Racism and Inequality in Congress

Racism and Inequality in Congress

By James R. Jones, Rutgers University–Newark

Typically, we look at lawmakers and the laws they pass to understand race and racism in the Capitol. This expansive literature provides invaluable insight into how lawmakers’ racial identities shape representation and deliberation (Fenno 2003; Grose 2011; Minta 2011); social interactions and the formation of informal groups among them (Hawkesworth 2003; Tyson 2016); and the creation of public policy. These scholarly works have an outward look that investigates how lawmakers use their power to shape the racial world outside of Capitol Hill. However, in my research, I studied congressional staff to understand how racism unfolds within the halls of the Capitol. My current book project, The Last Plantation, investigates racial inequality in the congressional workplace by analyzing the career experiences of Black congressional staffers. The title draws on the fact that members of Congress and their staff applied this telling nickname to the legislature to highlight how the institution is exempt from the very policies and principles it is tasked to create and implement (including federal workplace laws).