The Sociology of Race and Organizations

The Sociology of Race and Organizations


DAN HIRSCHMAN:
Thank you so much. And thank you all for coming. My name is Dan Hirschman. I teach in the sociology
department here at Brown. I’ll be presiding
over today’s event. The panel will
feature three talks, though unfortunately our
first speaker, Victor Ray, was unable to attend in
person at the last moment. So I’ll be trying my best
to do justice to his talk. You can put Victor Ray’s image
over me CGI Star Wars style and just pretend. I’ll start by introducing
the three presentations and the presenters. And then we’ll
have plenty of time for questions and
discussions after the talks. Before introducing our
speakers, though, I’d like just once again thank the
Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity America and the
Taubman Center for American Politics and Policy
for generously sponsoring this event. I’d also like to
thank my co-organizers or co-conspirators, Laura
Garbes, Pravaka Hall, and Laura Lopez-Sanders. Finally, I’d especially like to
thank all the staff at CSREA, without whom none of
this would be possible. Please join me in thanking
Christina Downs, Caitlin Murphy, and Stephanie Larrieux. [MUSIC PLAYING] Our three presentations
today– the first is by Victor Ray, who, again,
unfortunately can’t be here. Victor is Assistant
Professor of Sociology at the University of Tennessee. He is the editor of
Conditionally Accepted, an online space for scholars
in the margins of academia, totally worth checking out. Along with race
organizations, Victor is an expert in
critical race theory. And his recent publications
include a fantastic piece in sociological theory
with Louise Seamster on the pervasiveness
and attractiveness of false racial
progress narratives, along with an agenda-setting
piece in the American Sociological Review on
racialized organizations, about which you’ll
hear more in a second. Our second talk is
by Ellen Berrey, who is assistant
professor of sociology at the University of Toronto
and an affiliate of the American Bar Foundation. I’m also contractually
obligated to mention that Ellen is at Brown
University alum, graduating with a degree in
environmental studies. She has published two
award-winning books in 2015, The Enigma of Diversity– The Language of
Race and the Limits of Racial Justice and, in 2017
with Robert Nelson and Laura Beth Nielsen, Rights on Trial– How Workplace Discrimination
Law Perpetuates Inequality. Finally, our third
speaker, Lucius Couloute, is currently completing
his PhD at the University of Massachusetts. Next year, he’ll be assistant
professor of sociology at Suffolk University. Lucius is also a policy
analyst at the Prison Policy Initiative. His research and advocacy work
centers on prisoner reentry, examining issues of
employment and housing through the lens of
race and organizations. With Melissa
Wooten, he published a fantastic agenda-setting
piece in Sociology Compass that argues for treating
organizations themselves as having a race and that
racial stratification among organizations both
mirrors and reinforces racial stratification
among individuals, very pertinent to
today’s conversation. With that, I’m going
to turn it over to Victor Ray’s presentation,
which is still me. So thank you all. [LAUGHTER] So onto the first presentation. Victor wanted to start
off by thanking everybody. I’m not going just repeat
all of that, but just say that he offers his
thanks and apologies for not being able to be present. So why don’t
organizational theorists, management professionals,
and scholars typically call predominantly white
organizations “white”? Predominantly
white organizations are not race neutral. Like flesh-colored
Band-Aids designed for white people’s cuts
or nude clothing that implies only white
people get naked, organizational theory implicitly
assumes white organizations are the default. Scholars recognize black
capitalism, black banks, and ethnic businesses. Yet we think of white
banks as simply just banks and white corporations
as just businesses. By only seeing
race when we think about nonwhite
organizations, white power seems natural and invisible. In a recent article in the
American Sociological Review, I– I’m going to slip into
Victor’s first person now– I argue that mainstream
thinking about organizations, which often assumes
whiteness, contributes to the intractability
of racial inequality in American organizations. Decades of anti-discrimination
laws, which are often loosely enforced,
and diversity policies have done little to alter
the racial hierarchy in American business
or the academy. By assuming race neutrality in
many organizational processes, scholars and management
practitioners can miss how apparently
nonracial processes might nonetheless play a
role in producing racially unequal outcomes. The planning committee
asked all of us today to respond
to the same prompt. In addition to understanding
how race and racism operate centrally within
an organization, what does a racialized
organization’s theory or framework reveal
about organizations? And what does it suggest
about how to dismantle institutional racism? They asked that I help set
the stage for this discussion by laying out my racialized
organization’s perspective. I was happy to see this prompt
because when you finish working on a paper like
this one, you know really well what is left out. The implications for
racial justice movements are implicit in some places. But I welcome the
chance to think through these
implications with you all. So then for the rest
of the discussion, I’m going to focus
on first describing what a racialized
organization is, what racialized
organizations do, and how we can intervene
in racial inequality with the racialized
organizations framework. To start, I define
racialized organizations as meso-level social structures
limiting the personal agency and collective efficacy of
subordinate racial groups while magnifying the agency
of the dominant racial group. There’s a lot of jargon there. More will get
explained in a second. The ability to act
upon the world, to create, to learn,
to express emotion– indeed, one’s full humanity– is constrained or enabled
by racialized organizations. Racialized organizations
potentially shape expressions of individual
racial animus and also state policies. Following this
definition, I argue that four implications flow. First, racialized organizations
can enhance or diminish the agency of racial groups. Racial organizations
also legitimate the unequal distribution
of resources. And racial organizations
promote and use whiteness as a credential. Finally, the decoupling
is racialized. And again, I’ll spend the
rest of the talk explaining what each of these means. Each of these tenets
highlights the connection of ideas about race
to a particular set of material and social resources
as mediated by organizations. And I think seeing organizations
as racial structures provides a descriptively more realistic
picture of how organizations come into being, how
racial hierarchies work, and how organizational
processes work on their own. One way racialized
organizations shape agency is by controlling time use. So we’re trying to think
about all the different ways that organizations
constrain and control who gets to act in the world. One of the important
ways that organizations do this in a racialized fashion
we don’t often think about is by controlling time use. One’s location within a
racialized organization influences the
amount of control one exercises over your own time– your ability to plan
non-work time, your ability to plot out different futures. Within organizations,
segregation or incorporation into the lower tiers of
organizational hierarchies diminishes one’s
