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Is Discrimination Dead?

Is Discrimination Dead?
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   on x understanding people in their social worlds Is Discrimination Dead? Cedric Herring • Professor 1 SocIology. UnIYetsrty of I II'M)iS at Ctwcago UIC). e former PresIdent o1lhe AssociatIOn .If Black SociologISts. fi nd Foundtng Director of the Institute of Research on Race and PublIC PoliCy at utC. HIS forthc:omIng book ill entrtled Sktn Deep -  ow Race and CcItJ¥ IeDOtl aner If t . Color-BlInd E,. 2003. Um l8l 5lty of IdlflOis Press)  I fllilt ur e ilrt Kl e cedric herring is job discrimination dead? '''''.0; _ ....... c/rtl.Ir.. ." __ ...... "'" I :>n.><'d _ dto ............ , ' .., Ia« of A/r-at1 """""';0".-11' 'Jf d w ... _ \.~ rtwf¥+' ..... " ' ... ' ",.., ...... , Amr.,"" ......... 1 IOIIf1h.-g..r .... _...,.-  ~ tl 1996. Teloaco ..-tloed. c fer S 176 ontIIoatl wIltoAfrbr>.Arnoncan.,.",,- v.rocNrgld N thect:oo'iP pall)' iy5tiIIl'Ii'.aII)' dtnoId 1hfm ptOO'ICI IDfil. Teuco 0I'9III0'f- Iy ~ to hgt t the IM~ When ~utabl. wrIlCed. oo.- , lm .. Hhlf'\Jrd ots posotlOI\ 'NeY; It>rt 1/m<ps~~t.poI~~o _"'haco~ _ 9'0 bla<: k M1~ ' 'n'99"'" arid 'bIack jO'l y DtarlS' who WD<IkI 'oily I...:k al the bottom 01 the ~ f ._oillo uItom.l1f'ly «krow.ll:ig«j that they u:.ed I'M) pro- motIOn ~ pubk """ IN tt. a biKI:: «XI a K~ tNI i >idudiod;d t:wo:< t<.opUyw _. Tho: S 176 molooro ...nIfmtoot woll 1\ he the IMgest """",nt ....... _<Wded.., • do\olmonotoon lUi """'" d>ingfd  , «e rNtoonsO<o'ei' the paU 50 yHo. In the ol d ~ ,00 d&tm1or\1 to:ln ~: A'ncaro AIriI'riuoro'; IN "'; tIN" _ and undfn~ The", __ • ...t.iIf for....ructo t;oI.:IW ~ ""I iIPJIfIo. and tr..... ......... .~ JObs' ., wh.dt o~~L"'l whole poor;ort~ be found No law< pmhobrtM ,,ooaI do5<"""nat.<li'l on , ~. on ........ >U1O' i t........ ~q(j _,.to:ln of bl«ks MId...tvt.son wtualIy"""'Y putjc rNm No ontyw", rllClill <Ir<c ..... "'" the I'8I<ty 01 the d bu, .1>0 """'Y who "JIlIXI'lO'd the odu tflit reb ctow"ImonaliOrt "'}01 n" bIids ''IiS~\e In 1944. 55 pe«mlalwh ~ 1'S1d r I· lO'd to 'n~ that Ihty thouq/lt white..oould 11'1:" ..... preIftl'ft<.I' O<o'ei' to o ~s '" «ON to JOb .. mmpa~ ", ,:11 o f 3 poorrf<ll who ""etM...:1I """""'" on t971 ~ny ~m form of ''"'''''' n.w. ~'t'd C".., ngh l.1aw; rrIiib.....rt i<1d C(M I'\ klS of ~ ... . <JOl Aka. I1'wei" ddmrt wtr. d., ..,.-..I ,«rs1 b8i f\ han _ """"'" Sud t-.rospired m.ony 1(hoIa~ ;nj o;ac:,.,I '-""""tfIt , tor> to he<o Id the"('fI(I of ~ .tnd te cI.od"", that Wf hoMo created a COiQt-bl,M 'IOCiI'ty T~ ~t to <ll'Ch~'" ~oct, 'l'owtIi on t~ prcpcrt>ort of toIIo<b wnc hold IIO\'toOnS of tt<PO<\<Ibol"i . a do§ong 01 ~ ..... ' g.IIp r:..- )ICIi'\9 ItI.>ds _ )'O'J"" wh., .. ...t <lI ....- ~ of .~ Ilf'IlIJII"i' • ~,r ~ on~t '>llIlw,de- 'IlfNd. I Iwl J"" <JOI'>I' u~omurod ~rId bo<:~ """" VlJI/IJ'Ito:;md Ma<1y a\IIenl, """"","Iy wM'" who t....... ,..,.,.. m "'. con t"xU 13  Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission. is job discrimination dead? Cedric Herring Contexts; Summer 2002; 1, 2; feature article cedric herring s job discrimination dead? Poliu (al and legal debate In re ent years has focused on vl/hether d ~'S((ir'nir;ation ~ t=il/or o African Arne h~ans ~; justi6 ed. l/Vhat receives less attention is that ernpfoy'tnent discrirnination against .African rnericans though iffe9af~ is silf alive and Ij yl{-j/ in l-;rnericC1. Craft worker at Nelli s Shirt and Zipper Repair secondary sector jobs offer low pay with few benefits, even for skilled African Americans. In November 1996, Texaco settled a case for $176 million with African-American employees who charged that the company systematically denied them promotions. Texaco srcinal ly vowed to fight the charges. When irrefutable evidence surfaced, however, Texaco changed its position. he ew York imes released a tape recording of several Texaco executives referring to black employees as niggers and black jelly beans who would stay stuck at the bottom of the bag. Texaco also ultimately acknowledged that they used two promotion lists-a public one that included the names of blacks and a secret one that excluded all black employee names. The $176 million settlement was at the time the largest amount ever awarded in a discrimination suit. Much has changed in American race relations overthe past 50 years. In the old days, job discrimination against African Americans was clear, pervasive and undeniable. There were white jobs for which blacks need not apply, and there were Negro jobs in which no self-respectingwhite person would be found. No laws prohibited racial discrimination in employment. Indeed, in several states laws required separation of blacks and whites in vi rtuallyevery public realm. Not only was racial discrimination the reality of the day but also many whites supported the idea that job discrimination against blacks was appropriate. In 1944, 55 percent of whites admitted to interviewers that they thought whites should