Are African Americans Still Experiencing Racism

Are African Americans Still Experiencing Racism - Are...

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Unformatted text preview: Are African Americans Still Experiencing Racism? Joyce McNickles Anna Maria College Carlo M. Baldino Sutton, Massachusetts Many white Americans may have been surprised when a recent Gallup survey asked African Americans if they felt they Were treated fairly in the United States. Americans surveye Only 38% of the African d felt as though they were, while 76% of the whites surveyed felt African Americans were treated fairly (Gallupa 2004). These statistics are indicative of the perception gap that exists between whites and African Americans when it comes to matters of race and racism. ealed that 46% of African The good news is that the same Gallup survey rev % of whites acknowledged that relations between the two groups oved. Seventy percent of whites and 80% of African Americans sur- veyed supported interracial marriages and 57% of whites and 78% of African Americans reported that they prefer living in racially mixed neighborhoods. These ' nificant decrease in prejudicial attitudes within both groups, com- d race relations. Americans and 59 had generally impr ND RACISM rejudice has decreased, why do so many treated unfairly? Tim Wise, a well-known ecturer, recently suggested that if one is m are so difficult between Whites may wonder that if their personal p elieve that they are Africans Americans still b white antiracism writer, activist, and national l trying to understand wh ‘ about race and racis African Americans and whites, it is because they often are not talking about the same thing.According to Wise (2006), most whites see racism in terms of negatiVe individual and interpersonal behavior such as “the uttering of a prejudicial remark. or bigoted I48I Are African Americans Still Experiencing Racism? 49 I slur.” For African Americans, it is much more. It is the policies and practices in various social institutions that create inequities for them. Dealing with an individual’s personal prejudice can be frustrating for anyone, but confronting racial disparities in the judicial system, the education system, the health care system, and the workplace have the potential to create far more significant consequences than the personal prejudice of one individual. Allport (1954) defined prejudice as a feeling, favorable or unfavorable, toward a person which was not based on actual experience (p. 7). Prejudice based on race is referred to as racial prejudice (Andersen & Taylor, 2006, p. 243). Prejudice and racism are not the same thing. An important distinction must be made between racial preju- dice and racism. Racial prejudice resides within the individual; racism resides within society’s structures and institutions. It is true that individuals make up society’s institu- tions and in order for racism to exist in any institution there has to be some individual racial prejudice. However, racism extends far beyond any individual and his or her per- sonal prejudice. It results from one racial group having the social power to act on a racial prejudice and have a detrimental impact on the lives of another racial group (Tatum, 1997). One example of this is the illegal practice of seeing what happens when real estate agents steer African American homebuyers away from homes in white neighborhoods based on a desire to keep the makeup of that neighborhood mostly white (Galster & Godfrey, 2005). Racism can also be seen as a system of advantage based on race (Wellman, 1977). Beverly Tatum (1997) finds this definition of racism useful because It allows us to see that racism, like other forms of oppression, is not only a personal ideology of racial prejudice, but also a system involving cultural messages and insti~ tutional policies and practices as well as the belief of individuals. In the context of the United States, this system clearly operates to the advantage of Whites and to the disadvantage of people of color (p. 7). Institutional racism is another term that is often used to describe the system of advantage operating within various societal institutions, such as the criminal justice system, the education system, the health care system, and the workplace (Andersen & Taylor, 2006, p. 245; Wijeyesinghe, Griffin, & Love, 1997). Institutions may have policies, practices, and procedures that confer advantages to whites and disadvan- tages to African Americans and other people of color. For example, much of the standard curriculum in US. public schools is centered on the contributions and cul— ture of white Americans rather than that of African Americans. This gives white stu- dents a psychological advantage, because they have many opportunities to see themselves and their racial group reflected in history, literature, the arts, and the sci- ences (Nieto, 