Topic: professional/work culture, whiteness, blackness, and racism.
The Washington Post reported today that 34.5% of young black men (16-24) are currently unemployed. That's a stunning figure, isn't it? The same article quotes Princeton professor Devah Pager:
Black men were less likely to receive a call back or job offer than equally qualified white men... Black men with a clean record fare no better than white men just released from prison.
So now imagine you're on a hiring committee at your average bank. You've narrowed it to two applications. One is from a guy named Delonta Spriggs (borrowing a name from the article just cited); the other is from Bradley West (a made up name).
Obviously, it would be "racist" to just pick the white-sounding name. And, just as obviously, it happens all the time. Setting the racism aside momentarily, the question is, when money (via "performance," and "productivity") is the bottom line, is betting white a rational gamble?
To answer this, we would have to examine white and black culture -- starting with the admission that such a distinction exists. I've written about this delicate, uncomfortable, difficult distinction before. In the post just linked, I nervously suggest a few starters. Basketball goes to black culture. Golf goes to white culture. Veganism to white culture. Loud music goes to black culture. I tried in that post to achieve a neutral perspective, so that these distinctions appear as value-neutral as possible.
But the question of "professionalism" rears its head in a very interesting way in this discussion. If we were to discover that white culture has--always already embedded within it--a greater emphasis on things like dress shirts, timeliness, and so on... then... ? If things like "turning papers in on time" come more easily to white students because of their background in white culture, which values timeliness, then won't a greater percentage of white employees handle the demands of the professional world with greater adeptness than their black counterparts?
All of this is seriously touchy, obviously. And all of it seems problematic. From what I can tell, the source of much of this difficulty is the fact that (increasingly?) people are identifying first by racial group and second by nationality. In other words, there is a decreasing overlap between white culture and black culture -- those identities seem to tug against each other.
[Note: Obviously, we're all adults here. Exceptions are so prevalent that they're almost a rule. We all know black people who are more professional than white people and blahblahblah... but gambling, which business is, must function even in the presence of exceptions.]
So... solutions? Comments? Accusations?