Black Women Victimized by Workplace Sex Harassment: Study

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts found that African-American women filed 27 percent of complaints about sexual harassment between 2012-2016, even though they account for just 7 percent of the labor force.

Black women account for a disproportionate number of sexual harassment charges in U.S. workplaces, a new research study reveals.

The study examined 46,210 claims filed under  Title VII sexual harassment discrimination charges between 2012-2016 with the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and state Fair Employment Practices Agencies (FEPAs).

According to the analysis, released this month by the Center for Employment Equity at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst , African-American women filed 27 percent of  complaints about sexual harassment during that period, even though they account for just 7 percent of the labor force.

The study also found that the majority of individuals who report sexual harassment experience experience retaliation from their employers.

Almost two-thirds—or 64 percent—of those filing sexual harassment charges report losing their jobs as a result of their complaint, said the study, adding that “high instances of job loss and retaliation are present across race and sex categories.”

“Sexual harassment remains a persistent and serious threat to women and men in American workplaces,” the researchers wrote. “While the vast majority of those who experience sexual harassment in the workplace never report this harassment internally nor file a formal discrimination charge, those who do are typically confronted by harsh outcomes.”

The results should come as a wakeup call to corporations and other businesses to take more proactive efforts to discipline managers, the study authors said.

“Sexual harassment, and perhaps discrimination of all types, should be addressed proactively and affirmatively as managerial responsibilities, rather than leaving it to the targets of discrimination to pursue legal remedies as individuals,” said the authors, Carly McCann, Donald Tomaskovic-Devey, and M.V. Lee Badgett—all of them researchers at the UMass Amherst Center.

The harassment complaints represent just the tip of the glacier.

According to the research study, about five million employees are sexually harassed at work every year, but 99.8 percent of them never file formal charges.

“Of those who file formal charges, very few—we estimate less than 1,500 per year—go to court,” the authors said.

Sexual harassment charges filed by women are least common in government, health care and social assistance and finance, the study found. They are most common in mining, warehousing, and transportation. In general female sexual harassment charges are higher in male dominated industries.

The analysis is one of many recent studies published in the wake of the #Metoo and #TimesUp movements. The researchers said they hoped the current wave of activism regarding sexual harassment in the workplace to lead to reforms that promote respectful treatment in workplaces, prevent sexual harassment and create safer, less abusive, workplaces.

Several large companies have already taken action.

CBS is now surveying its employees about workplace culture and implementing new programs to address workplace harassment in the wake of sexual harassment accusations against former CBS host Charlie Rose and former CBS CEO Leslie Moonves, Business Insider reports.

Though a recent study found that men underestimate the level of sexual harassment women face, the researchers in the present study found that almost 20 percent of all sexual harassment accusers are men.

The full report can be found here.

J. Gabriel Ware is a TCR contributing writer.


Young, Black and Charged as Adults

African-American teens in Pennsylvania’s second-most populous county were 20 times more likely than their white peers to be arrested and charged as adults in 2016 and 2017, according to a newspaper investigation.

Denzel Glover was 16 when he was arrested and taken to Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County Jail for shooting another teen in September 2016. Kiyon Swindle was 17 when he was arrested in March 2017 for leading Allegheny County police on a high-speed chase that ended with Swindle crashing a stolen vehicle into another vehicle, injuring several people.

Tomichael Sherrell was just 15 when he was arrested and charged with robbery, and 16 when he was sentenced to five years of probation after pleading guilty to felony robbery. He spent nearly a year in county jail because he could not pay cash bail.

From the moment Sherrell, Swindle, and Glover were charged, they were treated as adults, held in adult jail, and then prosecuted by the Allegheny district attorney’s office and convicted as adults.

Pennsylvania law requires that people who are accused of serious felony offenses like murder, robbery and aggravated assault, and are at least 15 years old, be charged as adults if the case involves the use of a weapon during the crime or if the person has a history of using a weapon.

But these cases can be diverted to the juvenile system by prosecutors after defendants are charged. Despite numerous opportunities, the district attorney’s office never moved Sherrell, Swindle or Glover from adult court to the juvenile system.