receive preference over blacks in access to jobs, compared with only 3 percent who offered such opinions in 1972. Many blatant forms of racism have disappeared. Civil rights laws make overt and covert acts of discrimination illegal. Also, fewer Americans admit to traditional racist beliefs than ever before. Such changes have inspired many scholars and social com mentators to herald the end of racism and to declare that we have created a color-blind society. They point to declines in prejudice, growth in the proportion of blacks who hold positions of responsibility, a closing of the earnings gap between young blacks and young whites and other evidence of racial progress. However, racial discrimination in employment is still widespread; it has just gone underground and become more sophisticated. Many citizens, especiallywhites who have never  Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission. Racial discrimination in employment is still widespread; it has just gone underground and become more sophisticated. Many citizens, especially whites who have never experienced such treatment, find it hard to believe that such discriminatory behavior by employers exists. Nevertheless, clear and convincing evidence of discriminatory patterns against black job seek-ers exists. experienced such treatment, fi nd it hard to believe that such discriminatory behavior by employers exists. Indeed, 75 percent of whites in a 1994 survey said that whites were likely to lose a job to a less-qualified black. Nevertheless, clear and convincing evidence of discriminatory patterns against black job seekers exists. In addition to the landmark Texaco case, other corporate giants have made the dishonor roll in recent years. In 2000, a court ordered Ford Motor Company to pay 9 million to victims of sexual and racial harassment. Ford also agreed to pay $3.8 million to settle another suit with the u.s. Labor Department involving discrimination in hiring women and minorities at seven of the company's plants. Similarly in 1999, Boeing agreed to pay $82 million to end racially based pay disparities at its plants. In April 2000, Amtrak paid $16 million to settle a race discrimination lawsuit that alleged Amtrak had discriminated against black employees in hiring, promotion, discipline and training. And in November 2000, the Coca-Cola Company settled a federal lawsuit brought by black employees for more than $190 million. These employees accused Coca-Cola of erecting a corporate hierarchy in which black employees were clustered at the bottom of the pay scale, averaging $26,000 a year less than white workers. The list of companies engaged in discrimination against black workers is long and includes many pillars of American industry, not just marginal or maverick firms. Yet when incidents of discrimination come into public view, many of us are still mystified and hard-pressed for explanations. This is so, in part, because discrimination has become so illegitimate that companies expend millions of dollars to conceal it. They have managed to discriminate without using the blatant racism of the old days. While still common, job discrimination against blacks has become more elusive and less apparent. how common? Most whites think that discriminatory acts are rare and sen- sationalized by a few high-profile cases and that the nation is well on its way to becoming a color-blind society. According to a 2001 Gallup survey, nearly 7 in 10 whites (69 percent) said that blacks are treated the same as whites in their local communities. The numbers, however, tell a different story. Ann ually, the federa I govern ment receives about 80,000 complaints of employment discrimination, and another 60,000 cases are fi led with state and local fair employment practices commissions. One recent study found that about 60 percent of blacks reported racial barriers in their workplace in the last year, and a 1997 Gallup survey found that one in five report ed workplace discrimination in the previous month. The results of social audits suggest that the actual frequency of ob discrimination against blacks is even higher than blacks themselves realize. Audit studies testfor discrimination by sending white and minority job seekers with comparable resumes and skills to the same hiring fi rms to apply for the same job. The differential treatment they receive provides a measure of discrimination. These audits consistentlyfi nd that any entry level jobs lack opportunities to develop skills and assume increased responsibilities. employers are less likely to interview or offer jobs to minority applicants. For example, studies by the Fair Employment Practices Commission of Washington, D.C., found that blacks face discrimination in one out of everyfivejob interviews and that they are denied job offers 20 percent of the time. A similar study by the Urban Institute matched equally qualified white and black testers who applied for the same jobs in Chicago. About 38 percent of the time, white applicants