Discrimination in the United States

Discrimination is the process by which two stimuli differing in some aspect are responded to differently.[1] This term is used to highlight the difference of treatment between members of different groups when one group is intentionally singled out and treated worse, or not given the same opportunities. As attitudes toward minorities started to change, the term discrimination began to refer to that issue. Over the years, many forms of discrimination have come to be recognized including nationalist,[2] racial, gender, and sexual orientation.


Racial discrimination

In 1864 the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution abolished slavery. However, in the 1870s Jim Crow laws were introduced in the Southeastern United States. These laws promoted the idea "separate but equal", meaning that all races were equal, although they should be in separate locations and use separate facilities. The mixing of races was illegal in most places such as public schools, public transportation and eating establishments.[3] These laws increased discrimination. For example, though the intent was to provide separate but equal facilities for all races, African-American schools black schools were given worse quality teachers, supplies, and buildings than their white counterparts.[4] Water fountains, bathrooms, and park benches were just a few of the areas segregated by whites due to Jim Crow laws. Discrimination was blatantly done; one example of this is in the case of Rosa Parks. In the South, it was customary for African-Americans to move to the back of the bus or give up their seats to white people. The Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in 1954 ruled that there is no such thing as separate but equal, since separate is inherently unequal.

In the modern United States, gay black men are extremely likely to experience intersectional discrimination. In the United States, the children of gay African-American men have a poverty rate of 52 percent, the highest in the country. Gay African-American men in partnerships are also six times more likely to live in poverty than gay white male couples.[5]

Fighting back

Figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks[6] were involved in the fight against the race-based discrimination of the Civil Rights Movement. Rosa Parks's refusal to give up her bus seat sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott—a large movement in Montgomery, Alabama that was an integral period in the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King Jr., a peaceful activist, led many such protests, proving to the white society discriminating against African-Americans that they were a valuable part of society as well. King organized many protests attended not only by blacks but whites as well.

While King[7] organized peaceful protests, Malcolm X went a different route. He and his main supporters, The Nation of Islam, wanted nothing to do with white people. Although Malcolm X's actions were radical, he is still considered one of the pioneers in fighting back against racial discrimination.

Ruby Bridges is an example of a child who dealt with discrimination from white peers and their parents. Most parents took their children out of her class because they didn't want their children near her, but eventually sent their children back, accepting the fact that she wasn't leaving. This showed that people will not accept inequality and they will actively fight back against discrimination no matter what age.[8]

Contemporary society

Gender discrimination

Gender discrimination is another form of discrimination. Women are often seen as an expense to their employers because they take days off for children, need time off for maternity leave and are stereotyped as "more emotional". The theory that goes hand in hand with this is known as the glass escalator[9] or the glass ceiling, which holds that while women are being held down in male dominated professions, men often rise quickly to positions of authority in certain fields. Men are pushed forward into management, even surpassing women who have been at the job longer and have more experience in the field.

Men's rights deals with discrimination against men in the areas of family law, such as divorce and child custody, labor such as paternity leave, paternity fraud, health, education, conscription, and other areas of the law such as domestic violence, genital integrity, and allegations of rape.

Discrimination against immigrants

Immigrants to the United States are affected by a totally separate type of discrimination. Some people feel as though the large amounts of people being allowed into the country are cause for alarm, therefore discriminate against them.[10]

Arizona recently passed a law that forces people to carry documents with them at all times to prove their citizenship. This is only one controversy over immigrants in the United States, another is the claim that immigrants are stealing "true Americans'" jobs. Violent hate crimes have increased[11] drastically. Recent social psychological research suggests that this form of prejudice against migrants may be partly explained by some fairly basic cognitive processes.[12][13]

According to Soylu,[14] some argue that immigrants constantly face being discriminated against because of the color of their skin, the sound of their voice, the way they look and their beliefs. Many immigrants are well educated, some argue that they are often blamed and persecuted for the ills in society such as overcrowding of schools, disease and unwanted changes in the host country's culture due to the beliefs of this "unwelcomed" group of people.[15]

