Seeing Subtle Racism

37 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2011

See all articles by Pat K. Chew

Pat K. Chew

University of Pittsburgh - School of Law

Date Written: 2010


Traditional employment discrimination law does not offer remedies for subtle bias in the workplace. For instance, in empirical studies of racial harassment cases, plaintiffs are much more likely to be successful if they claim egregious and blatant racist incidents rather than more subtle examples of racial intimidation, humiliation, or exclusion. But some groundbreaking jurists are cognizant of the reality and harm of subtle bias - and are acknowledging them in their analysis in racial harassment cases. While not yet widely recognized, the jurists are nonetheless creating important precedents for a re-interpretation of racial harassment jurisprudence, and by extension, employment discrimination jurisprudence more broadly. This article traces the development of racial harassment jurisprudence, explaining the development of the traditional model, which does not recognize subtle bias. It concludes with an analysis of an alternative jurisprudential model that "sees" subtle racism.

Keywords: employment discrimination law, racial discrimination, employment law, racial harassment, jurisprudence, intimidation, humiliation, exclusion, racism, subtle bias, remedies, judicial decision-making, language and law

Suggested Citation

Chew, Pat K., Seeing Subtle Racism (2010). Stanford Journal of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Vol. 6, p. 183, 2010, U. of Pittsburgh Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2011-04, Available at SSRN:

Pat K. Chew (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh - School of Law ( email )

3900 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States
412-648-1378 (Phone)


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