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This essay shows a negative correlation between racial discrimination and its adverse effects on minority workers. Racial Discrimination is not only responsible for racial disparity within the workplace, but also the negative impacts on mental and physical health of minority workers. According to Funk and Parker (2018), the majority of blacks notice a lack of diversity within the STEM field, and are likely to consider diversity to be an important quality within the workplace. However, many underlying reasons can contribute to racial disparity within the workplace, such as lack of education and unfair biased treatments during the hiring or recruitment process. Consequently, these reasons can contribute to mental and physical health problems and can escalate the more minority workers are exposed to racial inequality. The evidence and studies found in this paper suggest that minority workers are susceptible to higher mental and physical health issues compared to those who are not exposed to racial discrimination in the workplace.
Racial discrimination, in broader and simplistic terms, refers to the unequal treatment of a person due to their race or ethnicity. There have been many cases reported by employees who have fallen victims of racial stratification, and have become vulnerable to racial exploitation. Racial discrimination today has become the means for the establishment of racial inequality, thus leading to racial stratification and subjection of the employee. Racial discrimination is prominent and problematic within the workplace affecting the employee’s work ethic, mental health, and physical health.
In today’s society, the problem of racism within the workplace is that discrimination is not properly addressed. According to the data explained further in this paper, companies deny any act of discrimination and claim they have equality laws put in place. However, many companies do virtually nothing to help those who experience racial discrimination. Big corporate companies and industries when interviewed during alleged cases of racial discrimination, deny ever hearing it and argue that this type of behavior is not tolerated whatsoever. However, according to Jameel & Yerardi (2019), many cases of racial discrimination are reported each year to the government, yet employers are hardly held responsible. In 1965, the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was founded to handle cases of job discrimination. In the same vein, they handle complaints of racial inequality such as racial discrimination which may include differential treatment and isolation. They can investigate complaints of mistreatment and try to settle common grounds between the complainant and their employer. The EEOC was weak to begin with, as it was only given limited resources to treat cases of job discrimination. However, “if the agency had additional staff, former EEOC Chair Jenny Yang, said it would likely confirm more workers’ allegations of discrimination. It generally takes more time for investigators to make a finding of discrimination than to close a case based on insufficient evidence, she said”. Consequently, the EEOC was no longer an agency minority worker could count on to properly convict employers of their wrongdoings.
Although EEOC was founded with the means to reduce job discrimination, it does not eliminate the underlying root problem, which is racial discrimination. In 2011 it was found, “ that the majority of employers (57 percent) claim that their organization is purely meritocratic in terms of workplace decisions, adheres to the equal opportunity employment laws, and respects the tone of such laws”. Yet, employees have reported differential treatment and isolation, which have become fundamental factors in racial discrimination and inequality within the workplace. The lack of structure in EEOC has left many of those who were victimized by racial discrimination with little to no hope. Minorities, such as African Americans and Hispanics can no longer count with the help of the government, nor the say of the law for that matter, as many cases remained ignored or unsolved. It would take more time for EEOC attorneys and their investigators to find any form of discrimination than closing the case due to lack of evidence.
The weak structure of the EEOC, ‘disproportionately hurt black workers’. The lack of properly addressing discrimination within the workplace has taken a toll on black workers especially. For example, “black workers are 13 percent of the US workforce, but racial discrimination against this group accounts for 26 percent of all claims filed with the EEOC and its partner agencies”. For example, a black African American man named Ron Law worked as a fitter for Austal for two years. He reported to the EEOC the hostile environment he along with his fellow black co-workers were enduring daily. He explained that each day, they experienced a variety of different forms of racial discrimination, from subtle slurs to noose hanging in from the ceiling of the breakroom. It has been a year later and yet the case remains unsolved.
According to Jameel and Yerardi (2019), the problem of workplace discrimination in the U.S is not always expressed through physical threats or slurs that others may have experienced. As claimed in the “complaint data, it shows that it can often manifest in more subtle ways, such as the assignments workers are given, the pay or benefits they receive, and the ways their performance is judged and rewarded”. Differential treatment and isolation both affect work performance by preventing the advancement and improvement of the employee, thus leading to a lack of confidence and achievement.
