Complicated issues of Equity for Black professionals in a New Economy
Welcome to “Healing From Within.” I am your host Sheryl Glick Reiki Master Energy Teacher and author of A New Life Awaits Spirit Guided Insights to Support Global Awakening which shares stories and messages from Spirit that show us our problems are not merely economic political or societal but a disconnection from our true being or soul wisdom. Today I welcome Dr. Aida Harvey Wingfield author of Flatlining focusing on the processes that maintain racial and gender inequality in professional workplaces. We are now in the greatest spiritual evolution of human development and perhaps, the time to correct past inequalities is finally here.
As listeners or “Healing From Within” well know, my esteemed guests and I share intimate awareness of how spiritual life and physical life offer opportunities to recognize our inner potential to thrive beyond the problems of a three -dimensional physical reality and to claim our soul right to live purposeful happy and healthy lives as we learn more about who we are, and how to live in balance and harmony, improve ourselves, our communities, and our world.
In today’s episode of “Healing From Within” Dr. Adia Harvey Wingfield a Professor of Sociology at Washington University at St. Louis, Missouri will discuss how the problem of inequality and gender disparity has been here long before Covid19 though the pandemic has magnified it as it has many problems in our institutions and corporations. What happens to black professionals in the new economy, where work is insecure and organizational resources are scarce? Dr. Wingfield will expose how institutions participate in “racial outsourcing,” relying heavily on black professionals to do “equity work,”—extra labor that makes organizations and their services more accessible to communities of color. Yet. often black workers do this labor without recognition, compensation or support.
Dr. Wingfield’s book Flatlining is an analysis of race, gender, work, and inequality in contemporary society. As organizations struggle with their attempts to maximize racial diversity while seeking greater profit margins, their actions have consequences for the black professionals they employ. These outcomes include but are not limited to specific forms of additional, racialized labor; ambivalent or distant relationships with white colleagues; and valiant personal efforts to change and undermine institutionalized racism. This book highlights how both the work black professionals do and the organizational shifts that drive it have far-reaching implications for a society that continues to struggle with reconciling race, work, and opportunity, and it offers ideas for how organizations can resolve some of these issues,
Dr. Wingfield tells us that in many ways, the story of contemporary work is a story of “what is” versus “what used to be.” We hear laments over the loss of “what used to be” when politicians and policy makers talk about “growing the economy,” the importance of “saving middle-class jobs,” and of late, the need to “make America great again.” When these parties make these claims, they are referring to a time when, for white men, the unemployment rate was low; labor force participation rates were very high; work was consistent, stable, and pretty readily available; workplaces were hierarchically organized; and companies paid wages that offered a middle-class standard of living (often on only one income). Workers could easily spend their entire careers with one company that provided decent benefits. While there was a disparity between workers’ earnings and that of the head of the company, it was typically not astronomical. Despite what politicians like to tell us, those days are over.
Starting in the 1970s, wages began to flatten and ceased to keep pace with productivity. What this means is that even as workers continue to produce results, wages have not kept pace with their efforts. Simultaneously, gains from workers’ labor have increasingly gone to very highly placed managers and CEOs (Bivens and Mishel 2015). The US economy, then, is left with record levels of income inequality and limited social mobility (Piketty, Saez, and Zucman 2016). This disparity not only has left a large segment of the population economically insecure but also has helped lay the groundwork for major crises such as the housing crash of 2008, the recession that followed, and the looming student loan debt bubble.
What drives this growing inequality? A significant factor is the neoliberal ideology that became more dominant in the 1970s and 1980s. Neoliberalism, loosely defined, advocates for the primacy of unfettered markets that are neither subject to nor shaped by government regulations. It prizes individualism over collective action, advocates increasing financialization and privatization, and endorses the maximization of profits and shareholder value. Neoliberal agendas encourage limiting the role of the state and promoting austerity measures in order to push for unlimited free market competition.
