I would say yes.
As an educated, UK-born, Caribbean male, I regularly go to job interviews (at least 3 every month for over a year) at offices in London and the South East. I sometimes see black and Asian women in white collar roles (around 20 per cent of offices). I rarely see black men. In the diverse employer camp, I would put A2Dominion housing association, Enfield and Barnet councils. But even these employers prefer black women in white collar roles rather than men. UK-born African-Caribbean men are the most absent in white collar roles. I did see two black men working at Eden Brown employment agency, recently, and one black male working in PR at the London Ambulance Service. Usually, you don’t see this. Figures show that in 2011, there were 127 (out of 21,600, not that much) black female headteachers in England. There were only 20 African or Caribbean male headteachers. The absence of black men is very much a taboo topic but other black professional men I talk to are worried.
Many organizations seem more comfortable with black women and feel they can address their race equality issues through women. This is not to say that black women do not experience being overlooked or will have issue in securing senior posts. Yet, black men barely get a foot in the door. But I think educated black men have always had to deal with ‘double vision’. When they see you, the white employer also sees the ‘black male gangster’ by your side and is confused as to who you really are. The white interviewer starts getting fearful, wonders how on Earth you got here and how white colleagues and clients will react to you if you are employed. It is just easier and sensible to put a big, fat X by your name. They tell themselves they’re not doing it because you’re black, it’s just being practical and playing it safe. The educated, UK Caribbean man is simply dazed and confused and asks himself the question: “What has the gangster got to do with me?” But it is to no available. You still don’t get the job or promotion. Black women don’t have that criminal issue to deal with and and in some instances they may even wish to recruit her rather than you despite skills and qualifications. They may just ‘like her’ more than you.
Furthermore, it is likely that blue collar black men face fewer problems. That is because as far as society is concerned there is less of a gap between the social image of black men and blue collar jobs in comparison to black men and white collar jobs. Discussion of equality has largely been about black women and about blue collar and underclass men. Educated black men don’t feature. Why bother with them? The assumption is they will have it far easier than any other minority group. So, I wouldn’t blame a professional black man for being a little paranoid in thinking that the employer actually feels that it is offensive to have him apply to a white collar job given that most people who look like him are gangsters.
Young black men have always picked up the signals and don’t apply their intelligence to education. The images of successful black men that they see are largely in music, entertainments and sports. They know that in these areas white society may accept them and may even encourage them. Outside of that, how confident are they going to be?
They feel that society has little confidence in them and does not encourage them to go to university and and seek white collar roles. When they think about those roles. the image of the black criminal also pops into their heads. I worked at Newham College and noted the under-representation of young Afro-Caribbean boys and men. The College was very good at equality and diversity but it was almost as if they picked up on the assumption in society was that black boys don’t bother. So, black boys feel that bothering is a waste of time. To counter this, black children need inspiration from the Caribbean. They need to see young Caribbean people do well at school and do well in white collar jobs.
It seems the assumption is that educated black men want to fly to near to the Sun. They deserve it when they experience a fall. If it continues like this we’ll go back to conditions in the 1970s.
(Newham College and Lambeth College does make an effort to live up to equality policies. Also, I don’t usually see Asian males on my travels, although, I am not sure why that is.)