New Book: Young Blacks Think Career World is Racism-Free

June 6, 2011  |  

By Alexis Garrett Stodghill

Race and the workplace have received a 21st century reassessment from the black perspective in the new book, “The End of Anger: A New Generation’s Take on Race and Rage.” Written by former Newsweek columnist Ellis Cose, “The End of Anger” maps out the differences that African-Americans perceive regarding our potential for achievement in the work world.  To research his book, Cose surveyed 193 Harvard MBAs and hundreds of graduates of A Second Chance, a program that helps disadvantaged African-American students attend private schools. He also spoke in depth with some subjects to gather more details about how blacks see their futures.

The underlying question that inspired Cose’s writing is: In the age of Obama, is the workplace truly colorblind ?  The answers he found were more complicated than reassuring. Cose discovered that there are four distinct segments of the African-American population with varying degrees of trust in workplace fairness – and that these groups can be at odds with each other. T he New York Daily News reports:

Cose divided his respondents into age groups: Gen (as in generation) 1 Fighters (born in or before 1944; Gen 2 Dreamers (1945-1969); Gen 3 Believers (1970-1995) and Gen 4 Reapers (1996-present day).

Young blacks are far more optimistic about their opportunities in this country than their parents and grandparents ever were.

“The world that people who are under 40 are inheriting is very different from the world that people over 65 inherited,” Cose said.  “That is even more the case with people who are younger than that.  At the same time that whites are becoming more open and more progressive, blacks in some interesting sense are becoming more optimistic. And the two have a lot to do with one another.”

Those in Gen 3 and 4 believe that blacks face a completely even playing field in terms of job opportunities, while those in Gen 1 and 2 still believe racism plays a large part in preventing our financial parity.  But what is more interesting is that “The End of Anger” studies blacks’ perceptions of ourselves, instead of typically looking at employment data for our community, which tells a more external story.  Both perspectives give important keys to understanding the reality of our social situation.

Recent studies show that blacks with a college education find it harder to find jobs than their equally educated white peers.  In addition, industries such as advertising are actually considered more segregated than they were thirty years ago. While Gen 3 and 4 might see the playing field as equal, there are still many key professions, such as construction, that largely exclude African-Americans because of systemic circumstances. Sorry, youngsters, racism is still real.

At the same time, one always wonders how much blacks could achieve if fewer of us held within ourselves the internal belief that discrimination is so pervasive that such barriers are insurmountable. Cose’s book shakes us awake as it asks us to examine the internalized racism that undermines many of our best efforts because fear of discrimination is ever-present.  The reduction of this fear in the younger generations gives us hope that the discouragement it causes can someday be vanquished.

The election of President Obama does not illustrate the end of racism; it clearly demonstrates that a black person in America has more opportunities than ever to achieve. Regardless of how we see ourselves, and the continuing racism of today, these are still the greatest times ever to be upwardly mobile. The next step is to find the balance between seeing racism everywhere, as do Gen 1 and 2, and being defenselessly naive like Gen 3 and 4.

Through penning “The End of Anger,” Ellis Cose reminds us that accurately perceiving ourselves within the social arena while remaining optimistic is a critical next step for professional African-Americans as we move ahead.

Alexis Garrett Stodghill writes for News One, Clutch Magazine and Coco & Creme, and helped launch Follow Alexis on Twitter.


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