If you’re a racial minority the chance that you’ll experience bigotry at some point in your life is, oh, about 100 percent. Don’t despair, though. There are steps you can take to lessen your chances of being a victim of racism. Your financial status, the education you receive and where you live may decrease the encounters you have with racial discrimination.
Why Good Credit Is Key
If you’re a person of color it’s key that you maintain good credit. Why? Landlords, employers and others in positions of power may justify denying minority applicants housing or work on the basis that their credit is subpar. Recently, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission began targeting companies that rely on credit and background checks to make hiring decisions. In 2009, the EEOC filed a class-action lawsuit against Freeman Cos., a Dallas events planning firm, on the basis that the company discriminated against African-American, Latino and male job applicants by gleaning information from their credit and criminal histories. Simply put, some companies may not outright turn down minority applications based on race alone because that’s clearly discriminatory. Instead, such companies will find blemishes on a minority applicant’s credit report to suggest that the applicant wouldn’t be a good employee.
Surely, a company determined not to hire minority employees will find a way to exclude workers of color from its ranks. That doesn’t mean you should make it easy for the company to rule you out. Having good credit will give a discriminatory company or landlord one less excuse to eliminate you as an applicant and make you a racism victim.
A College Degree Has Benefits and Limits
Many minorities grew up hearing that getting an education would help them transcend racial barriers, and that’s true to an extent. It’s common knowledge that college graduates typically earn more than their less-educated counterparts. Moreover, a college or graduate degree may allow racial minorities to compete for jobs that would otherwise elude them. A number of employers blame the lack of diversity in their companies on the inability to find qualified minorities, but it’s difficult for an employer to use that excuse if the applicants of color he encounters are highly educated.
While education may open doors, it won’t necessarily stop a minority from being a victim of racism. Even in 2010, workplace discrimination runs rampant. African Americans have the highest unemployment rate of any group in the United States. In addition, several studies indicate that employers will knowingly toss out the resumes of job candidates with seemingly “black” names, no matter the education or experience these candidates bring to the table. So, recognize that while earning a college or graduate degree may help in the job market, it certainly won’t make racism a non-issue in the employment sector.
Be Your Own Boss
Let’s say that college or graduate degree actually earns you a much coveted job. Once you’re employed by a particular corporation, though, you’re unsatisfied. Your coworkers make racially insensitive jokes in front of you with impunity. Management doesn’t seem to be as concerned about moving you up the corporate ladder as they are about moving up your white colleagues. Coworkers and company executives don’t seem to share your ideas about diversity, and you have the nagging feeling that you’re not being compensated as much as the white employees are who perform the same duties you do.