What role should racial difference play in the American workplace? As a nation, we rely on civil rights law to address this question, and the monumental Civil Rights Act of 1964 seemingly answered it: race must not be a factor in workplace decisions. In After Civil Rights, John Skrentny contends that after decades of mass immigration, many employers, Democratic and Republican political leaders, and advocates have adopted a new strategy to manage race and work. Race is now relevant not only in negative cases of discrimination, but in more positive ways as well. In today's workplace, employers routinely practice "racial realism," where they view race as real--as a job qualification. Many believe employee racial differences, and sometimes immigrant status, correspond to unique abilities or evoke desirable reactions from clients or citizens. They also see racial diversity as a way to increase workplace dynamism. The problem is that when employers see race as useful for organizational effectiveness, they are often in violation of civil rights law.
After Civil Rights examines this emerging strategy in a wide range of employment situations, including the low-skilled sector, professional and white-collar jobs, and entertainment and media. In this important book, Skrentny urges us to acknowledge the racial realism already occurring, and lays out a series of reforms that, if enacted, would bring the law and lived experience more in line, yet still remain respectful of the need to protect the civil rights of all workers.
John D. Skrentny is professor of sociology and director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California, San Diego. His books include The Minority Rights Revolution and The Ironies of Affirmative Action: Politics, Culture, and Justice in America.
"John Skrentny's After Civil Rights will change the way we think and talk about the racial dynamics of the American workplace. It is a singular achievement, revealing in insightful ways the main strategies for managing race in employment over the past several decades. Skrentny maintains that these strategies, what he calls 'racial realism,' make American civil rights laws seem disturbingly outdated. Racial differences can be constructively managed with a focus that goes beyond the protection of rights. He addresses this disconnect head-on with compelling arguments on how the practices of racial realism can be harmonized with the American goals of justice and equal opportunity. This well-written and thoroughly researched book is a must-read."--William Julius Wilson, Harvard University
"John Skrentny's new realism about job discrimination makes a fundamental contribution to conventional understandings of the problem. The book will be a key resource for a new generation as it engages in an ongoing reassessment of the living legacy of the Civil Rights Act of 1964."--Bruce Ackerman, Yale University
"This profoundly important book, from one of our most sophisticated and influential scholars of race, paints a rich and variegated picture of contemporary American racial and ethnic relations at work. Skrentny shows that bias remains pervasive at the bottom of the occupational pyramid, even as it has moderated at the top. He makes innovative and provocative suggestions for reform that offer a ray of hope."--Frank Dobbin, author of Inventing Equal Opportunity
"After Civil Rights is a terrific book. Employers are increasingly using race-consciousness to improve their own bottom line, and they are doing so in ways that neither Congress nor the Supreme Court has expressly condoned. There is no one better suited to tell this story than Skrentny."--Deborah Malamud, New York University School of Law
Table of Contents:
List of Figures and Tables ix
Chapter 1 Managing Race in the American Workplace 1
Chapter 2 Leverage Racial Realism in the Professions and Business 38
Chapter 3 We the People Racial Realism in Politics and Government 89
Chapter 4 Displaying Race for Dollars Racial Realism in Media and Entertainment 153
Chapter 5 The Jungle Revisited? Racial Realism in the Low-Skilled Sector 216
Chapter 6 Bringing Practice, Law, and Values Together 265