"Race Problem" in the Federal Government? Perceptions Vary

When the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a new report recently stating that there were significant problems for African Americans working for the federal government, based on comments and input from their “dialogue partners,” we decided to see if readers agreed with the findings of the EEOC.

In a nutshell, readers who identified themselves as “Black” essentially agreed with the findings of the EEOC. This was dramatically different from other responses. You can see the disparity in the responses below.

In general, there is an element among each group that believes one group is a victim of discrimination and believes other racial groups receive special advantages.

Here is a complete compilation on the results of the recent survey. After the initial presentation, we included responses to the survey that display the disparate perceptions.

1. How do you describe yourself?
Response
Percent
Black 54.4%
White 31.6%
Hispanic 3.0%
Asian 1.5%
Native American 2.4%
Other 7.1%

 

2. EEOC has identified seven obstacles for African Americans who work for the federal government. Do you agree that obstacles for African Americans generally exist within the federal government?
Response
Percent
Yes 58.7%
No 35.5%
Undecided 5.8%

 

3. Do you think that the federal government generally treats all employees fairly regardless of their race?
Response
Percent
Yes 28.5%
No 64.4%
Undecided 7.2%

 

4. In your opinion, are African Americans subject to “unconscious biases and perceptions (that) play a significant role in employment decisions in the federal sector.”
Response
Percent
Yes 59.1%
No 35.1%
Undecided 5.8%

 

5. Do you agree that “The perception of widespread inequality among African Americans in the federal work force hinders their career advancement”?
Response
Percent
Yes 55.8%
No 36.5%
Undecided 7.8%

 

6. Do you agree that “EEO regulations and laws are not adequately followed by agencies and are not effectively enforced”?
Response
Percent
Yes 58.7%
No 30.9%
Undecided 10.4%

 

7. Do you agree that “Insufficient training and development assignments perpetuate inequalities in skills and opportunities for African Americans”?
Response
Percent
Yes 51.4%
No 41.4%
Undecided 7.2%

Different Perceptions

There are widely varying perceptions based on issues or questions raised by the EEOC. Here are the answers to several of the questions from respondents who identified themselves as “Black”:

EEOC has identified seven obstacles for African Americans who work for the federal government. Do you agree that obstacles for African Americans generally exist within the federal government?
Response
Percent
Yes 93.3%
No 2.8%
Undecided 3.9%

 

In your opinion, are African Americans subject to “unconscious biases and perceptions (that) play a significant role in employment decisions in the federal sector.”
Response
Percent
Yes 91.4%
No 3.6%
Undecided 5.0%

 

Do you agree that “The perception of widespread inequality among African Americans in the federal work force hinders their career advancement”?
Response
Percent
Yes
85.8%
No
6.1%
Undecided
8.1%

 

Do you agree that “Insufficient training and development assignments perpetuate inequalities in skills and opportunities for African Americans”?
Response
Percent
Yes 80.8%
No 11.7%
Undecided 7.5%

 

Here are answers to the same question from respondents who identified themselves as “White”:

 EEOC has identified seven obstacles for African Americans who work for the federal government. Do you agree that obstacles for African Americans generally exist within the federal government?
Response
Percent
Yes 8.1%
No 82.8%
Undecided 9.1%

 

 In your opinion, are African Americans subject to “unconscious biases and perceptions (that) play a significant role in employment decisions in the federal sector.”
Response
Percent
Yes 12.9%
No 80.9%
Undecided 6.2%

 

Do you agree that “The perception of widespread inequality among African Americans in the federal work force hinders their career advancement”?
Response
Percent
Yes 13.9%
No 79.8%
Undecided 6.3%

 

Do you agree that “Insufficient training and development assignments perpetuate inequalities in skills and opportunities for African Americans”?
Response
Percent
Yes 9.0%
No 85.7%
Undecided 5.2%

Several readers commented on the issues as framed by the EEOC. Generally, these readers wanted to know who the “dialogue partners” the EEOC used to identify issues, apparently on the theory that the issues appeared to be framed primarily from the perspective of African Americans. Here is a list of these organizations as identified in the EEOC report:

  • Blacks in Government (BIG)
  • African American Federal Executives Association (AAFEA)
  • Federally Employed Women (FEW)
  • Federal EEO Directors and Federal Special Emphasis Program Managers
  • The Equal Justice Society
  • The Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia
  • Workplace Flexibility 2010
  • The Equal Rights Center

Several readers also asked about the racial composition within the government and within the EEOC. Here are the figures we were able to compile based on several sources including the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM)

Federal Workforce American Workforce (BLS) EEOC in 2006 (OPM)
17.8 % Black, 12% 42.5
8.1 % Hispanic, 16% 13.3
5.6 % Asian/Pacific Islander, 5% 4.0
1.7 % Native American, Not Listed by BLS 0.7
0.8 % non-Hispanic/Multi-racial Not listed
66.0 % White. 64% 39.4
Men comprised 56.1 percent 53% 56.6
Women 43.9 percent 47% 43.4

 

Comments from Readers

There were a few hundred comments from readers that were sent in with their survey responses. Here are a few representative comments. The comments are presented as submitted, including any emphasis placed on words, lack of capitalization, etc.

