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Why Do We Need E-RACE?

The most frequently filed claims with the EEOC are allegations of race discrimination, racial harassment, or retaliation arising from opposition to race discrimination. In Fiscal Year 2006, 27,238 charges alleged race-based discrimination, accounting for 36% of the charges filed that year.

In a 2005 Gallup poll, 31% of Asian Americans surveyed reported having witnessed or experienced incidents of discrimination, the largest percentage of any ethnic group, followed closely by 26% of African Americans, the second largest group.[1]  A December 2006 CNN poll conducted by Opinion Research Corporation revealed that 84% of 328 Blacks/African Americans and 66% of 703 non-Hispanic Whites/Caucasians think racism is a ”very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem in America.[2]

Color discrimination in employment seems to be on the rise. In Fiscal Year 1992, EEOC received 374 charges alleging color-based discrimination.  By Fiscal Year 2006, charge-filings alleging color discrimination increased to 1,241.  A recent study conducted by a Vanderbilt University professor “found that those with lighter skin earn on average 8 to 15 percent more than immigrants with the darkest skin tone -- even when taking into account education and language proficiency. This trend continued even when comparing people of the same race or ethnicity.” [3] Similarly, a 2006 University of Georgia survey revealed that a light-skinned Black male with only a Bachelor's degree and basic work experience would be preferred over a dark-skinned Black male with an MBA and past managerial positions. However, in the case of Black female applicants seeking a job, “the more qualified or experienced darker-skinned woman got it, but if the qualifications were identical, the lighter-skinned woman was preferred."[4]

New forms of discrimination are emerging. With a growing number of interracial marriages and families and increased immigration, racial demographics of the workforce have changed and the issue of race discrimination in America is multi-dimensional. Over the years, EEOC has received an increasing number of race and color discrimination charges that allege multiple or intersecting prohibited bases such as age, disability, gender, national origin, and religion. 

Meanwhile, overt forms of race and color discrimination have resurfaced. In the past decade, some of the American workforce have witnessed nooses, KKK propaganda, and other racist insignia in the workplace. Racial stereotypes and cultural distortions continue to influence some decisions regarding hiring, discipline, evaluations, and advancement. 

Finally, some facially neutral employment criteria are significantly disadvantaging applicants and employees on the basis of race and color. Studies reveal that some employers make selection decisions based on names, arrest and conviction records, employment and personality tests, and credit scores, all of which may disparately impact people of color.[5] Further, an employer’s reliance on new technology in job searches, such as video resumes, could lead to intentional race or color discrimination based on appearance or a disproportionate exclusion of applicants of color who may not have access to broadband-equipped computers or video cameras.[6] 

Collectively, this data shows that racial inequality may remain a problem in the 21st century workplace.


[2] See Poll: Most Americans see lingering racism -- in others (Dec. 12, 2006) available at

http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/12/12/racism.poll/index.html.

[3]  Lizeth Cazares, Study reveals skin color influences wages: Discrimination a major problem for both immigrants, nonimmigrants, The California Aggie, http://media.www.californiaaggie.com/media/storage/paper981/news/2007/02/02/CityNews/Study.Reveals.Skin.Color.Influences.Wages-2693981.shtml (UC Davis Feb. 2, 2007).

[4] L.A. Johnson, Documentary renews debate about skin color's impact, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Dec. 27, 2006).  The survey required the students to “rate one of two resumes that accompanied one of three photographs of a theoretical black job applicant whose skin color was light, medium or dark.”

[5] See, e.g., Society for Human Resources Management, Workplace Violence Survey (2004); Devah Pager, The Mark of a Criminal Record, American Journal of Sociology (Mar. 2003), available at  http://www.northwestern.edu/ipr/publications/papers/2003/pagerajs.pdf.; Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan, Are Emily and Brendan More Employable than LaKisha and Jamal?  A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination, at http://gsb.uchicago.edu/pdf/bertrand.pdf (Nov. 18, 2002).

[6]  SeeLisa Takeuchi Cullen, It’s a Wrap. You’re Hired!, Time , Mar. 5, 2007 at 51.