the Race, Ethnicity and the Economy program at the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning Washington-based think tank.

“Listen, I think it’s an important piece of work to reiterate and clarify the ways in which blacks are disadvantaged in the labor market,” Austin said. “Of course, part of the appeal of this is that there’s no malice. You can say no one is to blame. The Businessweek piece says, well, people just like helping out their friends, which is perfectly natural and normal.”

DiTomaso’s work does confirm that networks — not just the kind you build over awkward conversations, finger foods and watered-down cocktails but the kind you’re born into — matter, Austin said. It also points to just how different forms of inequality feed one another. Family-and-friends segregation feeds job and income inequality. That in turn feeds neighborhood and school segregation. That then leaves some kids less likely to receive a quality education and escape from the cycle, he said.

Austin thinks that increased public awareness of opportunity hoarding, as well as public policies that enhance options for blacks and Hispanics, could make a difference. Bringing more blacks into the labor force would have the immediate effect of reducing black poverty, and quality early-childhood education has been proven to blunt some of the short- and long-term effects of childhood poverty, he said.

“To President Obama’s credit, he’s certainly focused on early childhood education,” Austin said.

It’s not that black workers don’t attempt the same sort of job assists within their own networks, said Deirdre Royster, an economic sociologist at New York University and author of Race and the Invisible Hand: How White Networks Exclude Black Men From Blue Collar Jobs.

African Americans ask neighbors, significant others, the significant others of neighbors, relatives and friends about open jobs, too. But since black unemployment rates were far higher than white rates before, during and after the recession, the number of people in a typical black social network who are in a position to help is far more limited.

According to Royster, there’s an additional twist: When blacks are aware of a job, they describe the job, the boss, the company and its preferences and needs. Then they follow up with a warning.

“They give the person looking for a job all sorts of information and then they say, ‘But don’t tell them I sent you,'” said Royster.

Black workers are aware of something that researchers are still trying to explain: White bosses often worry, lack of statistical evidence aside, that black workers are more likely to sue them or band together in the workplace and try to change things, Royster said. That seems all the more likely if the black workers already know one another, she said. And many white hiring managers still assume, consciously or unconsciously, that black workers bring undesirable workplace habits and qualities, Royster said.

Indeed, a 2003 study by Devah Pager, now a Princeton University sociologist, found that white men with criminal records were more likely to get callbacks for job interviews than black men with the same qualifications and no criminal history.

Written By Janelle Ross

Courtesy of



12 Responses to “Yes, Black Unemployment Driven By White America’s Favors For Friends.”
  1. ulo media says:

    White people are looking out for their own self-interest. Black folks don’t, so what do we expect? This economic environment makes no time for helping others that are considered outsiders. This cry of racism and fairness falls on deaf ears.

  2. hoodgirl says:

    Marcus Vessey your line of work is very interesting.

    In my neck of the woods there are many black owned and operated businesses to include Accounting, Automotive, Beauty/Barbering, Catering, Chiropractic, Cleaners, Construction, Day Care, Health Care, Insurance, Investment, Law, Lawn Care, Mortgage, Night Club, Real Estate, Restaurant, Roller Skating, Sports Bar, Towing, Trucking, etc.

    My cousin visited a few years ago from San Francisco and was amazed at all the black owned and operated businesses we have locally. What I can say from a small business owner’s perspective is that the challenge is not JOB CREATION nor CAPITAL but finding employees that have good work ethics because there is no incentive to grow when it appears that people are just not interested in working consistently.

  3. Marcus Vessey says:

    This kind of analysis is what I do for a living so I want to make a few key points.

    I don’t like the term “Driven by” Black unemployment rate is not driven by white racial nepotism. White racial nepotism negatively impacts Black unemployment rate but the unemployment rate disparity for Blacks is not driven by it. This may seem like a minor distinction but it is important.

    For example, why is the Asian unemployment rate lower than the White unemployment rate? Wouldn’t they be subject to the same phenomenon?

    The fact is when you have an education rate that is far lower than the national average, when what you do get educated in is far less useful to existing and emerging industries…


    Like Terrance Amen said below, you have so few businesses that you can’t create a substantial base of employment opportunities for your own people then you can really begin to see what is driving the majority of unemployment opportunities.

    I do an analysis called the “State of Black Businesses…” for cities. In it I do a simple comparison based upon the Census Data Survey of Business Owners which is done every five years. I compare a few things:

    1. Comparison of the cities rate to the national average.
    2. Comparison of the city’s Black business rate to the average business rate across a few dimensions: size, distribution, employees
    3. Black business density rate & percentage of businesses owned per population.

    When you start looking at things like this you see that our capacity to create employment opportunities is much lower that almost any other ethnic group.

    Now, if you couple that with the fact that stage two companies (companies with 10 to 99 employees) have created virtually all the net new jobs in this nation over the past decade you begin to see the challenge we have.

