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Intersecting viruses: a clarion call for a new direction in diversity theorizing

Stella M. Nkomo (Department of Human Resource Management, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Article publication date: 21 August 2020




The purpose of this article is to provoke diversity scholars to think about the implications of the confluence of the racial disparities in the effects of the Coronavirus and the persistence of racial inequality for a new direction of theorizing in the field.


Drawing upon three major analogies between the Coronavirus and the virus of racism, the author discusses their similarities as a means to think about why racism persists despite efforts to eradicate it. The history of racism in the United States forms a key part of the discussion.


The current theoretical tools diversity scholars primarily use to address racial inequality in organizations may only at best mitigate, not eradicate, racism in organizations. There is a need to direct theoretical development toward the concepts of racialization and deracialization.

Research limitations/implications

The views and proposals for new theorizing reflect the author's positionality and biases. It also relies on three of the many possible analogies that can be made between racism as a virus and the Coronavirus.

Practical implications

Understanding racism through the lens of racialization and deracialization can help organizations and the leaders of them to identify the structures that embed racism and also how to change them.

Social implications

Understanding racism and processes of racialization is critical to achieving racial equality. Organizations are one of the main societal institutions that shape and perpetuate the racism and inequality among African-Americans and other people of color experience. Awareness of the continuing effects of racism is critical to anticipating how virus pandemics increase the vulnerability of marginalized racial groups to greater health risks and precariousness.


This essay provokes diversity scholars to engage in reflexive discomfort about the current path of theorizing in the field. It suggests ways that the concept of racialization can be used descriptively and normatively to theorize racism in organizations. In addition, it proposes deracialization as a frame for supplanting the ideology of White supremacy and theorizing nonracial organizations.



Nkomo, S.M. (2020), "Intersecting viruses: a clarion call for a new direction in diversity theorizing", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 39 No. 7, pp. 811-821.



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