ability to influence organizational
procedures and the larger organizational environment. Segregated schools make it
harder for nonwhite children to actualize their futures. How racialized subordinates
spend their time at work, in school, or at
church is typically delineated by organizational procedures. For instance, nonwhites
are overrepresented in precarious jobs with
highly variable schedules that make it difficult to
manage family obligations and plan the use of their time,
even beyond the workplace. Organizations also shape
agency through amounts to theft of time from nonwhites. By this I mean that
organizations differentially apportion time
along racial lines or redistribute time
from nonwhites to whites. The scholar Kwate focusing
on the health care system, argues that racial
differences in life expectancy are partially produced by
health care organizations and their practices, which
means they literally steal time from black people. But Kwate’s central point on the
racialized apportioning of time can be generalized to
organizations more broadly. Differential wages
for equally qualified black and white workers and
the concentration of nonwhites at the bottom of the
organizational hierarchies means it takes more
labor time to purchase the same necessary goods. Hiring discrimination,
for example, means it takes more
time to find work. And so we can think of various
ways in which organizations racialize time in these
different fashions. I’m going to skip the next
two parts because they’re not in the script. These are other things
that organizations do to constrain and shape agency. Beyond shaping agency,
organizations also legitimate unequally
the access to resources that becomes unequal. Segregation by
design limits access to organizational resources. Racial segregation is a defining
and foundational characteristic of most organizations,
historically enforced through custom, policy, and law. Segregated organizations
maintain racial boundaries, channel resources, and help
to direct collective action. Segregation typically
means that organizations with larger portions
of people of color are under-resourced relative
to white organizations. Earlier scholars such
as Frazier and Marabel point to the result
of this division of organizational resources. Discussing black capitalism,
Frazier claimed, quote, “the total assets of all Negro
banks in the United States were less than those of a single
small white bank in New York.” This was in 1957. Things haven’t
changed that much. Similarly, Marabel argues
that the combined assets of all black-owned
businesses– this is in 2000– could be purchased by a
single large oil company. This highly unequal
distribution of resources continues through segregated
businesses that channel money to white business owners. Black Americans
regularly and often shop in white-owned stores. Often there is no other option. In contrast, segregation
ensures that whites rarely shop in black businesses
and are unlikely to work for black bosses. Institutionalized racial
exclusion from organizations has deeply shaped the
competitive environment, disadvantaging
nonwhite organizations. Integrated organizations–
those that have a mix of white and nonwhite workers, say– still manage to
internally reproduce this institutional-level
segregation, as racial hierarchies
are mapped onto ostensibly nonracial positions. For instance,
through job sorting, positions in this
labor hierarchy become variously associated
with racial groups and accordingly
devalued or overvalued. Academic tracking
stigmatizes black students by associating blackness with
lower academic achievement. Even diversity programs can
reinforce and legitimate racial hierarchies that
they are reportedly designed to undermine. As Ellen Berry shows,
companies may see no reason to diversify workers
who, quote, “drove trucks, pack boxes
on the factory floor, or clean bathrooms,”
as these jobs are congruent with the schemas
of racial inferiority. It’s important to note that
some of the practices delineated above have little relation
to what is typically considered illegitimate
or intentional racial discrimination. In line with
race-neutral sociological thinking about organizations,
the operationalization of discrimination often implies
kind of a discrete act, somehow otherwise separate
from otherwise neutral organizational practices. Working a race-type job,
though, or attending a segregated school and
the basic racial deference rituals of
organizational life all reinforce the
underlying connections between race and
inequality without having to have any kind of explicit
act of discrimination. Third point, whiteness
as a credential. Whiteness works an
organization as a credential by providing access to
organizational resources, legitimizing work hierarchies,
and expanding white agency. This credential helps
organizations appear facially neutral in principle
while in practice institutionalizing the
property interest in whiteness. Credentials are allegedly
objective, organizationally generated statuses showing
suitability for employment and legitimating modern
stratification systems. According to this
narrative, credentials have replaced in the past 100,
200 years ascribed statuses as the legitimate bureaucratic
means of allocating resources by merit. We no longer allocate
resources to those who have particular
statuses, but those who have achieved
particular credentials. However, recent
field experiments have generated some of the most
important empirical evidence showing the credential
value of whiteness– for example, showing that
hiring discrimination could be considered a general
organizational process. When discrimination is examined
through audit methods trying to isolate the racial means
or the cause of differential treatment, we find that
racialized exclusion exists across economic sectors
even when applicants are matched on formal credentials. Regardless of legal restrictions
on racial discrimination, many employers are still biased
against hiring people of color due to schemas– conceptual understandings–
related to allegedly poor work ethics or attitudes, say. Yet despite this,
researchers still continue to conceptualize
credentials as race neutral. When describing the effect of
racial identity on credentials, scholars operationalize
discrimination as different returns
for the same credential. But the problem with
interpreting this as a differential return
is that typically, perceived racial identity
can even trump credentials themselves. For instance, in Devah Pager’s
fantastic and [INAUDIBLE] research, she describes
the negative credential of a criminal record. Her research shows that
incarceration profoundly influences subsequent
employment. But conceptualizing a criminal
record as a negative credential illustrates the
long-term consequences of incomplete organizational
incorporation. Yet her findings also
show that blackness itself is a negative
credential, as black men without criminal records
were less likely to call back for a job interview than
formerly incarcerated whites. Organizational racialization is
thus a credentialing process. Typically formal credentials
are considered neutral because they are
bureaucratically conferred, while ascribed categories
are not highly formalized and are seen as socially
illegitimate means of differentiation. So you are allowed to use
things like formal education. But it’s not OK to
use race or gender. But constructionist
accounts of race remind us that race itself
is produced precisely through these various
bureaucratic procedures. For instance, the one-drop
rule assigning race at birth was institutionally
formalized through state laws but applied unevenly
by local organizations. Seeing racialization as a
relational credentialing process resonates
