When the temp agency called to tell me that there was a full-time custodial position open over at a 24-hour facility in San Marcos, Texas, I was both relieved and, to be honest, a little bit indignant. I was going to be able to eat this week, but after having spent the past 14 years of my life getting a bachelor’s degree in English, getting a master’s degree in creative writing, and starting my own entertainment company, I was going to be a janitor.That last sentence tells me she's leaving something out. What she left out of that sentence was not at all what I was thinking, and she put it in the next sentence:
I must have missed the memo: A 2014 study from the Center for Economic and Policy Research revealed that an incredible 55.9 percent of black recent college graduates were “underemployed” and working in a position that didn’t require a four-year college degree.Of course, it's racism! Can't have anything to do with any choices she's made, it's raaaaaaacism.
Today, black women are among the most-educated groups in the country. We’re the only demographic of women who own more businesses than our male peers. But of course that does not always mean we are more successful. A 2016 survey from Consumer Finances shows that degrees for black women are not translating into wealth within our communities. Too many factors outside of higher education are leaving black women jobless and in debt. Upward mobility, a common desire among millennials, is still often thwarted by discrimination in the labor market.I want evidence of discrimination. I mean, she had her own business. That she didn't make enough money at it can't be laid at the feed of "discrimination in the labor market". As the owner, she's not "labor".
I threw myself into a business plan, applied to art grants and startup-accelerator programs, and even joined an innovative female-owned co-working space, Splash Coworking. I created an artist-in-residence program, facilitating the artist-development initiative through a monthly event series I curated. Those first three months were a crash course in organization, self-care, branding, paperwork filing, and functioning on minimal sleep. I took all the knowledge I had gained throughout my college career and threw it into my business. But while the U.S. Census Bureau states that black-owned businesses like mine are on the rise—an estimated 34.5 percent increase from 2007–12—the rate of success overall for black-owned small businesses in their first two years is still debilitatingly low. It felt like I was losing before I even got started.Again, I don't see that as "discrimination in the labor market". Do you know who owns the businesses you frequent? Do you refuse to shop at businesses that are owned by people with a different skin color than you have? Yeah, me either. What would a more logical explanation be? That perhaps some of these businesses don't fill enough of a need in the marketplace to be viable? That's what Occam's Razor tells me. But it's easier to lay the blame for your own failures on an external locus.
I hope she does better in life. I hope she's able to move up the economic ladder as time goes on--just as I have. But she's going to have a hard time doing that unless she starts accepting some responsibility for her own decisions and her own life.