Half of Black youth face job discrimination

JESSE J. HOLLAND and EMILY SWANSON | 11/7/2016, 9:41 a.m.
Qymana Botts saw White colleagues with the same amount of experience getting promoted to cashier ahead of her at the ...
File photo Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) – 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, 25, said of her 2010 experience. “They wanted me to straighten my hair, but I wasn’t willing to do that.”

She’s 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 ages 18 to 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.

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, according to the Economic Policy Institute.