by David Lyubarsky

Desmond and Emirbayer’s textbook Race in America discusses the role of economics in and why racial discrimination persists in today’s job market. They cite the classic example in which small business owners typically engage in discrimination in hiring because certain employers feel that certain immigrants are more motivated or are better suited for a particular kind of job. The reading mentions that a manager stated that “Polish immigrants are more motivated then Hispanics,” thus he would only hire Polish immigrants. This on its face, creates racial discrimination in the job market as hiring managers impose their own implicit bias and pre-conceived notions into their hiring practices, creating facially discriminatory practices. I still see this happening, in small ethnic communities like Vietnam town in San Jose. There were job postings for basic blue-collar labor written in Vietnamese, thus depriving others who do not speak this language of a job opportunity.

This creates discrimination in within the broader job market, as certain immigrants become only eligible for certain jobs. Moreover, often there is a strong correlation between immigrant workers being offered low-skilled jobs, in horrible working conditions. This often due to language barriers, and fear of being deported. As a result, business owners take advantage of low skilled immigrant workers, often paying less then minimum wage, or not paying them on time.

The text then also discusses housing, and racial disparities people face in the housing market. Specifically, an issue that I feel is important in regard to housing, is the composition of ethnic enclaves. I take the position that ethnic enclaves perpetuates racism as by default, immigrants flock to particular “gateway cities”, segregating into their own traditional cultural communities and areas. This phenomenon is known as, “self-segregation” and does not help with eliminating the racial segregation immigrants face with housing. However, I do understand that certain communities feel a sense of home when they migrate to a new country, by being surrounded with people of their own culture and being able to have similar stores and services that are traditional and unique to their home country.

I currently still see this happening, for example Chinatown in San Francisco has immigrants from China who come specifically to Chinatown and live in Single Resident Occupancy (SRO) buildings. Moreover, the inner-Richmond district of San Francisco is known as, “little Russia” and is home to many immigrants who came either from the former Soviet Union, or more recently from Eastern Europe. Therefore, the issue of ethnic enclaves still persists today, thus racial segregation exists as housing units in these communities are typically filled with people of that particular ethnicity of which the enclave is composed. This is a current issue that shines light on the continuing presence of racial division in housing. For example, given the presence of the expensive housing market in San Francisco, renting becomes quite unaffordable for most. The presence of ethnic enclaves, disables people from different racial backgrounds to explore housing in certain enclaves that might otherwise, be a viable perhaps cheaper housing alternative.

To put this in perspective, my grandmother lives in the inner Richmond district of San Francisco, and as mentioned before this area is a predominantly a Russian community-based enclave. In her apartment building there are 10 units, all of which are filled with elderly Russian tenants. Therefore, this practice of creating ethnic enclaves prevents others from seeking housing in such places, because she often tells me that when there are vacancies the landlord only fills these units with elderly Russian immigrants, to reflect the composition of this community based traditional enclave. To me, this seems like a problem that perhaps, promotes a lot of racial tensions in our society, when such practices are deployed.