orse Inn Kitelit_stlettc TV 1-Icatt2c1 Pool /4’A/de the \(;11l1 of illexio \(111 ;1,11t.siong I.s1\(111\(1 A\\ailaIlle for private panic \( ErtriTemi Ch arm ,Irmo.sphcrc ;Hid suinffici. 1:,,I,A Pets Welcome f e 1423 llth Street .111,0 Port Aransas, TX 78373 1 S ca” t; Rcscrva t i\(111 ti I tac ..ogymIti k A e l k% 10:4;” %ai l lics kl…….. . II A% has easy access to the process for deciding, say, to hire somebody, rent her an apartment or sell her a car. But many decisions are more complicated and less accessible to investigation. Consider the following. Three people, one of whom is black, are up for promotion to vice president of finance in a major corporation. Complex considerations enter into the decision. How good a head for finances do the candidates have? What are their management skills? What about their judgment and experience? How good are they at social mingling with clients? The decision takes months, and reams of information are compiled. There is a lot of controversy in the promotion committee. The African American loses out. Was she discriminated against? If so, was it because of her race or perhaps her gender or her age? Given the complexity of the criteria, the answer may be difficult to obtain. Here, statistical data on the history of minority promotions in the firm, measured against the relevant pool of minority applicants and controlled for age, gender and the type of job at issue can be probative \(though not no one has attempted a systematic, comprehensive, nationwide study of the glassceiling effect, perhaps just because it would be so challenging to carry out. We do know, of course, that many suits have been filed and won alleging racial discrimination in the corporate suites. The question is simply how common this practice is among the millions of white-collar employees who are black. ANOTHER APPROACH IS to conduct scientific polls that ask respondents rather brief questions about racism. This has been done regularly, and in recent years, depending on the exact question asked, between a quarter and a half of black respondents are likely to say they have experienced discrimination. In a Houston-area poll conducted this spring by Prof. Stephen Klineberg in my own department of sociology, 45 percent of all blacks in the sample said they had experienced ethnic or gender discrimination “very often” or “fairly often,” as compared to 14 percent of Anglos and 26 percent of Hispanics. Fiftyeight percent of Anglos and 47 percent of Hispanics \(as compared to 24 percent of norities have the same opportunities as whites in the U.S. today.” This is a common pattern of beliefs nationwide. Each of the approaches to measuring discrimination mentioned so far has both advantages and weaknesses. Audits are less useful as the selection criteria become more complex and the decision-making process becomes more difficult to observe. Statistical summaries require careful sampling often very expensiveand access to data that are not easily available. Opinion polls measure respondents’ opinions about discriminationnot factual data on discriminationand they typically ask a few rather superficial questions on the subject. Another approach is the one Feagin and Sikes and their assistants use: Select a sizable number of African Americans and, using open-ended questions, ask them to describe their experiences in detail. The authors make no pretense that their sample is representative of all members of the black middle class. Indeed, the “snowball” technique they use for drawing their sample involves asking people interviewed early on for the names of other potential interviewees whom they know, a technique with a potential bias. Nor was the sample of roughly 200 people large enough, even if it had been scientifically drawn, to warrant generalizing to the population of all middle-class African Americans. And no effort was made to get “the other side of the story” from whites in the same environmenta task that would not only have been extraordinarily difficult, but would have required the interviewers to identify their black respondents to whites with whom they interacted. The method Feagin and Sikes chose, in other words, has shortcomings, just as , all the other methods do which attempt to measure discrimination systematically. But it also has some advantages. Unlike a purely statistical investigation, an audit or a poll limited to short answers, the data from the more than 200 respondents in Feagin and Sikes’s sample allow a complex, nuanced series of stories to be told by blacks in numerous occupations and locales. These stories give flesh and blood to the abstractions of statistics, and enable the non-black reader to imagine vividly some of the difficulties blacks face. What gives the stories a special plausibility, to my mind, is that they are not, by and large, simply rhetorical open-andshut allegations of white racism. On the contrary, many accounts evince a thoughtfulness, a cool analytical attitude, or a wry self-awareness that has the ring of authenticity. Rich in detail and infused with emotion, these stories tell how deeply disenchanted many middle-class African Americans are with institutions often perceived by whites as fair or even biased in favor of blacks. THE BOOK’S MOST striking claim is that blacks still encounter discrimination of many sorts in every aspect of their lives in which they interact with whites on a regular basis. For example, despite passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawing discrimination in public accommodations, the respondents talk at length about the indignities they experience at restaurants as they wait to be seated and served. They talk about the stress involved in trying to decide whether to make a fuss or just quietly accept discrimination in public accommodations. Their stories are corroborated by the recent successful lawsuits brought by blacks against the restaurant chains of Denny’s, Shoney’ s and International House of Pancakes, among others. Then ‘ there are the problems many African American customers face in stores, particularly the guilty-until-proven-innocent attitudes of sales clerks and managers who often tail blacks, expecting them to shoplift. Alternately, salespersons may simply ignore blacks who desire service, even when there are no other customers around. The problems many black students face in elite, predominantly white universities are especially poignant. The cultural isolation, completely aside from the hostility these students sometimes encounter, is difficult for whites who have not spent time in predominantly black settings to appreciate. One high school student visiting a white Ivy League campus described her visit this way: ANDERSON COMPANY COFFEE TEA SPICES TWO JEFFERSON SQUARE AUSTIN, TEXAS 78731 512 453’-1533 Send me your list. Name Street City Zip THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19
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