Racist hiring practices exposed
Published Jun 24, 2005 9:23 PM
Sociology Professor Devah
Pager has been studying the problems ex-convicts face looking for a job. As a
graduate student at the University of Wisconsin in the 1990s, she made a
disturbing discovery: It is easier for a white person with a felony conviction
to get a job than for an African-American person with no criminal
Pager, now at Princeton University, recently conducted a study in
New York City along with Professor Bruce Western. The study, titled
“Discrimination in Low Wage Labor Markets,” was funded in part by
the National Science Foundation.
Pager and Western found strong evidence
of hiring discrimination by New York employers against male job-seekers who were
African American or of another oppressed nationality as compared to white
The study used teams of young men who posed as job applicants,
listing identical work and educational experience. They sought work as drivers,
couriers, cleaners, fast-food servers, deli clerks, sales representatives,
stockers, busers, waiters, cashiers and telemarketers. Some members of the study
reported a felony drug conviction and 18 months of served prison time.
results? According to the June 17 New York Times, “Black men who had never
been in trouble with the law were about
half as likely as whites with
similar backgrounds to get a job offer or a callback.”
Black men who
stated they had done time in prison on their applications were only about
one-third as likely to get a positive response as compared to whites who had
been in prison.
The study also concluded that those with a criminal record
had a 30 to 60 percent less chance of getting a positive response from
employers. African Amer icans who had been imprisoned were at a double
disadvantage because of racism.
Two-thirds of those serving time in prison
come from oppressed communities of color. On any given day, one in eight black
males is in prison or jail. African American men have a one in three chance of
going to prison in their lifetimes, compared to one in 17 for whites.
Three-fourths of all those arrested on drug charges are people of color, a
number hugely out of proportion to their incidence of drug use.
In New York City, it is illegal for employers to
discriminate on the basis of criminal record as well as race. Faced with the
study, Patricia L. Gatling, Commissioner of the New York City Commission on
Human Rights, had to admit, “The results of this landmark study are deeply
disturbing and highlight the need for strong enforcement of the city’s
Human Rights Law.” (John Jay College)
In his 2004 State of the Union
address, President George W. Bush proposed a $300-million “prison re-entry
initiative” for people released from prison each year. He touted this as
typical of the United States as “the land of the second
But Jeff Manza of Northwestern University said
Pager’s study on racist discrimination in job hiring “demonstrates
in a new and convincing way the extent to which the ‘second chance’
that Bush talks about runs headlong into the realities of race.”
By 2003 there were more than 123,000 prisoners in local,
state and federal for-profit prisons. The profits made from prison construction
and from prison contracts for food, telephone systems and other services is in
the billions of dollars, far exceeding Bush’s paltry sum.
a for-profit prison system, repeated and discriminatory arrests equal profit.
Racist hiring practices become an additional method to drive people of oppressed
nationalities into desperation. The solution is obvious: The racist prison
system and hiring practices will only cease to exist when the people overthrow
the capitalist system and replace it with socialism.
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