I want to start off by taking you down memory lane and reminding you of the deeply embedded old-fashioned prejudiced traditions and values that have assisted the formation of the racial wealth/ employment gap in the US. Yes, you’re correct, I’m talking about slavery.
Siddiqui’s (2017) article on a brief history of racism in the United States. Found that many of the African Americans brought to America in the early 17th century arrived as slaves kidnapped from their homeland and separated from their families. A boy as young as 12 would be separated from his mother, father, siblings and friends. Do you remember what it was like being 12? A time where your only worry would be about friends and homework. Now contrast that and imagine a world where a boy as young as 12 is taken to a foreign land in which he is unable to speak the language, no family or friends in sight and the first thing that happens when he arrives there is his identity is stripped from him; the only thing he had that would link him to his motherland and remind him of his heritage is gone, and failure to cooperate would result in him being stripped, whipped or even lynched. This ladies and gentlemen, is what African Americans have been going through in America for centuries in the hands of their white oppressors.
You’re probably wondering what the link between slavery and the racial wealth gap is ?
Well, when examining history we found that slavery has existed in countries where it has been economically beneficial for the rich “white” man. An example of this is the US, out of the 4 Million African slaves living in the United States in the 1850s 80% of them where owned by “white” business men (Burton 2008). These slaves received $1 a day for a quarter of a billion hours of free labour (Burton 2008).Whereas the white slave owner made $3.1 million a year of the back of these slaves (Wahl 1998). Those of you reading this blog do not be surprised by these statistics, always remember that slavery assisted the formation of the wealth gap as it flourished and accumulated income off the back off its low paid black slaves.
The University of Chicago’s Law review journal (1969) states that slavery has been abolished and outlawed, today there are laws such as the civil right act of 1866 which guarantee equal rights for its citizens and prohibits any discriminatory acts towards African Americans. Many people are living under the false notion that slavery being eradicated also means that the racial wealth/employment gap has too. However we can see that racism in the workplace is still prevalent, the only difference now is that it has been manifested in subtle and discreet way as opposed to the 1850s. When looking at the chart below remember that the black bars represents a criminal record; stripped bars represent no criminal record. From this we can see the predominant racial inequality in the US. Black people in the US committed 12% less crimes than their white counter parts (The Huffington post 2014). However those law abiding black citizens were still 20% less likely to get called in for a job interview in comparison to the white criminal (The Huffington post 2014).
Siddiqui’s (2017) article found that black people are 50% more likely to be categorised and discriminated when it comes to job interviews. Similarly, Hetzel and Soto-Hinman`s (2009) book notes that there is significant disproportionality when examining race employability. They conducted a study on 19 year old high school dropouts, and found that 38% of African American teens where employed in comparison to 67% of white teens. Despite the fact that both these group of adolescents carry the same credentials, there is still a 29% chance that a white teen is more likely to land the job. White teens have a superior chance of succeeding in this competitive capitalist economy due to their skin colour. A teen should be judged on meritocratic principles such as talent, ability and effort as opposed to race. This is one of the many examples of the differing racial employment gap and the inequalities African Americans face in “white” America.
Surely we all know by now that just because a law has been passed doesn’t necessarily mean that all the injustices prior to it will disappear. The civil rights act of 1866 is a significant example of this, yes it has helped implement change to a degree but the racial employment gap is still prevalent. Ultimately the only way we can bridge the racial wealth/ employment gap, is by first educating the masses and showing them that just because slavery has been abolished it doesn’t necessarily mean that the racial wealth/employment gap has too. Similarly holding government officials accountable for not taking any extensive measures to combat this economic and racial injustice would be a step on the road to an equal economic system.
By Hanan Mire
Burton, O. (2008). Gale library of daily life. 1st ed. Detroit, Mich.: Gale.
Hetzel, J. and Soto-Hinman, I. (2009). Literacy Gaps, The: Bridge-Building Strategies for English Language Learners and Standard English Learners. Corwin Press, p.172.
Lopez, G. (2017). Study: anti-black hiring discrimination is as prevalent today as it was in 1989. Vox. Available at: https://www.vox.com/identities/2017/9/18/16307782/study-racism-jobs [Accessed 10 Dec. 2017].
Racial Discrimination in Employment under the Civil Rights Act of 1866. (1969). The University of Chicago Law Review, 36(3), p.615. Available at: http://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3598&context=uclrev [Accessed 2 Dec. 2017].
Siddiqui, S. (2017). A brief history of racism in the United States. Sound vision. Available at: https://www.soundvision.com/article/a-brief-history-of-racism-in-the-united-states [Accessed 6 Dec. 2017].
Wahl, J. (1998) The Bondsman’s Burden: An Economic Analysis of the Common Law of Southern Slavery. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Winquist, T. (1958). Civil Rights: Legislation: The Civil Rights Act of 1957. Michigan Law Review, 56(4), p.619.