Minorities And Racial Discrimination In The Workplace: Are We Exaggerating?

May 29, 2013  |  


A study published by the Law & Society Review, essentially tells us what we all already know: Blacks and Hispanics are less likely than Caucasians to score interviews and job offers. Employers themselves have admitted that they’re reluctant to hire minorities. Tell us something we don’t know!

But there’s something new that this research presents to us: racial discrimination in the workplace is perceived among minorities differently depending on certain factors. Society has a devious way of indirectly imposing racial discrimination on minorities in the workplace. Modern discrimination is hidden in everyday social interactions which makes it harder to point out.

With the very subtle nature of racial discrimination, how can anyone effectively seek legal action? Employers can easily refute discrimination claims by stating that the worker’s performance and lack of experience contributed to differential treatment, masking any bias. Proof of racial discrimination to pursue a lawsuit is damn near impossible.

The report also delves into how one’s gender, personality, and income affect one’s perception of prejudice.

For instance, women alone in the workforce are paid less and are undervalued compared to men. Black women, being both a minority and female are at a double disadvantage. Because of this, black women are more vigilant of discrimination than black men. As a result, more African-American women are likely view negative treatment as a product of discrimination.

The authors infer that some workers might perceive a behavior to be discriminatory if they are entitled and believe they deserve certain treatment. If that standard of treatment isn’t met, they are more likely to cry discrimination. But is it really?

Also, those who are paid higher wages expect a more objective work environment; they are more likely to identify negative experiences as discriminatory. Adversely, those who work in undesirable jobs tend to label the negative experience as a just consequence of a crappy job.

The study concludes that the ideal, fair-minded work environment hires employees based on merit and uses public advertisements rather than personal referrals for recruitment and has affirmative action policies for equal opportunity.

Do you believe that African-Americans sometimes exaggerate their claims of racial discrimination? Have you ever been discriminated at work?

Trending on MadameNoire

View Comments
Comment Disclaimer: Comments that contain profane or derogatory language, video links or exceed 200 words will require approval by a moderator before appearing in the comment section. XOXO-MN
  • Network News

    I’m a black woman promoted to a top position in a small company about six months ago. The job I have now had been one with a revolving door. I sat on the sidelines and watched this for a year. I was more qualified than the people they hired, but I was stuck because I happened to work for two of management’s young daughters. I became more and more unhappy in that position. I wasn’t treated well, they had lots of emotional outbursts on top of a very stressful position. I felt like a slave. I would feel sick to my stomach, exhausted, and depressed on a daily basis. Within six weeks of making the decision to leave, I had another job offer.

    I decided before I left that it wouldn’t hurt to ask for the position that I knew matched my credentials and where I could work with kind, mature, grounded people. I went to them directly. When they offered me the job and I accepted, I began to experience racist microaggression on a daily basis from the Personnel Manager (PM), former bosses, co-workers… Gossip circulated that was so far from the truth but I couldn’t do anything about it. Half the office seemed angry and standoffish.

    Before my first day, I was bullied by the PM on two occasions. Suddenly, I wasn’t good enough to be promoted, My old bosses complained about me within my last month of working for them, when I was working two jobs – the old one and the new one until they hired my replacement. PM didn’t like that I’d handled my own promotion and had made my own relationships with the higher ups, when she’d known how unhappy I was but never offered to help.

    On a day that I was doing a great job for the company, I mean really taking care of business, the PM called me into the conference room and wrote me up for being late. She made me sign something under duress that didn’t match my timesheet. She waged a ton of criticisms against me that were completely untrue or ridiculously exaggerated. There was no mistaking she was pissed and others were too. This is when I learned what the people in the office were really like. I was embarrassed for the PM after her charades. Her blatant harassment disgusted me. These types of experiences are big reasons why black women sometimes shy away from close relationships with people at work. If you’re really good at what you do, they’re threatened by you and don’t want to see you succeed. Why would you open up to people like that? You can’t trust 99% of people at work.

    Basically, I do the best I can. I speak, exchange small talk, but I’m more comfortable forming relationships with those in power because they aren’t threatened by me. I feel I can be more myself. I’m still dealing with a little bit of backlash. Yet, you can’t get emotional about it because that’s what they want – to see you out of control.

    That’s the racial microaggression I feel as a whole – half of the white people at work pissed off at me because I have the courage to shape my own destiny. Not one of the people who at the time I sensed didn’t like that I got promoted congratulated me when the news was made public.

  • Pingback: Dennis Rodman boxed out by Yasmin Eleby | The Right Stuff()

  • Pingback: Sky’s the Limit (?) | The Wilson Concept()

  • Author

    I feel that I am discriminated against quite frequently at work. I think that I am actually very good at telling the difference between racial discrimination and non-discriminatory conflict because I experienced so much of the former. You see, I work in technology and although I have been working in the field for about 5 years and have a fair amount of academic qualifications, it just so happens that when I meet new colleagues for the first time some have a tendency to treat me as if I have never seen or heard of a computer before. Although I am 31 years old and a seven year military war veteran, have 2 years as a technology intern prior to the Army, and again 5+ years professional experience as a software developer, when first meeting new colleagues I often get a smile and a “Is this your first job?”. I don’t think I look that young.

    And that’s not all. When working with others I find it very hard to get then to take my ideas seriously. Sometimes others will reject my ideas at the cost of productivity and to our own detriment. For example, asking to use a different editor during the times that I am the one who is actually typing is like proposing the Affordable Care Act.

    Conversation is also quite difficult. Often I feel as if people are not listening when I talk. I concise in my dialog and brief with my words and it still seems as if the point of what I am saying is always taken in the most negative light possible. If I say “rose” someone will undoubtedly ask me why I am talking about thorns.

    Now, to be perfectly fair I do have personality flaws. I find that I on some days I have to really watch what I say because I may be in an irritable mood. When I am in such a mood its best for me to keep to myself. I feel extra bad when I take out frustration on people undeservedly. That happens sometimes and the fault is my own. Yet, the discrimination I face is still as real as this words in this post.

    The icing on the cake is when, about a year later, those former discriminatory colleagues (who are of moral conscience and now know you and see you as more than just a color) apologize to you. I’m counting 3 outright apologies and 4 quasi apologies to date. I just wish there was nothing to apologize to me for because then I would probably just be a happier person.

    • Awhiteguy

      Just curious…how did they apologize? Did they allude to their racist behavior, or just basically say sorry i was mean, but take no responsibility of any prejudice? Also, were all of the bigots white-Americans, or were other races also bigots? Were men worse than women, or vica-verca, or equal? Just curious, as I’m a white male who exclusively dates black women and want’s to understand their struggle on a deep level.

  • Julia Locklear

    Even when I was a high school student, I always tried to avoid using qualifiers for my success or failures. I didn’t want to be the best for someone so “young” or for a “girl”; I just wanted to achieve on my own merit and hard work. So the last thing I tried to do was use race to explain or interpret things that happened to me…until I faced discrimination at work. To make a very long story short, I ended up fighting the employer with some help but no lawyer would touch the case…but I won so there must have been SOME merit to it. Either way, I have been changed since then and am more acutely aware of the everyday microaggressions I encounter due to my race and/or gender and my doctoral research focuses on understanding the long-term effects of these experiences on women of color and how to develop better coping strategies. I am looking to use my experience, education, and training to help coach others facing similar situations. Thank you for writing this and for highlighting the Law & Society Study; I’m going to check it out now. Forward march.