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After Civil Rights

After Civil Rights: Racial Realism in the New American Workplace

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 448
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  • Book Info
    After Civil Rights
    Book Description:

    What role should racial difference play in the American workplace? As a nation, we rely on civil rights law to address this question, and the monumental Civil Rights Act of 1964 seemingly answered it: race must not be a factor in workplace decisions. In After Civil Rights, John Skrentny contends that after decades of mass immigration, many employers, Democratic and Republican political leaders, and advocates have adopted a new strategy to manage race and work. Race is now relevant not only in negative cases of discrimination, but in more positive ways as well. In today's workplace, employers routinely practice "racial realism," where they view race as real--as a job qualification. Many believe employee racial differences, and sometimes immigrant status, correspond to unique abilities or evoke desirable reactions from clients or citizens. They also see racial diversity as a way to increase workplace dynamism. The problem is that when employers see race as useful for organizational effectiveness, they are often in violation of civil rights law.

    After Civil Rights examines this emerging strategy in a wide range of employment situations, including the low-skilled sector, professional and white-collar jobs, and entertainment and media. In this important book, Skrentny urges us to acknowledge the racial realism already occurring, and lays out a series of reforms that, if enacted, would bring the law and lived experience more in line, yet still remain respectful of the need to protect the civil rights of all workers.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4849-2
    Subjects: Sociology, Management & Organizational Behavior, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. 1 Managing Race in the American Workplace
    (pp. 1-37)

    What role should racial differences play in American life? Americans have debated this question for decades. In fact, if the question is understood broadly, they have been debating it for centuries. Yet the America of the 2000s is very different from the nation at its founding. It is quite different also from the America that existed, now a half-century in the past, when our civil rights laws first took shape. Civil rights law is, of course, the primary tool we use to authorize and enact our visions and plans for how race should or should not matter. Can civil rights...

  6. 2 Leverage: Racial Realism in the Professions and Business
    (pp. 38-88)

    Racial realism looks different in different employment sectors, but if there is a purest or most typical sector, it would be in skilled private employment—the professions and business. All of the most basic dynamics and dilemmas can be found here.

    Here we see both types of racial realism, and different approaches to racial abilities specifically. Most commonly employers perceive that workers have specific racial abilities that help them excel in the provision of services to those of their own race. We therefore see a matching dynamic—African-Americans performing services for African-Americans, Asians for Asians, and so on. In some...

  7. 3 We the People: Racial Realism in Politics and Government
    (pp. 89-152)

    One might wonder why government employment should get its own chapter. After all, most government employees are skilled workers and professionals, similar to the skilled and professional workers who were the focus of Chapter 2. It is also the case that since 1972, Title VII has applied to government employment.

    Yet government employment is also very different. This is because government employers sometimes have goals that private employers do not. In some cases, government employers may perceive a need to pay back voters with government jobs. Another objective may be to provide role models for young people. For both of...

  8. 4 Displaying Race for Dollars: Racial Realism in Media and Entertainment
    (pp. 153-215)

    Employment in media and entertainment is both similar to and different from the other sectors considered in this book. As in the case of the high- and low-skilled employment covered in Chapters 2 and 5, at stake in the hiring of advertising models, actors, and athletes are potentially huge profits for employers and job opportunities for a diverse pool of workers. And not surprisingly, employers perceive the benefits of racial realism in the media and entertainment industries, just as they do in other business sectors.

    Yet media and entertainment employment is also different. To make money, these businesses display workers...

  9. 5 The Jungle Revisited? Racial Realism in the Low-Skilled Sector
    (pp. 216-264)

    Racial realism at the low end of the job market shows unique patterns, both in the workplace and in the law. It also presents us with some very different human dramas. In this area of employment it is not rare to find that the targets of employer preference—the workers with the most desired racial abilities—could only misleadingly be called winners in the contest for jobs.

    There is no better way to introduce these issues than with a brief recap of what happened in the majority-black city of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.¹ The employment patterns...

  10. 6 Bringing Practice, Law, and Values Together
    (pp. 265-290)

    This book has several objectives. I have sought to offer a road map for understanding how employers and advocates for change understand race to matter or not matter in the American workplace—the strategies or cultural models they describe as the way things “are” or the way they “ought to be” in several key sectors. I have also sought to show how this emerging strategy, racial realism, fits with current American law. To do this, I brought together existing studies in a variety of social science fields that allow us to view practices in several employment sectors, and also have...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 291-382)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 383-398)