?State of Racism and Gender Discrimination What is discrimination? Discrimination is the prejudicial treatment of a different person or groups of people based on certain characteristics. In the United States there are seven protected characteristics or classes that are defined by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination Employment Act, and the American Disabilities Act that can not be discriminated against: race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, and disability. This paper focuses on two of the protected classes: race and gender discrimination. What is racism?
Racism (also known as discrimination against a race or races) is a belief that all members of one racial group have superior characteristics or abilities specific to that group; it allows the ranking of races based on superiority and implies the importance of one race over the others (“Racism” 2008). Supremacy ideology is core to racism. In the 20th century, the face of racism was largely black and white; however, in recent times there have been examples of racism against Native Americans, Asian Americans, African Americans, Latin Americans, and some other immigrant groups (“Racism in the United States” 2008).
Today, racism has become multi-colored and multicultural. Racism and racial discrimination are very powerful forces which unfortunately harm the whole economy. Racism can take place in many areas such as the job market, housing market, educational system, and health care services. Even today, racial discrimination against minorities (especially African Americans) can be found in the housing market (i. e. making renting apartments, taking out mortgages, and buying houses extremely difficult or even impossible in some areas).
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This is not to say, that there has not been significant attempts and progress made, in order to eliminate racial discrimination. Racial discrimination and segregation used to be legal across the southern states of the United States (“Martin Luther King and the fight against racism in the US” 2008). Many people have tried to stop racial discrimination throughout the history of the United States. One extremely influential and pivotal leader that many people are familiar with is Martin Luther King. While this paper is not a historic telling of Martin Luther King, his ideals are as influential today as they were then.
He did not want people to be judged by the color of their skin but by the capability of their character. He tried to revive the Civil Rights movement in the mid 1950s. However, he was tragically assassinated on the balcony of his hotel in Memphis, Tennessee (“Martin Luther King and the fight against racism in the US” 2008). After his passing and after many fundamental changes in the constitution, African American communities are no longer limited in their rights from society (“Martin Luther King Jr. ” 2008).
Today, the eyes of ethics and the highest laws of the land bids society to stop racial discrimination in all its forms, along with other types of discriminations defined under title VII, ADA, and ADEA. Gender or Sex Discrimination is the belief that one gender is more valuable than the other, and can also create doubts in the abilities of a certain sex and exacerbate stereotypes (“Sexism" 2008). In most countries around the world, gender discrimination is illegal in most circumstances (Manohar 2008). In the United States, Title VII protects against gender and sexual discrimination.
There are two types of gender discrimination: disparate treatment and disparate impact (“Gender or Sex Discrimination” 2008). Disparate treatment is treating people differently because of his or her sex (“Gender or Sex Discrimination” 2008). The other is disparate impact, when the company policy does not include certain individuals or does not include everyone equally (“Gender or Sex Discrimination” 2008). The fire department is a good example of disparate impact. The qualifications of the fire department are extreme (i. e. he ability to carry and lift a lot of weight), which makes it hard for women to qualify for a job as a firefighter (“Gender or Sex Discrimination” 2008). These requirements are important to becoming a fire fighter and many argue that they are more than necessary. However, this does not mean that the fire department does not want to work with women. It is just the policy to set the standards high. Another interesting example: A male employee was fired by his employer because he refused to work at night (“Small Business Encyclopedia” 2002).
This company had a policy saying that women did not have to work at night because the company was located in a high crime area. The male employees had to work the night shifts for the company, while the women employees did not. The male employee in question filed a suit under Title VII against his employer claiming sexual discrimination. The company claimed that several female employees would quit if they were forced to work at night. The company also claimed the policy was a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ).
This case is interesting because BFOQ can be used as a defense to allow certain discrimination. BFOQ is an exception provided by Title VII for jobs that require a specific religion, sex, national origin, or age as a reasonable necessity for normal operations of a business. Although BFOQ applies to the fire department qualifications, the courts deemed that the company who asked only its male workers to take the night-shift was could not use BFOQ as a valid defense (“Small Business Encyclopedia” 2002).