When policy makers decry government regulations, tout the benefits of tax cuts for the wealthy, attempt to prevent workers from collective bargaining, divert corporate profits to stockholders before (or instead of) workers, and seek to shrink or privatize the public sector, this is neoliberalism in action. With the rise of neoliberalism, major changes in work, organizations and industry followed. Collective bargaining has taken a massive hit, with clear consequences for workers. Whereas in the early 1970s, a quarter of all workers were unionized, by 2016 just over one in ten were. This is significant because the decline in unionization has had a marked impact on workers’ ability to pressure management for greater compensation (Rosenfeld 2013). One result of this wage stagnation and union decline is increased economic inequality between most workers and those at the very top of the economic scale
Dr. Wingfield tells us, “Organizations have also changed in ways that facilitate greater inequality. While they once were strictly hierarchical, they now are flatter and allow workers to be more self-directed. These are organizations that have fewer levels of middle management between executives and staff and, thus, require more independent, unsupervised work—think Google, LinkedIn, and Health Care, Work, and Racial Outsourcing other companies in Silicon Valley that encourage employees to work in ways that allow them to be their most productive. This means workers can have greater autonomy and more control over their career paths than was true for employees in the past.
Organizations now expect workers to be nimbler and more flexible, to change jobs more frequently rather than devoting their entire career to a company, and to take greater responsibility for moving into and out of jobs, organizations, or even the workforce itself. In tandem with giving workers more autonomy, however, organizations also assume much less responsibility for employees than they have in the past.”
Sheryl says Biden and his administration are intent on having diversity and inclusion in all action they take. However, “Meritocracy” is still is a necessary ingredient in appointing the best people, not only because they feel the need to have all races genders represented for social justice purposes but making clear minded and fair action in selecting the right people for the job based on qualifications and talent, not necessary because they are part of certain designated and favored groups of individuals or minorities. Meritocracy seems to be taking a back seat to his appointments. We will have to see how this will all work out.
A few decades after the civil rights movement, however, professional organizations began to heed the call to bring more practitioners of color into the industry. The predominantly white American Medical Association and other organizations now publicly concede, in response to active, consistent pressure from organizations like the predominantly black National Medical Association, that there is a need to attract more practitioners of color. They advocate adopting a racial realism perspective in health care—the view that in some cases, workers of color bring special skills and talents, making greater diversity a concrete benefit . Because of a long history of racism in the medical profession, black doctors and nurses may be more likely than their white peers to engender trust and positive relationships with their black patients, as many patients prefer to see, and respond better to, doctors who share their racial background . As the country stands to become a majority minority nation, the medical population needs to include more doctors of color to serve this more diverse patient population effectively
Dr. Wingfield addresses what she feels needs to change in corporations to start mining different internal spaces for promotion. Perhaps, like in postwar America, organizations might shoulder hefty retirement and medical costs associated with labor, but today these are considered “externality costs” that cut into an organization’s bottom line (Acker 2006). Companies now shift these costs back to employees, who are increasingly responsible for greater shares of their own retirement and health care costs. This allows corporations to boost profits and is consistent with broader norms that now cast labor as a cost to be cut rather than an important investment. These organizational changes have dramatically restructured the way work is done. It now is much more insecure and contingent.
Sheryl suggests that, “Perhaps the bottom line and profits are not as important as taking care of your employees and treating everyone as family.
Perhaps meritocracy and reward for hard work and not diversity alone or trying to make everyone equal which really can never be accomplished for as unique souls we have individual talents and limitations which can affect the quality of life for ourselves and others. Still again in learning acceptance and working cooperatively everyone has a way to pool their resources for the common good which would improve many of the situations being discussed today.
Health care is one of the issues in the need for healing and is an extremely integral part of improving life for all people and for achieving a level of fairness in caring for all our citizens. In the past companies began to offer health benefits to attract workers. This began the trend of linking health care to employment, but it is important to reiterate that these benefits were not widely shared. Organizations began to assume some responsibility for the increasing costs of health care at a time when the workers who could take advantage of this were, owing to employment discrimination, mostly white men. Women of all races, and particularly women of color, faced overt, systemic discrimination that left them underrepresented in jobs that included health care benefits, forcing them to shoulder these costs on their own or rely on a partner’s coverage if available (Branch 2011). Problems with the health care system continued over the latter half of the twentieth century.
Thus, lawmakers were able to pass legislation intended to expand access to care, address rising costs, and increase the number of providers trained to give care. Unfortunately for many Americans, health care still remained tied to work. These changes helped but did not provide a panacea. In the 1970s, factors like inflation, high Medicare costs, and the growing use of technology in medicine meant that costs continued to spiral. At the same time, the number of the uninsured also continued to grow.
