The Race Discrimination System

WCPC Seminar Series on Poverty and Policy: Fall 2011

Presented by Barbara Reskin
Professor Emeritus of Sociology
University of Washington
Monday, October 24, 2011;  12:30 - 1:30 p.m. questions / discussion until 2:00 p.m.
Parrington Hall Commons, Room 308
University of Washington


Barbara Reskin is a sociology professor emeritus whose research, teaching, and service focuses on social inequalities, particularly sex-, race- and ethnic-based inequalities within the workplace. She has served as an expert witness in several employment discrimination cases. She has been President of the American Sociological Association, has received the Association’s WEB duBois award for distinguished scholarship, and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.


In order to understand the persistence of racial disparities across domains (schooling, employment, health, housing, credit, and criminal justice, among others) and to develop effective remedies, we must recognize that disparities in these separate domains are part of an integrated system of race discrimination. Drawing upon a systems perspective, I show that disparities within these realms are reciprocally linked and thus self-perpetuating. The “emergent property” of this system is uber discrimination—a societal- and individual-level propensities to discriminate by affecting implicit cultural beliefs and attitudes about race. The product of reciprocally-reinforcing effects within each of the domains and the emergent effect of discrimination is a race discrimination system that has been resistant to periodic interventions to end the race-linked disparities within specific domains. I conclude by discussing what kinds of interventions can challenge a race discrimination system.


See handout 1 here.
See handout 2 here.