Probably the most famous song from Broadway's Avenue Q was, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist, where puppets sing about how everyone has tendencies towards racism in one way or another. If this is the case, you'd think that most people would suffer from discrimination in one way or another, but a new study suggests that it isn't universal. Don't make a mistake--we still have a long way to go, but this study suggests discrimination isn't inevitable.
Professor Brian B. Boutwell, a professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice led a study that surveyed 14,000 Americans about their personal experiences with racism.
The study asked the following question,"In your day to day life, how often do you feel you have been treated with less respect or courtesy than other people?" and respondents could answer Never, Sometimes, or Often. When respondents answered Sometimes or Often, researchers followed up with, this question: "What do you think was the main reason for these experiences?" The respondents could choose from one of the following reasons: 1) race/ancestry/skin color; 2) gender; 3) age; 4) religion; 5) height or weight; 6) sexual orientation; 7) education or income; 8) physical disability; and 9) other.
Overall, 74.8 percent of people reported that they never or rarely faced discrimination in their daily lives. The breakdown by race is as follows:
White: 76.47 percent
Black: 67.80 percent
Hispanic: 68.12 percent
American Indian: 72.98 percent
Asian: 81.28 percent
Mixed Race: 73.01 percent
While we would like to see those numbers climb higher--and while a disheartening third of African-Americans reported experiencing discrimination--it's pretty clear that experiencing discrimination based on race isn't a given. That's good news and reinforces the idea that most people are, well, people. Most of us live our lives and treat everyone pretty much the same.
There are some limitations to this study, of course. The number of American Indians was very small--126, for instance. Additionally, respondents weren't asked to elaborate on the discrimination, nor were they given the opportunity to answer based on different situations. For instance, do you rarely experience racism in general but often in a certain situation? And because the question was based on how they were treated compared to "other people" and other people wasn't defined, they may consider that everyone is discriminated against, so their experience wasn't greater or less than anyone else's.
What does this mean for your business?
Just because every person isn't experiencing discrimination, doesn't mean that the 25 percent (in total) that are don't exist. You should investigate every complaint of racial discrimination or harassment. You should make sure your hiring process doesn't unfairly favor people of a particular race or ethnic background. Be fair and hire the best. Always.