From The Grio — The new jobs reports is in and shows that 103,000 jobs were created last month and the unemployment rate is still stuck at 9.1 percent. For black people, the jobless rate stands at 16 percent. As we await the congressional debate over President Obama’s proposed American Jobs Act, it is evident that we can not afford to wait on action from Washington to address this crisis. But what course are we left with?
A story in the Daily Mail UK reports: “Volunteers in a U.S. study tended to label someone as white if they were dressed in a suit — even if the face had dark skin — and labeled someone black if they were dressed in working overalls.”
The study, conducted by researchers representing Tufts University, Stanford University and the University of California, “not only were the faces dressed in suits more likely to be seen as white, and those in scruffier clothes black, but even when a white face was dressed down” the volunteers first instinct was to label the face black, before changing their response. The test was conducted by showing participants computerized images and their answers were tracked through the movement of the mouse.
This study reveals more about the deeply embedded racial prejudices held in a society still reeling from the effects of slavery, Jim Crow, and now the prison-industrial complex. Black identity has been shaped through damaging racial stereotypes and stigmas and white identity has been defined through the opposite.
How does this relate to the jobs crisis? With job growth sluggish and black folks typically last in line to acquire what few jobs are available, it becomes imperative that black people do all in their power to compete in the job market.
If race is a hindrance to hiring, but perception of race can be altered through choice of clothing, the logical line of thinking would follow that if black people are interested in changing the perception of themselves and getting the jobs so desperately needed to pay bills and avoid poverty, dressing “white,” or more professionally, for job interviews would make them more palatable to employer’s sensibilities. It’s a lesson taught at any job fair or politically conservative HBCU, though likely in much more politically correct language.
It’s true that appropriate attire is necessary for job interviews. We have to be cautious when it comes to championing the politics of respectability as a pathway to equality. It’s the type of thinking that says that barriers of race can be overcome by black folks’ adherence to the written and unwritten social rules governing behavior and decorum.