  • The White Females are put in place and considered as minorities, so many agencies report treating minorities fairly, but they are refering to white females and not blacks, hispanics, or native Americans. White females should never be considered as minorities.
  • It depends on what Federal agency you work for & where you work as to whether there are actually obstacles for any minority. However, anyone can perceive that lack of advancement is due to bias & not due to any shortcomings on their part.
  • These are all true. The federal government contains many cliques where minorities are generally alienated.
  • I think that there obstacles in existence for anyone that isnt of the Caucasion race.
  • THIS IS TOTAL BS!!! What about Native American rights, Italian American rights, Hispanic American rights, European American rights, Asian American rights, Icelandic American rights, Austrailian American rights, and “any-other-ethnic/racial/religious-American rights you can think of??? Why single out one group? Who dreams this CRAP up? When will it EVER stop?? All these studies do is foment rampant REVERSE DISCRIMINATION perceptions and policies. These studies do NOTHING for the applicable “offended” race, creed, culture. It actually increases ANTI-WHATEVER feelings, because why should “THEY” get preferential treatment?? Will it EVER END???
  • I found deliberate “conscious bias” among a number of managment officials and the ongoing denial of upper level training.
  • Most managers are afraid to be seen discriminating against an AA. So unfortunately those who are average or below are given much more opportunity than others. Unfortunately at some point those who are not cutting it top out. More care needs to be made in the selection process and any person should be dealt with when they are not performing up to standards.
  • I believe that African Americans who know their rights and press for training, assignments, and who continue to build on their skills have a much better chance at achieving success in the Federal Government. Unfortunately, there are still too many who aren’t taught how to be assertive in pursuing opportunities and continue to be shoved aside and overlooked by management in general, and particularly by those managers who still have race-based biases.
  • No matter what race you are, you need to be acknowledgeable in your work and able to be a leader. Nowadays, promotions and managerial positions are handed to your friends. There is a problem overall no matter what your race is.
  • After working in government for almost 4 years one can definitely see that being Black has a certain drawback. Despite being a veteran and holder of an MBA degree nothing seems to help distinguish me from my less qualified peers in other ethnic groups.
  • I’ve read the report cover to cover and find it interesting that it has come from the EEOC. Numerous employees of the EEOC have made allegations of the discrimination described in the report and were subject to retaliation and discharges, even when the employees were able to prove the allegations. A mandra were were taught in the commission is ” there is no such thing as discrimination inside of the EEOC” and it merely utter that one believes that they were subjected to discrimination or harassment is an invitation for retaliation.
  • The federal government is easily the most race-neutral employer in the US. The US is also the most litigious society in the world. There is a whole race-grievance industry catering to and creating a victim-class, often out of whole cloth because we have made it profitable to do so. There are no consequences for false claims and the system is stacked in favor of settlements–so, even if you’ve got nothing, you’re likely to get something. The system is choking in complaints based on perceived slights and warped views of what constitutes discrimination
  • How about FAIR/EQUAL Treatment for EVERYONE without having to make up/enforce RACE specific advantages or PERCEIVED disadvantages??? This entire article SMACKS of REVERSE DISCRIMINATION! I’m SICK of being accused of PERCEIVED RACIAL discrimintaion to ONCE AGAIN give UNFAIR advantage to ANY RACE for ANY reason. When will we EVER have hiring and promotions based on SKILL, MERIT, KNOWLEDGE, and ACTUAL WORK PERFORMANCE?? NOTHING else should come into play! By favoring any race over another for PERCEIVED reasons, automatically discriminates against the races NOT FAVORED! TELL ME HOW THAT’S FAIR!!!
  • Diversity without excellence is tokenism.
  • Black-on-Black Discrimination is a HUGE for Black federal employees and needs to be addressed.
  • I think there are more cases of discrimination against white employees in the efforts to make things more equal for African American federal workers.
  • African Americans are not provided the same developmental opportunities as their counterparts of other races. They are still considered to be less intelligent and are often questioned about their ability to perform mission requirements even if they are doing a superior job at achieving goals than their non-black predecessors.
  • Though I am considered caucasion, I am a CAJUN (smallest ethnic group in America) and believe me, I am discriminated against more than the African Americans.
  • I think the same obstacles exist for all minorities; the difference is that AA believes that they are entitled to special treatment because of their race.
  • People are not hired based on their qualifications. They’re hired because they have a Veteran preference, or because they are classified as a racial minority.
  • I personally feel there is more than enough opportunity for everyone in the government sector. When you are selected for a postion because of the color of your skin, your religion, your sexual orientation, that’s not good. Resume’s, promotion boards, etc, should not have any mention or access to a person’s sex, color, orientation, height weight, etc., until after the selection or promotion. That’s when it will be equal and fair for all.
  • Blacks, especially black males, have never been afforded the opportunities for advancement like their white counterparts have received. Whites have used affirmative action statutes as a ruse to prevent blacks from advancements throughout the federal government.
  • Who were your “Dialogue Partners” because I suspect that they do not represent a fair represntation or a control group for this analysis. In other words, the EEOC conclusions are bunk.
  • Anyone who feels slighted files an EEO complaint claiming some prot4ected staus and activity. The Agency is foreced to investigate baseless claims and waste alot of tapxpayer money. Until there is legislation that requires the EEOC to treat Federal claims the same as private claims, we will continue to see misuse of the process.

Feel free to reach your own conclusions and to submit your own comments.

Our thanks to everyone who took the time to participate in this survey and a special thanks to those who submitted written comments for publication.

© 2016 Ralph R. Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ralph R. Smith.

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About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources.

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