Thus, lawmakers were able to pass legislation intended to expand access to care, address rising costs, and increase the number of providers trained to give care. Unfortunately for many Americans, health care still remained tied to work. These changes helped but did not provide a panacea. In the 1970s, factors like inflation, high Medicare costs, and the growing use of technology in medicine meant that costs continued to spiral. At the same time, the number of the uninsured also continued to grow. Today, health care has morphed into a sharply tiered system that is profoundly unequal and in which care is highly commodified. For those who are well off and can afford private insurance, there are extensive treatment options, preventative care, and highly sought-after specialists. For those who cannot afford this, care in the poorly funded, under-resourced public sector is often the only option.
In an increasingly multiracial society, the premise of collective responsibility that underlies the ACA means that wealthy white families will be called upon to show some level of economic, political, and social support for poor black, Asian, and Latino communities. Thus, basing this legislation on the belief that “we’re all in this together” means, in practice, that whites must see racial minorities as people with whom they share not just a fundamental connection, but also a sense of responsibility. Projections that America will become a majority minority nation by 2044 mean that this prospect of mutual connectivity is no longer an abstract hypothetical. Rather, as the US rapidly grows blacker, browner, and more Asian, this collective orientation suggests that these groups are entitled to the benefits of inclusion that they had previously been denied, and that this may call for some sacrifices by white communities
Sheryl says “As a Reiki Master Energy Teacher and formerly a teacher in the New York City schools working in minority communities it is impossible to end racism or foster acceptance of all people as long as the focus is on the differences and not the similarities of all humans. By Identity Politics and separating people into groups according to race, religion or gender or sexual preference you are creating negativity and divisiveness. Segregation, War, Limiting people by class or economic differences, is the real inequality and has been encouraged throughout every society, not only in America. So in order to end racism, we really do need to accept each person as they are, not as government or certain political groups playing the racist or gender card seem to do, and which many people in society deem acceptable. That energy of acceptance and love will heal many of the worst problems we now face. As long as we focus on describing people as black brown women of color Jew or any other label which are blatantly racist, we will never make it right.
In Sheryl’s book A New Life Awaits addressing the labeling and false identification of an individual she wrote, “It goes back to our present-day views of what is important to us materially or spiritually and how society either values or devalues basic human decency. Everywhere we are assigned designations or labels: boy or girl, rich or poor, beautiful or ugly, smart or unintelligent. I feel labeling a situation or a person in this way—or with either an illness or a mental or social disorder other than to help them receive the services they need— might be detrimental. Labeling will set them on a path that is unalterable and will allow fewer opportunities. Our physical life, mind, and ego are obsessed and defined by labels and descriptions of who we think we are based on the perceptions of others, and buying into this thinking makes us forget our inner soul presence and needs.
At no time in my life have I heard more negativity, name-calling, and labeling than in the 2016 Presidential Election campaign. I was quite amazed by people who had achieved so much but who had declined in spiritual values, as evidenced in the way they handled policy and communication of their views about the important plans for the country. Several candidates, party members, and the media wasted so much time and Life –on accentuating personality flaws and attacking past indiscretions. But perhaps the stakes were huge. Corruption and mismanagement of the government by many misguided politicians were now even more overwhelmingly apparent, so a new leader dedicated to restoring the nation to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all needed to be chosen. We needed a new vision and a tough leader to address the many problems our nation and world faced!’
Adia and Sheryl discuss that perhaps understanding her breakdown of inequity in business first will eventually lead to a deeper view of life as all individuals are connected by energy and a common divine purpose to cooperate and live in harmony and balance.
Understanding how America is different from any other nation in the world shows us our unique set of circumstances and how to work with them to improve conditions. Perhaps no conservative made this case against the ACA and for the AHCA more clearly than former Representative Joe Walsh. In a May 2017 conversation between Walsh and MSNBC commentator Ali Velshi, Velshi pointed out that health care outcomes, as a whole, in the US healthcare system rank last relative to those of other industrialized nations. Walsh replied, “You can’t compare the rest of the world to us. They do not have the big diverse populations that we have. They do not have the inner city populations that we have. . . . Sweden does not have our inner- city population. Norway, these countries do not have—you’re talking about countries the size of India with homogenous populations. You can’t compare them to what we have.”4 Contrasting the health care systems of Norway and Sweden, with their predominantly white populations, to the health care system of the US, with its “inner-city populations,” Walsh made clear that part of the reason why a more collective orientation to health care would not work is that it would necessarily require whites to be comfortable with their tax dollars paying for a health care system that, in part, supported minority communities. In this framing, then, the ACA involved a black president requiring hardworking white populations to pay for health care for “diverse,” “inner-city” populations whose expensive health care outcomes stem from a failure to lead “good lives.”
