Workforce racial inequality still exists, according to students

Shannon McMullen/Contributing Writer

Despite the large numbers of Haitians, Jamaicans and Black Hispanics in Miami, these numbers do not reflect at FIU.

Miami houses around 271 thousand Haitians, 150 thousand Jamaicans, as well as Black Hispanics of African descent from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, according to Black Demographic.

However, only 177 of the 2,250 faculty members at FIU are identified as Black or African-American, according to the University’s Analysis & Information Management website. Of those, 27 Black faculty hold tenured positions which is 15.3 percent of all tenured professors.

Compared to FIU professors of other nationalities, this is a low percentage of tenured professors (Asians = 47.5%; Whites = 28.5%; and Hispanic/Latinos = 11.4%).   

But the University is working on changing this, according to a statement sent to Student Media by Suzanna Rose, associate provost.

Graphic by Shannon McMullen/PantherNOW.

“…We are trying to figure out ways to make FIU a more attractive workplace for Black faculty,” Rose said. “We have a national science foundation grant and it is specifically aimed at institutional transformation and our goal is to attract more underrepresented minority faculty and women into areas where those numbers are low.”

However, nationally, the amount of African-American workers in the workforce has increased significantly over the years.

“Between 1966 and 2013, overall African-American participation rates in the workforce increased from 8.2 percent to 14 percent,” The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) stated.

The EEOC also said that African-American households in 2012 brought in an annual median income of $33,321 while the average U.S. household brought in $51,017.

The EEOC enforces laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes sure discrimination based on race or color doesn’t occur in anything to do with employment. However, race discrimination is one of the most frequent charges filed with EEOC, with 25,482 filed by African Americans in 2014.

For Shalenah Ivey, a junior majoring in art history, she believes race discrimination often starts in the interview process. She described her mother’s personal experience at a job interview where her interviewer didn’t ask her any questions except, ‘Are you aware of the workforce dress code?’

“You just know that the people don’t want you there because you’re black… My mom could tell based off of the way [the interviewer was] acting. The interactions with her felt very forced,” Ivey said.

Ana Alvarez, a senior majoring in English, said she and her family experienced racial discrimination for the first time when they left Miami.

“When we went to South Carolina, the second we got off the car and we went into the hotel to check in, the lady behind [the desk] treated us completely different than they had to the people prior, only because my mom had an accent,” Alvarez said.

In the workplace, one major way racial inequality is shown is the difference in pay.

“The statistic that’s usually given, which is 70 some cents per every dollar, is generally for white women because generally for Black women it’s even less. It’s 60 some cents and for Hispanic women it’s 50 some cents for every dollar that a man makes,” said Ivey.

Even though most coworkers don’t discuss their salary, she said, it’s obvious certain workers are making more.

An article published by Economic Policy Institute said the pay for Hispanic and African American women were only 65 cents and 59 cents to the male dollar, while white women and Asian women were higher.

A more subtle form of racial inequality is microaggression, a term coined in 1970 by psychiatrist and Harvard University professor Chester M. Pierce.

“[Microaggression] are little statements that a lot of times a white or non-black race might make that’s not blatantly racist, but just little things that are or have racist undertones and someone might not even realize it,” Ivey said.

She said she knew a lot of African American women in the workforce who experienced microaggression when other races wanted to touch their hair, some not even asking permission.

When Ivey would overhear someone making a subtle but racist statement, perhaps even unknowingly, she said she usually wasn’t sure if she should make a big deal out of it, and she would end up smiling and acting like nothing was said.  

Although the media does discuss racial inequality, Alvarez said she sees more discussion on social media rather than the news. Millennials, she said, are much more open minded and verbal than the older generation and are more willing to go out and speak on issues.

Ivey said Miami is a special case when it comes to racial inequality because the minority is the majority. She said she felt like the pay gap might be smaller in Miami because the majority of people here are Hispanic. However, she acknowledged that there was a form of racial inequality present in Miami.

Graphic by Alex Rosenbluth/PantherNOW.

“I do know within the Hispanic or Latino community, there are things like colorism and racism. Right now it’s a big discussion because a lot of people don’t realize nationality is different from race, which is different from ethnicity,” Ivey said.

She gave an example of how it was possible to be Black and Cuban, or Black and Argentinian. Ivey also said “Afro Latinas” felt erased or not as likely to be put in the spotlight, one reason being not seeing Afro Latinas in Spanish speaking media.

In the three years Alvarez has been at FIU, she’s only had African American professors her last semester and her current semester.

Ivey has yet to have an African American professor, but said her friends had. “The majority [of professors I’ve had] were white, which is a little weird, since we’re in Miami,” said Ivey.

Ivey and Alvarez had different thoughts toward the low number of African American professors, but neither student directly shifted the blame to FIU.

FIU could take more care in trying to find more diverse professors, Ivey said, but she thinks it’s something that’s systematically an issue.

Alvarez, on the other hand, thinks FIU does well in trying to give a diverse population, but that they could expand wider [to include more races].

Ivey and Alvarez came up with different ideas to initiate more change on the issue of racial inequality.

“I always say that education is power, and if we’re not educating ourselves and our students and our friends, then how are we really ever going to progress?” Alvarez said.

Ivey said she thinks the biggest issue is people who want to deny what happened. She spoke of people who will deny the pay gap, no matter the race. There is a lot of denial, she said, because a lot of people don’t like admitting they have privilege, even though today’s society is based off of privilege. She said certain members of the society had a 400 year head start on other races.

“I’ve heard people say the new form of racism is saying it didn’t exist – period – which is a very dangerous statement to say,” Ivey said.

FIU’s African and African Diaspora Studies department did not respond for comment at the time of this article’s publications.


Feature Image retrieved from Flickr.

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