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Article

Kendra DeLoach McCutcheon

Social workers have a responsibility to challenge discrimination and promote social and economic justice. To fulfill this responsibility, it must be understood how discrimination exists and the detrimental affect it has on the relationship between individuals who are disenfranchised (targeted groups) and individuals who have privilege, resources, and power (advantaged groups) (Hardiman & Jackson, 2007). This entry will present an overview of discrimination, define the various forms of discrimination, present public policy and legislation regarding discrimination, and discuss implications for social workers and the profession.

Article

Laurens G. Van Sluytman

Through the efforts of individuals and groups, America has made significant strides in affording civil rights to a majority of its citizens. It has not, however, eliminated individual, institutional, and structural discrimination, and in fact, some efforts to eliminate inequality for certain members of society have elicited subtly coded forms of discrimination. These subtle forms are referred to as microaggressions. This entry defines microaggressions and explores the existing literature concerning its taxonomy. We discuss the impact of microaggression on individuals and groups (for example, social, cognitive, political, and economic) based on race, and extend this discussion to gender, sexual orientation, class, disability, and religion groups. The article makes use of examples within American history, such as the presidency of Barak Obama, voter ID laws and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Accumulated recommendations on best practices for countering microaggressions on the micro-, mezzo- and macro- level of social work practice are presented.

Article

Through workplace spirituality, individuals and organizations express, share and impose faith-based commitments in normally secular work environments. The faith-based commitments vary from New Age to Christian evangelical and can be manifested in a wide variety of organizations, including publicly traded corporations, government offices, and small family-owned enterprises. Although the early 20th-century work environment was largely secular, workplace spirituality has deep roots in the Protestant teaching on Christian vocation and calling, and numerous movements have sought to revive it, including efforts by the World Council of Churches immediately following World War II. Changes in the nature of work, most specifically the decline of American manufacturing and the rise of “knowledge work” and the increasing importance of the service sector, created a new opening for faith expression in the workplace and for the use of faith-based symbols and practices. The rise of evangelical Christianity and its more vigorous public expression in the late 20th century also emboldened these believers to live out their faith at work and to manifest or impose it on organizations they owned or controlled. Responding to employee interest and First Amendment concerns, the United States government adopted its own policy on workplace religious expression in the 1990s. When organizations have difficulty recruiting and retaining talented individuals, a holistic work environment—including different forms of spiritual expression and exploration—has become an employee benefit that individuals value and seek in a workplace. Other organizations have adopted a model of workplace chaplaincy similar to the military or a college campus where religious professionals are available to minister and lead worship or religious instruction, and a number of “Christian companies” follow business practices such as advertising their religious identity, closing on Sundays, or proselytizing customers. Workplace spirituality is not without controversy as employers must follow the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits discrimination in the workplace on the basis of religion. An employer cannot hire, fire, promote, or demote an employee based on religious belief, but the courts have varied in the level of accommodations that an employer must provide for religious practices in the workplace. Certain types of religious dress and observance of religious prayers or holidays have been a frequent source of conflict. Moreover, an overtly religious or spiritual work environment imposed because of the faith commitments of a business owner (or even zealous employees) can be faulted for creating a hostile work environment for those of other faiths or no faith. Claims of religious discrimination have been one of the fastest-growing civil-rights complaints in the United States for the last twenty years. Even with these concerns, the desire to express religious faith and spirituality at work continues and will likely grow with evangelical Christians and followers of non-Christian religions at the vanguard.

Article

Despite the significant life and work experiences that a growing number of older adults have to contribute to the workforce, pervasive ageism operates in overt and covert ways to discriminate against older workers in hiring and workplace practices. This article provides a current overview of definitions, prevalence, types, and effects of ageism in the U.S. workplace. For social workers counseling older adult victims of workplace ageism, this article discusses theories, foundational knowledge, and ongoing self-awareness and training needed for bias awareness. Counseling strategies and resources are highlighted, including coping and resilience strategies to counteract ageist stereotypes and discrimination, facilitate job-seeking support, and advocate for older workers by promoting awareness and serving as a resource for employers to reduce workplace ageism.

