Linda S. Green gives four reasons why “numerical remedies — goals, timetables, and quotas — are important remedies” to combat entrenched, institutionalized racism throughout the American workplace.

Numerical remedies — goals, timetables, and quotas-are important remedies for several reasons. First, they are appropriate remedies for tokenism. A workplace which is numerically dominated by one group produces distorted interaction and perception and creates extraordinary pressures for token individuals. Such group imbalances must be eliminated if these negative dynamics of group interaction are to be altered, and if members of previously excluded groups are to have a meaningful opportunity to succeed in the workplace. Second, numerical remedies are appropriate remedies for the virtual exclusion of certain groups from particular occupations. Even current theories of liability recognize that employers exclude groups, not merely a few group members. When group exclusion is shown, the “make whole” remedy must inure to the stigmatized group which has been deprived of equal status in the workplace because of past discrimination. Hence, the evaluation of “innocent white male victim” claims must take into account the competitive advantage that white males as a group have received in the past when the job pool was systematically narrowed in their favor.

Numerical remedies are also appropriate to protect against prospective discrimination. Where systemic exclusion has occurred, it is reasonable to conclude that discrimination is built into the structure of, and/or entrenched in, the institution. A quota or goal exempts a fixed number of decisions from the exclusionary risks created by the institutionalization of discrimination. Therefore, it is a prospective, prophylactic measure justified by the system’s resistance to reform.

Fourth, and most important, numerical remedies help to further the legitimate goal of group empowerment while ensuring society’s perceptual accuracy. Economic, social, political and ideological domination is perpetuated at its most basic level when important occupations are filled only by certain groups. Group domination speaks a powerful, self-perpetuating message of prestige and superiority for one group, and of weakness and inferiority for others. The large body of research  indicates that our judgment process is influenced by the power relationships we perceive. It is not likely that the conclusions we draw from our perceptions will change unless the world around us speaks a different message. Such message transmitting remedies are necessary if the power relationships among groups are to change. We must physically embrace equality before we can mentally embrace its ideals.

Source: Linda S. Greene. Twenty Years Of Civil Rights: How Firm A Foundation? 37 Rutgers L. Rev. 707,752-3. 1984-1985.

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