Last week The Washington Post published on its opinion page the most infuriating piece I’ve read in a long time. The opinion-piece by Robert Samuelson titled “The growing black-white wage gap is growing — and it’s scary” is, dare I say, scary.
The basis for Samuelson’s opinion-piece is a study published by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco which offers five possible reasons why black men earn only 70% of white men’s earnings (down from 80% a few short years ago) and black women earn only 82% of what white women earn:
- Part-time status
The reasons are quantifiable and academic potentially protecting the study from any real resistance, but, disappointingly, before things get kicked off in the study, the researchers concede failure in identifying an explanation for the consistently widening wage gap:
Especially troubling is the growing unexplained portion of the divergence in earnings for blacks relative to whites.
Samuelson acknowledges the San Francisco study’s failure to explain the growing gap and cites an earlier study published by Federal Reserve economists out of D.C. that offers an entirely different set of possibilities for the “unexplained” increased in the wage gap since 1979.
- Blacks are undereducated
- Black men are incarcerated at higher rates
- Outright discrimination (ya think?)
The economists in both studies go out of their way to blame black people for their own unemployment, underemployment, and poor and disparate salaries. Unfortunately, Samuelson falls in lockstep with the blame game with his repeated use of “unexplained” refusing to acknowledge the truth of structural racism that feeds our education and criminal justice systems and fails to call out the cognitive dissonance of those bleeding hearts who talk about diversity but fail to walk it.
I get it — it’s difficult to quantify something as insidious as structural racism or the discriminatory thoughts of those with the power and means to hire. But just because we can’t (or won’t) attach percentages to the generational barriers many are born up against, doesn’t mean they are not there. Any failure to acknowledge this American-bred construct dissolves all credibility.
A final exasperating thought from the article:
Another hypothesis — consistent with poor schooling — is that employers value achievement, as measured by test scores, as much as degrees, says economist Harry Holzer of Georgetown University, chief economist of the Labor Department in the Clinton administration. “There are big racial gaps in achievement” that could be depressing black wages. “But we really don’t know,” he says.
Nationally, our public school system is plagued with low-performing schools churning out underperforming students and dropouts often leading to incarceration, unplanned families, and poverty. We are all well-educated about the evils of this cycle, yet we allow it, and then lay blame to the products of it.