social political conditions within the workplace that contribute to the intersectional discriminatory experiences of Black women

social political conditions within the workplace that contribute to the intersectional discriminatory experiences of Black women.

The term intersectionality was coined by Kimberly Crenshaw and has come to be adopted and accepted as referring to the complexities linked with identity and the interaction of this identity with institutions. Intersectionality brings people to think about how social identity categories are interconnected and function simultaneously in bringing about aspects of marginalization or privilege. In line with such aspects of intersectionality, black women suffer the most at the interconnection of social identities since discrimination may be attributable to race as well as gender. As argued by Crenshaw, black women are not only subject to racism or sexism but both forms of discrimination (Hollis, 2018). For black women striving in a dominantly white and heteronormative culture, racism and sexism are not the only issues that they face. Smith (2013) projects the notion that sexual orientation, religion, unfavorable class, national origin and language are social identities that keep black women away from opportunities. From such a perspective, society is seen as having created identities that are unfavorable for women of color due to the fact that this advances discriminatory practices.

social political conditions within the workplace that contribute to the intersectional discriminatory experiences of Black women. The social identity categories fostering discrimination are best visible within the workplace. With intersectionality bringing about aspects of race, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, religion and others, the multiplicity of such factors create an obstruction to advancement and empowerment. According to Collins (2007), intersectionality is usually a matrix of domination and goes beyond an emphasis on people’s identity to include the structures of oppression. With women experiencing different forms of discrimination, this has been argued as being within intersectionality since the structures of oppression are based on the different social identity categories. Discrimination and oppression has limited the ability of black women to advance their career or social positions as black feminism has continually advocated. Conditions promoting intersectional discrimination include institutional racism and sexism based on the patriarchal system that promote harassment and bullying and the inhibition of career progression of black women.

social political conditions within the workplace that contribute to the intersectional discriminatory experiences of Black women

Institutional racism

 social political conditions within the workplace that contribute to the intersectional discriminatory experiences of Black women. Institutional racism is a political condition that continues to bedevil the workplace and has been a contributing factor to intersectional discrimination of black women. That America is a society moving away from racism is an accepted fact evidenced by the American constitution but this does not negate the fact that racism is still prevalent in the workplace. Changes made through law have seen companies adopt policies geared towards promotion of diversity at work, yet the complete implementation of these policies remain a mirage in most American institutions. Institutional racism comes about when there are continued discriminatory practices directed towards individuals on the basis of their race, yet the company/institution does not take sufficient measures to rid the workplace of institutional racism. The experiences of individuals falling into the two binary oppositions of African Americans and whites are different with regards to racial discrimination in the workplace. As an example, blacks have a four times higher likelihood (57 percent) of reporting racial discrimination as compared to whites (13 percent) with regards to promotion and equal pay (Harvard, 2018). The essence of this boils down to institutional racism that serves as an oppressive limitation for the advancement of blacks in the workplace.

social political conditions within the workplace that contribute to the intersectional discriminatory experiences of Black women. As institutional racism continues to be part of the workplace context, the experiences of black women are more profound and this comes from the fact that they may be subject to a higher degree of racial discrimination. In an article by Maura Cheeks and published by the Harvard Business Review, the author details experiences of how women navigate institutional racism in the workplace. One of the experiences shared is that of a woman in an MBA class who notes that she was one of the very few black women and black people in the class and this mirrored her experiences of about a decade in corporate America (Cheeks, 2018). Such has been the experience of most women in corporate America, where they are deliberately locked out of opportunity as a result of being black and also being female. In another experience shared, one woman notes that her mentor talked to her about dimming her light which implied bringing her ambitions down to make other people comfortable in what made her feel that organizations are not ready for black women (Cheeks, 2018). Essentially, this points to a higher level of institutional racism that black women have to face in the workplace on account of their race and being feminine. The experiences highlight systems of oppression in the workplace that limit the ability of the black woman to achieve empowerment and advancement. Beyond this, society has also conditioned such women that speaking their minds makes them aggressive, selfish, and bossy as compared to a white woman or man making similar sentiments. In light of this, women of color are denied the leeway to bring their full selves to the workplace and this further inhibits their progression and ability to achieve empowerment. While institutional racism promotes discrimination based on race, women of color experience such discrimination on a different level and much of this comes from societal conditioning that they are less important and should not be too ambitious.


 social political conditions within the workplace that contribute to the intersectional discriminatory experiences of Black women    

social political conditions within the workplace that contribute to the intersectional discriminatory experiences of Black women. From the perspective of institutional racism, the experiences of black women are similar to the experiences of the black male and this is because biasness is informed by racial aspects. As discussed in the previous paragraphs, women of color in the workplace face racial discrimination that erodes empowerment and advancement as well as the ability to maximize on existing opportunities. Importantly, black males also face similar issues but the fact that the experiences are more profound for women brings about the essence of the intersection between institutional racism and sexism.