with these broader and longstanding understandings
about the social construction of race and about Harris’s
conception of whiteness as a form of property. Finally, the fourth
tenant of this approach is the idea of
racialized decoupling. Racialized organizations often
decouple formal commitments to equity, access, and inclusion
from policies and practices that reinforced or at
least do not challenge existing racial hierarchies. This is kind of a subset of the
basic organizational argument that organizational policies
and practices are often quite different from
organizations that actually do it on the ground. What Victor is pointing
out is that this process works along racialized
ways and in ways that reinforce racial inequality. Objective rules and practices
may be enforced in ways that disadvantage nonwhites. Or rules aimed at diversifying
or ending discrimination may be ignored. This decoupling
allows organizations to maintain legitimacy
and appear neutral or even progressive while doing
little to intervene in pervasive patterns
of racial inequality. Organizational rules designed
to protect minority classes from discrimination
are routinely broken. And racialized organizations
are likely to apply rules differentially based upon
the race of the rule breaker. New institutional
theorists have long argued that formal
organizational rules are decoupled in practice. Decoupling may
occur when there’s a contradiction between
organizational efficiency and the formal policy adopted. Maybe you had opted to placate
an external constituency or something. Yet many descriptions of
bureaucratic rule breaking leave out the importance
of rules and hierarchy in shaping who is allowed
to break the rules. In many cases, organizations
adopt affirmative action policies, diversity policies,
and antidiscrimination policies out of fear government
sanctions, for example, but then retroactively
claim benevolent intentions in so adopting. They take progressive
credit for doing so. Diversity policies then serve
as a ceremonial public relations function but yet
have done little to have changed the
racial distribution of organizational power, as
most diversity policies lack the formal enforcement measures
that for a short historical moment actually made
affirmative action effective. So in the ’70s and
early ’80s, there were teeth to organizational
affirmative action policies. Once the teeth were removed, the
threat of government sanction went away, the policy stayed in
the books but did very little. The decoupling was
allowed to go forward. Whether this lack of
commitment is by design is an empirical question. However, as Bell and
Partman have noted, there’s an assumed white center
in most discourse on diversity, with organizations
expecting minorities to conform to established
white norms and standards and not being willing to
make deeper changes that might actually lead to more
integrated organization. So this is the broad agenda. But I think it’s worth now
stepping back and asking how this might change. So most of the examples I’ve
used to illustrate the theory are about racial domination
because racial domination in organizations has
been relatively constant throughout US history. But I also think by thinking
about external and internal sources of change and the way
that organizations use race, we can develop strategies
to minimize or reduce racial inequality. Take for instance
social movement actions such as the Montgomery Bus
Boycott, which have cleverly used organizational resources
to help change the racial order. Similarly, movement actors
entering organizations with the hope of transforming
them have also to some extent altered how
organizations use race. That said, I think
it’s important to think about racial contestation
as a continual process. I’m thinking here of historian
Ibrahim Kendy’s work, and especially his quip. There has been racial progress. But there has also
been racist progress. That is, the
technologies of racism, both organizational
and societal, have continued changing right
alongside progressive pushback to create racial progress. When organizations are pushed
to be more racially inclusive, they are likely to push back. I’m going to end here. And I look forward to
seeing my copanelists and the subsequent discussion. Thank you very much. [APPLAUSE] And next up is
Ellen Berrey, right? ELLEN BERREY: We’re
going to change. We’re going to change things up. DAN HIRSCHMAN: I don’t care. Whoever goes next. LUCIUS COULOUTE: I don’t
want to go after Ellen. [LAUGHTER] OK. So I’m not going
to use any slides. I’m going to force you all
just to kind of stare at me. So I’m really
honored to be here. Thank you to everyone who
was involved for inviting me to take part on this panel. It’s really awesome to
be part of this growing community of scholars who
are investigating race and racism in organizations. And so I think what
we’re being able to do or what we’re
doing now is really trying to connect the
macro to the micro in ways that are a bit more
concrete than in the past. And so what I mean
by this is often when we talk about
racism, for example, there are these two frames
that we often employ– what I would call racism small,
those microinteractional, isolated incidences
of racial animus. So this is often what is
discussed in the general public or in the media. And then as
sociologists, I think we often talk about
racism big, those kind of structural racisms
that exist everywhere and operate to disadvantage
people of color and privilege white folks. So while these ideas about
racism are certainly valid, by and large, I think we’ve
lacked a unified middle ground that specifies the
generic processes that actually do the racist thing and
resolving the racist outcomes. So enter the study of
race in organizations. And not that it’s new, but
I think that it’s really starting to grow. And so since
basically everything happens in organizations–
we’re mostly born in them. We go to schools in them. We go to work and organizations. We’re arrested by organizations. Well, some of us are
arrested by organizations. We die in organizations. Or when we die, organizations
handle our funeral. Our insurance
organizations have a lot to do with how and when we die. So it’s important that we
recognize how racism actually flows through and
within organizations, these collective entities
that have the power to shape our social world. And so I often think about
this Stokely Carmichael quote. And it goes, if a white
man wants to lynch me, that’s his problem. If he’s got the power to
lynch me, that’s my problem. And he went on to
talk about capitalism. But for me, it also points
to how organizations have the power to
allow or restrict the behavior of individuals. Organizations have the
power to sort people, to determine opportunity
and resource flows, to establish acceptable
boundaries around ideas. So when Eric Garner is killed
for selling cigarettes, it’s not just an
instance of hate or just these broad ideas
around blackness and criminality alone. It’s the mapping of those
ideas around blackness and criminality onto
organizational practices like broken windows policing,
lack of police accountability, hiring and use of
force practices, illegal apparatus that
consistently serves to fail black communities
through these overbroad prosecutorial discretion or
jury selection procedures. These are the things that
produce that racist system. And so my point is that
contemporarily, racism survives largely because
of racist organizational practices. These racist organizational
practices survive. And so I think that Victor’s
recent ASR piece in particular helps us understand
how this happens. So while we have racism
big and racism small, I think focusing
