A new report from the Met Council takes a deep dive into statistics, juggling 10 different demographic factors (e.g. age, education, immigration) to isolate one variable: race. The report finds that “underlying demographic differences cannot explain away our region’s disparities in employment, income, and homeownership between Black and White residents.” One factor can explain the differences: continuing institutional and structural racism, which is maintained and supported by conscious and unconscious personal racism.
The Met Council finds demographic differences between Black and White Minnesotans:
“Compared with the region’s White residents, Black residents are 1) younger, 2) more likely to have been born outside the U.S.—and if so, immigrated more recently, and 3) more likely to self-report lower English language skills. These differences matter because they are associated with lower employment rates, less income and lower homeownership rates.”
After statistical analysis that takes those differences into account, the report finds that they do not explain Minnesota’s very large racial disparities in employment, income and homeownership.
“Our analysis shows that even if the region’s Black residents had the same demographic profile (and select socioeconomic factors) as White residents, their employment rate, average hourly wage, and homeownership rate would still be lower than that of Whites. This suggests race—or factors closely aligned with race—are indeed at the heart of disparities.”
Folks, this isn’t news. Black Minnesotans have been telling the story for years. The Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder called out Minnesota Jim Crow in an editorial back in September:
“Comfort-zone racism dispenses with all the old methods and symbols of White Supremacy. Something entirely new and different has replaced the old protocols. Judging from current ratings, Minnesota has perfected this new style, keeping Jim Crow alive and thoroughly cleansed of its old-fashioned, ugly racism that most everyone is eager to put behind them.”
White Minnesotans often find it hard to believe that racism plays out in such a pervasive, everyday fashion. We think that maybe it affects young black men and police. But surely it doesn’t mean that college-educated Black people face employment discrimination?
Yes, it does.
Luz Maria Frias wrote eloquently of her daughter’s experience as a new college grad with a STEM degree. Her daughter applied for more than a hundred jobs and the only interview she got was one arranged by a family friend. Frias, a Minnesotan who has spoken widely on implicit bias, suggested an experiment — change your name on your resumé to a nickname that doesn’t sound so “ethnic.”
Boom. Her daughter was immediately contacted for three interviews on the first three applications submitted with the non-ethnic name. Frias writes:
“While living through this experience, we learned from friends that their college-educated children, nieces and nephews experienced similar difficulties.
“One friend shared Ebony’s experience. Like our daughter, Ebony spent months struggling to find a job. Feeling helpless and discouraged, she reached out to her college career counselor who informed Ebony that her name was to blame. The career counselor advised Ebony to change her name on her résumé, which quickly led to employment.”
Her experience confirms studies from Stanford University and the University of Toronto and from the National Bureau of Economic Research showing large differences in call-back rates for otherwise equal resumés submitted with white-sounding or African-American-sounding names. The university researchers found that “Résumés containing minority racial cues, such as a distinctively African American or Asian name, lead to 30–50 percent fewer callbacks from employers than do otherwise equivalent résumés without such cues.” So serious is the problem that a Black woman engineer is set to launch an app that “lets job seekers upload resumes, then hides their name and photo from employers.”
Racism permeates not only employment decisions but social, economic and political structures. While the reality of racism is inescapable for people of color, it frequently passes entirely unnoticed by white people.
If you’re white, it’s easier to ignore the news reports of Minnesota not-so-nice, from the lynching photo at Joe’s Crab Shack to the Brooklyn Park woman who threatened a Muslim couple with a rifle to a mother’s fears for her young, black son to the Target vice-president’s encounter with police in North Minneapolis … the stories go on and on.
Luz Maria Frias concludes that we need “a commitment from the top as well as training for human resources professionals on implicit bias.” We need that, and more. We need individual, personal commitments to learn about and to fight racism in our communities, our schools, our places of employment, and ourselves.