Marsha Levick, deputy director and chief counsel at the Juvenile Law Center, a Philadelphia-based non-profit that advocates for juveniles, told The Appeal that “nothing good” comes from incarcerating and prosecuting children as adults.

“You’re removing kids from their communities,” she said. “That’s strike one.”

Swindle, Glover, and Sherrell have something in common with majority of children charged and tried as adults in Allegheny, Pennsylvania’s second-most populous county with over 1.2 million residents.

They are African American.

Allegheny County Jail

Allegheny County Jail. Photo via Flickr

The Appeal reviewed all charging dockets filed in magisterial district judge offices in Allegheny County in 2016 and 2017 and found nearly 200 cases where teens were charged as adults by the district attorney’s office. In more than 80 percent of those cases, the defendant was African American.

The review only tracked cases where the defendant was under the age of 18, both when the offense occurred and at the time charges were filed.

Black youth only account for about 20 percent of the total youth population age 14-17 in Allegheny County, according to the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. But African-American teens in the county were 20 times more likely than their white peers to be arrested and charged as adults in 2016 and 2017, The Appeal found.

The Appeal made multiple attempts to reach Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala’s office for comment but received no response.

*“There’s all of this implicit, and sometimes explicit, bias that drives law enforcement into [minority] communities and that drives these kids into our justice system,” Levick said.

And that racial disparity only grew as cases moved through Allegheny County’s system.

In 2016 and 2017, Black teens in the county accounted for about 85 percent of children charged in adult court, 91 percent of those referred for prosecution, nearly 97 percent of those who received an adjudication, and 100 percent of all children sentenced to either jail or prison, according to The Appeal’s review of court records. Black teens were also 85 times more likely to be prosecuted in adult court than their white peers.

The Appeal also found that prosecutors were less likely to withdraw cases against Black teens early in the proceedings, before those cases reached the trial court. And in Pennsylvania, withdrawing can often indicate that a case might move from adult to juvenile court.

Of the six cases involving a white teen sent to Zappala’s office, The Appeal found only two criminal dockets in the higher court. In one case, the defendant died before trial; the other was still active at the time of The Appeal‘s review.

Conversely, about 70 cases involving Black teens were sent to Zappala for prosecution. From those cases, The Appeal found that Zappala’s office created 46 adult criminal dockets—28 of those cases have ended in a prison, jail or probation sentence; in three, Zappala’s office dropped all charges; and 15 are still awaiting adjudication.

Recent research suggests that sending teens through the adult justice system and incarcerating youth with adults can have grave consequences.

Youth held in adult prisons and jails are twice as likely to die by suicide  than their adult counterparts, and roughly 36 times more likely to die by suicide than their peers held in juvenile facilities.

Research has also found that young people sent through the adult justice system are more likely to commit new offenses, and commit them more quickly than similarly charged youth who went through the juvenile system.

As such statistics have come to light, courts and states have begun rethinking how they punish children.  Four U.S. Supreme Court decisions have held that the death penalty and mandatory life without parole sentences for children are unconstitutional. In one such ruling, the high court noted that “adolescent brain anatomy can cause transient rashness, proclivity for risk, and inability to assess consequences.”

States have also moved away from the “adult time for adult crime” and “superpredator” narratives of the 1980s and 1990s. In 2016, the Vermont legislature passed a law allowing people 21 and younger, and charged with certain nonviolent offenses, youthful offender status and adjudication through the juvenile system.

Last year, New York raised its age of adult criminal liability from 16 to 18; in October, Washington State’s Supreme Court held that life without parole sentences were unconstitutional for individuals convicted of offenses they committed as children.

The American Bar Association now recommends that children “be treated as juveniles in the court justice system, with a focus on rehabilitating rather than simply punishing.”

But there’s movement in Pennsylvania, too.

In 2014, the state Supreme Court determined that lifetime sexual offender registration for individuals who committed offenses when they were children was unconstitutional and a violation of state law. The lower court cited a growing body of research regarding youth brain development and delinquent behavior, noting that “lifetime registration is also contrary to the rehabilitative goals of our juvenile justice system, as a court of second chances.”

