The Recovery In Black And White

Nov 20 2012 @ 7:20pm

Yolanda Spivey, an African-American woman who works in the insurance industry, recounts what happened after she applied for jobs as both herself and a white candidate named Bianca White:

At the end of my little experiment, (which lasted a week), Bianca White had received nine phone calls—I received none. Bianca had received a total of seven emails, while I’d only received two, which again happen to have been the same emails Bianca received. Let me also point out that one of the emails that contacted Bianca for a job wanted her to relocate to a different state, all expenses paid, should she be willing to make that commitment. In the end, a total of twenty-four employers looked at Bianca’s resume while only ten looked at [mine]. 

Mychal Denzel Smith points out that, by the end of 2011, black women had lost more jobs during the recovery than they had during the recession:

Around 40% of the public sector jobs lost have been in local government education, where teachers, librarians, guidance counselors, administrators, and more have seen their jobs vanish. This is field dominated by women, and has been a safe bet for black women seeking employment.

How Spivey's story fits into this trend:

It's no accident that during September of this year, when the public sector actually added 10,000 jobs, all of the job gains that were made by black people belonged to black women. Left solely to the private sector, more black women, contending with racism and sexism in hiring, would likely report stories like Spivey's. The public sector has offered, not full equality, but a reprieve from despair.

Meanwhile, Kevin Roose ruminates on a Bloomberg story comparing the fates of a 64-year-old black female veteran forced to foreclose on her dream house and a white former head of the Bear Stearns' division that bet on mortgage-backed securities and emerged okay:

[It's] a necessary and useful device, because it connects a Wall Street executive to a real-life casualty of the housing bubble and its eased underwriting standards. It undoes the many layers of disintermediation between [former homeowner Rebecca] Black's mortgage and [former Bear Stearns exec Thomas] Marano's bonus, and presents it as a pat (perhaps a little too pat) story about asymmetric losses in times of economic crisis.

Of course, you didn't need the housing collapse to figure out that a Columbia-educated white guy would accumulate more social and economic capital than a working-class black woman, or that the white guy would have a much larger safety net to rely on in times of hardship. But it's humbling to see just how stark the differences in opportunity and recovery time can be.