Sexism and patriarchy in the workplace

Social political conditions within the workplace that contribute to the intersectional discriminatory experiences of Black women. Sexism is an environmental condition in the workplace that plays along with other factors in the promotion of intersectional discrimination for black women. In Feminism Is Not For Everybody by Bell Hooks, she defines feminism as being a movement to end sexist exploitation, sexism, and oppression (Hooks, 2000). The propagation of sexism that is directed towards all women is as a result of the patriarchal system that society has been based. Hooks (2000) extends the perspective that males are the beneficiaries of patriarchy that promotes the assumption that males are superior to females and should rule over them. Such means that males perceive themselves as having the right to dominate women, exploit and oppress them, while also using violence to propagate the subjugation of women. Patriarchy is therefore seen as the basis for the propagation of sexism, and this system has been the driver of discriminatory practices against women and women of color in the workplace.           

            The presence of women in the workforce has been increasing significantly ever since the Equal Pay Act but are yet to achieve equal status as compared to men, and this is even worse for black women. Rikleen (2015) observes that women have been entering law schools in the US in equal proportion as men for the past 30 years but there is indication of the fact that they are yet to make similar progress as men in the ascendancy towards partners and leadership. The reality within the law profession is similar to what happens in other professions since women have been locked out of ascending to leadership positions and neither have they been capable of achieving equal pay. Higher education has been used to create a pathway for social equality but there has been maintenance of cultural norms directed towards the protection of exclusionary traditions.  The exclusionary traditions have contributed to the under-representation of women of color in higher education and subsequently in the workforce. In 2014, while women earned more than 50 percent of the doctoral degrees, they only held 31 percent of full professor positions (Johnson, 2016). Further, the women earn about 15,000 dollars less than their male counterparts. According to Johnson (2016), the situation is even dire for black women since they make $ 0.63 on the dollar compared to white men. Essentially, this has come about as a result of the propagation of structures that not only lock out women from opportunities but also suppress the self-determination of black women. As part of the intersectional discriminatory experiences of black women, sexism denies the black woman the opportunity to achieve equal status as other women and men in society. While all women may be subject to sexism in the workplace, the intersection between gender and race for black women increases their level of discrimination.

            Sexism in the workplace has gone beyond discrimination based on gender to include discrimination based on sexual orientation. The American society can be described as heteronormative and this implies that other sexual inclinations are characterized as queer and individuals regarded as deviants. Such a societal conditioning has created the platform for sexism in the workplace, where black women who are members of the LGBTQ face a high level of sexual harassment. In a report by Harvard (2018) on the state of discrimination in the US, 65 percent of LGBTQ women note that they have faced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace as compared to 36 percent of heternormative women. While the above figures are inclusive of all women more than a third of black women falling in the LGBTQ category report having been threatened, experienced violence, and harassed. Importantly, such evidences the various ways through which sexism is extended in the workplace, with black women experiencing higher levels of discrimination as compared to white women. The implication is that sexuality based sexism directed towards black women is a social condition that propagates discrimination in the workplace. Such discrimination is extended through bullying and limiting the progression of black LGBTQ women in the workplace.        

As an outcome of sexism, bullying is a condition that furthers the intersectional discrimination of black women in the workplace. According to Hollis (2018), the power structures eroding opportunity for disenfranchised groups such as black women propagate workplace bullying that destroys career progression and self-determination for the marginalized. Hollis alludes to the fact that black women in the workplace seeking promotion and progression become targets of bullying. Bullying is a discriminatory condition experienced by black women and while this may be based on sexism, racism, or both, it deters the ability to achieve maximum potential (Hooks, 1984). Further, bullying may be used by white men as well as black men, where this is in line with the advancement of oppression and ensuring that men are dominant based on the ideals of the patriarchal system that place the male gender over the female gender.

The intersection of racism and sexism

            While sexism and racism are conditions that advance the discrimination of black women in the workplace, there has been discrimination that does not fit within the legal definition of sexism and racism. The existence of such forms of discrimination highly alludes to the intersectional discrimination in the workplace which is an outcome of both sexism and racism rather than each individual form of discrimination. In light of this, discrimination of black women as blacks and as women has been regarded as being greater than any form of oppression based on race or gender mainly because the lack of an intersectional category for black women implies that some issues fall between the cracks of sexism and racism. Jerkins (2018) in mirroring the views of Crenshaw noted that an analysis of the issues of black women that fails to take to account intersectionality does not address sufficiently the ways in which black women have suffered subordination. With black women being subject to issues that go beyond racism and sexism, the interaction of race and gender play a role in creating discriminatory conditions for black women in the workplace.     

            The emergence of intersectional discrimination is based on a post-colonial thinking where there is emergence of practices that differentiate people and hence the rise of differentiated labor regimes that have made different forms of exploitation possible. Inequality and discrimination are not considered anomalies but are rather seen as vital components in the distribution and organization of symbolic and material resources in society. Regardless of this, one has to be critical of the injustices that these conditions create especially for the marginalized. The practices that have positioned workers including black women in different classes, age, ethnic, and gender categories create an expression of the power to define who represents the normal, attractive, and accepted workforce as well as who is undesirable, deviant, and subordinated (Reyes, 2017). In line with this, the fact that black women are denied opportunities for career progression and self-determination implies that they fall within the deviant, undesirable, and subordinate workforce, where this positioning furthers their increased discrimination in the workplace. The positioning of black women in such categories goes beyond the definition of either sexism or racism and thus creating an intersectional conduit for their discrimination.

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