Differential treatment can be classified as not receiving a promotion, although everyone else in the same department received one. It can also be qualified as ‘being discriminatorily fired for workplace infractions’, or by having to take responsibilities that are not within the job description. In 1986’s, Mid City School District expanded the range of responsibilities given to bus drivers, such as adding the requirement of mowing school lawns during the summers. Raymond Jackson, an employee for 30 years told his supervisor he was unable to complete this task due to his height. He claimed his height posed a safety risk due to the fact that he was unable to reach the brake or clutch in cases of emergency. His supervisors agreed, yet in the summer he was suspended and eventually fired for ‘refusing to the mow the grass’.
However, another employee had a similar situation and she was allowed to keep her bus driving job. This is an example of differential treatment because they were both inadequate to mow the lawn, yet one got to keep their bus driving job while the other did not. Hence, “Jackson felt that he was treated differently because of his race; he was black, and his colleague was white”. Differential treatment is not based on work performance but the prejudice and subjective preconceived notions of race.
Differential treatment is also based on ‘subjective judgements of qualifications’. For instance, the subjective difference between African American professionals versus white professionals is largely due to differential treatment. An African American health professional was denied a renewal of their contract, because she believed that the top-funded and prioritized projects were assigned only to her white coworkers. This example of differential treatment influences work performance because it assumes that this woman’s work ethic is not as dependable as her white colleagues. Hence, this is an obstacle that can hinder an employee’s right to a successful work performance as well as establishing their credibility within the workplace.
Along with differential treatment, isolation is another frequent act of discrimination that has been reported by many minority workers. In this instance, “isolation occurs when workplaces are overwhelmingly dominated by a single race, typically nonminority”. In these cases, employees who experience isolation have insufficient evidence of it happening. An African American machine operator named D.J Houston applied for a ‘job at a public utility company’. The company he applied to acquire a new hiring process, where each hiree are required to complete a ‘written application form’. However, the company failed to provide this additional information to Houston. Withholding this information hindered Houston’s chances of getting the job, hence preventing him on ever improving his work performance and work experience.
Segregation is another example that illustrates racial inequality, not only within the workplace but beyond it. According to D.R Williams and M. Williams (2000) research, segregation has limited many opportunities for African Americans, such as job opportunities along with income improvement. High- paid low-skilled jobs were moved from areas dense in African Americans and minorities and the jobs near them required some level of education that they did not have. Hence, access to decent paying jobs were very limited, which produced high rates of underemployment and eventually unemployment. This inhibits the opportunity of seeking a stable employment and increasing their chances of falling into poverty.
Differential treatment and isolation are two factors that affect work performance within minority workers. However, these workers may experience other instances where their work performance is affected along with job opportunities. For example, “employers might exclude minority workers from jobs by moving to or recruiting from primarily white neighborhoods”. This type of occurrence prevents employers from assessing whether these minority workers do or do not perform said task successfully or efficiently. Thus, it does not even provide the opportunity for workers to contribute to the workforce nor produce an acceptable work performance, if white workers are being recruited. In addition, many face other ‘impediments to successful job performance’ such as hostile treatment. For example, a black African American custodian was forced by his white supervisor to walk around the whole building, while the white American custodians could take short cuts.
According to Williams and Mohammed (2008), they claim that patterns of racial inequalities in health suggest that there are various ways by which race discrimination can affect individual’s health. “Institutional discrimination can generate multiple stressors that can adversely affect health. For example, institutional discrimination in employment and residential contexts can trigger elevated exposure to traditional stressors, especially those linked to social and economic deprivation, including unemployment and underemployment”. Acts of discrimination, such as differential treatment and isolation can contribute to health problems for these minority workers including the stress of finding a new job or avoiding those who discriminate them.
In relation to these discriminatory acts, minority workers such as middle-class African Americans are put in ‘racialized jobs’. “Racialized jobs take well-qualified minorities and marginalize their potential by limiting the development of necessary skills”. Minority workers are often put into these jobs to provide smaller gains to the employer by giving poorer work performance evaluations subjectively based on race, ‘rather than their work performance’. This lets the company pay their workers less, as they are put in lower classified jobs which allows employers to easily eliminate them when budget cuts are needed. This racial disparity causes an increase in mortality rate within African Americans than whites throughout their lives. When minority workers are put in racialized jobs they are more likely to be susceptible to diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and, obesity. They can also be predisposed to premature death in comparison to those who are not ‘exposed to racial disparities’. Racialized jobs are a form of perceived discrimination that puts vulnerable minority workers through unemployment, thus leading to a series of disadvantages that are not exposed to advantaged white workers.
