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The Racial Wage Gap: Crippling People of Color’s Wallets Since 1492

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The racial wage gap is an issue that has plagued and still plagues Americans who don’t have the luxury of being white.

While some people might say minorities aren’t being discriminated against anymore, just listen to 45th U.S. president. He promises to get “bad hombres” out of the country. He signs executive orders barring immigrants — especially those from mostly Muslim countries (despite historical terrorist attacks). He reportedly has a history of discrimination against black people in his business.

While people may say minorities aren’t trying hard enough, statistics prove them wrong. A study from the National Committee on Pay Equity shows how in 1970, black men earned 69 percent of what white men earned, and in 2013 they still only earned 75 percent of what white men earned.

Some people say since Asians can make it to so-called “white status,” other ethnic groups can, too, if they try. Asians are stereotyped about being smart. I wonder if a company sees an Asian name on a resume they may hire them just because of that. Even white people who think Asians aren’t stereotyped because they have high levels of education are wrong. Click here for one of my peer’s slam poem on Asian stereotypes.

The truth is, the more education you have, the more money you can earn. The U.S. Department of Labor reports “jobs that require high levels of education and skill pay higher wages than jobs that require few skills and little education.”

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) statistics show “…earnings increase significantly as a worker’s degree of education rises.” Also, unemployment rates are lower among people who have professional degrees than people who only have a high school diploma or who don’t finish high school.

wage gap chartAccording to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 88 percent of white, black and Asian people above the age of 25 in the U.S. received a high school diploma in 2015. Unfortunately, only 67 percent of Hispanic people had a high school degree. The education gap widens among people who earn college degrees: About 33 percent of whites had a bachelor’s degree “or more” according to the same U.S. Census Bureau report, but only 22 percent of blacks and 15 percent of Hispanics had the same level of education. Almost 54 percent of Asians had these degrees.

When it came to advanced degrees, only 5 percent of Hispanics and 8 percent of blacks graduated with this level of education, compared with 12 percent of whites and 21 percent of Asians. The income gap is affected by this education gap, as proven by data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showing the highest levels of income go to people who have earned professional degrees ($1,730 per week), while people with just a high school earn $678 per week (earnings are for full-time wage and salary workers).

Just because you get a degree doesn’t mean you’ll get a job if you’re black. “Blacks with college degrees are twice as likely to be unemployed as all other graduates,” according to the article “Systemic Racism Is Real.”

In the workplace white men are the majority of business owners, managers and CEOs. I wonder if this is because most CEOs and managers are white men, and people are most likely to connect with people like them. Women are 15 percent less likely to be promoted than men, according to an article in Business Insider that shows a study from Women in the Workplace. “There have been only 15 black CEOs in the history of the Fortune 500, of whom five are currently in the role,” reported Fortune magazine in January 2016. Plus, black employees are “just 6.7% of the nation’s 16.2 million ‘management’ jobs, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, though they make up twice that share of the population at large.”

We as the next generation need to start breaking that trend. The racial wage gap doesn’t have a mind of its own. There are people helping the racial wage gap grow whether they know they are or not. By sitting by and doing nothing, we too are only helping the wage gap grow. In fact, people rarely acknowledge its existence. When you search “wage gap” or even “racial wage gap,” most of the articles and websites that come up are on the wage gap between men and women. Also in the Fortune 500 website, if you go to the filter, you can filter it by sex and “foreign born,” but not race.

We need to stand up against small prejudices in order to have a good future. While I, a white man, may not have to worry about this in the same way as my peers who are people of color, I don’t want to live in a racist, blind and uneducated America. 

It’s time we put an end to the injustice of the racial wage gap. 1492-2017. That’s long enough.

Isaac, 14, attends The Paideia School, and created this column and artwork as part of a class project on race, class and gender. 

related: Teens Create Video About Racial Profiling by the Police 

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