Refusing to turn a blind eye to the race gap

August 8, 1444 – the date of the first large European slave market, held in Portugal, in which Black African people were taken from their homes in Mauritania and sold to Europeans. That, said Professor Binna Kandola, was his choice of a tipping point where colour prejudice began. ‘For much of human history people weren’t stereotyped on the basis of the colour of their skin’, Kandola said, opening a powerful symposium on the race pay gap.

Kandola said that after the slave trade was ‘inaugurated as a godly, worthy, profitable enterprise’, philosophers, scientists, theologians and many others helped to support the slave trade by creating ‘evidence’ for the idea that some races were inferior to others. Several scientists, including botanist Carl Linnaeus and Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, created taxonomies and racially-based hierarchies of human beings – one foundation of the race-based societies we see today. Exploring wages is, Kandola argued, the ideal way to view how those racist ideas are still expressed.

After looking at data from many countries Kandola saw the same hierarchy repeating itself – white people earn the most, black people earn the least, and other races come in between. In the UK white men earn the most, followed by Chinese men and women and Indian men. Black men and women from African or Caribbean backgrounds earn the least, along with Pakistani and Bangladeshi men and women. In the USA white and Asian men earn the most while black and Hispanic men and women earn the least.

Organisations are sometimes coy about collecting or publicly releasing pay data, but the BBC’s recent analysis found that of its employees £150,000 per year or more a significant majority were men. Kandola reanalysed the data looking at race and found the race pay gap to be larger than the gender pay gap. This pattern can, he said, be seen in many organisations. And a survey carried out by Kandola’s business consultancy Pearn Kandola revealed that 60 per cent of black people and 42 per cent of Asian people had experienced racism at work. Other research has found that minorities are also less likely to get timely, helpful feedback on their work, and are less likely to be given challenging assignments to stretch them. While many experience subtle types of racism, others experience it in its most explicit forms.

Read the full article on The Psychologist.

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