on organizations gets us to racism perpetuated
through mechanisms like decoupling, like credential
and credentialization, so on and so forth. And so much of my work is
interested in understanding how constellations of social
actors like organizations operate collectively to
produce racist systems, particularly as this
pertains to the process that we often call
“prisoner reentry.” And I’ll get to that
in a little bit. But I largely think in terms
of organizational fields. And partly that’s because I’ve
had the privilege of working with Dr. Melissa Wooton, who
has really done an amazing job, I think, at
intentionally creating a community of scholars
who for the last years have met to discuss
issues related to race in organizations. And so in a paper
that we co-authored, we talk about the
case of HBCUs and how they were excluded from
state financial backing that was really enjoyed by white
colleges and universities. But because like
individuals HBCUs were racialized as black, which
was now and then really meant being cast as less than, as
inferior institutions of higher learning despite producing
amazing undergraduate thinkers– for
example, like Du Bois. I don’t know if any of you
have watched Homecoming, Beyonce’s documentary. Producing that kind
of black excellence– that takes a lot, right? But anyway, so
just as individuals can be excluded from social
resources and opportunities like jobs and decent pay,
so can organizations. Black student unions
and cultural centers– indeed, entire academic
units like ethnic studies and Afro-am
departments– continue to feel this
racialization today. But again, this
racializing is impacted by broader organizational
infrastructures– colleges, legislatures, boards of
ed, for example– who by transferring racial
ideas onto racial practices met out racism at
the meso level. And so this brings me to the
issue of prisoner reentry, or what we call prisoner
reentry, because in truth, many people who are
released from prison never really had entry into
society in the first place. Prior to incarceration,
most of the people I studied grew up in poverty-stricken,
segregated, and disproportionately
policed neighborhoods. They went to underresourced
and increasingly disciplinary schools. They never received the kind
of physical and mental health services that middle-class
white folks enjoy. They were systemically
excluded from stable and well-paying jobs that
might lead to the middle class. So formerly incarcerated
people of color were never integrated into
society to begin with. And this in turn leads to
criminal justice contact. I’m not sure how
familiar you all are with million-dollar blocks. But in some communities,
over $1 million a year is allocated to police
and incarcerate people from single-neighborhood blocks. And so this doesn’t happen
in white communities. Practices like stop
and frisk, for example, just doesn’t happen
in white communities. And by the way, stop and frisk
is really a failed practice. If the goal is to get
contraband or to get guns, it’s a failed practice. But if the goal is to treat
black people as dangerous to inform communities that
black people are dangerous, then it’s a pretty useful
practice for the police. But these police
forces who are focused on the punitive containment
of black communities operate very much as racialized
and racializing organizations, white dominated, and seeking
to dominate black communities using practices
that really would be unthinkable in white
communities despite the fact that, for example, blacks and
whites are not using drugs at dissimilar rates. So it’s not about the
attitude of individual cops. But it’s instead about
the organizational power to define, to segregate, to
distribute disciplinary power. So people get arrested. And then they’re
locked up in jail and presumably assumed not
guilty until they’re actually convicted. And then they can
typically get out if they have the
money to pay bail. But disproportionately, this
means that poor people of color languish away in jail
because they simply don’t have the money. I had one respondent
tell me about how he spent a year in jail
before his case eventually got dropped because he
lacked the money to pay bail. So this is not an
atypical kind of thing. And I mentioned overbroad
prosecutorial power, which is really about the
ability of prosecutors to choose who, when,
and how to prosecute with little oversight, and
the fact that over time, prosecutors have increasingly
become more punitive and have increasingly
charged people with longer sentences,
which is part of the reason so many poor people of
color take plea deals. People are scared of going
to prison for decades. And because most do
not have the wealth to afford expensive
lawyers, they take the plea deals most of
the time– in fact, about 90%, 95% of the time. And we know that
blacks tend to go away to prison for longer than
whites even when they’ve committed the same crimes. A US Sentencing Commission
report basically just came out and reinforced this fact. And much of this centers on how
court and prosecutor’s offices conduct business, privileging
those with more resources and disadvantaging
those with less. And so then people
are incarcerated. Well, what do you know? The prison is a
racialized organization. So black people make up about
13% of the overall population. But prisons are
about 40% black– 4-0 percent, right? And we know that black
incarcerated people are treated differently,
more likely to be put in solitary confinement,
less likely to be paroled. And a lot of this is due
to the discretionary bias of correctional officers
and parole boards. And some prisons explicitly
sort and segregate incarcerated people
according to race, which hardens the connection
between certain identities, like blackness or
Latinoness, and criminality. And so the carceral
apparatus, in many ways, gives us clear examples of how
organizational resources can be used to categorize
and sort individuals on the basis of race. And so finally,
we get to reentry. And so people are released. And then what happens? Well, most experience
not an escape from organizational control,
but rather a transfer in kind. And so leaving the
prison organization often means entering another
or multiple others, such as the parole
office, the halfway house, the shelter, the training
program, the employer. But this can also
mean the exclusion from these organizations. So in some my research using
the Bureau of Justice Statistics data, I found that
unemployment among formerly incarcerated people
is up over 27%. So these are people who
have been to prison and want but cannot find jobs. And the rate is even
higher for people of color. So black men who
have been to prison experience 35% unemployment. And black women who
have been to prison are unemployed at a rate
of about 40%, 4-0 percent. So the question becomes, why? Why such high rates
of unemployment, particularly among
black ex-prisoners? Well, organizations put up
some really steep barriers for this population. We’ve all seen that
little question on job application that asks if
you’ve had a criminal record. It asks you to check that box. The question alone discourages
people with criminal records from applying because it kind
of sends the message that you’re different, that
you’re dangerous, that you are not fit to be
grouped with other applicants. And as Victor argues,
the criminal record operates as this
negative credential, signaling to employers
that you are unsuitable. But here’s the rub. So in places where they’ve
implemented ban the box so that employers cannot ask about
somebody’s criminal record on the initial application,
we’re finding that ban the box actually promotes this kind
of statistical discrimination against black people. So in the absence of an ability
