Earl Ofari Hutchinson's take on the politics of the day
Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan managed to kill two birds with one quip. He demonstrated his appalling arrogance and ignorance about the true cause of the black unemployment crisis. At the same time he made mockery of the GOP’s oft repeated claim that it wants to mend its bigoted ways and be a party of true diversity. The quip was his blatant racially skewed explanation that “inner city” males are unemployed because they are inarticulate and don’t value the culture of work.
Really? Who knows whether Ryan has seen the countless government reports and studies that show that black male unemployment for the past decade has been nearly double that of white males and that among the prime structural causes are massive cutbacks in job training programs, reduction in public sector jobs, and the refusal of legions of employers to hire anyone with a jail record which fall disproportionately on African-American males. But the main cause for the jobless crisis that Ryan would never admit is subtle and overt employment discrimination. University of Wisconsin and later Princeton University researcher Devah Pager conducted a compelling series of tests a few years back that exposed the naked bigotry that still consigns thousands of employable black males to the jobless rolls.
Pager found that black men without a criminal record are less likely to find a job than white men with criminal records. Her finger-point at discrimination as the main reason for the racial disparity in hiring set off howls of protest from employers, trade groups and conservatives. They lambasted her for faulty research. Her sample was much too small, they said, and the questions too vague. They pointed to the ocean of state and federal laws that ban racial discrimination. But Pager a few years later duplicated her study. She surveyed nearly 1,500 private employers in New York City. The results were exactly the same as in her earlier study, despite the fact that New York has some of the nation's toughest laws against job discrimination.
In another seven-month comprehensive university study of the hiring practices of hundreds of Chicago area employers, a few years before Pager's study, many top company officials when interviewed said they would not hire blacks. When asked to assess the work ethic of white, black and Latino employees by race, nearly 40 percent of the employer's ranked blacks dead last.
The employers routinely described blacks as being "unskilled," "uneducated," "illiterate," "dishonest," "lacking initiative," "involved with gangs and drugs" or "unstable," of having "no family values" and being "poor role models." The consensus among these employers was that blacks brought their alleged pathologies to the work place, and were to be avoided at all costs. Not only white employers express such views; researchers found that black business owners shared many of the same negative attitudes.
This was hardly an aberration. Numerous research studies over the past decade reveal that employers have devised endless dodges to evade anti-discrimination laws. This includes rejecting applicants by their names or areas of the city they live in. Black applicants may be incorrectly told that jobs advertised were filled already.
Ryan is not a low level GOP operative. He is chair of the House Budget committee. He was Mitt Romney’s 2012 vice-presidential running mate. He is constantly mentioned as a possible GOP 2016 presidential candidate. He’ll almost certainly be a frequent presence on the national campaign trail in the coming months and his opinion on key policy issues will be much sought after along the way.
This first and foremost now will include his take on what the nation must do to tackle the jobless crisis as he euphemistically put it in the “inner cities.” But Ryan’s wrong-headed blame the victim bash of black males did more than propagate ignorance and bias at the high end of the GOP leadership ladder. It offered more proof, if proof still be needed, that the top rung of GOP leadership doesn’t believe a word it says about remaking the face of the party to make it more user friendly to Hispanics, gays, women and especially African-Americans.
Ryan as is so often the case when a GOP official pops off on an issue that displays their racial bias attempted to walk it back and insisted that there was no intent to offend in his remarks. But as is also just as often the case, their walk back of their bigoted quips simply affirm the bigotry behind it. Ryan didn’t disappoint when he clarified his remark by saying that it really was a call for the nation to rethink how it’s fighting poverty. This is only a slightly more refined way of saying that the poor are poor because of all those government entitlement handouts that they are allegedly raking in that supposedly encourages their sloth and indolence.
The dreary job picture for many black males has nothing to do with lack of initiative or dereliction but the racially skewed attitudes of small and large employers toward hiring them. But then again Ryan’s calculated blind eye to that fact simply shows once more his and his party’s true colors.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent MSNBC contributor. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KTYM 1460 AM Radio Los Angeles and KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network. Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson