Race, Organizations, and the Organizing Process: Volume 60

Cover of Race, Organizations, and the Organizing Process

Table of contents

(12 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xii
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Abstract

To date, most research that takes up race as a theoretical or empirical category remains focused on uncovering the processes that lead to disparities in individual-level organizational outcomes such as pay and promotion. We aim to shift analytic attention away from people to organizations. This volume represents a collection of nine chapters that investigate how race shapes organizations and an organization’s ability to get the cultural, political, and material resources it needs to survive, that is, the organizing process. This interlocution argues for the importance of understanding organizations as social actors that also contend with race. Additionally, the introduction provides an overview of the chapters in the volume by briefly summarizing each contribution and highlighting the connections between them. The introduction closes with a discussion of the direction future research studies in this area might take.

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For years, critics have warned that organizational research does not take race seriously enough. Fortunately, this situation has improved as scholars in the 2000s and 2010s have produced scholarship that explores how race defines and shapes organizations. In this chapter, I briefly review the intersection of the sociology of race and institutional theory and suggest questions for future research.

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How do racial meanings structure the institution of higher education and the organizations and networks it encompasses? This chapter develops a theory of racial activation to usefully link conceptualizations of race and organizations. This theory examines how racial meanings shape organizational fields, forms or types of organizations, and the strategic use of racial meanings by actors in organizations to create a more robust understanding of the processes by which organizations are themselves made racialized. Predominant scholarship on race can largely be characterized as theorizing the mechanisms by which race is constructed or uncovering the patterns and consequences of inequality along racial lines. Much existing research hovers above at a macro level where national, state, and global powers are understood to impose racial categories, symbols, meanings, and rules onto daily life while higher education has largely been studied as a site where we see the effects of broader social disparities play out. This chapter draws on insights from inhabited institutionalism to develop a theory of racial activation that usefully links conceptualizations of race and organizations to provide an intersectional and interactional approach to the study of fields.

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Prevailing explanations of the US secession crisis trace the latter’s origins to slavery and slaveowners’ interests. The central problem with all such explanations, however, is that the Whig Party, the party of the largest slaveowners, opposed secession until the mid-1850s. Why did southern Whigs and their planter base resist secession through the political crisis over slavery only to fold by 1861? Drawing on archival electoral returns by precinct, party newspapers, speeches, and personal correspondence from antebellum Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, I argue for an institutional and sequential approach to the secession crisis that does not take social actors’ individual interests as given, but rather as naturalized and denaturalized in the back and forth struggle of political parties to advance competing solutions to the problem of preserving slavery.

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Charter schools are an increasingly popular form of publicly funded school choice. Racially framed as a policy to narrow academic achievement and opportunity gaps, charter schools disproportionately serve Black and Latinx students. In 2016, “lifting the cap” on the number of charter schools allowed in Massachusetts became an intensely fought ballot referendum. Drawing on racial formation and resource mobilization theories, I argue that resources developed and mobilized in political campaigns or social movements have analytically relevant racial dimensions. They are “racial resources” or value-producing entities that are imbued with meaning about race categories, racial systems, and/or racial ideologies. The anti-expansion’s interracial coalition was a decisive factor in the campaign, because the coalition implemented a shared decision-making structure to develop a more robust and ideologically consistent strategy for mobilizing their racial resources. These resources include a local base of racially diverse spokespeople who brought key cultural resources – legitimacy, authenticity, and trust – to the campaign, as well as race-conscious and race-neutral message framing.

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Over 600,000 people are released from federal and state prisons each year, up from about 160,000 in 1980. As such, the reentry literature is framed around these individuals and the personal barriers to reintegration they face. Less work, however, explicitly investigates the role reentry professionals and organizations play in actively shaping the reentry terrain. Using ethnographic observations, document analysis, and interviews with both criminal justice professionals and ex-prisoners, this chapter examines how an organizational field constructs reentry as a racially colorblind process. Although race and racism shape criminal justice, labor market, and other institutional experiences, I find that the positioning of reentry as meritocracy operates to both explain and justify the inequalities experienced by ex-prisoners.

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Scholars of race and work have shown that social categories shape how individuals interact with coworkers and clients. Social categories also inform the creation of roles within an organization when nonwhites are hired to interact with other nonwhites. This study examines these roles, or racialized labor, and illustrates how racial categories govern organizational behavior. By studying immigrant-serving providers at a range of nonprofits, this chapter shows how the assumed relationship between racial category and knowledge is evidence of ethnoracial logics, or the practice of using racial categories to organize work because of assumptions about the inherent racial ethnic knowledge an employee possesses. To make the case for these logics, the chapter draws on ethnographic fieldwork and in-depth interviews with Latino, Latina, and White nonprofit professionals to show how expertise is developed and differentiated along racial lines.

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This chapter connects colorblind ideology to organizational processes. Despite advances in our thinking about colorblindness as the current dominant racial ideology, scholars are reluctant to tie this ideology to organizational processes – creating the impression that colorblindness is an individual attribute rather than a structural phenomenon. Because the frames of colorblindness are usually interpreted through interviews – as opposed to organizational practices – focusing on the frames reinforces the sense that ideologies are free-floating prejudices unconnected to social structures. In this theoretical piece, we draw on the organizational literature, to tie Bonilla-Silva’s colorblind frames – abstract liberalism, cultural racism, the minimization of racism, and naturalization – to organizational processes, showing how mundane organizational procedures reinforce structural inequality. We argue that organizational policies and practices rely on normative Whiteness, devaluing the cultural norms of nonwhites, and passing those practices to successive administrations. Ostensibly nonracial procedures such as hiring, promotion, and performance reviews are rife with racialized meanings.

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Research on racial inequality in organizations typically (1) assumes constraining effects of bureaucratic structure on the capacity of powerful actors to discriminate or (2) reverts to individualistic interpretations emphasizing implicit biases or self-expressed motivations of gatekeepers. Such orientations are theoretically problematic because they ignore how bureaucratic structures and practices are immersed within and permeated by culturally normative racial meanings and hierarchies. This decoupling ultimately provides a protective, legitimating umbrella for organizational practices and gatekeeping actors – an umbrella under which differential treatment is enabled and discursively portrayed as meritocratic or even organizationally good. In this chapter, we develop a race-centered conception of organizational practices by drawing from a sample of over 100 content-coded workplace discrimination cases and analyzing both discriminatory encounters and employer justifications for inequality-generating conduct. Results show three non-mutually exclusive patterns that highlight the fundamentally racial character of organizations: (1) the racialization of bureaucracies themselves via the organizational valuation and pursuit of “ideal workers,” (2) the ostensibly bureaucratic and neutral, yet inequitable, policing of minority worker performance, and; (3) the everyday enforcement of racial status boundaries through harassment on the job, protection afforded to perpetrators, and bureaucratically enforced retaliation aimed at victims. The permeation of race-laden presumptions into organizations, their activation relative to oversight and bureaucratic policing, and the invoking of colorblind bureaucratic discourses and policies to legitimate discriminatory conduct are crucial to understanding the organizational dimensions of racial inequality production. We end by discussing the implications of our argument and results for future theory and research.

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The US Congress is a racialized governing institution that plays an important role structuring the racial hierarchy in the nation. Despite Congress’s influence, there is little theoretical and empirical research on its racialized structure – that is, how it operates and the racial processes that shape it. This lacuna has developed from a narrow conceptualization of Congress as a political institution, and it ignores how it is a multifaceted organization that features a large and complex workplace. Congressional staff are the invisible force in American policymaking, and it is through their assistance that members of Congress can fulfill their responsibilities. However, the congressional workplace is stratified along racial lines. In this chapter, I theorize how the congressional workplace became racialized, and I identify the racial processes that maintain a racialized workplace today. I investigate how lawmakers have organized their workplace and made decisions about which workers would be appropriate for different types of roles in the Capitol. Through a racial analysis of the congressional workplace, I show a connection between Congress as an institution and workplace and how racial domination is a thread that connects and animates both its formal and informal structures.

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Index

Pages 193-200
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Cover of Race, Organizations, and the Organizing Process
DOI
10.1108/S0733-558X201960
Publication date
2019-05-20
Book series
Research in the Sociology of Organizations
Editor
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78756-492-3
Book series ISSN
0733-558X