Blacklist

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps
 
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A list of individuals or organizations designated for special discrimination or boycott; also to put a person or organization on such a list.

Blacklists have been used for centuries as a means to identify and discriminate against undesirable individuals or organizations. A blacklist might consist, for example, of a list of names developed by a company that refuses to hire individuals who have been identified as union organizers; a country that seeks to boycott trade with other countries for political reasons; a LABOR UNION that identifies firms with which it will not work; or a government that wishes to specify who will not be allowed entry into the country.

Many types of blacklists are legal. For example, a store may maintain a list of individuals who have not paid their bills and deny them credit privileges. Similarly, credit reports can effectively function as blacklists by identifying individuals who are poor credit risks.

Because the purpose of blacklists is to exclude and discriminate, they can also result in unfair and illegal discrimination. In some cases, blacklists have done great damage to people's lives, locking them out of employment in their chosen careers or denying them access to influential organizations. For example, if a labor union makes a blacklist of workers who refuse to become members or conform to its rules, it has committed an UNFAIR LABOR PRACTICE in violation of federal laws. Blacklists may also necessitate disclosure laws. State and federal fair credit reporting acts, for example, require that access to information in a credit report must be given, upon request, to the person to whom the information applies.

The most famous instance of blacklisting in U.S. history occurred in the entertainment industry during the 1940s and 1950s. Motion picture companies, radio and television broadcasters, and other firms in that industry developed blacklists of individuals accused of being Communist sympathizers. Those firms then denied employment to those who were named on the blacklists.

Blacklisting in Hollywood came about largely through the work of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), which was formed to investigate the activities of Communist, fascist, or other supposedly subversive and "un-American" political groups. Though the committee purported to be concerned with all types of potential subversion, after WORLD WAR II ended in 1945 and relations with...

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