Article

Sondra J. Fogel and Doris A. Boateng

Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination as well as a complex social issue with psychological implications for both those who are harassed and those who perpetrate the harassment. Women continue to be primary targets, although men, youths, and sexual minorities are increasingly pursued. Legally prohibited in the workplace and educational institutions, sexual harassment persists in personal interactions as well as by electronic means despite prevention efforts such as education programs and zero-tolerance policies. This entry will define sexual harassment, provide an overview of its prevalence, and describe approaches for its remedy.

Article

Elissa L. Perry and Aitong Li

Although defined in numerous and sometimes inconsistent ways in the literature, diversity climate can be described as employees’ shared perceptions of the extent to which their organization values diversity as reflected in the policies, practices, and procedures that the organization rewards, supports, and expects. Diversity climate studied at the individual level (individual perceptions of the impact of the work environment on the individual’s own well-being) is referred to as psychological climate. When it is conceived of and studied at the group or organization level (employees’ shared perceptions of their work environment aggregated to the unit level), it is referred to as group- or organizational-level climate. Two consistent criticisms raised in recent reviews continue to plague diversity climate research. These can most simply be stated as a lack of clarity about what diversity climate is and is not, and inconsistency in how diversity climate is measured and aligns (or does not) with how it has been conceptualized. Despite these criticisms, there is evidence that diversity climate can positively impact individuals’ (especially minority group members’) work-related attitudes (e.g., organizational commitment, satisfaction) and unit-level outcomes (e.g., performance). As a result, diversity climate is both practically relevant to organizations and conceptually meaningful to researchers.

Article

William L. Pollard

Civil rights are rooted in the English laws that tried to protect citizens from abuses by the state. As the United States matured as a democracy, so did its citizens. Since World War II, there has been a virtual explosion in the awareness of citizens to the diverse needs and rights of individuals that require protection. Citizen awareness and actions have truly moved the civil rights struggle beyond a focus on color. Greater attention is being paid to fundamental protection and expanded understanding of human rights and responsibilities.

Article

The concept of aversive racism has had a significant impact on theory, research, and practice devoted to better understanding bias, discrimination, and persistent disparities based on social identity group such as race, gender, social class, and so on. Originally developed to better explain subtle forms of bias toward racial and minoritized groups, this concept has been extended to understand the impact of disparities in a range of diverse settings, such as intergroup relations, health outcomes, fairness in employment setting, intergroup conflict, educational outcomes, racial bias in policing, experiences of stress and mental health issues, and persistent economic disparities. A core facet of the aversive framework paradigm is that because of human biases that are deeply rooted within a historical context and reinforced by ongoing societal ideologies, unintentional and subtle forms of discrimination emerge and persist. Given that these subtle forms of bias and discrimination exist within otherwise well-intentioned individuals, strategies to eliminate them require understanding the complexity of the aversive racism phenomenon in order to develop effective social interventions. This article reviews the foundation, research, and impact of this important body of work. In addition, the concept of aversive racism is discussed in connection to emerging research on microaggressions and unconscious (implicit) bias in order to create a more integrated framework that can shape future research and applications. Lastly, practical implications for organizations and future directions are explored, such as using social identity as a theoretical lens, including global perspectives on intergroup bias and leveraging emerging work on intersectionality, as useful perspectives to extend the aversive racism framework. Setting a future agenda for research and practice related to aversive racism is key to greater understanding of how to reduce intergroup bias and discrimination through interventions that cut across traditional academic and discipline boundaries as one approach to create meaningful and long-lasting social impact.

