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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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9 Transformative Leadership and Remedial Action: Prospects for a Public Ethics Focused on Claims to Equity


Chapter Nine

Transformative Leadership and Remedial Action: Prospects for a Public Ethics Focused on Claims to Equity

Introduction: Pluralist Liberal Ethics in the United States and the Challenge of Social Equity

Public ethics in the United States is largely anti–foundational, to the extent that public discourse on ethics and justice reflects the politics of interest–based competition, conflict, and compromise; there is no consensus on any universal obligation to redress the historical imbalances of racism and social inequity that are explored in this text. Moreover, the literature on public sector leadership largely sidesteps questions of the transformational potential of shared leadership in these contexts. This chapter presents an inevitably partial consideration of these challenges, found at the intersection of public ethics, public service, and diversity leadership.

The closest that most Western liberal theory comes to recognizing moral foundations is in the terms and outcomes of political discourse. Pluralist systems make for pluralist ethics; common ground can only be found, if at all, in negotiation and compromise. Contractarian and communicative ethics, in particular, coincide in tying moral agency to the tentative consensus that may follow political competition and compromise (Rawls, 1971; Habermas, 1987).

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