2004). Conversely, this disadvantages African Americans because, aside from Black History Month programs, often they do not see themselves reflected in the curriculum. It is important to note that these policies, practices, and procedures may be uninten- tional or intentional, overt or covert. Diller (2004) describes racism as “the manipulation of social institutions to give preferences and advantages to whites and at the same time restrict the choices, rights, mobility and access of people of color” (p. 30). Feminist scholar Peggy McIntosh (1990) referred to the advantages whites receive as “white privilege” and believes that these I 50 SECTION II A Framework for Understanding Social Identity Perspectives privileges are invisible to most whites. African Americans and other people of color cannot count on these privileges. Institutionalized racism promotes disparities and inequities between whites and African Americans. It also promotes disparities between whites and other people of color. Although this essay highlights the racial experiences of African Americans, this is not to suggest that other people of color such as Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans do not experience racism in the Unites States. RACIAL DISPARITIES AND INEOUITIES IN THE WORKPLACE In recent years, African Americans have certainly made gains in the workplace, but they are still underrepresented at the higher levels of management in just about every professional field. African Americans, along with other racial minorities, make up about 1% of the most powerful positions in corporate America (Carr-Ruffino, 2006, p. 4). Research studies suggest that white men in organizations are more likely to be promoted over African Americans with the same education (Dewitt, 1995; Zwerling 82; Silver, 1992). Despite affirmative action initiatives and federal employ- ment laws against racial discrimination, many African Americans still confront subtle and sometimes overt institutional racism in the workplace. The Gallup (2004) survey reported that only 12% of African Americans felt they had equal job opportunities as whites, while 61% of whites surveyed felt they did. Catalyst (2004), a leading research organization working to advance women in business, conducted a survey of over 900 African American women working in FOR- TUNE 1000 companies and found that African American women at various profes— sional levels faced institutional barriers related to their race. Many women described these institutional barriers as a “concrete ceiling” (p. 3), highlighting how much more impenetrable they are than the barrier of the glass ceiling which many white women face. More than half of the women surveyed held graduate degrees yet reported facing racial stereotyping, scrutiny of their work, and repeated questioning of their authority and credibility. They also reported a lack of support from their organizations and exclusion from informal networks. Even though many women reported that their com- panies had diversity recruitment initiatives, many believed the initiatives did little to address institutional racism. A Princeton University workplace study examined discrimination in hiring young minority males and male ex—offenders in entryelevel, low-wage jobs. The researchers sent African American, Latino, and white male testers (applicants) to over 1,500 private employers in New York City during a nineemonth periodThe applie cants were given fake resumes indicating equal educational and work experience. In several situations, the resumes also indicated an 18—month prison term. The study showed that the white males with a criminal record had a slightly better chance of get ting a job than an African American male with no criminal record. Young white male high school graduates were twice as likely to receive a positive response (a callback or interview) from the employers as equally qualified African American males (Pager & Western, 2005). Research suggests that African American names may also make people the target of institutional racism. Researchers from the University of Chicago and Are African Americans Still Experiencing Racism? 51 I Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Bertrand & Mullainathan, 2004) sent 5,000 fictitious resumes in response to 1300 help wanted ads in the Boston and Chicago newspapers. They randomly assigned “white-sounding” first names to half the resumes. Names such as Emily. J ill, Kristen, Allison, and Laurie were given to the female applicants; males were given names such as Brett, Todd, Neil, Greg, Brendan, Jay, and Brad. The other half of the resumes were assigned “African American—sounding” names such as Ebony, Lakisha, Tamika, Keisha, Latoya, and Kenya to female appli— cants and Jamal, Hakim, Leroy, Tyrone, Darnell, and Jermaine to male applicants. Aside from the difference in names, the resumes reflected the same experience, educa~ tion, and