Article

Discrimination is behaving differently toward people from different social identity groups, such as those based on race, ethnicity, gender, age, or some other category that is not related to the qualifications, contributions, or performance of the target group members. It is usually thought of as unfair and is often illegal. Discrimination has been the subject of substantial research in the social and behavioral sciences. It can entail acting more favorably toward those who have not earned it or less favorably toward those who have, although most of the research focuses on the negative behavior toward less favored groups rather than on the positive behavior toward more favored groups. Although discrimination can occur in many domains, this paper focuses primarily on discrimination in work and organizations. Research on labor market discrimination spans disciplines with most research being done in economics, sociology, psychology, and law, as well as in business or management. Such research has examined differences in access to jobs or employment including hiring and promotion, job rewards such as income and wages, evaluation of performance, treatment on the job from supervisors and coworkers, and unemployment or underemployment. Discrimination may be explicit or overt, but increasingly research has focused on more subtle forms of discrimination that reflect unconscious or implicit biases. Research also considers perceived discrimination. Research on discrimination has examined trends in discriminatory behavior or outcomes for various groups, comparisons across groups in terms of the extent or experience of discrimination, antecedents and the consequences of discrimination, as well as mediators and moderators of discriminatory behavior. Most research on discrimination has found that those from lower status or subordinate groups within any society are more likely to experience negative discrimination, while dominant group members almost always receive more favorable treatment. Although there are variations in terms of circumstance and context, native-born, heterosexual men from higher social classes and from dominant racial or ethnic groups are disproportionately found in the best jobs, with the most authority, and with the highest incomes, while women, racial or ethnic minorities, immigrants, those from working or lower classes, and those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender are more likely to suffer adverse discrimination. An increasing emphasis on the intersectionality of social identity recognizes that the labor market experiences of particular people reflect the combination of their multiple identities. Discrimination can be interpersonal, intergroup, organizational, and it can be embedded in structures and institutions.

Article

Phillip Luke Sinitiere

In its broadest sense, interracialism in American Christianity refers to constructive social interactions and collaboration across racial and ethnic boundaries—existential engagement inspired by religious ideals and religious teachings—in the interest of undercutting sanctioned divisions. Terms such as “racial interchange,” “desegregation,” “integration,” and “cross-racial” also refer to the broader ideas contained in the term “interracial.” To single out Christianity as a subject of interracial dynamics in American religious history does not deny the existence of cross-racial experiences in other religious traditions such as Buddhism, or even in the various groups within new religious movements. Rather, it reflects the largest range of documented experiences on this subject and synthesizes the major scholarship on this topic. The existence of interracialism in American religion also assumes the entanglement of race and religion. As social constructs, religious ideas and teachings contributed to conceptions of race and its lived realities, while notions of race shaped the development of religious practices, religious institutions, and scriptural interpretations. Interracialism in American religion is a concept that portends the possibility of political, social, or intellectual unity; in practice it wrestles with power dynamics where factors such as class or gender, as much as race, shapes social relations. In other words, interracialism in American religion has been a transgressive, disruptive presence that defies structures of power; at the very same time, it has exhibited social and expressive habits that reinforce existing arrangements of exploitation and division. Interracialism in American religion has existed in the course of everyday, ordinary human interaction through the spoken and written word, friendship, or sexual relations, for example. Simultaneously, interracialism in American religion has been the programmatic focus of institutional programs or initiatives, carried out by religious leaders and organizations, or supported through denominational efforts. The history of interracialism in American Christianity registers potential for unity or collaboration, while it is always subject to the pitfalls of power relations that subvert the vitality and beauty that are possible through shared experience. Protestant and Catholic Christianity have manifested the most extensive expressions of interracialism in American religion. Interracialism in American religion is in one sense as old as American religious history itself; however, given the racial discrimination written into the nation’s legal code, political system, and economic practice, interracial engagement most especially dawned at the beginning of the 20th century followed by century-long developments that continued into the first decade of the 2000s. Interracialism in American religion is a subject with longitudinal dimensions and contemporary resonance. Enduring and timely, its scholarly provenance spans across many disciplines including the fields of history, theology, literature, and social science. As the scholarship on the subject demonstrates, interracialism and racial interchange rarely produced racial harmony and did not necessarily lead to integration or desegregation; however, these impulses created specific moments of humane recognition that collectively contributed to substantive changes in the direction of racial and social justice.