And the conservative columnist George F. Will recently urged the U.S. Supreme Court to take a juvenile life without parole case out of Mississippi to force the state to take seriously its rulings granting parole eligibility to youth who are not “permanently incorrigible.”

The attorney for Joey Chandler, the lifer in the case, argued that he has been incarcerated “virtually without disciplinary blemish and that he excelled in job training programs offered at the prison.”

“Accountability matters,” Levick of the Juvenile Law Center said. “But accountability in developmentally appropriate ways is what we should be focused on.”

Joshua Vaughn is a 2018 John Jay/Tow Juvenile Justice Reporting Fellow. This is a condensed and slightly edited version of a story that appeared this week in The Appeal. The full version can be accessed here.


60% of Hate Crimes are Racially Motivated: FBI

The majority of hate crime victims last year were targeted because of the offenders’ race, ethnicity, and/or ancestry bias, according to an FBI report released Tuesday

The majority of hate crime victims last year were targeted because of the offenders’ race, ethnicity, and/or ancestry bias, according to an FBI report released Tuesday.

The FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program analyzed data collected in 2017 by 16,149 law enforcement agencies that included information about hate crime offenses, victims, offenders, and locations where such incidents happen.

The report,  Hate Crime Statistics 2017,  classified 7,175 criminal incidents and 8,437 related offenses as being motivated by bias toward race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender, and gender identity.

About 21 percent of victims were targeted because of the offenders’ religious bias. Last month 46-year-old Robert Gregory Bowers was charged with 29 federal crimes in the aftermath of a mass shooting killed 11 people and injured six others during worship service at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

According to report, about 16 percent were victimized because of the offenders’ sexual-orientation bias,  and most hate crime incidents occurred in or near residences/homes, according to the report.

Though the FBI report adds a glimpse to hate crime in the United States, the report isn’t definitive on whether such crimes are rising or falling. A recent study found that even though hate crimes are surging globally—the United States included—they are drastically underreported as many victims believe their reports won’t be taken seriously by law enforcement and that police officers rather solve other crimes like robberies, murder, etc.

Furthermore, the FBI report yields incomplete data as reporting is voluntary and not all jurisdictions submitted data though nearly 1,000 more agencies reported in 2017 than the previous year.

The full report can be found here.

J. Gabriel Ware is a TCR News Intern.


Why Black Lives Still Don’t Matter

A Washington State inmate casts a skeptical eye on efforts to eliminate the racial bias that often fuels police treatment of African Americans. Based on his experience of the charged race relations within prison walls, he argues that fear will continue to drive prejudice, despite activists’ efforts to change institutional behavior.

In 1956, Harrison Finley, a black man, was shot dead in front of his parents’ home in Washington, DC by police officers for purportedly resisting arrest— “a catch-all charge that covers practically everything from loud talking to necking”—according to a leading African-American newspaper at the time.

He was a World War II veteran and father of two young children.

That same year, also in DC, Nelson Marshall, a Safeway truck driver, also black, was killed by a police officer during a traffic stop. The officer was indicted for homicide but later found not guilty by an all-white jury.

These accounts are highlighted in Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America. The author, James Forman Jr., also notes that throughout this period, “black citizens were consistently subjected to verbal disrespect from the very people whose job it was to serve them.”

While we have come a long way since the days of endemic racial prejudice within police departments, some things seem impervious to change.

I lack the imagination to depict what it was like to have an encounter with the police—as a black male—in 1956. Yet, despite the melanin in my skin, I cannot tell you what this experience is like for a black man in contemporary America either.

My status as a convict has shaped me far more than my experiences in society, given that I have been confined since the age of 14.

As a consequence, my world view is far different than many of those who share my complexion but have been fortunate enough not to have had their existence defined by mass incarceration. Whether this background has made my opinions enlightened or naive probably depends on whether the reader agrees with my commentaries.

With this prelude, I will admit that I am often perplexed by African Americans who came of age in an era when video cameras are utilized by police officers while performing their duties, and when anyone can unleash his or her cellphone to capture encounters between the police and the citizenry.

Through the lens of my television screen, I regularly see young black men and women displaying dismay, frustration and fury when their fellows suffer injustices at the hands of the police. Such encounters and their aftermath are replayed on CNN and MSNBC for the world to see.

