This Article introduces the concept of derivative racial discrimination, a process of institutional discrimination in which certain social and cultural dynamics impede the careers of minority workers in predominantly white firms even in the absence of racial biases and stereotypes. Derivative racial discrimination is a manifestation of cultural homophily, the universal tendency of people to gravitate toward others with similar cultural interests and backgrounds. Although not intrinsically racial, cultural homophily disadvantages minority workers in predominantly white work settings due to various race-related social and cultural differences. Seemingly inconsequential in isolation, these differences produce racial disparities in the accrual of valuable workplace social capital, thereby denying many minority workers equal access to career-enhancing opportunities, support, and protection. After demonstrating the adverse consequences of derivative racial discrimination through empirical evidence from interviews of black workers who have worked in predominantly white firms, this Article considers whether and how derivative racial discrimination might be addressed within the contours of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It concludes by explaining that although derivative racial discrimination violates the core normative commitments of employment discrimination law, it can only be addressed — and even then, only partially — through ambitious reformulations of Title VII.
Kevin Woodson, Derivative Racial Discrimination, 12 Stan. J. C.R.&C.L. 335 (2016).