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Charis welcomes Adia Harvey Wingfield in conversation with Karida L. Brown for a discussion of Gray Areas: How the Way We Work Perpetuates Racism and What We Can Do to Fix It. A leading sociologist reveals why racial inequality persists in the workplace despite today’s multi-billion-dollar diversity industry—and provides actional solutions for creating a truly equitable, multiracial future.
Labor and race have shared a complex, interconnected history in America. For decades, key aspects of work—from getting a job to workplace norms to advancement and mobility—ignored and failed Black people. While explicit discrimination no longer occurs, and organizations make internal and public pledges to honor and achieve “diversity,” inequities persist through what Adia Harvey Wingfield calls the “gray areas:” the relationships, networks, and cultural dynamics integral to companies that are now more important than ever. The reality is that Black employees are less likely to be hired, stall out at middle levels, and rarely progress to senior leadership positions.
Wingfield has spent a decade examining inequality in the workplace, interviewing over two hundred Black subjects across professions about their work lives. In Gray Areas, she introduces seven of them: Alex, a worker in the gig economy Max, an emergency medicine doctor; Constance, a chemical engineer; Brian, a filmmaker; Amalia, a journalist; Darren, a corporate vice president; and Kevin, who works for a nonprofit.
In this accessible and important antiracist work, Wingfield chronicles their experiences and blends them with history and surprising data that starkly show how old models of work are outdated and detrimental. She demonstrates the scope and breadth of gray areas and offers key insights and suggestions for how they can be fixed, including shifting hiring practices to include Black workers; rethinking organizational cultures to centralize Black employees’ experience; and establishing pathways that move capable Black candidates into leadership roles. These reforms would create workplaces that reflect America’s increasingly diverse population—professionals whose needs organizations today are ill-prepared to meet.
It’s time to prepare for a truly equitable, multiracial future and move our culture forward. To do so, we must address the gray areas in our workspaces today. This definitive work shows us how.
Adia Harvey Wingfield is a leading sociologist and a celebrated author who researches racial and gender inequality in professional occupations. Dr. Wingfield is the Mary Tileston Hemenway Professor of Arts & Sciences and Vice Dean for Faculty Development and Diversity at Washington University in St. Louis. She served as President of Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS) and the Southern Sociological Society (SSS). her latest book, Flatlining: Race, Work, and Health Care in the New Economy, won the 2019 C. Wright Mills Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems, and she writes regularly for mainstream outlets, including Slate, The Atlantic, and Vox. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri.
Karida L. Brown is a sociologist, professor, oral historian, and public intellectual whose research centers on the ontologies of systemic racism and the fullness of Black life. An educator, public speaker, author, and humanist, she is known for empowering her readership, students, and organizations to be active participants in driving equity and justice. Dr. Brown's body of work combines her expertise in data-driven social science research, her vast experience in navigating complex global organizations, and her love of the arts. These insights bring actionable and reparative knowledge to the public.
She is a Professor of Sociology at Emory University where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on race and racism, sports and society, and historical archival methods. She served as the inaugural Director of Racial Equity at the Los Angeles Lakers, where she became an NBA champion in 2020. Brown also currently serves on the board of The Obama Presidency Oral History Project. Her most recent book, The New Brownies Book: A Love Letter to Black Families will be released in October 2023 by Chronicle Books.
This event is free and open to all people, especially to those who have no income or low income right now, but we encourage and appreciate a solidarity donation in support of the work of Charis Circle, our programming non-profit. Charis Circle's mission is to foster sustainable feminist communities, work for social justice, and encourage the expression of diverse and marginalized voices. https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/CharisCircle?code=chariscirclepage
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