to ask about criminal records, employers are using blackness
as a proxy for criminalness, for criminality. And so this connection between
blackness and perceived criminality is nothing new. So I think of Khalil Muhammad’s
book, The Condemnation of Blackness, which
is really something I recommend you all read. But he talks about how social
scientists participated in the criminalization
of black people through the misuse
of statistical data, promoting this idea that black
people are inherently immoral. And today, these kind of
ideas continue to exist. But more importantly,
they’re mapped onto organizational
hiring practices that leads to inequalities
in unemployment rates. And so I had one respondent. He was a black man. And he was recounting his
experience trying to get a job. He said, I went to a
bread shop the other day. And they got a big sign– hiring, need people immediately. So I go in, of course. And I ask for an application. And as I get the
application, she looks at me. And she says, well, you know
we do full background checks. This is not equal opportunity. So if you have a
felony on your record, you might not even want
to take the application. And so he hadn’t
told this person that he had a criminal record. She just assumed that he did
based on his presentation. So criminal record as
negative credentials, but blackness as a
negative credential at the first stage
of the application process before he
even got to apply. So there are all these layers
of personal bias and discretion, formal rules that are
race neutral on face but racialized in practice,
thinking about felony exclusion and decoupling. And so this is how racialized
organizations distribute and sort opportunities. But despite these
racialized practices, reentry organizations, or
the ones that I studied, largely operate under a
framework of colorblindness so that when black ex-prisoners
recidivate more often than whites or when black
ex-prisoner unemployment rates far outpace white
unemployment rates, my interviews with
reentry professionals suggest that this
is largely perceived as a product of
motivational differences. Who is willing to put
in the most effort? And so I often ask parole
officers and other case managers and a range
of professionals if they know about
Devah Pager’s work. And I’m sure that if any
of you are sociologists, you definitely do. But of course, none of
them have even remotely come across this study
or any of this data. And so part of it is
certainly the disconnect between research and practice. But it’s also because most
reentry systems are set up to further discipline
ex-prisoners, not to reduce the organizational
barriers to jobs or apartments, for example. It’s why appeals like
someone in my example can say that it’s not
the criminal record that holds people back. It’s the lack of motivation. And so when labor
market exclusions for black or brown
ex-prisoners are interpreted by probation and parole
as personal failures, what you have is this
kind of cognitive schema that justifies racial
inequalities as the outcome of nonracial dynamics. You have this colorblind
reentry system. And so to get back
to the questions– I know I’ve kind of taken
you a few different places. But I’d say a racialized
organization’s framework forces us to understand that racist
systems require vessels, vessels which do
the racist things. They sort people into
positions, allocate resources, hoard
opportunities based on race. And then regarding
the question of what a racialized organization’s
framework suggests about dismantling
institutional racism, I think it helps us better
focus on the culprits, those organizational vessels
who employ tangible practices and policies that
can actually change. Now, actually getting
them to change and whether this is catalyzed
from within or without, as Victor’s presentation
talked about or illustrated, that’s another discussion. But at least we have the proper
focus, the proper target. So it’s not just that
we have bad cops who kill unarmed black people. It’s that we have bad cops who
kill unarmed black people who are supported by a
thin blue line, years of police militarization, zero
departmental accountability, a powerful prosecutor’s
office that works suspiciously close
with the police departments. And so now we attack these
kind of organizational sources of inequality rather
than blaming it on a few bad apples or
some overly broad concept of structure without
the actual scaffolding. So I think I’ll leave it there. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] SPEAKER: I’ll get this
pulled up for you. [INAUDIBLE] ELLEN BERREY: Great. Thank you. SPEAKER: You’re welcome. And here’s your– ELLEN BERREY: Yeah. Great. I want to add that Lucius
defended his dissertation just like in the last breath, I
think, before coming here, so let’s just say
Dr. Couloute, woo! [APPLAUSE] AUDIENCE: There’s light
at the end of the tunnel. There’s light. ELLEN BERREY: Yes. LUCIUS COULOUTE: Yes. ELLEN BERREY: Awesome. LUCIUS COULOUTE: Thank you. ELLEN BERREY: Sure, sure. AUDIENCE: [LAUGHS] ELLEN BERREY: Great. All right. Well, again, thank you so
much for having me here. It’s such a treat to be part
of this intellectual community and to have everybody
here in attendance to be part of the conversation. And as Dan mentioned,
I’m an alum from the mid-’90s, and so I would
just say life goals is giving a talk at Brown. [LAUGHTER] So here we are. So it’s very exciting for me
to be in this conversation right now, specifically
because I’m at the conceptual stage
of a brand new project. And I mean like brand new as
in the last three to four weeks project. Which I’ll be
talking about today. And I’m also at the stage of
modestly reconceptualizing another project in progress. So this is a really
fun opportunity for me to think
about this framework of racialized
organizations and how can I put them to work
in my own research. So I’m going to talk a
little bit about my research to date on racism,
organizations, law, in the context of
higher education. And then I’m going to
move to some questions I have about a racialized
organization’s framework. And I’m going to try
to use some of that to launch into thinking
about my very new project and then close with
some takeaways. So all this is with
a goal of advancing the study of racialized
organizations, speaking to Victor’s
important work, to important work that
Lucius has done with Melissa Wooten, who really
laid the groundwork and made some very
bold statements pushing our thinking forward. And it’s always easier to,
you know, critique ideas than to come up with your
own new good ideas, so I’m mindful of
doing that but I also have some things I want to
push on focusing specifically on the framework that
Victor lays out for us. I also will say this is not
like any other formal talk I’ve given before in that I’m
talking about empirical content that I’m new to and
applying a framework that I’m still learning. Victor’s article came out in
the last month or two, right? So I haven’t had as
much time to digest. So you’re going to
hear me– mostly this is a lot of
questions from me as opposed to a lot of answers,
is what you’re going to get. All right. So in The Enigma of
Diversity, in my first book, I look at the push
for diversity– the rhetoric on diversity, the
diversity policies, programs, practices that have
become so pervasive in American organizations. And the book asks, this
push for diversity, is this a win for the
civil rights movement, or is this a watering down
of those more radical aims of racial justice? So two of the cases–
one’s a university– one’s a company or large
bureaucracies– and then the other
one is a neighborhood, but I was looking
at the organizations within that neighborhood. So very organization-centric. And in the book,