According to Soylu, there was an open immigration policy up until 1924 in America until the National Origins Act came into effect.[15] According to the Immigration Act of 1924 which is a United States federal law, it limited the annual number of immigrants who could be admitted from any country to 2% of the number of people from that country who were already living in the United States in 1890, down from the 3% cap set by the Immigration Restriction Act of 1921, according to the Census of 1890 It superseded the 1921 Emergency Quota Act. The law was primarily aimed at further restricting immigration of Southern Europeans and Eastern Europeans. According to Buchanan, later in the 1930s with the advent of opinion polling, immigration policy analysis was carried out by collecting public thoughts and opinions on the issue. These factors encouraged a heated debate on immigration policy. These debates continued even into the 2000s, and were intensified by George W. Bush's immigration proposal.[16] Some argue that the 9/11 terrorist attacks left the country in a state of paranoia and fear that strengthened the views in favor of having closed borders.[15]

In the workplace

Immigration to the United States can be difficult due to immigrants' lack of access to legal documents and the expensive nature of immigration. The United States has historically been a major target destination for people seeking work and continues to be so today.[17] Worldwide, the workforce has become increasingly pluralistic and ethnically diverse as more and more people migrate across nations. Although race- or ethnicity-based discriminatory employment practices are prohibited in most developed countries, according to feminist scholar Mary Harcourt, actual discrimination is still widespread.[18] Sahagian Jacqueline, an author, argues that one example of this act of discrimination occurred at Macy's a department store. According to the U.S. Justice Department, Macy's used unfair documentation practices against legal immigrant employees who had proper work authorizations. During an eligibility re-verification process, Macy's broke immigration law that prohibits employers from discriminating against immigrant employees during re-verification by asking for more or different documents than other employees are required to submit based on a worker's immigration status or national origin. Some of the affected employees lost seniority, were suspended, or even let go due to the illegal re-verification.[19] While their opinions are controversial, researchers Moran, Tyler and Daranee argue that with immigrants' growing numbers and their expanding economic role in U.S. society, addressing challenges and creating opportunities for immigrants to succeed in the labor force are critical prerequisites to improve the economic security for all low-wage working families and ensure the future vitality of our economy.[20]

Discrimination based on sexual orientation

Another type of discrimination is that against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. For personal reasons such as religious beliefs, employers sometimes choose to not hire these people. LGBT rights have been protested against for various reasons; for example, one topic of controversy related to LGBT people is marriage, which was legalized in all states in June 2015 following the Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges.

See also


  1. "Definition of DISCRIMINATION". Merriam-Webster.com.
  3. "Jim Crow law - United States [1877-1954]".
  4. Farclough, Adam (2007). A Class of Their Own. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University. p. 414.
  5. Badgett, MV Lee; Durso, Laura; Schneebaum, Alyssa. "New Patterns of Poverty in the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Community". ucla.edu. The Williams Institute. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  6. "Rosa Parks Biography -- Academy of Achievement".
  7. "Martin Luther King Jr. Biography". Archived from the original on April 6, 2011. Retrieved May 5, 2011.
  8. Ruby Bridges Hall. "The Education of Ruby Nell". rubybridges.com. Archived from the original on February 21, 2004.
  9. Williams, C. L. "The Glass Escalator: Hidden Advantages for Men in the "Female" Professions" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-10-31.
  10. Kingsbury, Kathleen (February 27, 2008). "Immigration: No Correlation With Crime" via www.time.com.
  11. "Hate Crimes Against Latinos Rising Nationwide".
  12. For more, see Rubin, M., Prejudice Against Migrants: Is It Because They're Too Hard to Think About?
  13. Rubin, M.; Paolini, S. & Crisp, R. J. (2010). "A processing fluency explanation of bias against migrants". Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 46 (1): 21–28. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2009.09.006.
  14. "Home". Cameron University.
  15. 1 2 3 Soylu, Alİ; Buchanan, Tom. A. "Discrimination against immigrants". Today's Zaman. Archived from the original on May 14, 2015. Retrieved October 22, 2015.
  16. Jachimowicz, Maia. "Bush Proposes New Temporary Worker Program". Migration Policy Instituite. Retrieved 22 November 2015.
  17. Castro, Arnold B. de (November 1, 2006). "How Immigrant Workers Experience Workplace Problems: A Qualitative Study". 61.
  18. Harcourt, M (January 1, 2008). "Discrimination in hiring against immigrants and ethnic minorities: the effect of unionization". The International Journal of Human Resource Management. 19: 100.
  19. Jacqueline, Sahagian. "Are Macy's Hiring Policies Against Immigrants?". The Cheat Sheet. Retrieved October 23, 2015.
  20. Moran; Daranee, Petsod; Tyler. "Newcomers in the American Workplace: Improving Employment Outcomes for Low-Wage Immigrants and Refugees". 25 Gcir. Retrieved October 23, 2015.
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