Systematic Inequality and Economic Opportunity | Mann & Elias
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Systematic Inequality and Economic Opportunity

Have You Experienced Workplace Discrimination in Los Angeles?

Racism and discrimination in the workplace still exist in America. Hiring an employment attorney in Los Angeles can help you get justice if you have been fired, demoted, or otherwise mistreated because of your race. If you have suffered from such an injustice, it is not in your head. The country is still struggling to deal with its legacy of racism. A Los Angeles workplace attorney can help you get compensation if you have been wronged. An attorney for experiencing discrimination in the office can help you hold the right people accountable.

Racism: Here from the Beginning

It is often said that slavery is America’s original sin. But this sentimental phrase does not get to the heart of the country’s long-standing racist social order and its consequences. Beginning in 1619, black people were brought to America and forced to work for no wages. They were enslaved, made part of a brutal system of rape, torture, and degradation. This was not done because white people hated black people. In fact, the original capitalists who ventured to the “New World” enslaved not only black Africans but the native peoples who lived in the Americas and poor whites shipped over from Europe. A solidarity arose among these exploited peoples, and they united in resistance against their masters. To break up this union, white owners gave privileges to white poor people. This discrimination was reinforced by a racist ideology—an ideology that not only strengthened and perpetuated the system of slavery but led to the economic and social oppression of black people to this day.

Government, Not Private Individuals Are Responsible

Enslaved people planted fields, harvested crops, and did every other job needed to keep a farm going. They served as domestic workers and did every other low-end service job required to keep the white elite pampered and well-groomed. Even when hired out to others, their wages went to their masters. Slaves had no rights, no status, no recognition as human beings. Such a system could not have been brought into being without law and could not have been enforced without the power of federal and state governments.

The U.S. Constitution itself embraced slavery. In the original document ratified in 1788, slaves were treated as three-fifths of a person for the purpose of the census. The U.S. Constitution also required escaped slaves to be returned to their masters, and federal laws—fugitive slave laws—were passed in 1793 and 1850 to further reinforce this constitutional right of slave owners.

Slavery was abolished in 1865. However, the economic exploitation and social oppression of black people would go on for the next hundred years. The opportunity for black people to farm their own land, form their own businesses, educate their children, and establish an economic and political stake in the country was sabotaged by the terror of the Ku Klux Klan in the South and the random arson and mass murder of white mobs in the North and West. Sharecropping agreements in which black people worked on white-owned farms for a share of the profits became nothing more than schemes to keep blacks in perpetual debt and servitude. Vagrancy laws were introduced in certain southern states in which any black person who was found to be without work could be arrested and fined. Most such persons could not afford to pay the fine. Mining companies in the South, hungry for cheap labor, would pay the fine for them, and the convict would have to work it off over the course of 3 to 5 years.

All these things occurred as a result of government law and policy. And even though the vigilante violence of the Klan was fought by the federal government, state governments refused to intervene, and members of local governments often collaborated with and led these hooded terrorists in their depraved raids against black families.

The Gap Widens in the Twentieth Century

The twentieth century is often heralded as a time of progressive ideas and policy in America. Not for her black citizens. The collapse of the financial system in 1939 threw the country into the greatest depression in its history. Franklin Delano Roosevelt rose to power on the promise of a New Deal for American families. The policies he implemented after he became president helped millions of families find work. They strengthened labor standards for wages and working conditions and increased protections for collective bargaining. The problem is that all these programs and policies excluded black people. A block of southern senators and representatives ensured that no black family would benefit from the assistance given to poor and working families throughout the nation.

The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 formally recognized the legitimacy of trade unions. Companies could no longer prohibit their workers from forming a union and could no longer ban the presence of existing unions in the workplace. However, domestic workers (who were mostly black) and agricultural workers were excluded from the protections of the Wagner Act, and the bill that Roosevelt signed allowed unions to discriminate against workers of color.

Things got no better after World War II. Hundreds of thousands of black men and women answered the nation’s call to service. Black people served on the fields of Europe and the oceans of the Pacific, but the nation still refused to recognize their contributions and sacrifice. Roosevelt’s G.I. Bill gave returning veterans money for college and to buy a home. At a time when the economy was changing from a manufacturing to a knowledge-based economy, millions of working-class white people were given the education and resources to prepare themselves for this new world of work. Black veterans were denied these benefits, and thus the black community fell further behind economically.

The Inequality Persists

The 1960s saw a shift in white consciousness toward black people. Some of the ugliest and most outrageously violent behaviors were no longer tolerated. And black activists finally broke through on the civil rights front. Black people could no longer be explicitly forbidden from voting and segregation laws were dismantled in the South. However, inequality persisted. Throughout the 70s and 80s, white people segregated themselves. They flew to the suburbs and beyond and took their resources with them. Industries left the cities as well. Manufacturing went overseas, and the high-end service jobs that sprouted up throughout the country were inaccessible to most black people—owing to the deleterious effects of segregated primary and secondary schooling and lack of funds to attend college and university.

Modern workplaces reflect this racist legacy. White applicants are far more likely to receive an interview than black applicants. Research shows that black people continue to be discriminated against in hiring, promotion, and compensation. This has nothing to do with one group disliking another group. Structures and systems, not intentions and feelings are to blame here.

Anti-discrimination statements and policies do little good because government enforcement mechanisms are weak and underfunded. However, racial discrimination is still against the law, and many black victims of racism have found relief in the courts. Employment discrimination attorneys help them do so.

If you have been discriminated against, you should hire a Los Angeles workplace discrimination lawyer. A workplace discrimination lawyer in Los Angeles will help you build a case against your employer. Los Angeles discrimination attorneys handle such cases all the time. And if you have been a target of racism, you should contact a lawyer for discrimination at work.


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