It is not uncommon to hear remarks like, “Tiger Woods is letting your people down,” or “I knew it! Women cannot drive.” These are just some of the fainter forms of ethnic/ racial discrimination that do unnoticed in everyday life. Discrimination is the inferior or unequal treatment of people on the grounds of characteristics such as gender, religion or belief, race of color of skin, age, sexual orientation; political persuasion, civil status, ethnic background, nationality etc (Allen 891; Butler 308). In the contemporary world, discrimination takes subtler forms that in the traditional setting. Gender discrimination is one of the forms of discrimination that exists even today. This is because it is hidden in subtler gestures, remarks, actions, and inactions. Black feminism theory argues that class oppression, sexism, and racism are linked in a way that it is hard to separate them. In contemporary society, these linkages exist in indirect ways. Interestingly, African American women are placed at the center of this interconnectedness. This is because they belong to the race, gender and class that are constructed as being inferior to others. This essay employs the black feminist theory/ intersectional’s theory in examining subtle forms of gender, class and race discrimination.
First, subtle gender discrimination refers to the treatment of women as unequal to men. It is harmful treatment that is visible but not noticed often because society largely views sexist behavior as acceptable, customary, “natural’ or “normal.” Most people, however liberated they may think they are, do not think that women are as competent, intelligent, good, capable as men, particularly in competitive, prestigious and male-dominated jobs (Collins 228). One example of subtle gender discrimination is when a male faculty member is promoted to the chairperson of the department. He is often congratulated, reinforced and encouraged. On the other hand, when a female faculty is promoted to the same position, people are likely to ask questions such as, “is she the acting chair?” or “didn’t any other person (men) want that job?” or “will you manage time for your family with this tough schedule?” men may also get such comments but they are vastly different from those given to women. Man may be asked, “Aren’t you too qualified to be an administrator?” while men are jokingly teased, the ability and capacity of women are questioned. Subtle sex discrimination may be done innocently, intentionally, well-intentioned or maliciously. According to Collins (223) African American women are at the center of gender discrimination because unlike white women, they are disadvantaged by race and also by gender. White women, on the other hand, are privileged by race and disadvantaged by their gender. This claim is related to the theory of black feminist thought, which is also referred to as intersectionality. This is because it relates class, gender and race discrimination, placing African American women at the center. Black feminist thought encourages a paradigmatic shift in how people think about discrimination (Collins 224). By accepting a paradigm of class, race and gender as interrelated discrimination systems, subtle forms of discrimination may be recognized.
Race discrimination is the wrongful treatment of a person on the basis of their skin color. Historically, blacks and Hispanics as well as other races have been regarded as inferior. This has affected their social, economic and educational standing, proving the black feminist theory of interconnectedness true. Race-based mistreatment has become milder in contemporary society but may still be noticed. It pervades workplaces, social gatherings as well as in learning institutions. This scenario best illustrates this point: New recruits are in a reception where there are two equally well-dressed women. One of them is African American and the other is white. Both of them are seemingly about to address the recruits. The recruits know that one of them is the director, while the other is the receptionist. If most of them were to be asked to pick the director from among the two women, majority are likely to pick the white woman. This is a subtle form of discrimination which is based on racial stereotypes on African Americans. The black feminist thought argues that anyone who would discriminate against another person because of their gender is also likely to discriminate against other people because of their race or class.
Thirdly, class discrimination is probably the most rampantly practiced form of subtle discrimination. This form of discrimination comprises of looking down on someone because of their social status or class. Poor people are disregarded when it comes to making crucial decisions. Most people like to be associated with success and are more likely to respect the opinions of people who are financially and socially stable than those who are struggling with finances and social standing. This form of discrimination takes place on a global scale because it is practiced by countries in the manner they address economically weaker counterparts. An example of a subtle form of class discrimination is the term “third world women” (Minh-Ha 6). Minh-Ha (6) asserts that the use of this term is not only subtle class discrimination but also sex discrimination on women from third world countries because the term implies that they are inferior and have to be referred to using the term ‘Third,” which suggests that they are a level lower than other women. This claim is consistent with the black feminist thought theory because it shows a connection between sex discrimination and class discrimination. In this regard, race, gender and class belong to an overarching intention of domination.
Different forms of discrimination such as gender, religion or belief, race of color of skin, age, sexual orientation; political persuasion, civil status, ethnic background, and nationality still exist today. However, they are carried out in subtler forms. By examining these forms of subtle discrimination as interconnected, it becomes easier to identify them. The Black Feminist theory depicts gender, race and class as interconnected forms of discrimination. In addition, the African American woman is central to this interrelatedness because, more often than not, African American women suffer from race, gender and class discrimination. An example of a subtle form of gender discrimination occurs when women are questioned about their ability to manage work and family after being promoted to higher positions at work. An example of racial discrimination is when people hold misconceptions that an African American cannot hold a high office. The term “third world women” is highly discouraged by Minh-Ha (6) because she believes that it implies that women from third world countries are inferior. In addition, it may imply that the women are inferior. These examples show the interrelatedness of the subtle forms of gender, race and class discrimination.
Allen, Paula Gunn. The sacred hoop: recovering the feminine in American Indian traditions. Boston: Beacon Press, 1986. Print
Butler, Judith. Imitation and Gender Insubordination. , 1991. Print.
Collins, Patricia. Black feminist thought knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. Rev. 10th anniversary ed. New York: Routledge, 2000. Print.
Minh-Ha, Trinh T.. "Difference: 'A Special Third World Women Issue'." Feminist Review 2.25 (1987): 5. Print.