Whites Only: DOJ Fines Virginia Tech Company For Racial Hiring Practice


“Whites Only” signs and racial preferences for American jobs, neighborhoods and even voting were a ubiquitous norm and symbol of racial segregation in the United States for much of the 20th century. These signs and racial preferences were used to restrict access to public facilities, such as schools, parks, and swimming pools, as well as private businesses, such as restaurants and hotels. These signs and racial preferences were a stark reminder of the culture of racism, the second-class status of African Americans and other people of color. Although much progress has been made for a better America, a recent job posting seeking “white” candidates offered evidence of the systemic racism that remains in our society, and a jarring reminder of a country still under construction to bring about sincere change. 

The origins of “Whites Only” signs and clearly noted preferences can be traced back to the Jim Crow era, which began in the late 19th century and lasted until the mid-20th century. However, racism and discrimination is part of the bedrock of America. Still, during this time, southern states passed a series of laws that established a system of racial segregation. These laws mandated the separation of Blacks and whites in all aspects of public life, including education, transportation, and housing.

“By the 1890s the expression “Jim Crow” was being used to describe laws and customs aimed at segregating African Americans and others. These laws were intended to restrict social contact between whites and other groups and to limit the freedom and opportunity of people of color.” – Smithsonian National Museum of American History

“Whites Only” signs and preferences were a key part of the Jim Crow system. They were used to enforce segregation and to remind African Americans of their inferior status. These signs and racial preference were often placed in prominent locations, such as the entrances of public buildings and businesses, including the “whites only” job posting from Arthur Grand that led to the Justice Department’s “determination that the company violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by posting a discriminatory job advertisement in March 2023 that restricted eligible candidates to ‘only US Born Citizens [white] who are local within 60 miles from Dallas, TX [Don’t share with candidates].’ (brackets in original). The Labor Department’s agreement resolves its determination that Arthur Grand violated Executive Order 11246, which prohibits federal contractors from discriminating in employment based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or national origin.”

The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s challenged the Jim Crow system and led to the passage of landmark legislation, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. These laws outlawed segregation and discrimination based on race. As a result, “Whites Only” signs and racial preferences for social access, housing and jobs began to disappear from public places.

Today,  open use of “Whites Only” signs and preferences are supposed to be a relic of the past. But they’re not, as racism remains an insidious evil that operates in the dark as Arthur Grand reminds. Systemic racism in hiring is real and active. Racism and open discrimination, once rampant in the United States, still runs amuck. These discrimination practices that some corporations and institutions still protect and uphold remain a stain and part of the fabric of the nation. Nonetheless, Arthur Grand’s discrimination practices and DOJ’s investigation and subsequent response is a reminder of the on-going struggle for civil rights, the progress that has been made and continues to be made.

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