"Reverse Discrimination Quiz,"by Fred Pincus March/April 2003 issue of Poverty & Race
Questions 2 and 3 are based on a study of 183,445 employment-related race and sex discrimination complaints that were resolved by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission between 1995 and 2000.
Questions 4-6 are based on a study of all 48 decisions made by the U.S. Courts of Appeals between 1998 and 2001 involving allegations by Whites that they were discriminated against on the job because of their race and allegations by men that they were discriminated against because of their sex.
Questions 8-10 are based on statistics collected by various agencies of the federal government.
Several large-scale studies have included this type of question and show that the perceived victimization rate among Whites is very low. The percentage of Whites who say they have experienced employment discrimination because of their race ranges from a low of 2% to a high of 13%. When the same question is asked of different racial groups, the percent of Blacks, Hispanics and Asians who say they were discriminated against on the job is higher than the percentage of Whites. In spite of the fact that few individual Whites allege being discriminated against, between two-thirds and three-fourths of Whites believe that Whites, as a group, are hurt by affirmative action.
There are about 10 times more Black complaints than White complaints. There are more complaints by men alleging sex discrimination than by Whites alleging race discrimination. The EEOC data are consistent with the view that traditional discrimination against Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans and women is still the major problem.
The most common complaint involves allegations of being unfairly fired. This is followed, in descending order of frequency, by terms of employment, harassment and intimidation, sexual harassment and denial of promotion. Discrimination in hiring does not make the top 5. These data are inconsistent with the popularly held view that White men can’t get jobs because of affirmative action.
Only 38% of the decisions involved allegations of illegal affirmative action policies. The rest involved allegations of arbitrary and capricious treatment by minority or female supervisors or coworkers. Most plaintiffs do not win. Only 10% of the cases resulted in clear victories for the plaintiff; another 21% resulted in a procedural victory that was remanded to the lower court for further legal action.
Forty-four percent of the plaintiffs were professionals or managers, and another 27% were police officers and firefighters.
State and local governments accounted for 52% of the plaintiffs, followed by for-profit corporations (27%) and the federal government (17%).
Having a quota where White men can’t compete at all is generally illegal since it “trammels” on the interests of the majority group. Only rarely can employers voluntarily adopt quotas. Certain government contractors have to make “good faith” efforts to achieve goals. Quotas generally result in stronger legal sanctions for non-compliance.
Unemployment rate differences between men and women are usually small, with women college graduates being slightly more likely than men to be unemployed in 2001. When controlling for education, the unemployment rates of Blacks and Hispanics are generally higher than for Whites (Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov/pdf/cpsaa7.pdf).
After controlling for education, White men make more than everyone else. White women make more than Black and Hispanic women, while Black and Hispanic men make more than White women (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Bureau of the Census, http://ferrit.bls.census.gov/macro/032001/perin/new03_000.htm).
Even with special set-aside programs for women and minorities, White men are significantly overrepresented among federal contractors (Office of Advocacy, www.sba.gov/advo/press/02-02.html and www.sba.gov/advo/press/01-09.html).
Fred Pincus (pincus@umbc, 410/455-2079) is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology & Anthropology, Univ. of Maryland Baltimore County. A fuller discussion of the issue will appear in his forthcoming (July 2003) book, Reverse Discrimination: Dismantling A Myth (Lynne Rienner Publishers). His “Affirmative Action Quiz” appeared in the May/June 1996 P&R – if you’d like a copy, send us a SASE.
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