Is Chief Justice John Roberts Right? Is Pervasive Racial Discrimination in the USA Really a thing of the Past?
Writing the 5-4 majority opinion of the Supreme Court on June 25, 2013, Chief Justice John Roberts declares that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is no longer necessary to prevent voting discrimination on the basis of race in the United States because times have changed and racial discrimination is no longer the problem it was. “Regardless of how to look at the record,” writes Roberts, “no one can fairly say that it shows anything approaching the ‘pervasive,’ ‘flagrant,’ ‘widespread,’ and ‘rampant’ discrimination that faced Congress in 1965.”
Is racial discrimination really a thing of the past? Economists Nicolas Jacquemet and Constantine Yanellis used correspondence tests to find out. They sent out fictional resumes demonstrating equal skill levels, differing only by the name of the applicant. “Anglo-Saxon” names, “African-American” names and “Foreign” names (as judged by survey respondents) appeared at the top of these to apply for real Chicago jobs. Despite showing no difference in qualifications, resumes with Anglo-Saxon names at the top generated phone calls from interested employers 1/3 more often than resumes with African-American or Foreign names. This is not an old study — it was published in a peer-reviewed journal less than a year ago.
Is racial discrimination really a thing of the past? Sociologist Devah Pager sent out trained auditors to apply for jobs posted in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. The auditors showed equivalent experience and skill in their applications, and only varied in two aspects: their race (white or black) and the criminal record they fictionally reported to potential employers (felony conviction vs. no criminal record). White auditors with no criminal background were more than twice as likely to be called back by employers after applying than black auditors reporting equivalent experience and skill. White auditors reporting a felony criminal conviction were more likely to receive a callback on their application than black auditors reporting no criminal record. This is not an old study — it was published just a decade ago.
These studies — and dozens more like them — demonstrate that despite what Chief Justice John Roberts claims, racial discrimination in the United States remains pervasive, flagrant, widespread and rampant.