A black man is shot to death by a police officer under circumstances that appear suspicious and, sure enough, there on the screen, I will see black folks giving a press conference featuring the requisite man in a bowtie looking like he’s itching for a fight with “Whitey.” There’s the local preacher man in his Sunday best acting as if he’s the voice of the black community; and the family of the deceased (if he happened to be a crook) acting as if he were a college student whose death by violence was unimaginable, and as if he never hurt anybody.

As if such injustices are a new thing.

Frequently, it galvanizes people to march and chant in front of television cameras.

It is a show that I have seen time and again. The faces of those leading the chorus of outrage have changed, from old-school luminaries like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan to a new generation of activists, but as far as I can tell, watching from my prison cell, the message hasn’t changed.

The new activists, like their predecessors, apparently believe that protesting, tougher prosecutions, and mandates compelling police departments to implement new practices and policies will ultimately make black lives matter to the powers that be. While I have a personal interest in seeing a reduction in the probability that an unarmed black man will be shot down by the police (especially since I may be paroled, and the victim could be me), I doubt that such a result will ever be achieved in the 21st Century.

There are three reasons why I am skeptical.

First, black people continue to be seen as dangerous. As the authors of the recently updated The Black Image in the White Mind show, the media has a long history of portraying black men as violent, and white people have been a receptive audience.

Fear-of-the black-man is not “taught” in police academies. The book’s authors, Robert M. Entman and Andrew Rojecki, make clear that such fear is the byproduct of a cultural meme that was implanted in police officers’ subconscious during their formative years—long before they chose a career in law enforcement.

It is as American as apple pie—and lynchings.

This is the grim reality through which efforts to deter officers from using deadly force without justification, ranging from de-escalation training to the threat of prosecution, must be seen. They will make little difference to the black man who gets stopped and frisked, because such efforts won’t change hearts and minds.

To expect otherwise is to believe black men can be made to no longer feel anxiety when confronted by the police.

As a parallel, I have watched the Washington Department of Corrections make futile attempts to change the mindset of correctional officers in order to make imprisonment less dehumanizing to those who have lost their liberty. Administrators wanted them to refer to us as “individuals” but pushback from officers resulted in the quick reimposition of “offender.”

They have been instructed to log positive interactions with prisoners as opposed to only negative encounters. Yet try as they might, they cannot help but focus on the latter.

The ugly truth is that most correctional staff cannot perceive us as anything other than convicts who are unworthy; just as police officers are primed to see that black man as a potentially dangerous criminal.

The second reason that makes me skeptical about black lives mattering is this: police officers are not robots; they are emotional human beings.

When their authority is challenged, some become angry. When a suspect flees like a cheetah down an alley, leaps over several fences, and barrels through sticker bushes and poison ivy, the pursuing officer can become enraged at the very man that he has come to fear subconsciously.

Anger and firearms can be a deadly combination. I know that from personal experience.

While it is true that police officers are trained on the proper use of deadly force, every now and then anger will get the best of one of them. You only need to view one graphic police bodycam video of a 2018 police chase to see the ugly results.

In fact, were you to review video footage inside of prisons, you would see the same phenomenon at play. Prisoners know full well that challenging correctional officers’ authority often leads to arbitrary and sometimes violent reactions. The training that these officers received—to be measured and consistent when dealing with “offenders”—often goes out the window in the face of defiance.

It comes as no surprise, then, when I see people on my television screen experience this backlash during encounters with law enforcement. Prison is just a microcosm of society.

Finally, police officers exist within a subculture that fuels negative perceptions about (primarily young) black males (and black police officers are not immune when it comes to brothas that fit a “profile”).

I too live in a subculture that fuels a heightened level of prejudice. My prison experience has led me to believe that Chicanos feel animus towards black men. More than any other group around me, I feel unsafe when in their midst. Were I in the wrong place at the wrong time, I am convinced that I could be assaulted.

I deal with them cautiously as a consequence.

I rarely seem friendly due to my mindset.

