If you’ve ever applied for a job or internship, at the bottom, there’s always a statement ensuring potential candidates that the company is an equal opportunity employer. They claim not to discriminate based on sexuality, gender, and race, among other things. However, some of the current requirements for numerous major internships demonstrate that employment discrimination is still active. As defined by Dictionary.com, an internship is where a student or trainee who works in an organization can gain work experience. Some of the simple requirements would include being a college student— sometimes a specific level, letter of recommendation, and Major— a good grade point average, and little experience in the field of the internship you’re applying to. For the most part, these requirements were easy to fulfill as almost any college student could get access to those things. With both paid and unpaid internships available, this was the best way to become the most sought-after candidate and score an entry-level job after you graduate. Many recent graduates were able to use their bachelor’s degrees to bring home a decent net income.
But as more Black students and minorities pursued higher education, the value of a bachelor’s degree decreased, and internship requirements became hysterical. Nowadays, a student must have prior experience, as before, but now you must have had at least one previous professional job or internship. School newspapers & radio shows, for example, are not acceptable anymore. Black students and minorities barely have access to a professional job or training related to their intended career field while in college. The sole purpose of an internship is to gain that professional experience needed, so it’s clear who’s the intended target for these opportunities. These requirements are discriminative based on class status towards Black and minority students. It prevents them from earning experience, which will not work in our favor when applying for positions.
Privileged students know people who can pull strings to get them internships without experience. This will continue to support the lack of diversity in many career fields. Employers can argue that Black students and minorities have recently been flooded with internship opportunities. However, out of all those opportunities, I’m more than sure 70% were unpaid. Yes, an unpaid internship provides professional experience; however, many Black students can’t afford to work for free. We face financial hardships while enrolled at an institution more than any other race. There are a lot of companies that have no problem with giving out unpaid internships because they are receiving free work for their businesses. Privileged students have a better chance at scoring a paid internship than minorities. They also have a higher chance of being offered employment after graduation from those internships. Black and minority students have so much talent that often gets overlooked because of the color of their skin and class status.
These requirements are further proof that America was built for the success of one race. Some companies like Blavity Inc. and Forbes provide opportunities and experience for Black students at HBCUs and other institutions without insane requirements, but there needs to be more. As Black students and minorities, we must continue to create our own spaces and search for companies that value Black students and our voices.
Blavity U Ambassador, Lashaunta Moore, is a Graduate student at Columbia College Chicago studying Entrepreneurship for Creatives. With a bachelor’s in Media Communication, she’s also a freelance journalist & digital content producer who enjoys writing about all forms of news.