In the workplace, sexual discrimination usually involves sex becoming a factor in deciding on who gets a job, promotion, or other benefits. Many researches have shown that women are treated unfairly compared to men in hiring, promotions, and benefits (“Small Business Encyclopedia” 2002). For instance, a young man, who dropped out from high school and does not have a degree, gets a job in a high position over a young woman who has her master’s degree. While the young woman is better qualified for the position than the young man, the man gets the job.
This paradigm illustrates gender discrimination. The reverse has also held true. There have been cases where men have been discriminated against, as discussed above. There is also a particular form of sexual discrimination called sexual harassment. Sexual harassment includes inappropriate words or actions of a sexual nature to the opposite sex (“Small Business Encyclopedia” 2002). Courts expect managers to understand that sexual discrimination may exist in the workplace and companies to take proactive measures to ensure that the environment is free from sexual discrimination.
The first law of any federal importance in the United States regarding discrimination was The Civil Rights Act of 1871, also known as the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871; it was mainly established to protect Southern African Americans from the abuse being delivered to them from the Ku Klux Klan. Although the Act had been interpreted by the courts many times, it had very little effect. For one, the Act was loosely defined and provided loopholes for state officials, who did not get litigated under the statue. However, this hole was patched up in 1961, when the Supreme Court of the United States decided Monroe v.
Pape. The decision included several provisions to close the inadequacies found in the Civil Act of 1871. The Act is now one of the most powerful statues, in which the State and Federal courts may protect those whose rights are being violated. In particular, Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act enforces the prohibition of public sector employment discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, and religion, but it rarely applies to the private sector. Eventually, the first Federal law to promote equal opportunity and prohibit employment discrimination in the United States was passed.
The law is called the Executive Order 8802, also known as the Fair Employment Act. It was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941. The law promotes and ensures that all Federal agencies and departments involved with the defense industry were administered without discrimination to race, color, or nationality on the vocational and training programs being offered to its employees and contractors. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited racial segregation in schools, public places, and employment regardless of race, color, religion, sex, or nationality.
Originally conceived to help protect African Americans, it also explicitly included sections to protect women in the bill; as a result the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was founded as well. At the time of its creation, this law was seen as one of the most important legislations that abolished all forms and respects of discrimination. During its time at the House Judiciary Committee, the bill was expanded and strengthened to include bans against racial discrimination in employment, segregation in all public facilities, and protection of the rights of black voters.
The bill was later passed out to the House Rules Committee, at which the committee’s chairman Howard W. Smith expressed his intention in canning the bill. But after pressures from civil rights groups and movements, Chairman Smith finally let the bill pass through and it was brought to a vote. It passed in the House on February 10, 1964 and was sent to the Senate. During the bill’s stay at the Senate, a group of southern state Senators launched a two month filibuster trying to prevent its passage through the Senate.
In compromise, a revised weaker bill than the House version was brought to the tables for Senate vote on June 10, 1964 and was passed. Originally conceived to help protect African Americans, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also explicitly included sections to protect Women’s Rights in the bill. Added by Howard W. Smith of the House Rules Committee Chairman, it was first seen as a guise to prevent the bill from passing (since at that time it was normally conceived that some groups of men within the House and Senate would oppose Women’s Rights).
The Bill was later successfully passed and marked the first time legislation was put into effect to protect women. The Civil Rights Act was later followed by the Civil Rights Act of 1968, commonly known as the Fair Housing Act of 1968; which expanded the prohibition of discrimination to include the housing sector. It specifically prohibited discrimination on the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, nationality and later gender, and the protection of families with children and of the handicapped.
The next important anti-discrimination law to pass was the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978. With more than 70% of women with children in the U. S. work force, the law was setup to protect women against discrimination due to their pregnancy (or intentions of becoming pregnant). Employers with prejudices against working mothers (due to the fear of lost productivity, extra costs, expenditures and accommodations associated with pregnant women) who might have been likely to discriminate against them were deterred.
The Act also enables the distribution of a monetary pay-out as a result of discrimination against pregnant women. In 2006 alone, The U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission handled 4,901 claims with monetary amount awarded totaling about $10. 4 million (EEOC 2006). The Civil Rights Act was amended again for the last time in 1991, in an effort to address various limits imposed by past United States Supreme Court’s decisions on the rights of employees who had filed law suits against their employers.
