Discrimination is the act of treating a person differently based on a characteristic that they possess. In the United States, different laws prohibit numerous types of discrimination. For example, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1967 prohibit discrimination based on sex or gender, race, age, and disability. These Acts are supposed to prevent discrimination, but it is still an ongoing problem for many Americans. Discrimination is particularly troublesome because it can affect people both outright and in more discreet ways. As a result of discrimination, minority groups in the United States face hardships not experienced by their White counterparts. Some examples include racial profiling, fewer job opportunities, housing segregation, and disadvantages in the education system.
Discrimination against different groups still takes place today, both in the United States as well as internationally. While many believe that the United States has moved beyond the racism in its past and become “post-racial,” there are lingering problems left within the society that continue to present problems for specific groups. Because it is so ingrained in American society, those who do not experience the negative consequences of discrimination often do not understand the experiences of others. This discrimination can be tracked throughout the lifespan of people of different races in the United States. In 2007, the maternal mortality rate for non-Hispanic Black women was 28.4 deaths per 100,000 live births. For Hispanic women, it was 8.9 deaths per 100,000 live births. For non-Hispanic White women, it was 10.5 deaths per 100,000 live births. In 2008, 53.9 percent of American Indian students graduated on time. The rate was 57 percent for Black students, 57.6 for Hispanic students, 78.4 percent for White students, and 82.7 for Asian students. 75 percent of female students graduated on time, in comparison to 68 percent of male students. The median net worth of White households in 2009 was $113,149. For Hispanic families it was $6,325 and for Black families it was $5,677. In 2010, the gender pay gap shrunk to the smallest on record. The average life expectancy, from 1980-2008, for White men was 76, for Hispanic men it was 78 and for Black men it was 70. For White women it was 81, for Black women it was 77 and for Hispanic women it was 83.
Beyond statistics and numbers, discrimination may be considered both legally and socially. African-Americans are arrested on drug charges up to 5.5 times higher than their White counterparts. This number does not accurately reflect the demographics of offenders. Instead, the number reflects discrimination, from arrest to prosecution. Zero-tolerance policies in public schools have also disproportionately affected students of color and students with disabilities. Because they have been disproportionately targeted, students of color and students with disabilities are more likely to become entangled in the school-to-prison pipeline.
For members of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered) community, discriminatory practices include numerous bans on same-sex marriage and adoption as well as laws that allow employment, school, and housing discrimination against transgendered people. As it stands, same-sex couples may jointly adopt in only eighteen (18) states and Washington, DC: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. Same-sex couples may choose second-parent adoption in another group of eighteen (18) states and Washington, DC, though the list is different: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Washington. This means that, for a same-sex couple, there are at least 32 states where they cannot parent a child they chose to raise together, and still 36 states where they, definitively, cannot be married or obtain a civil union with rights equal to marriage.