In a year-long study conducted in the early 2000s, researchers sent out resumes in response to job postings. They found that job applicants with stereotypically white-sounding names like Greg Baker needed to send about 10 resumes to get one callback; those with stereotypically Black-sounding names like Jamal Jones needed to send around 15 resumes to get one callback. That is a 50 percent gap in callback rates. With less opportunities to even get an interview, Black people continue to be underrepresented despite education and experience levels. This also has effects on overall income levels and leads to decreased generational wealth which covered back in June when we learned about housing and financial institutions.
There is a Black female writer and speaker by the name of Austin Channing Brown who shares the story of how her Black parents strategically named her. They chose gender-ambiguous, stereotypically white first and middle names with the idea in their minds that she would at least get through the door for the job interview. This is typically not a concern for white parents while they are naming their children.
Black women face very unique challenges in the workplace as their Blackness not only shapes their experiences but also their gender. As women, they are already facing an uphill battle. And while we aren’t here to discuss sexism per say, it is real and it needs to be acknowledged because it shapes Black women’s experiences since they are at this unique intersection of gender and race.
From the 19th century, and well into the 20th century, Black women worked but were frequently relegated to the lowest-paying jobs. For a long time, legal restrictions and then tradition were used to exclude all women from many high-paying jobs reserved exclusively for men. Although these views were rejected over time, Black women still face the remnants of this history that devalued their status as women and workers. Consequently, even though Black women have the highest employment rates per women of any race, their earnings do not reflect this representation. It has also not ended negative stereotypes about Black women’s attitudes and work ethic. Assumptions that Black women do not work hard, cause drama with co-workers, and must be pushed to perform well still persist today.
Policies that discriminate against hairstyles such as afros or locs remain on the books in many workplaces and schools. These policies, which generally prohibit or restrict traditional Black hairstyles in the name of “professionalism,” have roots in white supremacy. Hair regulations date back to Louisiana in the 1700s, when the government passed laws requiring women of color, enslaved and free, to cover their hair to indicate that they belonged to a lower class. A hairstyle such as locs or wearing du-rags and bonnets are actually protective for textured hair. To restrict these traditionally Black hairstyles ignores a person's actual ability to do a job well.
A part of the workplace that can be exhausting for Black people is that oftentimes they are the only Black person in their office or one of a handful of employees of color. They are often asked to speak on behalf of their entire race or educate all the other employees on racial issues. Another emotionally taxing yet daily experience for Black people in white dominated workplaces are microaggressions. Microaggressions are comments or non-verbal communication that signal Black or Brown people are somehow other or less than their white counterparts. It is small but compounded day after day this wears on a person particularly in the work environment. One example of something many Black people hear that is said with surprise is, “You are so articulate!” People are demonstrating the biases they have against a Black person by expressing how shocked they are that they can actually converse with them. Blackness should not be correlated with lower intelligence in the workplace (or any area of life).
Lord, thank you for your unending grace and love for each one of us. Thank you for providing your Scriptures through which we can see your vision for justice. We grieve the injustice that has taken root in the US, especially in the workplace. You created us to work and create yet so often racism inhibits people from fully living out their calling. Please open employers’ hearts, minds, and eyes to the racial injustice within the workplace. Give them an urgency to learn about and then act to eliminate systemic racism. God, equip us to interrupt injustice taking place in our work environment. If we see it give us words to name it and help us collaborate with our co-workers to eliminate it. God, reveal opportunities for us to support Black people in our lives without centering ourselves. Protect Black people in their workplaces. Take the burden off of them to educate their co-workers. Allow them to flourish in their gifts without the burden of racism burning them out. Give them respite as they work. God, break the chains of the sin of racism in every facet of its existence. Amen.