Racism In The Workplace

The Truth about Racism in the Workplace

The United States has come a long ways in overcoming racism in the workplace but it still has a long ways to go. Although many minorities made great strides during the Affirmative Action years, today there is still a very low percentage of minorities compared to whites in corporate America.

In the early 2000s, Texaco had to pay $176 million in a highly publicized race-discrimination lawsuit because of comments made about blacks at a corporate meeting. The award served as a wake-up call to many in corporate America who believed that those expressions of racism were a thing of the past. However, instead of being gone for good, racism has just become less open and overt, yet it still underlies much workplace behavior.

Even today, with a minority president in the White House, racism is still an issue in the news every day. And, as long as racism exists within the framework of society itself, you will continue to find racism in the workplace. Especially in corporate America, there is still a mismatch in terms of whites and minorities in executive positions. 94% of all employees in corporate senior ranks are white males, at a time when they make up only around 38% of the entire workforce.

Racism in the workplace exists on the level of white collar employees as well as for blue collar workers. This is after many years, even decades, of most of the largest companies in America having programs focusing on cultural diversity. Training sessions which teach people how to go about changing attitudes toward minorities do not seem to have much of an overall effect. And, while some employees would never made belittling comments themselves, they still do not have the self-confidence to not laugh along with everyone else at a racist joke or comment.

Many times, racism is not a public, overt action. Sometimes, many people who think of themselves as without prejudice may make racist comments without even knowing they made them. They may hear others putting down a fellow worker and take notice but be completely ignorant of their own prejudice and behaviors. Saying something like “you sure are smart for a black man,” or a woman, or a Latino, is the kind of comment where the person usually has no sense of his or her own racism and many times think they had sincerely given the person a compliment.

Companies who take aggressive efforts to attain cultural diversity, often opt for changes in corporate policies that give incentives for employees who increase productivity in their departments based on cultural diversity. Often, this translates into major changes in corporate policies, such as in engaging in peer reviews over the traditional boss/underling scenario. When managers are reviewed by those underneath them, there is less of a chance that they will engage in racist comments or actions.

Racism in the workplace is still practiced because racists are more successful at covering up their behavior. The fact that a worker no longer tongues racial slurs for all to hear at his place of employment does not necessarily mean he has had a change of heart. He still may meet at a bar for a few drinks with fellow employees after work, and engage in racist jokes or put-downs. The basic prejudice is still there, and as long as it is, there can be no comfort taken in the fact that actions in the workplace have changed. A racially-biased attitude remains. People cannot congratulate themselves on making progress on racism in the workplace until this type of attitude itself is a thing of the past.