I, like many of us, note that we’re missing this
meso-level analysis of race and racism and how they
operate through organizations, that we have this work
at the macro-level, at the micro-level. But there’s not enough happening
at the level of organizations. And so one of the–
that’s not what I wanted– one of the arguments
I make there is that many organizations have
constructed these identities based on the idea of diversity. And that is this mechanism
where ideas of race become consequential for
organizational practice. But unlike Lucius and Victor
and Melissa Wooten and others, in the book I don’t try to
theorize that relationship between race and organizations. So to put this in a little
bit of a broader context, if we think about the
campus politics of diversity and racial justice in the 21st
century in very broad brush strokes bias toward
my research interests, we can think about universities
as racialized institutions characterized by
racial hierarchies in, for example, the racialized
bodies who inhabit them, who are admitted in. This is very different in
universities across the larger field of higher education, which
is very stratified by race, by class, by prestige. But overwhelmingly, at the
most selective schools, our student bodies,
our faculties, our administrations are
overwhelmingly white. We’ve seen, over decades
now, the institutionalization of diversity policies
and programs. What I write about is an
organizational infrastructure of diversity that functions
to, among other things, selectively integrate limited
numbers of people of color into predominately
white environments without much change
to the status quo. And the most well known of
these policies and the most contentious ones are affirmative
action in admissions. So affirmative
action policies are policies where people
making admissions decisions will consider an applicant’s
racial identity– if they’re black, Latino, or
indigenous– for the purposes of trying to improve numerical
representation of those groups. So affirmative action,
for all its attention, it’s very small scale. It’s not used at most schools. It’s really an addendum to a
much larger system of wealth and white preferences
that shapes who gets into a university. Affirmative action
has been contentious because it’s got opponents who
are mobilized and resourced. So part of this larger
legal conservative movement that’s been building
over decades has been to mount successful
state-level campaigns to ban affirmative action. So now 25% of high
school students are in states where
affirmative action is banned and have filed litigation
based on the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, the
Equal Protection Clause, saying that considering
race in admissions is a violation of
our individual right to be treated as
individuals, not as members of racial groups. So universities have opted
to defend affirmative action in court on the
grounds of diversity, and pulling on decades of
legal argument, the diversity rationale. And this is that
argument– the sort of very instrumental
thinking– it’s not that we’re saying we’re
doing affirmative action to create racial equality. It’s not saying we’re
doing affirmative action so we have more black doctors. It’s saying we’re doing
affirmative action because it’s good for everyone, that we have
better learning for everyone in the student body, that
it’s good for businesses, it’s good for national security,
it’s good for the economy. But diversity of historic is
not just in the realm of law. It’s, as I write about,
institutionalized in many organizations,
identities. Where it gets affirmed is a
value that is not– but is not a radical transformation
that would undermine the foundations of
organizational whiteness and white advantage
that that enables. At the same time, as Dan and
I have documented in our work, there’s been a massive retreat
away from affirmative action across the field of
higher education. So in 1994, 60% of
selective schools used an affirmative
action policy. And 20 years later,
only 35% did. So the most prestigious
schools held onto affirmative action,
but massive drop-off throughout the spectrum. And I’m continuing to explore
that work with Prabh Kehal and Dan as well. So in the last five
years, we’ve seen this burgeoning of student
mobilization around antiracism. Much of that organizing has
been precipitated, or triggered, by pervasive, kind of
mundane, racism on campus that students of
color experience, whether it’s outright antagonism
or microaggressions, students of color experiencing
particularly on predominately white campuses
from their white peers, white faculty. On more than 90 campuses
in the fall of 2015, students announced demands
asking administrations for better curricula,
for more support, for more minority faculty. And their connections
between this organizing, I believe, and the Black
Lives Matter movement, in many kind of ways– connections that we’ll
talk hopefully more about tomorrow in the workshop
that I’m doing on the paper. But for example, of the
more than 90 schools where students posted demands,
six of those were in Missouri. And University of Missouri was
the epicenter of the activism, and that’s just two couple
hours from Ferguson. So this is not just
in higher education. There is this overlap
beyond the campus walls. That’s not what I want. OK. So we’ve also seen this
resurgence in national politics of overt white nationalism
elevated to the highest level of government. We’ve seen, with help from the
conservative legal movement, the institutionalization of
conservative judges and courts. Probably one the
greatest victories, “successes,” I would say, of
the Trump administration that will matter for generations. And we’ve seen a ramping up of
a long-standing conservative antagonism against higher
education institutions that are seen as
bastions of liberalism. So not the for-profit
schools, but– and this has been
most antagonant and is most consequential for
the public universities that are starved for resources. So since writing The
Enigma of Diversity, I’ve been thinking a lot
about the interaction between social movements
and organizations around racial issues. So how have students and
external actors mobilized to pressure universities? How have universities responded? And what are the outcomes
of those mobilizations? Are they changing
institutions or not? So I think we can use a
racialized organization’s perspective to better understand
the relational dynamics between social
movements, organizations, and the political environment
by looking at higher education. So before I get into more
of the details of that, I want to just
pose some questions about advancing the study
of race in organizations. So one– these
are not questions. These are more points. One of them is that– one of the things I really
like about the racialized organizations perspective
is that it seems to me that this comes out
of the experience that many people of color have
in white organizations when looking around and
thinking, oh my gosh. This place is so white. You can think of the
corollaries where women have this in
organizations dominated by men, queer people have
this in organizations dominated by straight people. So the analogy goes on. So at the risk of
sounding too technical, though, I want to know, how
do a racialized organization when you see it? Like, what are the
empirical signs that there’s a
racialized organization? In some ways, I
think here I’m really cuing into the idea of calling
an organization “white.” Like, that’s a
white organization. So how do you know that? How do you get to decide that? So pulling from research from
Ray and Wooten and Couloute, they point to a number of these. One of them they say
