Black unemployment in the multiracial small business industry
Tamara K. Nopper
January 13, 2011
A while back, my colleague, an African American college professor, and I were discussing Black unemployment in conversation with one of my areas of research, immigrant and minority-owned business. She recounted a recent visit to a Dunkin’ Donuts in which she was pleasantly surprised to encounter a middle-aged African American man working at the store. As she described, she pointed to this man as she thanked the manager of the store, a South Asian American, “for hiring him.” When I asked what the manager’s reaction was, she told me he beamed instantly in response as if he was paid the highest compliment. She also mentioned that the African American worker later whispered to her the same reply as expressed by his manager—“thank you.”
This story may seem odd for several reasons. For one, it is difficult to imagine a white person walking into a business and thanking a manager (of any race) for hiring a fellow white person. Second, when conversations about race and employment are discussed, a job working at Dunkin’ Donuts is not generally treated as the ideal opportunity by policy makers and advocates. But let’s consider the significance of this story in relation to several issues: the crisis of Black unemployment, the increasing reliance on small business as a source of employment, and the growing number of non-Black people of color and immigrants in positions to hire employees in small firms.