It was basically setup to bring forth the emotional distress damages caused by employment discrimination while setting a limit on the amount the jury could award (“List of Anti-Discrimination Acts” 2008). Before the 1991 Act was put into effect, a plaintiff could only sue their employer for discrimination and recover lost wages or salary, lost benefits, attorney fees, court fees, other legal fees, and other costs associated with reinstatement.
To prevent from unreasonable court settlements, the punitive damages awarded was capped at $300,000 for most cases (excluding ethnic and/or racial discrimination) (“List of Anti-Discrimination Acts” 2008). The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission still handles thousands of discrimination cases every year. There is statistical evidence that suggests racial discrimination in the workplace is still commonplace. In 2000, the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) reported a study in North Carolina that states accusations of racial harassment on the job nearly quadrupled between 1996 and 2000.
Mindy Weinstein, attorney at the EEOC office in Charlotte, North Carolina, says, "There's a new generation of workers today who were not raised in the civil rights movement, who may not have been aware of the laws that came about because of that time… We think it's largely a reflection of what's going on in society as a whole" (“Racial Discrimination” 2008). Since Barack Obama’s win the 2008 presidential election, people would like to believe that racism has seen its last day; unfortunately this is not the case.
According to the research of Brown University, during 1970 to 1994, when America liberalized their uncompetitive banking markets, it reduced the wage gap between blacks and whites. Economists call the wage difference between black workers and white workers the “racial wage gap” (most of which comes from bias). Gary Becker, a Nobel-prize winning economist, argued that prejudice of employees was economically inefficient. Brown University found that deregulation of the American banking industry increased competition and lowered interest rates on loans.
People found it easier to start their own business. They found that in an initially high degree of racial bias, the black-white wage gap declined the most. This evidence shows competition itself can not eliminate racial discrimination. Competition can only reduce the bias from employers. Changing attitudes takes a lot of time and effort; even though Obama’s election victory denotes a change in history, there is still a long way to go (“Race and Red Tape” 2008). Wage gaps can be seen in between genders as well.
Though a wage gap between white men and white women may be expected, it is surprising to see this is not the only wage gap that exits between the sexes. In other racial groups, such as African Americans, Latinos, and Asian/Pacific Islanders, men earn more money than women within their own respective race (U. S. Census Bureau 2000). According to a study, women working 41 to 44 hours per week earn 84. 6% of what men earn working similar hours; women working more than 60 hours per week earn only 78. % of what men earn working the same hours (Bureau of Labor Statistics 2002). More over, women tend to work longer before they receive promotions and get a higher pay. Most people think a higher education may increase women’s salary, but the evidence suggests otherwise. The data does not show a narrow gender gap in wages at higher levels of education. On the contrary, at the very highest levels of education, the gap is at its largest (Hilary M. Lips 2008).
Racial discrimination is an important issue in the business world and is a genuine problem that still exists—and in some cases it’s getting worse. According to a study published in 1998 by the nonprofit group Catalyst called "Women of Color in Corporate Management: A Statistical Picture," it was shown that minority women, while now accounting for almost a quarter of all women in the workplace, occupied only 15 percent of the management positions held by women.
The study verifies that a combination of racial discrimination and the glass ceiling was a differentiating factor in those numbers (Racial Discrimination 2008). Glass ceiling is a symbolic phrase referring to an invisible cap preventing qualified women and minorities from progressing into key higher level management positions, or in some cases any management positions. These individuals describe the cap as a “glass ceiling” because they can see the opportunity that should be theirs through the glass, but due to the ceiling, they can not go any higher.
In 1995 the Federal Glass Ceiling Commission described the American labor force as being segregated by gender and race, where “white men fill most top management positions in corporations” (Glass Ceilings: The Status of Women as Officials and Managers in the Private Sector 2004). The report affirms that the percent of women officials and managers in the private sector used to be 29% in 1990 and had increased to 36. 4% in 2002. Although this is an improvement, women embody 48 percent of all employees, but only 36. 4% of them are in key power positions.