It is noteworthy that I have yet to suffer an attack. But plenty of those who look like me have fallen victim at other facilities. I therefore perceive the threat to be real and conduct myself accordingly. As Al Gore notes, in The Assault on Reason, “When an emotional reaction like fear is especially strong, it can completely overwhelm our reasoning process.”

Fortunately, I have the luxury of avoiding those I believe pose a threat to my safety. Police officers must confront those they perceive as their adversaries.

While he may never have been assaulted in the line of duty, he may know a fellow officer who fell victim during an encounter with a black suspect, as this disturbing video shows. Or, while she may never have been injured while making an arrest, she may have been exposed to a training video like this one, showing a female officer being mercilessly pummeled by a black suspect.

Such incidents rarely fall within the experience of average white Americans. But if you spend your professional life knowing you face such risks, you are likely to be “prejudiced to the extent we feel threatened or fearful,” in the words of social psychologist Michael K. Lovaglia.

That being said, I have yet to meet a black prisoner who is surprised by the fact that police officers are often hostile, abrasive and aggressive. Fear and prejudice apparently make it too difficult for police to serve and protect without bias and to avoid confrontations with African- American citizens.

That such encounters occasionally escalate into violence does not surprise me in the least. That the unarmed man loses in the end is the natural order of things.

Forgive me if I seem to lack empathy. I wish the world was different.

Jeremiah Bourgois

Jeremiah Bourgeois

Yet at the end of the day, protests, prosecutions and changes to policies and practices will not make black men seem peaceful and law abiding to those with guns and badges. Likewise, better training is not going to render police officers incapable of overreaction.

The new generation of African-American activists who believe in justice and equality should be cautious. They should therefore never forget the racial prejudice that can erupt with little warning, if they want to be sure their last moments aren’t captured on video for the world to see.

Jeremiah Bourgeois is a regular contributor to TCR, and an inmate in Washington State, where he has been serving a life sentence since the age of 14. He welcomes comments from readers.


Study Finds VT Police Biased; Agency Say Troopers Aren’t

A study of 5 years of data showed that Vermont State Police stopped black and Hispanic drivers at disproportionate rates. But the agency says troopers who stopped minority drivers more often had reasonable explanations.

Last spring, analyses of five years of data revealed clear racial disparities in Vermont State Police traffic stops. But after conversations with the troopers whose stops showed the greatest disparities, state police officials say they’ve found no instances of implicit or explicit racial bias, reports Vermont Public Radio. The conclusion illustrates the challenge of pinpointing the problem, and advocates say the police need to do more to identify bias in individual officers. An analysis by Northeastern University showed a disproportionate number of black and Hispanic drivers were pulled over. University of Vermont economics professor Stephanie Seguino then analyzed the data to find patterns after a car is pulled over, when an officer can be more certain of the race of the driver.

Seguino found that particularly for African-Americans, but also for Hispanics, there was a significantly higher likelihood of a driver being ticketed, arrested or searched compared to white drivers. The data included a breakdown by individual troopers, who were not identified publicly. This allowed Capt. Ingrid Jonas, the agency’s fair and impartial policing director, to talk with troopers who were “outliers” in the data. She said she found reasonable explanations. “I have not walked away from those interviews, those discussions, with a sense that this person might have an unconscious or even a conscious problem with bias,” she says.


Racial Bias Alleged in ATF’s Marquee Drug Sting Scheme

The undercover probes, an ATF staple for 20 years, are being challenged in federal court by legal advocates who say minorities were targeted.

Dozens of defendants are claiming racial bias in a legal battle brewing in Chicago’s federal court over the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ signature sting operation, reports the Chicago Tribune. A team of lawyers led by the University of Chicago Law School is seeking to dismiss charges against more than 40 defendants in Chicago. The undercover probes, a staple of the ATF since the mid-1990s, have ensnared hundreds of defendants across the country.

A recently unsealed study by a nationally renowned expert concluded that ATF showed a clear pattern of racial bias in picking its targets for the drug stings. The disparity between minority and white defendants was so large that there was “a zero percent likelihood” it happened by chance, the study found. The vast majority of those swept up in the stings in Chicago were minorities, and a close examination of the criminal backgrounds of some of those targeted raises questions about whether they were truly the most dangerous gun offenders that ATF was aiming to remove from the street.