The chapter 3 explores the multifaceted phenomenon of discrimination, evaluating its extent in modern society and considering different ways of its minimization. The authors have provided numerous recent findings that unequivocally prove the importance of racial and ethnic background in various social interactions. For example, applicants with White-sounding names are much more likely to elicit a callback from their potential employers or landlords than those with Black-sounding names. In one of the experiments, race turned out to be even more important factor for job application than criminal record. The discrimination is also evident from the persistent disparity between the income and wealth of White Americans and those of African Americans. All these findings illustrate that, after centuries-long fight for their rights in the USA, people from racial and ethnic minorities still cannot enjoy equal social opportunities.
I was startled to see how widespread discrimination is in the USA, even within those institutions and entities that claim to advocate equal opportunities for all. Though representatives of minorities can have good housing and high-paying jobs, there is still a significant discrepancy between legal rights and actual opportunities that they have, due to ill-grounded but deeply-rooted prejudices. Even if they are admitted to colleges and hired for jobs, they may nonetheless have limited opportunities to fulfill their potential, which is known as glass ceiling and glass walls. The discrimination naturally causes dissatisfaction of racial minorities with their social treatment, which often leads to anti-White hate crimes. Thus, discrimination, whether implicit or explicit, has profound adverse effects on the whole society, by polarizing it and enhancing hostility.
Despite we claim that we have created a civilized and democratic society, we still live in the world of stereotypes and prejudices that are deeply rooted in our history. The film ‘Ethnic Notions’ (Riggs, 1987) traces the formation of stereotypes about African-Americans in the 19th century, including such characters as Mammy, Sambo, Minstrel and others. Having permeated the American popular culture, these stereotypes are responsible for the emergence of contemporary notions about the inherent laziness or inherent tendency to crime among the Black people. Moreover, the persistence of these archetypes has had a profound impact on the self-image of African-Americans, as they were not accepted as individuals and were forced to play the prearranged roles in the society. Being limited in their social opportunities and, Black people indeed often have to resort to crime or to take low-level jobs, which fuels the stereotypes even more and creates a vicious circle that plagues our society and hampers inter-group relations.
Even though a lot of policies are implemented to prevent and eliminate both individual and institutional discrimination in the USA, the problem is that discrimination can only be clearly detected when an overt exclusion of some social groups is taking place. Otherwise, discriminators have a lot of opportunities to conceal their bias. While affirmative action programs have been efficient in raising the minority employment, they have to be improved to be more sensitive to various kinds of implicit discrimination. Also, efforts have to be taken to preclude reverse discrimination and generally to ensure color-blind working places where employees are hired and promoted based on their qualifications and skills only. I agree with the authors that eliminating discrimination calls for action both from the federal government and from voluntary associations. The resistance of subordinate groups is crucial to draw the public attention to the issue of discrimination based on race, gender and ethnicity. While the racial consciousness of Americans has a long history and therefore cannot be quickly dismissed, everyone of us has the responsibility to provide equal opportunities for all people and to work on the elimination of our irrational prejudices.
- Riggs, M. (1987). Ethnic Notions. US: California Newsreel.