Poll: Half of black youth report job discrimination
Washington — Qymana Botts saw white colleagues with the same amount of experience getting promoted to cashier ahead of her at the Indiana discount store where she worked. When she asked her supervisors why, they told her she didn’t project the image that they wanted from their cashiers: straight hair — not her natural Afro — and more makeup.
“When it came time for promotions and raises and things like that, I was told I need to fit into a more European kind of appearance,” Botts said of her 2010 experience. “They wanted me to straighten my hair, but I wasn’t willing to do that.”
Botts, 25, is not alone.
Almost half of young African-Americans say they’ve experienced racial discrimination while looking for a job and while on the job, and one-third of young women of all races and ethnicities say they’ve faced employment-related gender discrimination.
This information comes from a GenForward survey of young adults conducted by the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago with The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The first-of-its-kind poll pays special attention to the voices of young adults of color, highlighting how race and ethnicity shape the opinions of the country’s most diverse generation.
The poll, taken in September, showed that 48 percent of blacks age 18-30 say they’ve experienced discrimination while looking for a job or at work, which was higher than all other races and ethnicities. About one-third of Asian-Americans and Latinos also said they experienced discrimination at work or while looking for a job.
Just 10 percent of whites say they experienced employment-related racism.
Joy Holloway, 24, of Durham, North Carolina, said she clearly has seen racism during job interviews. Holloway, who is biracial and identifies as black, said she usually does well getting through the application phase and the phone interview phase.
“I can get called in for an interview, and everything will be perfect but as soon as they see me, I can see it in their face: ‘Oh, no, she isn’t who I thought she was.’ And then I never get a call back,” Holloway said.
On top of facing discrimination, young blacks are more likely to think their race has made it more difficult to get ahead economically. Fifty-four percent say being black makes it harder, the highest among those polled. Thirty-nine percent of Asian-Americans and 34 percent of Latinos say their race or ethnicity has made life harder.
Young whites are the only group more likely to say their race has made life easier at 31 percent. But more than half, or 53 percent, say their race has made no difference. Still, most young people across racial and ethnic lines say whites in general have at least some advantage getting ahead economically.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, black men’s average hourly wages were 31 percent lower than white men in 2015, and black women’s average hourly wages were 19 percent lower than white women that same year.
In addition to racism, the GenForward poll also showed that 31 percent of young women say they’ve experienced gender discrimination in looking for a job and in the workplace itself.
In 2015, women made about 80 cents for every dollar made by men, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
Holly Berkey, 18, of Lincoln, Nebraska, said she experienced it firsthand while working in an ice cream shop. Her male co-workers would make sexist, disparaging remarks in her presence, she said — for example, that Berkey should be the one doing the washing and the cleaning instead of them because she’s a woman.
Berkey said when she complained to a manager, she was told, “it’s just boys being boys.” The final straw, Berkey said, came when she complained about a male co-worker she had trained, who then began acting rudely toward her after a leave. “I was told to just tough it out,” she said. So she quit.
Berkey said she hears similar stories from her female friends. “I know a lot of boys who are like this,” she said. “I wish it wasn’t like that but it is.”