is to understand, if an organization is
racialized or– not if it’s not, because I think we’re saying
all these organizations are racialized– how
it’s racialized, we want to think
about its context. What are the regimes
of inequality that it’s embedded in? What’s the historical
imprint on that organization in terms of its
geographic location, of its place in the economy? We want to think about who
are the racialized bodies, and where are they in the
hierarchy of the organization? We want to look at what are
the racialized meanings that have currency, and what are
the racialized practices that form what Melissa
and Lucius write about as these repertoires
of practice, of strategy. So two of the ones that
came up repeatedly– I’m referring
here, if you’re not familiar this, to
two of the readings that we were encouraged
to read for today– were organizations when they
have explicit racial criteria, like an affirmative
action policy, or when looking at
the practices that are unmarked but either
normatively racial and/or racially consequential. Also, Victor elaborates the
dynamic of racialized schemas, which, I think it
might be easier to think about these as
institutional logics, if we want to get technical,
and the resource distribution. Who gets to shape
our understandings– pattern understandings,
and the resources we have for running
organizations. So a bunch of questions
that this raises for me. Is there an order of importance? Do any of these
matter more or less? If we’re talking about
racialized bodies, how do we differentiate the
bodies from the organization? Like, how many
white bodies do you have to have to have
a white institution? That’s kind of an
annoying question, but it is really something
I’ve been thinking about. You know, like, do you
how you classify a city council or a
government department where black people have a
very sizable representation? Or like Columbia University,
where the undergraduate student body, a third of the students
are white identified Americans. But I think we would
say probably Columbia is a white university,
but how do we get our heads around
these organizations that are maybe not so clearly,
at least in terms of the bodies who
inhabit it, white? How do we make sense of
this for very large, complex organizations that
have multiple units? You know, from the human
resources department, to the factory, to
who’s cutting the lawn? Can we label that whole
organization a race? And I guess I wonder,
like, what’s the value– it’s so hard even
just to decide– to designate an individual as
belonging to a racial group. Who gets to decide
someone’s racial identity? And research on an
individual’s racial identity shows that people’s identity,
how they define themselves, changes over time. People change what they
think their race is. And other people don’t always
agree on somebody’s race when they’re trying to decide
what that person’s race is. So that’s just for one
person, who has these– you know, the meaningless
but meaningful indicators of skin color and hair
type, for example. So calling something
a white organization, I think, is
linguistically convenient, but I kind of wonder about
analytic precision with that. Not something I’ll get to today,
but kind of thinking about, how do we take this framework
that really kind of depends on knowing a lot
about an organization, and how do you use that for
quantitative research when you don’t know very much
about the organizations you’re studying? And what do we do when
there’s competing claims– how do we make sense of
the competing claims on how an organization is racialized? All right. Also, pushing forward
with this study, I’ve been thinking a lot about
how do we, with this framework, think about relationships and
how do we think about change? And this is, again, sort
of keying in especially on Victor’s points
about social movements. And so Victor calls for
scholars to theorize changes in how organizations
are racialized, recognizing that changes
are often prompted by external pressures on them. And as he writes,
quote, “Social movements are perhaps the
clearest attempts to alter racialized
organizations and institutionalized
racial concerns.” So with that
understanding, and this is keying into work that Lucius
and Melissa have done as well, is that we need to– or building on
their work, rather– is we need to account for
the institutional fields and the relational dynamics that
racialized organizations are embedded in. So here, I am
borrowing some tenants from organizational research. Like, if the move that Victor
is doing in his work is saying, we have to bring in
the organizations, then I’m saying, like, we
have to bring in the fields. Right? Those of you know
sociology, these will sound like
familiar things to say. So in some ways,
this is predictable. But there’s been a move within
organizational sociology of, at least the last 20, 30
years, of saying we should not be looking at organizations as
disembodied entities, as units, but we need to locate
them within the broader fields and the relationships
that define them. And especially if
we want explain how organizations change. So lots of different
ways to do this. There’s always a risk of having
a very long list of how you’re supposed to look at fields. But keying on some work
done by sociologists on looking at how social
movements and organizations intersect, I’ve
been thinking about, how can we think about
racialized organizations in terms of who’s dominant
in the organization and who’s challenging it? Right? What are those historical
racialized relationships, where universities, for example,
are relating to activists, for example. How do we think about the
governance administration of organizations as it
relates to other entities? Where is the
decision-making made? Who’s funding? For example, with universities,
who’s funding the university? We think about
state legislators. We want to think about alumni. We want to think about the
Koch brothers, for example– students. Who are the networks
that are involved? What Are the prevailing logics,
the discourses and framings? How can we bring forward
some understandings, especially in the work of Don
Tomaskovic-Devey and Dustin Avent-Holt, about mechanisms
of organizational inequality? And how can we think
some more about what are the destabilizing
events that can occur within
a field that lead different organizations
to react and can lead to a realignment of that field? So again, not a
super parsimonious list that I have here,
but kind of formulaic. But these are some
ways of thinking– concepts putting out
there, not my own, but for thinking about
field level change. And so hopefully when we think
about racialized organizations as nested within racialized
fields of action, we can see the way racialization
works more clearly, we can understand change better. All right. Always the problem with this
kind of approach is like, where’s the end of the analysis? When are you going to
stop doing research? So anyway, that’s just
something to play with. OK. So I’m going to turn now to
putting some of these ideas together with this
new project I’ve started with Liliana
Garces, who’s at the University
of Texas, Austin. And we’re looking at how
universities are managing hate speech, or
what we’re thinking of as overt hateful expression. So I’m beginning with
some disturbing content. I won’t leave this up
there for too long. But there’s long been overt hate
speech on university campuses, but been a real increase
with Trump’s election. So between fall 2016, fall
2017, the Anti-Defamation League found an increase of 258%
of these kinds of incidents. So between those
two school years– 2016, 2017– the
Anti-Defamation League recorded more than 450
incidents of hate speech. And about half of
