You may have heard of the phrase “the good ol’ boys club,” but it seems like that club has gotten bigger and it’s not just for the boys. In February, only 6.8 percent of white workers remained unemployed while 13.8 percent of black workers and 9.6 percent of Hispanics were unable to find jobs. The latest jobs numbers show the biggest increase in claims for unemployment benefits — 28,000 — for the week ending March 30.
We know there are a lot of explanations for these types of numbers, like the fact that fewer black college students graduate from college than whites, however beyond that, could white people just be helping other white people get jobs? This might seem like common sense to many, but I’m not referring to racial discrimination. Only the notion that whites help those in their network get jobs, which for most whites, tend to be other white people.
I recently wrote an article describing how minorities have very little representation at S & P 100 companies. If this reflects the overall management at large companies, many people in positions of power will not be looking to give black people a leg up when it comes to finding a job, but helping out those in their own white circle.
Nancy DiTomaso, a white woman and author of the book, The American Non-Dilemma: Racial Inequality Without Racism, conducted 246 interviews of working-class and middle-class whites over the course of a decade in Tennessee, Ohio, and New Jersey. She stated, “Across all three states where I did my research, I heard over and over again [white] people admitting that they don’t interact very often with nonwhites, not at work, not at home or otherwise.”
Recently a coworker of mine wanted my opinion on where his daughter should go to school. For very different reasons, two of his top choices were Howard and Harvard. She had already been accepted into a few Ivy League schools and Howard; she was waiting on a response from Harvard. We discussed the pros and cons of both, but the biggest factor in his argument for why his daughter should go to Harvard was not the education, but the network she would build. I couldn’t disagree with him.
It’s not that “the good ol’ boys club” is impenetrable for black people; we just have to get out of our comfort zone to get access to it. Not everyone has the opportunity to go to Harvard, but we all do have an opportunity to build a network outside of those that look like us. Just like white people have a network of mostly whites; black people generally have a network of mostly blacks. White people may have less of a financial incentive to extend the olive branch to African Americans, but we as black people definitely have something to gain by having some white contacts in our Rolodex.
Now I’m not saying be some phony Uncle Tom, but if you are having trouble finding a job or looking to start a business, you have to expand your network. Unfortunately there are more white people of influence in the business world than minorities and sometimes to get ahead in the game you have to know the rules. It might be a hard pill to swallow, but the Black Tax may not just consist of working twice as hard as whites, but befriending them as a means to get ahead.
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