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Institutional Racism, Organizations & Public Policy


James D. Ward and Mario A. Rivera

Institutional racism may be described as a self-perpetuating and opaque process where, either intentionally or unintentionally, barriers and procedures which disadvantage ethnic minority groups are supported and maintained. It is often the direct linkage and thus the underlying cause for the lack of diversity and cultural competency in the workplace. Yet institutional racism, as a research topic, has been ignored by scholars because it forces emphasis on the unseen and unspoken, yet culturally relevant underpinnings of the workplace and societal ethos. Studies touching on diversity in the public administration research often address the subject as education and training – especially with regard to the competencies needed by professional administrators. However, racism and discrimination, as underlying factors, are seldom addressed. Once specific examples of institutional racism have been identified in an organization, change agents may take prescriptive steps to address it directly and thus have a more cogent argument for change.
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1 Introduction: Institutional Racism and Its Multiple Dimensions


Chapter One

Introduction: Institutional Racism and Its Multiple Dimensions

What makes this book unique, from our perspective, is that it addresses the phenomenon of institutional racism in the public sector, in relation to the allied academic and professional fields of public administration, public policy, and political science, a topic which in our view has received scant research focus across these disciplines. On the other hand, we do recognize the work done in other social and behavioral science research, including disciplinary subfields such as social work and community psychology, sociology, social psychology, social cognitive theory, public management theory, critical leadership studies, critical race theory, and ethics (public ethics, in particular).

We are especially cognizant of research efforts in public administration, public policy, and political science that attempt to explain or predict the influence of race on political performance and behavior, to consider the role of diversity advocacy (such as affirmative action) in public sector employment, and to explore contemporary issues of diversity and cultural competence. Such work often approaches the issues of race and diversity as tangible entities that are readily available for empirical analysis. In our own research, however, institutional racism is defined as a complex of embedded, systemic practices that disadvantage racial and ethnic minority groups, and, in consequence, needs to be assessed indirectly as well—for instance, in analyses of historically patterned discrimination and of the unintended, but still discernible, adverse impact of public policies and programs.

Studies touching on...

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