In the National Employment Summary released in 2005 by the EEOC, the average salary reported was $40,325. This report indicates that the median income of men is above average ($44,090) and the median income of women is below average ($36,417) (“National Employment Summary” 2005). The median salary for White and Asian employees was above average as well ($41,525 and $50,762 respectively); whereas Black, Hipic, and Native American employees had median salaries below the average income (“National Employment Summary” 2005).
When graphed, these findings show that White male population has an income graph that is skewed towards the right, whereas most minorities and women have a normal income distribution. The data here supports the idea that more White men are employed in higher paying jobs. The Federal Glass Ceilings Commission argues that: “The successful elimination of glass ceilings requires not just an effective enforcement strategy but the involvement of employers, employees and others in identifying and reducing ttitudinal and other forms of organizational barriers encountered by minorities and women in advancing to higher level management positions in different workplace settings. ” (Glass Ceilings: The Status of Women as Officials and Managers in the Private Sector 2004) Racism and gender discrimination hurt not only the people discriminated against, but also the economy as a whole. It prevents good, qualified individuals from progressing and attributing to the market. As a result, less qualified or poorly qualified people get placed in key positions.
This prevents business’ from reaching their potential, and thus prevents the nation from reaching its. These issues are not restricted to the United States. Racism can be found in all countries across the globe, and its effects can be devastating. Africa suffers from constant political unrest where attempts at genocide are commonplace. Will racism and gender discrimination ever come to an end? It is a difficult question to answer, especially since it is human nature to differentiate between “us” and “them” (“So stereotypes persist because we want them to” 2000).
The hope and desire for America is that the definition of “us” truly changes to encompass all Americans (“from all walks of life”). Works Cited EEOC (U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). 2006. Retrieved November 29, 2008, from: http://www. eeoc. gov/index. html Feinberg, Mark PhD. “So Stereotypes Exist Because We Want Them to”. American Psychological Association Public Interest Directorate. Retrieved November 29, 2008, from: http://www. apa. org/pi/oema/racism/contents. html “Gender or Sex Discrimination”. 008. Retrieved November 29, from: http://www. discriminationattorney. com/lawyer-attorney-1287322. html “Glass Ceilings: The Status of Women as Officials and Managers in the Private Sector”. 2004. U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Retrieved November 29, 2008, from: http://www. eeoc. gov/stats/reports/glassceiling/index. pdf Lips, Hilary M. “The Gender Wage Gap: Debunking the Rationalizations”. Retrieved November 29, 2008, from: http://www. womensmedia. com/new/Lips-Hilary-gender-wage-gap. html “List of Anti-Discrimination Acts”. 2008. Retrieved November 29, 2008, from: http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/List_of_anti-discrimination_acts#United_States Manohar, Uttara. “Gender Discrimination at Workplace”. October 24, 2008. Retrieved November 30, 2008, from: http://www. buzzle. com/articles/gender-discrimination-at-workplace. html “Martin Luther King and the fight against racism in the US”. 2008. Retrieved November 30, 2008, from: http://www. socialistworker. co. uk/art. php? id=14531 "Martin Luther King Jr. . November 30, 2008. Retrieved November 30, 2008, from: http://www. 123HelpMe. com/view. asp? id=42718 “National Employment Summary”. 2005. Retrieved November 29, 2008, from: http://www. eeoc. gov/stats/jobpat_eeo4/2005/jobs/UnitedStatesSummary. html “Race and Red Tape”. November 13, 2008. The Economist print edition. Retrieved November 29, 2008, from: http://www. economist. com/finance/displaystory. cfm? story_id=12597512 “Racial Discrimination”. November 29, 2008. Retrieved November 29, 2008, from: http://www. nswers. com/topic/racial-discrimination “Racism”. 2008. Retrieved November 29, 2008, from: http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Racism “Racism in the United States”. 2008. Retrieved November 29, 2008, from: http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Racism_in_the_United_States “Sexism”. 2008. Retrieved November 29, 2008, from: http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Racism_in_the_United_States “Small Business Encyclopedia”. 2002. Retrieved November 29, 2008, from: http://www. answers. com/topic/gender-discrimination
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