Study: discrimination is about helping people with commonalities

A new paper has recently been published in American Psychologist that argues that discrimination is less about hostile attitudes towards others, and more about helping people with whom we share commonalities. While this can simply be explained as showing slight favoritism to the people who went to the same school as us, go to the same religious institution or whose children attend the same school as our children, the authors also note that this often has racial implications, too.

The authors do admit, however, that there are still some employers and supervisors who are hostile or retaliatory toward people because of their skin color, religious background, ethnic origin and more. Sadly, these kinds of employers still exist on Long Island and often lead to workplace discrimination lawsuits.

If this new study is true, then the local, state and federal employment laws will do little to protect employees from discrimination. If bosses are giving promotions to people because they are more familiar with them or because they believe they have connected with them more, a law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of skin color will not be useful. Even if the boss and the promoted employee are of the same race, the boss can argue that race played no role in his or her decision.

As it is, local, state and federal laws are designed to protect against the more traditional forms of blatant racism and bias. When a boss refuses to hire someone because he or she is African-American or refuses to give a pay raise to a Muslim, employment laws can provide workers with redress. When a boss hires someone because their children play soccer together, there may be no redress available.

Source: NYMag, “Racism Doesn’t Work the Way You Think It Does,” Jesse Singal, May 21, 2014

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