By Robert Stitt
ThinkProgress reveals a year-long research study that took place on the well-known, online marketplace, Craigslist. In the experiment, old IPods were put up for sale. The IPods were the same in a series of pictures, but the IPod was held by different people. In some of the postings the device was held by white hand, in others by white hands with various tattoos on the wrists, and in others by a black hand.
The question that was asked at the beginning of the study was, “When the typical person engages in a consumer transaction (usually as a buyer), does he or she try to avoid dealing with minority sellers, and does he/she treat minority sellers differently?”
After a year of collecting data, the researches found that black sellers received fewer responses, fewer offers, and were offered lower prices. They found that buyers were less respectful when dealing with the black sellers, and were more concerned about delivery and payment. They also found that people flagged the ads as inappropriate, which led to them being removed, at a higher rate than for white people with the same ad.
The showing of a definite racial bias online, where people don’t have to interact face-to-face, begs the question of consumer prejudice when dealing with minorities in person. The researchers state, “we expect that our results will be informative about discrimination offline…if people shy away from buying things from black sellers, that could shape decisions made by actual retail companies when hiring sales people. One study found that consumer discrimination is the most likely cause of racial differences in the economy.”
The next question we need to ask is whether the prejudices are outward and overt, or are the people unaware that they have them? In other words, do Americans have these thoughts and concerns about dealing with minority businesspeople embedded in their subconscious, or is it something that is more environmental and learned? Some would argue that it doesn’t matter, discrimination is discrimination. Experts disagree, they believe that discovering, revealing, and bring to light the reason for the prejudice is the first step in changing people’s perceptions.
One example, provided by ThinkProgress, states that “Companies that drug test employees are more likely to hire black workers because in the absence of tests, employers assume black people use drugs and screen them out.” Other studies and tests have shown that people with ethnic sounding names, or who have listed a minority ethnicity on an application, are less likely to get called for jobs or receive offers of work. This is not just true for entry level positions, but black college graduates are less likely to find employment, and/or employment that matches their qualifications, as their non-minority counterparts.