According to Williams and Mohammed (2008), “data suggest that there are additional components related to racial status that negatively affects the health of poor minority populations in the U.S.” In addition to this, “the measures of SES socioeconomic status are not equivalent across race”. In comparison to uneducated black or other minority workers, college-educated blacks are also ‘likely to experience unemployment’. Those unemployed are more susceptible to harmful and riskier jobs that can expose them to hazardous toxins such as carcinogens and teratogens, along with a lower income. As a result, those impoverished and unemployed experience ‘higher levels of psychological distress’.
To support this claim, “studies have consistently shown that people in the lowest strata of income, education, and occupation (known as socioeconomic status, or SES) are about two to three times more likely than those in the highest strata to have a mental disorder”. When African American and minority workers experience events that hinder work performance, such as being put in racialized jobs, experiencing differential treatment, and isolation it limits the amount of resources available to them. Due to the lack of resources, many of these workers become disadvantaged in various of ways. They become homeless due to low- paying or easily expendable jobs. They become exposed to increased rates of crime, violence, and disease which in turn results in high levels of distress through coping and acquiring sufficient resources to live.
Along with unemployment, black and minority workers can be susceptible to minority status stress; stress experienced by members of a minority group. Minority status stress can be detrimental to the social and mental health of these workers. It is found that, “almost without exception, studies of discrimination and mental health find that higher levels of discrimination are associated with poorer mental health status”. Hence, minority workers experience more mental stressors, adversely affecting their overall health. This is because research has found that the majority of minorities who report racial discrimination claim their experiences to be stressful. They have limited resources when it comes to dealing with the racial inequality such as seeing psychiatrists, getting healthcare, and recieving a better income.
Additionally, research has discovered that minority status stress produces negative consequences towards mental health outcomes, such as ‘general psychological distress’ and ‘depressive and anxiety symptoms’. For example, “self-reports of discrimination have been associated with elevated anxiety and depression, as well as anger and hostility. However, anxiety and depression can lead to not only mental harm but physical ones as well. These physical repercussions can either be short or long- term issues, thus creating a disadvantage for minority workers to improve their work performance or be promoted to a higher worker status.
Anxiety is widely known as a mental disease, yet it lacks recognition of its physical effects on the mental health of an individual. Anxiety along with depression can weaken the body’s overall system such as the debilitation of the immune system, that can leave the body susceptible to ‘digestive issues’ and exposed to more infections. For instance, “anxiety can also change the function of the cardiovascular, urinary, and respiratory systems”. These are a few examples of long-term effects that can seriously impact a worker’s performance by harming the body’s ability to successful perform simple everyday tasks such as breathing properly or urinating without pain.
As stated earlier, minority workers such as African Americans are more likely to experience negative mental and physical outcomes from racial inequalities within the workplace. “Increases in internalizing (anxiety and depression) are associated with deterioration in physical health status, including limits on functioning and increases in general morbidity”. Minority workers not only face these adverse health effects, but they also face the difficult task of finding affordable treatment such as therapy or medication. Consequently, African Americans are 20% more likely than White Americans to report cases of serious psychological distress. This can have an overall effect on mental and physical health that can lead to a significant contribution to health disparity faced by African Americans in the United States.
As explained throughout this paper, these physical and mental health problems, along with poor work performance that minority workers face are linked to racial discrimination and inequality within the workplace. According to DR.Williams and M. Williams (2000), data revealed that blacks are the most negatively viewed population by whites compared to Asians and Hispanics. This may be due to the ‘stigmas of inferiority’ attached to African Americans and other minorities, which created a precedent to discriminate these groups further in the future. Consequently, this created Internalized Racism, where minority groups such as blacks accepted these negative assumptions and connotations about themselves. Evidence indicates that this type of internalizing can create assumptions and stigmas that can ultimately cause a hindrance to ‘psychological and social functioning’.
Today, racial discrimination is still very prominent within the workplace. As mentioned earlier in this paper, racial discrimination is not always expressed through the obvious threats and slurs. Many minority workers are withheld from promotions, positive work reviews, and a safe work environment. This results in minority workers, specifically African Americans to fall in poverty, leaving them in severe distress.
According to D.R Williams and M. Williams (2000), evidence from their conducted study on the effects of racial discrimination and its correlation to mental health, has shown that racism will not diminish any time soon. Racial discrimination can have critical impacts on mental health, and the evidence suggests we acquire additional knowledge on its adverse effects. Racial discrimination and its adverse effects on an individual’s physical and mental health still require further research. However, racial discrimination should further be acknowledged in every company, industry, and corporation to help end and control the racial disparity within the United States.
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