Low Income Housing Authority Low Income Housing News, Programs, Government Agencies, and More!

Home About Us

Find/ Apply For Housing

News/ Blog Help/ Resources FAQs

Sexual Harassment Remains An Issue For African American Women at Work Regardless of Their Salary

Sexual Harassment Poster

The definition of sexual harassment is "unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature." It is unwelcome behavior that is offensive and objectionable by the victim. Sexual harassment can include anything from conversation about sexual topics to outright touching and attempted assault. According to a Washington Post poll, one out of every four women and one out of every ten men have experienced it in the workplace - regardless of their position or salary.

Sexual harassment is not just about sex or sexuality, it is about power and control. For African American women, it is also about race. According to clinical psychologist Nicole T. Buchanan at Michigan State University, “Racialized sexual harassment is the way women of color are uniquely harassed in ways that combine race and gender.”

Racialized sexual harassment includes racist attitudes, or stereotypes. Some of those stereotypes include assumptions that African American women are more sexual, or they are inferior to whites. There is also a pre-conceived notion that black women will not report the harassment because they have less power and opportunity in the workplace and don't want to jeopardize their jobs. This attitude is often shared by other African Americans. These attitudes put black women are greater risk for harassment in the workplace.

One case in point is the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill sexual harassment hearings in the 1990's. Hill was attacked not only by whites but also African Americans who felt she should not have spoken out in public against a black man in power. To some African Americans, she was considered a traitor.

Even in assault cases, one study showed that defendants who assault African American women are less likely to receive jail time than those who assaulted white women. In addition, their jail time is often less for assaulting an African American woman than the same offense against a white women. Stereotypes excuse actions taken against African American women, and the legal system has been found to discount accusations by African American women of sexual harassment in the workplace.

The bottom line is that sexual harassment is wrong no matter who the victim is. Courts and juries need to be alert to the possibility of race unfairly influencing the outcome. Sexual harassment is an issue that cuts across all racial and social boundaries, and race cannot be used as a way to intimidate women from standing up for their rights.

Funding and Grants For Women and Families: