False Stereotypes: We All Do It 
By: Shyam Goswami 
Student Writer for The Journal of Gender, Race & Justice, Volume 18 

The United States Supreme Court recognized that that plaintiffs must be able to bring a mixed motive claim against employers if the Civil Rights Act was to have any teeth.[1] Racism today often takes on a subtle form. The Supreme Court understood that if employers could prevail against charges of discrimination by simply raising some legitimate reason for an adverse employment action, the Civil Rights Act would fail to achieve its goals. This important case helped pave the way for groups who are historically discriminated against to enter job market.

In another landmark decision, the United State Supreme Court recognized that stereotyping is evidence of discrimination. In that case, a female employee was passed up for partner despite bringing in a business deal worth millions of dollars. Some of her colleagues had expressed concerns about her femininity when voting on whether or not to make her partner. Similarly to the plaintiff in that case, Asian-Americans, African-Americans, and Latinos, as well as other groups may face the stereotype of their race with colleagues and supervisors. Asians are supposed to be quiet and hard working; African-Americans are believed to be angry and Latinos lazy.

These stereotypes persist and play a part in hiring and other employment decisions. An extroverted Asian may be viewed as loud and unpredictable when an African-American or White colleague would not suffer the same consequences. Stereotyping begins even before we meet the person. One study found that equivalent resumes with white sounding names got fifty percent more callbacks than resumes with African-American sounding names at law firms in Chicago and Boston.[2] The problem of stereotyping reaches beyond lost employment opportunities.

African-Americans are more than twice as likely to be searched during a routine traffic stop, but they are found in possession of contraband 26% less often than white drivers. In Iowa, African-American are 8.3 times more likely to be arrested for drug offenses even though drug use is comparable between African-Americans and Whites; the U.S. average is 3.7 times more likely to be arrested. Drug possession is a felony in most states that leads to a loss of federally subsidized student loans and the loss of the right to vote, further marginalizing the population.

Stereotyping remains a large problem today with major consequences. Though systematic change will take time, individuals must be their part to be conscious of inherent biases. The first step is admitting you have a problem.

[1]     McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). Although the court was addressing the need for direct or circumstantial evidence, the Court allows the case to move forward despite McDonnell Douglas's legitimate reasons for not rehiring Green.

[2]     Angela Onwuachi-Willig & Mario Barnes, By Any Other Name?:: On Being “Regarded as” Black, and Why Title VII Should Apply Even if Lakisha and Jamal are White, 2005 Wis. L. Rev. 1283.