Article

Discrimination against transgender or gender nonconforming individuals in the workplace affects hiring, firing, promotions, salaries, and benefits. Most states have no laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on gender identity, and, in the absence of federal law, transgender workers have turned to the courts to seek equal rights on the job. Transgender plaintiffs often file suit under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the law prohibiting sex discrimination in employment. The defendants argue that since the statute does not explicitly ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity, Congress did not intend to include transgender or gender nonconforming individuals as members of a class protected by Title VII. The cases revolve around the question of whether the ban on sex discrimination in the law should be narrowly construed to apply to men and women as determined by their biological status or whether it should be broadly construed to prohibit discrimination against individuals because of their gender identity or gender expression. Prior to 1989, suits brought by transgender plaintiffs were dismissed by judges who agreed with employers that Congress did not intend Title VII to guarantee their employment rights. In Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins (1989), the Supreme Court held that the statute forbids an employer from making a negative employment decision because an employee’s behavior does not conform to stereotypical norms of behavior. Hopkins set the stage for the next several decades of litigation over the employment rights of transgender employees, and, although the courts were initially reluctant to allow transgender plaintiffs to benefit from Title VII, within a few years, most broadened their interpretation of the law. Over time, the courts adopted two theories: first, the gender nonconformity approach in which discrimination based on sex stereotyping violates Title VII; second, the per se approach in which discrimination on the basis of gender identity is equated with discrimination under Title VII. In 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) adopted both theories of Title VII in Macy v. Holder (2012). In 2014, the Justice Department formally committed itself to interpreting Title VII to apply to gender identity. In October 2017, the department shifted its position on Title VII, negating the per se theory of gender identity and emphasizing that the statute only applies to employer actions based on biological differences between men and women. In addition to Title VII claims, transgender plaintiffs have filed job discrimination actions under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the law prohibiting discrimination against individuals because of their disabilities. Although the statute explicitly excludes gender identity disorder, two federal district courts have interpreted it to cover transgender persons with disabilities, with a third disagreeing. Tying claims to the ADA has benefits as well as drawbacks.

Article

There are an estimated 300 million indigenous peoples worldwide. Although there is ample evidence of worse health and social outcomes for the majority of indigenous peoples, compared to their non-indigenous counterparts, there has yet to be a review of racism as a determinant of indigenous health using global literature. Racism constitutes unfair and avoidable disparities in power, resources, capacities, or opportunities centered on ethnic, racial, religious, or cultural differences that can occur at three levels: internalized, interpersonal, or systemic. For indigenous peoples this is closely related to ongoing processes of colonization. Available research suggests that at least a third of indigenous adults experience racism at least once during their lives and that about a fifth of indigenous children experience racism. For indigenous peoples, racism has been associated with a considerable range of health outcomes, including psychological distress, anxiety, depression, suicide, posttraumatic stress disorder, asthma, physical illness, obesity, cardiovascular disease, increased blood pressure, excess body fat, poor sleep, reduced general physical and mental health, and poor oral health, as well as increased alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use and underutilization of medical and mental healthcare services. Disparities in medical care experienced by indigenous patients compared to non-indigenous patients have also been found. Existing studies indicate that avoidant and passive coping tends to exacerbate the detrimental health impacts of racism for indigenous peoples, whereas active coping ameliorates the ill-health effects of racism. Reducing individual and interpersonal racism can be achieved by (a) providing accurate information and improving awareness of the nature of racism and racial bias; (b) activating values of fairness, reconciling incompatible beliefs, and developing antiracist motivation; (c) fostering empathy and perspective-taking and confidence in regulating emotional responses; (d) improving comfort with other groups and reducing anxiety; and (e) reinforcing antiracist social norms and highlighting personal accountability. There are five key areas for combating systemic racism in organizations and institutions: (a) institutional accountability; (b) diversity in human resources; (c) community partnership; (d) antiracism and cultural competence training; and (e) research and evaluation.

