black.jpgI got a ride the other day on a shuttle van service and the driver asked me what I do.

I told him I write about careers and labor issues, and you are not going to believe what he asked me next:

“Why do you think blacks don’t have career ambitions?”

OK, I sat there with my mouth opened sort of in shock. I said, “what did you say?”

He actually repeated it.

I said, “what are you talking about. I know tons of blacks that indeed have career ambitions.”

The odd thing was we had just dropped off two African American passengers at large corporations in the town where I live. They were both going off to work.

I pointed this out to this guy who didn’t see the irony in chauffeuring around two seemingly ambitious blacks who were probably making way more than him an hour.

You could tell he realized he was pissing me off and started to back away from his statement. He said,”I was talking about the guys who hang on the corner.”

I can’t say I’m totally surprised that attitudes like this still exist. It’s part of our lives and definitely an undercurrent in the work world. Minorities still make up a tiny percentage of the high level positions in Corporate America. And I often get letters from readers wondering if they’ve been the object of discrimination.

Here are some numbers on the economic realities from the Urban League:

In terms of annual median income, black men earned less than three-quarters of what white
men earned ($34,443 vs. $46,807), roughly a $12,000 gap. Black women made 87 percent of
what white women made and $5,000 less than black men ($29,588 a year).

The driver of the shuttle was an older man, in his sixties. I had lunch with some friends today and one wondered if it wasn’t just a generational bias, one that they grew up thinking was the way of the world.

I’m not sure. But I am sure we still have a long way to go.

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