Statistics show employment rate gap between black and white male graduates

Sophomore music education major Cameron Green has two years left before he graduates, but that has not stopped him from preparing for the challenges that black men face once they begin their job hunt.

According to The New York Times, figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the unemployment rate for black male college graduates is nearly twice as high as the rate of unemployment for white male college graduates. According to the bureau, 8.4 percent of black men with college degrees were unemployed in 2009, compared to 4.4 percent of white males with college degrees.

Green said he cannot do anything to fight the discrimination he may encounter except be the best candidate for whatever job he applies for. He said he will make sure he is knowledgeable of the company and present himself with confidence and poise.

“My teachers always said, ‘Are you a good person because you have to be or are you a good person because that’s just who you are?'” Green said. “It’s the same when I’m applying for a job. I’m a good candidate because that’s who I am. It has nothing to do with my race.”

He said he hopes that his positive attitude and what he has to offer as a candidate are enough to overcome any bias.

“Some people may get discouraged, but I’m not that kind of person,” Green said. “I want to establish the fact that I’m worth just as much as anyone else and that it’s my mind power, not the color of my skin, that makes me worth something.”

John Thompson, executive director of Career Services, said the center prepares students based on the belief that every employer is an equal opportunity employer. He said that since he has been at the university he has never heard complaints from students who believe they were turned down for a job because of their race.

If a student did contact Career Services because of employer discrimination, Thompson said, that company would no longer be listed with the center.

“If a student is not getting a fair shake or if there’s an obvious bias, then that employer doesn’t deserve to be a part of the FrogJobs system,” Thompson said.

Morrison Wong, chair of the sociology and anthropology department, said subconscious bias may factor into the difference in unemployment rates.

“Studies have shown that people feel more comfortable associating with those that look like them,” Wong said.

Darron Turner, assistant vice chancellor for Student Affairs, said discrimination based on race may be a contributor to the disparity in the unemployment rates.

“It’s no secret that discrimination still exists and that may play a part,” Turner said. “It isn’t everywhere, but when it’s encountered, it’s important to have the tools to overcome it.”

He said students need to prepare for post-college employment as early as possible, but getting them to do so can be difficult.

“They need to go to career and internship fairs and use the resources available to them while they’re here on campus,” Turner said. “Networking is key to opening up the doors of employment for these students.”

Green is not the only student who said he will not let statistics change his outlook.

Marcus Johnson graduated from the university with a bachelor’s degree in education in 2002 and said he knows what it’s like to be a black man searching for a job after graduation.

“It was difficult at first, but I’ve always been comfortable with who I am in whatever situation,” Johnson said. “The biggest thing I’ve learned is to relax and to always be authentic.”

Johnson said it was difficult because he could sense that at times employers might have a preconceived notion of him based on his appearance.

He said that his hard work and ability to stay focused in the face of prejudice will all pay off.

In May, he will graduate from the university with a master’s degree in guidance counseling. He said he wants to be an example for other black men of what can be accomplished despite what statistics show.

Johnson also said education is the only way to get anywhere in life, and, despite the findings from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a black man without a college degree will always be worse off than one with a degree.

“With education, you can write your ticket,” Johnson said. “You can do what you want, you can travel the world, meet incredible people and make a great living.”

Johnson said he is setting an example and wants young black men to see that is possible to achieve their goals by getting an education.