In black and white: New research puts into figures a subtler form of racism


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The Independent Online

It is nothing new to say that there are other forms of racism besides the snarling aggression of far-right organisations. An example is the job interview in which the interviewers sincerely believe that they are looking for the best-qualified applicant, when subconsciously they are looking for someone like themselves. So the black candidate is greeted with courtesy and, with equal courtesy and a hint of regret, is turned down in favour of the white candidate who will “fit in” better.

In a famous experiment in New York City, applications from a group of equally well-qualified young men were submitted for the same publicly organised jobs. The results indicated that white applicants had an almost one in three chance of being called in for a job interview, compared with one in four for Hispanics and lower than one in six for black applicants. While it is suspected that the same sort of discreet discrimination happens in the UK, empirical evidence to back up that suspicion has been scarce.

But new research from the Runnymede Trust, comparing data from the years 2001 and 2011, found that racial inequality increased over the decade, at the same time that children from ethnic minorities were getting better results at school and university. As Omar Khan, director of the Runnymede Trust, remarked, telling young blacks and Asians “all you need to do is get better qualifications and integrate more and it’ll be fine” just does not fit the facts.

As he also points out, while it is important to counter the kind of overt racism that is out in the streets, employers also need to be alert to the kind of insidious, unacknowledged prejudice that locks talented members of ethnic minorities out of decent employment and condemns them and their dependants to poverty.