Article

Prejudice is a broad social phenomenon and area of research, complicated by the fact that intolerance exists in internal cognitions but is manifest in symbol usage (verbal, nonverbal, mediated), law and policy, and social and organizational practice. It is based on group identification (i.e., perceiving and treating a person or people in terms of outgroup membership); but that outgroup can range from the more commonly known outgroups based on race, sex/gender, nationality, or sexual orientation to more specific intolerances of others based on political party, fan status, or membership in some perceived group such as “blonde” or “athlete.” This article begins with the link of culture to prejudice, noting specific culture-based prejudices of ethnocentrism and xenophobia. It then explores the levels at which prejudice might be manifest, finally arriving at a specific focus of prejudice—racism; however, what applies to racism may also apply to other intolerances such as sexism, heterosexism, classism, or ageism. The discussion and analysis of prejudice becomes complicated when we approach a specific topic like racism, though the tensions surrounding this phenomenon extend to other intolerances such as sexism or heterosexism. Complications include determining the influences that might lead to individual racism or an atmosphere of racism, but also include the very definition of what racism is: Is it an individual phenomenon, or does it refer to an intolerance that is supported by a dominant social structure? Because overt intolerance has become unpopular in many societies, researchers have explored how racism and sexism might be expressed in subtle terms; others investigate how racism intersects with other forms of oppression, including those based on sex/gender, sexual orientation, or colonialism; and still others consider how one might express intolerance “benevolently,” with good intentions though still based on problematic racist or sexist ideologies.

Article

Betty Garcia and Dorothy Van Soest

A firm grasp of the nature of oppression, with its dynamics of power and its systemic character, is required so that social workers can avoid unintended collusion with pervasive oppressive systems if they are to be successful in promoting social and economic justice. Recognizing the relationship between macro-level and micro-level dynamics and their implications for practice is an substantive part of social work practice. This perspective includes attention to the ubiquitousness of privilege and oppression and the potential consequences of ignoring this reality as complicity in and normalizing exclusionary and marginalizing behaviors. This article discusses the concept of oppression, its dynamics and common elements, and anti-oppressive practices that can expose and dismantle oppressive relationships and systemic power arrangements.

Article

Despite the term being coined in the early 1990s, heteronormativity is a longstanding and enduring hierarchical social system that identifies heterosexuality as the standard sexuality and normalizes gender-specific behaviors and roles for men, women, and transgender and non-binary individuals. As a system, it defines and enforces beliefs and practices about what is ‘normal’ in everyday life. Although there are many factors that shape heteronormative beliefs and attitudes, religion, the government, education, and workplaces are the principal macro-level factors that normalize and institutionalize heteronormative beliefs and attitudes. These institutions contribute an outsize influence on the perpetuation of heteronormativity in society because these institutions create and inculcate the norms and standards of what are and are not acceptable values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors in our society. As such, in order to create effective interventions to eliminate the negative outcomes of heteronormativity, particular attention should be paid to each of these institutions. Parents, relatives, and other adults contribute to the normalization and institutionalization of heteronormativity at the individual- or micro-level. Although some people benefit from the system of heteronormativity (mainly heterosexual cisgender conforming men), much of the research on heteronormativity focuses on the negative outcomes. Heteronormativity is responsible for a host of pernicious outcomes such as lower self-esteem, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment, and greater rates of suicide ideation, verbal and physical abuse, and workplace mistreatment and discrimination. Future research should investigate identify effective micro- and macro-level interventions that could mitigate or eliminate the negative effects of heteronormativity.