skills for both groups. The study found that applicants with the “white- sounding names” received 50% more callbacks for interviews than applicants with “African American—sounding names.” The disparities were consistent across occupa~ tion, industry, and company size. The researchers concluded that African Americans may be screened out of the hiring process in favor of white applicants before they even have a chance to be interviewed. RACIAL DISPARITIES AND INEQUITIES IN HEALTH CARE Several studies found that African Americans and other racial minorities tended to receive lower quality health care than whites, even when they had the same insurance and income as whites (.Iha, 2005; Smedley, Stith, & Nelson, 2003; Sonel et a1., 2005). In a major study conducted by the Institute of Medicine, researchers found in interviews with doctors that even though most doctors are well~intentioned, subconscious racial bias against African Americans influenced their medical decisions (Smedlcy et al., 2003; Stolberg, 2002). Research also suggests that doctors tend to view African American patients as less intelligent than whites and less likely to follow medical advice and engage in followsup care (van Ryn & Burke, 2000). The Institute of Medicine study reviewed one hundred previous research studies and concluded that racial minorities are less likely to be given appropriate medication for heart disease and to undergo bypass surgery, less likely to receive kidney dialysis and transplants than whites, but three times more likely to have lower limb amputations as a result of diabetes than whites. In terms of mental health, African Americans are more likely to be diagnosed as psychotic, but less likely to be given antipsychotic medication. They are more likely to be hospitalized involuntarily and placed in restraints, compared with whites (Smedley et al., 2003). When African American women use illicit drugs during pregnancy, they are ten times more likely to be reported to child welfare agencies for prenatal use than are white women (Neuspiel, 1996). RACIAL DISPARITIES AND INEQUITIES IN THE JUSTICE SYSTEM Perhaps in no other institution are there more blatant examples of institutional racism than in law enforcement and the criminal justice system. Racial profiling is a major concern for African Americans. Racial profiling is the use of race alone as a criterion by police officers as a reason for stopping and detaining someone who appears suspicious of criminal activity. it has become so common that African l 52 SECTION II A Framework for Understanding Social identity Perspectives Americans call it the crime of “DWB,” short for “Driving While Black.” Many police departments attempt to justify racial profiling by using statistics that point to a higher proportion of crimes committed by African Americans than whites. Every year at least 90% of African Americans who are stopped by police are not arrested, which means that there’s only a 10% probability that a black driver in a car has actu- ally committed a crime (Andersen & Taylor, 2006). Statistics show that 8 out of 10 automobile searches conducted by state troopers over a 10-year period on the New Jersey Turnpike were on cars driven by African American and Latinos. The vast majority of these searches found no evidence of crimes or illegal materials (Kocieniewski & Hanley, 2000). Andersen and Taylor’s (2006) review of the research on African Americans and the criminal justice system revealed several examples of institutional racism. African Americans are often the victims of police brutality, or the use of excessive force by police officers. Most cases of police brutality are perpetrated against peopie of color l and there are usually no penalties or consequences for the officers guilty of this prac- i tice. Disparities continue after African Americans are arrested. They are faced with higher bails and are not as likely as whites to be given the opportunity to plea bargain. After going to trial, they are found guilty more often than whites, are likely to get longer sentences, and are less likely than whites to get probation—even when they come from the same economic background and have similar arrest records (Andersen j & Taylor, 2006, p. 174). Race is also a factor in capital punishment. Blacks are disproportionately placed (in death row. In 2003, blacks constituted just 12% of the total U.S.-population, yet made up 42% of the nearly 3,500 prisoners on death row nationally (US. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2004). Research shows that when whites and African Americans commit the same crime against a white victim, the African American offender is more likely to receive the death penalty. African Americans who kill whites get the death penalty at a 300% i higher rate than if they kill another African American (Paternoster & Brame, 2003). i African American youths face similar disparities in the criminal justice system. A 2000 California study showed minority youths are more than twice as likely as their j j white counterparts to be transferred out of California’s juvenile justice system and i tried as adults. Once in the adult system, the study found that African American juve— nile offenders are 18.4 times more likely to be jailed than. whites for equivalent crimes (Males & Macallair, 2000). Similar racial disparities were found throughout the United States (Butterfield, 1995). The Sentencing Project study, based on Justice Department statistics, reported that even though African Americans constituted just 13% of all monthly drug users, they represented 35% of arrests for drug possession, 55 L’/o of the convictions, and 74% of the prison sentences. Data from the US. Sentencing Commission found that crack cocaine sentences are the single most significant factor contributing to racial disparity in federal sentencing (The Sentencing Project, 2006a). Len Bias, the college basketball star drafted first by the Boston Celtics, died of a drug overdose in 1986. His death was a key stimulus for the federal crack cocaine manda— tory sentencing laws. In 1988 Congress adopted the Anti—Drug Abuse Act, which included new mandatory sentences for low-level crack offenses. Defendants convicted with just five grams of crack cocaine were subject to a five—year mandatory minimum Are African Americans Still Experiencing Racism? 53 I sentence. The same penalty was triggered for powder cocaine only when an offense involved at least 500 grams (Gest, 1995). Twenty years later, we see the racial disparities created by these laws. According to the Sentencing Project, more than 80 percent of the defendants prosecuted for a crack offense are African-American, despite the fact that more than two—thirds of crack users are white or Latino (The Sentencing Project, 2006b). Perhaps the ultimate irony in the Len Bias case is that he did not in fact die of a crack overdose, but rather from snorting powder cocaine (Gest, 1995). THE FUTURE African Americans and white Americans have made steps toward understanding and accepting each other’s differences. They work side by side in many American work- places and live in racially mixed neighborhoods with each other. However, much work needs to be done to improve the experiences of African Americans as they enter American institutions. This can begin with whites acknowledging that institutional racism still exists and that it puts African Americans as a racial group at a disadvan- tage. Until this acknowledgement happens, it will be very difficult for the two racial groups to have any meaningful dialogue to improve race relations. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. According to the authors, what explains the perception gap that exists between whites and African Americans when it comes to matters of race and racism? . What is the difference between racial prejudice and racism? . In what societal institutions can institutional racism be found? . How do Arab Muslims suffer biases and prejudices similar to African Americans in a post 9111 America? . How does the factual evidence presented in this article lend support to affirma- tive action programs and policies? . What must white people acknowledge in order for race relations to improve? BIBLIOGRAPHY Allport, G. W. (1954). The nature of prejudice. Bertrand, M., & Mullainathan, S. (2004). Are Cambridge, MA: Addison—Wesley. Emily and Greg more employable than Andersen, M. L., & Taylor, H. F. (2006). Lakisha and Jamal? A field experiment on Sociology: The essentials (4th ed.). Belmont, labor market discrimination. American CA: Thomson/Wadsworth. ‘ Economic Review, 94(4), 991—1013. I 54 SECTION II A Framework for Understanding Social Identity Perspectives Butterfield, F. (1995, October 5). More blacks in their 20‘s have trouble with the law. The New York Times, p. A8. Carr~Ruffin0, N. (2006). Managing diversity: People skills for a multicultural workplace (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson. Catalyst. (2004). Advancing African American women in the workplace: What managers need to know. New York: Catalyst. Retrieved October 30, 2006, from http://wwwcatalyst. orgl. Dewitt, K. (1995, April, 20). Blacks prone to job discrimination in organizations. The New York Times, p. A19. Diller, l. V. (2004). Cultural diversity.'A primer for the human services. