Ashleigh S. Rosette: racism at office still alive

Posted: July 5, 2013 by jennroig in English, Interviews
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This is the English original and unedited version of the interview published on July 1st, 2013, by AmericaEconomia.

Ashleigh Shelby Rosette, researcher & associate professor at Duke's Fuqua School of Business

Ashleigh Shelby Rosette, researcher & associate professor at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business

As part of a group of researchers from the USA and UK, prof. Ashleigh Shelby Rosette conducted a study that found the incidence of racial slurs at the work office, in the corporate environment.

-What was the original purpose of the study?

The original purpose of the study was to better understand the relational dynamics that help drive the use of racial slurs in the workplace.

What is the relevance of conducting the study within a corporate environment rather than any other kind of institution?

Racial slurs are somewhat commonplace in many work environments, yet research on racial slurs in organizational contexts is somewhat scant. That is, racial slurs have served as the primary topic of study in disciplines such as legal studies and communications and social psychology, but not in organizational studies.

Hence, we found that there was somewhat of an incomplete view of the concepts and experiences related to racial slurs in corporate and organizational environments. Hence, the focus of this paper was to help fill this gap and gain a more in depth understanding of the perpetuation of racial slurs in work environments.

-Considering that racial or gender slurs are a social manifestation of prejudicial notions that are immersed in societies, how do you think a manager could act to limit these behaviors or expressions at office?

Our findings suggest that when compared to other groups, socially dominant groups are most likely to use racial slurs and most likely to remain silent when they observe others use racial slurs. Accordingly, managers should be mindful that the establishment of a climate that minimizes racial slurs specifically and prejudicial notions in general may need to begin with socially dominant groups.

-Do you think empowering women would tend to reduce the use –and/or silent reaction- to slurs at the workplace? How do you explain the difference between the behavior of women and men?

Because men are usually the greatest beneficiaries of rewards and benefits in organizational settings, they are more likely than women to engage in intragender competition and intragender aggression.

Hence, it makes sense that (white) men would use racial slurs, a form of interpersonal aggression, toward other (black) men because slurs represent a symbolic means to reinforce their dominant position and to sustain more organizational resources, such as status, power, and capital.

-Do you think these results are inherent exclusively to white men, as dominant group, or could it be translated to any majority or dominant group in other places of the world, with different cultures and racial composition?

Our proposed theoretical premise is based on social inequality, a condition whereby different categories of social groups have unequal access to resources. Social inequality is not merely limited to the relationship between blacks and whites or men or women but is ubiquitous across most communities and can derive from additional characteristics, such as religion, class, age, and sexual orientation. Our findings have the potential to be applicable in any society in which differentially positioned social groups have access to unequal material resources.


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