them were fliers, like the kind we see here, from
white supremacist organizations trying to do recruitment
kind of under the stated goal of preserving white culture. So these can range from overt
propaganda that’s clearly explicitly hateful toward
blacks, Jews, Muslims, non-white immigrants,
people are LGBTQ+, or more veiled calls
for white identity. So these kind of fliers
are legally protected. This is entirely lawful
under the First Amendment so long as there’s
no true threat. For analytic purposes,
they become interesting because they’re
legally protected and they’re uniquely
contentious and for many of us clearly a problem. But also, I want
to say, I recognize that I’m sort of
decontextualizing them from the microaggressions,
from the kind of everyday aggressions,
from racialized violence against people of color– that, in our lived experiences
these aren’t divorced, but under law they’re unique. So Liliana and I are asking,
how do racialized universities manage these expressions
of overt hate? How do they understand
them as free speech or not? And how do those
understandings become informative of their diversity
policies and programs? And then ultimately,
what does this mean for marginalized students,
especially students of color, and their experience on campus? So if we think about the
field of activity here, we have students of
color and students of other marginalized group
coping and contesting. So as targets of hate speech,
as witnesses to hate speech, they are racialized consequences
for racialized bodies, or there are mental health
risks, psychiatric symptoms, academic underperformance,
and other complex coping strategies. There’s been social movement
mobilization around this issue, but there’s been less
activism– specifically kind of the activism challenging
anti-black racism since the rise of
Trump, it seems. It looks like the
protest dynamics have shifted more
toward immigration– issues of immigration. And we have kind of the
construction of a free speech crisis by the far right. So these are almost
entirely white, male-dominated organizations,
political entities, pundits, news– it’s not news– media
organizations, provocateurs, sort of decrying the campus PC
police, both administrations and students, as “snowflakes,”
who allegedly won’t allow for conservative voices. So just in the last few weeks,
Trump signed an executive order about campus free
speech, threatening to punish colleges if they
don’t guarantee free speech. And 15 states have passed
laws that ostensibly are about protecting free
speech, which is really driven by a concern that
conservative speakers are not getting platforms
on college campuses. OK. We’ve seen enough of those. So if we think about
universities’ responses as being as racialized
institutions, and as predominately white
racialized institutions, there’s been a lot of
different courses of action, a lot of denial, a lot of
inaction, a lot of affirmation of diversity in the
value of free speech in the face of these contests. Liliana’s been
studying administration at University of
Texas, Austin, where she’s finding that the
administrations really kind of fall back on this
argument, if we don’t censor– it’s not OK to censor. Right? That that’s just
kind of falling into the absolutist understanding
of the First Amendment. We’ve seen universities
go into crisis management mode, concerned about
their public relations, and then adopting some
policies like speech codes. These date back for decades. And more recently, what’s
come in the spotlight our bias response teams,
which I’ll come back to. So one of the most
important things that social movements can
do is to change the way we think about an issue. And we’ve seen this,
certainly, in this context. So we have these sort of
framing or discourse contests. Are colleges bastions
of liberal intolerance, attacking free speech? Or there’s pushback, saying
that this is not free speech. This is about bigots
trying to normalize hate. So here’s this contestation over
what is actually racialized. Right? And how do we define
something that’s racialized, that I think
becomes an important part of the analysis. Although these analysts are
saying things “are racialized,” we also need to be analyzing
how the people we’re studying think things are racialized,
and where they insist they’re racialized, and who’s
insisting they’re racialized, and who is not. All right. Back to this slide. There’s also been
free speech advocacy– I don’t really want
to use that term– I’m going to call
it First Amendment advocacy, or individual rights
advocacy, from organizations. Some kind of ideological
diversity there, but these are predominately
white organizations that have really zoned in
specifically on the bias response teams. And if we think about this
as kind of the evolution from affirmative action, we’ve
gone from like an attack that’s saying schools are not following
the 14th Amendment to now an attack saying that schools
are not following the First Amendment. That, by trying to do something
to protect students of color, to make campuses more inclusive,
you are violating free speech. And so these bias response teams
are policies that universities have to respond to– students reports or witnesses
reports of offensive acts. Not a ton of research
on them, but they’ve gotten a lot of attention. It’s sort of like they’ve
got that nefarious word, like, “The bias response
team is coming.” So kind of the embodiment
of the PC police. So we can think about
these legal challenges, though, as a colorblind attack
on an inclusionary program that can serve a goal
of white supremacy, even if that’s not the intent of
how these organizational actors understand what they’re doing. But we also don’t, I
think, want to become too defensive of
universities because there’s real questions about
are these bias response teams anything but
window dressing? They seem to be really
organized toward helping the target through the
experience as opposed to changing the
underlying conditions that led to the bias. So I’ve been trying
to think about how do we take
racialized organizations and to what extent does that
framework stay useful when we shift out to the field level? And one thing, after reading
this work, as I’m thinking– as Liliana and I are deciding
the design of our study– I think we need to look at an
HBCU in our university cases– I don’t know– I emailed
that to her this morning; we’ll see what she says, but in
thinking about how universities are responding. So in terms of takeaways,
kind of, again, this question of what’s the
leverage we get by designating an organization is
a racialized entity and when is it more
useful maybe to look at racialized
processes, saying I want some more nuance in
terms of the parameters of an organization– what
decides its whiteness? And I want to be
careful that we’re not over-determining the
significance of racialization. Because everything may
be– not everything– how we think about
rationalization in relation to organizational functions– the other things that
organizations are trying to get done. How can we use a
field-level analysis to be more sensitive
some of these dynamics, while recognizing
that racialization is going to be contentious? And then lastly,
this work has really been developed in
thinking about how we advance race scholarship. And I’ve been wondering, what
are the payoffs for people who study– who are more
interested in organizations or more interested in social
movements who are trying to answer different
kind of questions about how organizations change,
or how do people mobilize? And is an idea of a racialized
organization that would be useful in that context? So I’ll stop there. [APPLAUSE]

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