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. Gallup Organization. (2004). Civil rights and race relations. Princeton, NJ :The Gallup Organization. Retrieved October 30, 2006, from http://assets.aarp.orglrgcenterlgeneral/ civil_rights.pdf. Galster, G., & Godfrey, E. (2005). By words and deeds: Racial steering by real estate agents in the US. in 2000. American Planning Association. Journal of the American Planning Association, 71(3), 251—268. Gest, T. (1995, November 6). New war over crack. US. News (it World Report, 119, 81. Jha,A. K. (2005). Racial trends in the use of major procedures among the elderly. The New England Journal of Medicine, 353(7), 683. Kocieniewski, D., & Hanley, R. (2000, November 28). Racial profiling was the routine, New Jersey finds. The New York Times, p. A1. Males, M., & Macallair, D. (2000). The color of justice:An analysis of juvenile adult court transfers in California. Washington, DC: Justice Policy Institute. Retrieved October 30, 2006, from http:llwww.buildingblocksfor- youth.orglcolorofjusticelcoj.html. Mauer, M., & Huling,T. (1995). Young black Americans and the criminal justice system. Washington, DC:The Sentencing Project. Retrieved September 23, 2006, from http://www.sentencingprojcct.orglpdfslrd_ youngblack_5yrslater.pdf. McIntosh, P. (1990). White privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack. Independent School, 49(2), 31. Neuspiel, D. R. (1996). Racism and perinatal addiction. Ethnicity (fl Disease, 6(le2), 47. Nieto, S. (2004). Affirming diversity: The sociopolitical context of multicultural educa— tion (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon. Pager, D., & Western, B. (2005). Discrimination in low wage labor markets: Evidence from New YOrk City. Paper presented at the Population Association of American Annual Meeting. Retrieved September 17, 2006, from http:llpaa2005.princeton.eduldownloadaspx ?submissionld:50874. Paternoster R., Brame, R., Bacon, 8., Ditchfield, A., et a1. (2003). An empirical analysis of Maryland’s death sentencing system with respect to the influence of race and legal juris» diction. University of Maryland, Department of Criminology. Retrieved January 1, 2007, from http:llwww.newsdesk.umd.edulpdfl finalreppdf. Sentencing Project. (2006a). Race and class penalties in crack cocaine sentencing. Washington, DC: The Sentencing Project. Retrieved October 30, 2006, from http://www. sentencingproject.org/pdfsl5077.pdf. Sentencing Project. (20061)). Crack cocaine sen— tencing policy: Unjustified and unreasonable. Washington, DC:The Sentencing Project. Retrieved October 30, 2006, from http://www. sentencingproject.orglpdfsl1003.pdf. Smedley, B. D., Stith, A.Y., & Nelson, A. R. (2003). Unequal treatment: Confronting racial and ethnic disparities in health care. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. Sonel,A. E, Good, C. B., Mulgund, J., Roe, M. T., Gibler, W. 13., Smith, S. C., et a1. (2005). Racial variations in treatment and outcomes of black and White patients with high-risk non~ST—elevation acute coronary syn- dromes: Insights from CRUSADE (can rapid risk stratification of unstable angina patients suppress adverse outcomes with early implementation of the ACC/AHA guidelines?) Circulation, 111(10), 12254232. Stolberg, S. G. (2002, March 21). Race gap seen in health care of equally insured patients. New York Times, p.A1. Tatum, B. D. (1997). Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria? and other conversations about race. New York: Basic Books. Are African Americans Still Experiencing Racism? 55 I Diversity on the Web 1. Go to the Internet address below and identify three examples of institu- tional racism. You may also click on the links within “in this section” for additional examples. Using the definitions from the chapter, explain why your choices qualify as examples of institutional racism. http://www.aclu.0rg/mcialjustice/index.html . Proponents of affirmative action argue that it is still needed because racism and discrimination continue. Go to the Internet address below and view the myths and facts about affirmative action. Do you think the facts presented here would be enough to change the minds of affirmative action opponents? Why or why not? http://www.aapfiorg/focus/ . African Americans are not the only racial minority experiencing racism in the United States. Go to the Internet address below and take the test on Native Americans. What was your score? Why do think you did or did not do well on this test? Which of the answers on the test surprised you the most? Why? http://www.understandingpmjadice.org/nativeiq/ . G0 to the Internet address below and identify three issues of concern to members of the Latino community. How are these issues different from or similar to the ones confronting African Americans? http://www. nclr. org/content/Iopics/dei‘ail/498/ E Points of Law The most important diversity-related legislation is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This law prohibits discrimination in organizations with 15 or more employees in terms of the hiring, promotion, and treatment of employees (later amended to include customers and suppliers) on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Title VII legislation is administered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/vii.html ...
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