cover image Gray Areas: How the Way We Work Perpetuates Racism and What We Can Do to Fix It

Gray Areas: How the Way We Work Perpetuates Racism and What We Can Do to Fix It

Adia Harvey Wingfield. Amistad, $29.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-063-07981-6

Sociologist Wingfield (Flatlining) delivers an authoritative study of racial inequality in the workplace. Drawing from more than a decade’s worth of interviews with seven Black workers in various fields—including academia, medicine, and film—Wingfield demonstrates how the customs and practices entrenched in corporate culture perpetuate institutional racism. Referring to these “cultural, social, and relational aspects of work” as “the gray areas,” Wingfield outlines four types of corporate culture (clan, adhocracy, market, and hierarchy) and shows the challenges presented to Black workers in each. One subject, Kevin, switched jobs, moving from a bank to a charter school, to escape the problems of one corporate culture (as a “market culture,” the bank’s “emphasis on avoiding tension” left him unable to express problems arising from racial differences) only to face ongoing hurdles in another (expecting a more expressive and nurturing environment, Kevin found the school’s “clan culture” to be performative and exclusionary). Among other concrete solutions, Wingfield advises employers to avoid mandatory diversity trainings, which have no proven positive outcomes and sometimes provoke resentment among white employees, but to instead foster identity-based affinity groups for Black employees, which can help prevent feelings of cultural isolation at work. This vital and accessible study is a must-read for HR departments and managers, and will interest anyone concerned with workplace equality. (Oct.)