advanced further in the hiring process than equally qualified blacks. Similarly, a General Accounting Office audit study uncovered significant discrimination against black and Latino  Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission. testers. In comparison with whites, black and Latino candidates with equal credentia Is received 25 percent fewer job interviews and 34 percent fewer job offers. These audit studies suggest that present-day discrimination is more sophisticated than in the old days. For example, discriminating employers do not expl icitlydeny jobs to blacks; rather, they use the different phases of the hiring process to discriminate in ways that are difficult to detect. In particular, when comparable resumes of black and white testers are sent to firms, discriminatory firms systematicallycall whites first and repeatedly until they exhaust their list of white applicants before they approach their black prospects. They offer whites jobs on the spot but tell blacks that they will give them a call back in a few weeks. These mechanisms mean that white applicants go through the hiring process before any qualified blacks are even considered. Discriminatory employers also offer higher salaries and higher-status positions to white applicants. For example, audit studies have documented that discriminatory employment agencies often note race in the files of black applicants and steerthem away from desi rable and lucrative positions. A Fair Employment Practices Commission study found that these agencies, which control much ofthe applicantflow into whitecollar jobs, discriminate against black applicants more than 60 percent of the time. Surprisingly, many employers are willing to detail in confi dence to researchers) how they d scri m nate aga i nst black job seekers. Some admit refusing to consider any black applicants. Many others admit to engaging in recruitment practices that artificially reduce the number of black applicants who know about and apply for entry-level jobs in thei rfirms. One effective way is to avoid ads in mainstream newspapers. In one Chicago study, more than 40 percent of the employers from firms within the city did not advertise their entry-level job openings in mai nstream newspapers. Instead, they advertised job vacancies in neighborhood or ethnic newspapers that targeted particular groups, mainly Hispanics or white East European immigrants. For the employer who wants to avoid blacks, th s strategycan be quite effective when employment ads are written in languages other than English, or when the circulation of such newspapers is through channels that usually do not reach many blacks. Em ploye rs descri bed recruiti ng you ng workers la rgely from Catholic schools or schools in white areas. Besides avoiding public schools, these employers also avoided recruiting from job-training, welfare and state employment service programs. Consequently, some job-training programs have had unanticipated negative effects on the incomes and employment prospects of their African-American enrollees. For instance, research on the effect of such training programs on the earn ings and employability of black inner-city residents found that those who participated in various job-training programs earned less per month and had higher unemployment rates than their counterparts who had not participated in such programs. w o suffers Generally, no black person is immune from discriminato ry treatment. A few factors make some even more vulnerable to discrimination than others. In particular, research has shown that African Americans with dark complexions are W , Fast food counter worker-African Americans are over represented in low paying jobs with few benefits. likelierto report discrimination-one-half do-than those with lighter complexions. Job discrimination is also associated with education in a peculiarfashion: Those blacks with more education report more discrimination. For example, in a Los Angeles study, more than 80 percent of black workers with college degrees and more than 90 percent of those with graduate-level educations reported facing workplace discrimination. Black immigrants are more likely than nonimmigrants to report discrimination experiences, residents of smaller communities report more than those of larger ones, and younger African Americans report more than older ones. Rates of job discrimination are lower among those who are married than among those who are not wed. Research also shows that some employment characteristics also appear to make a difference: African Americans who are hired through personal contacts report discrimination less often as do those who work in the manufacturing sector and those who work for largerfirms. Discrimination exacts a fi nancial cost. African Americans interviewed in the General Social Survey in 1991 who report ed discrimination in the prior year earned 6,200 less than .0 < J G [§ t:: 8 € .rg t:: t:: < J :S +-   5 8 8 ;£
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