(as delineated in Chapter 3). We then discuss how these discriminatory behaviors and practices might operate within the domains of education, employment, housing, criminal justice, and health. Finally, we discuss concepts of how cumulative discrimination might operate across domains and over time to produce lasting consequences for disadvantaged racial groups. This chapter is not concerned with identifying the relative importance of the various types of discrimination; rather, it is designed to present a set of conceptual possibilities that can motivate and shape appropriate research study designs.


Most people’s concept of racial discrimination involves explicit, direct hostility expressed by whites toward members of a disadvantaged racial group. Yet discrimination can include more than just direct behavior (such as the denial of employment or rental opportunities); it can also be subtle and unconscious (such as nonverbal hostility in posture or tone of voice). Furthermore, discrimination against an individual may be based on overall assumptions about members of a disadvantaged racial group that are assumed to apply to that individual (i.e., statistical discrimination or profiling). Discrimination may also occur as the result of institutional procedures rather than individual behaviors.

Intentional, Explicit Discrimination

In 1954, Gordon Allport, an early leader in comprehensive social science analysis of prejudice and discrimination, articulated the sequential steps by which an individual behaves negatively toward members of another racial group: verbal antagonism, avoidance, segregation, physical attack, and extermination (Allport, 1954). Each step enables the next, as people learn by doing. In most cases, people do not get to the later steps without receiving support for their behavior in the earlier ones. In this section, we describe these forms of explicit prejudice.

Verbal antagonism includes casual racial slurs and disparaging racial comments, either in or out of the target’s presence. By themselves such comments may not be regarded as serious enough to be unlawful (balanced against concerns about freedom of speech), but they constitute a clear form of hostility. Together with nonverbal expressions of antagonism, they can create a hostile environment in schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods (Essed, 1997; Feagin, 1991).

Verbal and nonverbal hostility are first steps on a continuum of interracial harm-doing. In laboratory experiments (see Chapter 6 for detailed discussion), verbal abuse and nonverbal rejection are reliable indicators of

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