I consider myself to be positive in thought. However, as an African American, I must stay grounded in reality. Not just in any reality mind you, but ‘The African American’ reality.
The African American reality entails knowing while we as a people have, do and shall continue to make strides and contributions towards the betterment of humankind, we still have an extremely long way to go in order to be realized as human…period… and not second class citizens. While we have Neil DeGrasse Tyson and other prominent African Americans who garner respect, the same can’t be said for the average African American.
Tonight, I had the displeasure (pleasure, in light of Yolanda’s bravery) of viewing a sad and disturbing video which reported the journey of an unemployed African American woman, Yolanda Spivey who applied for over 300 jobs on Monster.com…to no avail. Believing her education or lack thereof may be the hindrance to her lack of response from employers, she went back to school to complete her degree. Yolanda encountered the same issue again-no one was interested in hiring her.
The old adage, ‘desperate times calls for desperate measures’, rang true in Yolanda’s case. After analyzing herself, her education, she then analyzed the skin she was born in. I don’t surmise to know what was going through Yolanda’s mind the exact moment she decided to duplicate her profile, give it a fictitious name (Bianca White), choose the fictitious applicant’s race as ‘white’ on the Diversity questionnaire, and hit the ‘save’ button on the Monster.com profile. What I can tell you is while listening to the story, my heart rate increased. Adding to that, I can’t imagine the flood of emotions incurred by Yolanda when she as ‘Bianca’ received a phone call of interest the same day she uploaded the fictitious profile.
Yolanda’s ‘experiment’ went on for a week. The tally? ‘Bianca’ received nine phone calls and 7 emails (in ONE week), including ‘… a job [that] wanted her to relocate to a different state, all expenses paid, should she be willing to make that commitment.’ Yolanda received two commission only sales positions.
Exposing racial bias in the hiring process isn’t a new phenomenon. Sociologist and Princeton Professor Devah Pager (Caucasian) is best known for her work in highlighting racial discrimination in employment practices. Her conclusions showed a qualified black applicant received job offers and callbacks half as often as an equally white candidate. Additionally, a black applicant with no criminal record were contacted or received job offers as often as white applicant with a felony conviction. Sobering findings.
Back to Yolanda Spivey. Spivey’s reasoning for the experiment? First, she listened as a fellow student, Caucasian, ready to graduate like herself, relayed a story of how she landed a job that was close to six figures in salary. She had no work history. Candidly, the young lady shared she went in for a clerical position but was given an Executive Management position instead. Why? The person in HR liked her. In other words, she got a ‘hook up.’ Note, the HR person was also Caucasian. Secondly, the media played a role. Says Spivey, ‘…while I was watching a report on underemployed and underpaid Americans, I saw a middle aged White man complaining that he was making only $80,000 which was $30,000 less than what he was making before. I thought to myself that in this economy, many would feel they’d hit the jackpot if they made 80K a year.’
I vacillated for several moments as to whether or not I should watch the video unsure of the its content. I decided to watch. I watched and I flinched. I flinched because I know should I ever find myself without employment, my predicament will be similar to Ms. Spivey’s-the only difference…the applicant’s name will be Bridgett Crutchfield.