  4. @ James

    No Brother James, we are not stupid, just programmed to do things we know we shouldn’t be doing. Just like everybody else. It’s just that we do it to the max. You’re right that we do support Black businesses, but there aren’t enough of them to support our community, and there are some Black businesses that take advantage of us and shouldn’t be supported. You’re also right about venture capitol needed to start these new businesses. Where I disagree with you is we do have the money, we just don’t know how or where to invest it.

    Most of our investments are tied to home ownership, and retirement funds.
    We don’t invest enough in the stock market like the mainstream does. But we need to invest in our own businesses. The Marcus Garvey movement proved one thing, and that is if we pool our resources together, as you said it will be over. During the early 1920’s we owned ships, we don’t even own boats now in comparison. It’s not a physical thing that stops us now, it’s all mental.

    Part of those trillion dollars we spend every year with every group, but own could be used for venture capitol. The only problem with this is it can’t just be about making money. It has to also be about solving the other problems in our community. If you put the two together, you have an incentive to support business ventures that are tied to programs that are already working to end the major problems that plague our community. This is what I’m trying to do with my organization and getting the message out through my book. For more information, click on my name.

    Black Unity means financial independence and happiness

  5. James Davis says:

    I Am Sick And Tired Of People Saying Blacks Don’t Realize They Need To Trade With Each Other.

    Black people are not that stupid!! Give us some credit. Almost everyone of us to a person knows this. There just are not enough blacks businesses selling or producing enough products at competitive prices. Well sometimes when a good black business comes on line, blacks buy their products, especially if they produce a quality product at a competitive price. What happens with these businesses sometimes, is that they get caught up in their own success. Seeing that they are making a great income, they sometimes slight their customers in quality and otherwise begin to behave unprofessionally. However that is really not the problem with blacks when it comes to black business. Brothers and sisters the problem is ages old! Look around you, we live in the greatest capitalist system on the planet. These whites know what it takes to create successful businesses! They do it every day for their own race. It takes the very thing they have been withholding from us and that is venture capital. Look at your history, when the slaves were freed, one of the most important efforts by the federal governement was set a bank called the Freemen’s Savings and Trust Company. The bank’s business was to help blacks get a start after slavery by supplying them with risk capital. ( You see, even the white folks in 1865 knew what it takes to create businesses). The first thing the enemies of freed blacks did was to undermine the bank and cause its bankruptcy. Pro white governmental Administrations like Ronald Reagan’s give whites every break they can to get venture capital for whites from the federal government. Remember the $88 billions dollar saving and loan scandal where we as taxpayers had to pay back. Whites walked away with that money and only one person went to jail and that was a guy by the name of Charles Keating. ( Read about it – Google Saving and Loan Scandal) I say all that to say this, we need to start turning our attention to how can we secure venture capital money on a large enough scale on a regular basis to start not just one black business here and there, but many black businesses every where. Once we find the scheme or maybe I should say plan, fight for its implementation tooth and nail because you will have to. Why? I have already told you, whites know once you discover the means to a consistent flow of venture capital, “the jig is up.” That is why they undermined the Freemen’s Bank.

  6. As we approach spending $1 Trillion
    a year in buying power, its past time
    to look in the mirror at who is going
    to solve our problems.

    If we don’t start spending more money with other
    people that look like ourselves, we
    will continue to be faced with the same
    unemployment issues.Other minority
    groups understand this. When are we
    going to wake up? Click here to see what
    will happen if we do

  7. yawn says:

    and No legislation will make blacks treat blacks as equal.

  8. Realman says:

    I don’t mean to criticize the author of this article but this is absolutely nothing new. White privileged is as old as time itself, and nothing is going to change this. No legislation or religion will make white people accept or treat black folks as equals. And equally sad is that most black people refuse to acknowledge this ugly fact of life.

  9. Ford says:

    ….nope. Not guilty. Every where I go in my small city I see black workers. Mall, walmart, home depot, lowes, auto parts, auto repair….my insurance company black owned. Home health, hospital, our doctors office employs a couple of black nurses. Bi-low, Food lion, mcdonalds all full of black workers. One lady at check out, during conversation about parking lot crime, admitted to packing heat and pointed out her daughter working another register. She said as soon as the daughter was of age she would have her CCW also. I like that. Could be I just happened to pick the right place to live.

  10. @Curious

    My business right now is the business of bringing Black people together in order to help us become the best we can be, in all areas of our lives. So right now I’m just getting started with no employees yet. My goal is to work with businesses who believe in what I’m doing and grow these businesses to create jobs in our community and help solve the other problems in our community.

    Black Unity means financial independence and happiness

  11. curious says:

    Terrance what type of business do you own and how many employees do you have?

  12. If this isn’t a glaring example of why we should start creating businesses so our people can have the jobs they need and stop waiting for other people to provide them for you, I don’t know what is. Black people, wake up from this American nightmare!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! For more information on how we do this and solve the other problems in our community, click on my name.

    Black Unity means financial independence and happiness

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