Please join us for a colloquium being given by Patricia Banks, Associate Professor of Sociology at Mount Holyoke College.
Diversity Capital: Culture and Racial Signaling in Corporations
Race and cultural capital scholarship demonstrates how culture is used by individuals to signal their racial identity. Yet it overlooks instances of organizational racial signaling via culture. My case demonstrates how black cultural patronage (e.g. gifts and sponsorships for black cultural institutions and initiatives such as the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial), as well as ethnic cultural patronage more broadly, function as forms of diversity capital. I define diversity capital as cultural practices and values that allow organizations to solve problems and leverage opportunities related to race and ethnicity and other social differences. Using content analysis of corporate public relations documents, I show that one way that black cultural patronage operates as a form of diversity capital is its use in communicating that businesses value diversity and are committed and connected to African Americans. By applying insights about culture and racial signaling among individuals to organizations, this analysis advances theory on race and cultural capital. It also advances theory on race and organizations. More specifically, while scholarship on race and organizations asserts that organizations engage in behaviors to maintain an appearance of inclusivity, it has largely neglected how cultural practices play this role. Practically, as multi-million dollar fundraising efforts are underway to support ethnic cultural initiatives such as building the International African American Museum in Charleston, South Carolina and the National Native American Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., it is especially critical to develop greater understanding of how ethnic cultural patronage allows businesses to do good while doing well.