Article

Frej Klem Thomsen

The conceptualization and moral analysis of discrimination constitutes a burgeoning theoretical field, with a number of open problems and a rapidly developing literature. A central problem is how to define discrimination, both in its most basic direct sense and in the most prominent variations. A plausible definition of the basic sense of the word understands discrimination as disadvantageous differential treatment of two groups that is in some respect caused by the properties that distinguish the groups, but open questions remain on whether discrimination should be restricted to concern only particular groups, as well as on whether it is best conceived as a descriptive or a moralized concept. Furthermore, since this understanding limits direct discrimination to cases of differential treatment, it requires that we be able to draw a clear distinction between equal and differential treatment, a task that is less simple than it may appear, but that is helpful in clarifying indirect discrimination and statistical discrimination. The second major problem in theorizing discrimination is explaining what makes discrimination morally wrong. On this issue, there are four dominant contemporary answers: the valuational and expressive disrespect accounts, which hold that discrimination is wrong when and if the discriminator misestimates or expresses a misestimate of the moral status of the discriminatee; the unfairness account, which holds that discrimination is wrong when and if the discriminator unfairly increases inequality of opportunity; and the harm account, which holds that discrimination is wrong when and if the discriminator harms the discriminatee. Each of these accounts, however, faces important challenges in simultaneously providing a persuasive theoretical account and matching our intuitions about cases of impermissible discrimination.

Article

Lynn McDonald

Retirement is a modest social institution that appeared in most industrialized nations near the start of the 20th century. The aim of retirement was to solve the societal dilemma of an increasingly aged labor force by moving older workers systematically out of their jobs so as to not cause them financial harm (Atchley, 1980, p. 264). Although retirement has been considered benign since its inception, the history of retirement indicates that it is one of the main progenitors of ageism in society today (Atchley, 1982, 1993; Haber & Gratton, 1994; McDonald, 2013; Walker, 1990). Retirement and its accompanying stereotypes have been used as a tool for the management of the size and composition of the labor force contingent on the dictums of current markets in any given historical era. Ever-changing ideologies about older adults that extend from negative to positive ageism have been utilized by business, government, the public, and the media to support whatever justification is required in a particular era, with little thought to the harm perpetrated on older adults. Unfortunately, society has subscribed to these justifications en masse, including older adults themselves. In this article the ageism embedded in retirement is examined to make what is implicit explicit to social work practitioners and policymakers in the field of aging.

Article

Patricia Brownell

Older workers make important contributions to the workplace, its productivity, and its culture. Work remains important for older adults for financial security, to give meaning to later life, to maintain social networks, and to promote lifelong learning. However, ageist beliefs about the capacity of older adults to remain productive and contributing workers in the workforce can create barriers for older workers. Understanding how older workers experience ageist behavior in the workplace can help employers, policy makers, and social workers learn more about how to address this social problem. Organizations can become more age friendly through enabling workplace programs, supportive management, and proactive human resource managers. Social workers serving older adults in employee assistance programs and in private practice can help them to challenge ageism in the workplace. Finally, legislation such as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects the rights of older workers; however, more legislation is needed to address bullying and harassment of older adults in the workplace.

Article

The prevalent discourse about Roma community mainly occurs when the media reports “Roma problems.” Homogeneity, nomadism, and assumed innate characteristics (for example, laziness, aggressiveness, and lower intellectual abilities) are the most common myths about them. However, sociology recognizes Roma, Gypsies, Tzigany, Zigeuner, or Gitanos as one of the most oppressed, hated, and discriminated minority in all countries of their residence. This article discusses the multidimensional levels of discrimination of Roma minority from the perspective of their everyday life experience on a personal, cultural, and structural level. As Dominelli, Thompson, and Jones established, those are three crucial dimensions of recognizing the dynamic and rooted nature of discrimination.

Article

Sandra Edmonds Crewe and Julie Guyot-Diangone

This article provides an overview of the phenomenon of labeling and stigma. Research studies are used to illuminate the many ways devalued or discredited identities negatively affect the health and well-being of stigmatized groups and additionally burden the socially and economically marginalized. In addition to conveying an understanding of the social process by which a stigma is developed and the role that culture plays in defining and determining any given stigma, this article offers ways in which social work professionals may counter stigma through education/awareness campaigns and in routine client interactions. Anti-stigma work is presented from social justice and ethical perspectives. Stigma as a social construct is discussed, along with its link to discrimination and prejudice. The article helps to unpack the meaning of stigma, including descriptions of the various forms, levels, and dimensions it may take, affecting all spheres of life, including the social, psychological, spiritual, and physical.