What do these divides mean for work in the public sector, which disproportionately services patients of color? To assess this, it is important to explore just how this arena has changed over the past few decades. It used to be that the public sector provided viable employment options that offered black professionals stable work and economic security. Yet in the post–civil rights era, as black workers gained more access to jobs in this sphere that could provide middle-class status and upward mobility, legislators and policy makers began to decry the public sector, characterizing it as a bloated site of wasteful spending that inhibited free enterprise
Privatization followed shortly thereafter. Furthermore, it had the intended effect of shrinking the public sector, where black professionals had been earning comfortable incomes that met or even exceeded the wages their black counterparts earned in the private sector This trend reverses racial and economic progress that had been occurring in the aftermath of the civil rights movement, and creates downward economic mobility for black workers who had previously had access to stable employment and wage parity via public sector.
After reading Flatlining Race Work and Healthcare in the New Economy hopefully readers will become aware of inequality or racist behaviors are definitely improving across this nation and as this nation sets the standards for the free world perhaps it will improve in many other nations.
Yet this point should not be taken to suggest that diversity policies, broadly speaking, have yielded no gains whatsoever. Clearly not every organization places so little emphasis on improving racial and gender diversity. In 2016, in response to the highly publicized police shootings of the unarmed black men Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, PricewaterhouseCoopers’s CEO, Tim Ryan, initiated Color Brave, a series of open, informal workplace discussions about race and racism that address these issues head-on. In other companies, affinity groups—collectives
Dr. Wingfield argues that when organizations wrestle with determining how best to reach diverse communities while, at the same time, trying to maximize market values and minimize the resources they devote to labor, this leads to a process I term racial outsourcing. Racial outsourcing occurs when organizations fail to do the work of transforming their culture, norms, and workforces to reach communities of color and instead rely on black professionals for this labor. As a result, I contend, black professionals do equity work, which I define as the various forms of labor associated with making organizations more accessible to minority communities. Equity work is driven by black professionals’ experiences with workplace racism and shaped by gender and occupational status, so that black men and black women workers in various occupations do this work differently. In some cases, equity work is explicitly mandated by organizations; in others, it is a result of the racial solidarity many black professionals bring to their work.
But ultimately, both racial outsourcing and equity work represent new mechanisms of racial inequality, where organizations abdicate the responsibility for creating diverse institutions and, instead, rely on black professionals to make the institutions and their services available to an increasingly minority population organized around common bonds of race, gender, LGBTQIA status, or other categories—can offer critical social support in settings where these members are underrepresented
Sheryl says that her son has mentioned he is aware of underrepresentation in the corporate structure and that needs to improve as it is and as it will and if we all work as a human spiritual force for fairness and what’s righteous, we might eventually be able to have our focus on the best within ourselves and end prejudice judgement: allowing for equality in the workplace, not allowing any one group to do all the work. Cooperation over competition has always been the key to success on so many levels.
We thank you Dr. Adia Harvey Wingfield, author of Flatlining for tackling a topic which is clearly not well understood by government corporate education facilities where the real changes on the conversations on race must go to begin to heal and unify the nation as a whole.
In summarizing today’s episode of “Healing From Within” we have attempted to tackle generations of understanding the need in American industries and government to work with African American business people to advance equity in as many workplaces as possible.
Dr. Wingfield writes, “I conclude Flatlining by reiterating my central argument: in the modern work world, organizations engage in racial outsourcing, leaving black professionals to do the equity work of connecting organizations to communities of color. While this process does not render black professionals as economically disadvantaged as their poor or working-class counterparts, it still has adverse consequences. Namely, it creates disappointment and disillusionment with how organizations treat minority communities; leads to racial isolation from white colleagues; and perhaps most importantly, leaves black professionals shouldering the added responsibility of making organizations more accessible and available to communities of color in an increasingly multiracial society. This book identifies racial outsourcing and equity work as new mechanisms of racial inequality for blacks in professional settings. I also use the conclusion to address the implications of this research in three areas. I discuss what these results tell us about the ways health care, as it adjusts to the organizational changes of the modern era, does so through racial, gendered, and classed practices. Following this, I consider what implications my findings may have for black professionals working in other fields. I conclude the book with an assessment of how we can use the results of this research to change workplaces to become better equipped to meet the needs of an increasingly multiracial America.
Adia and I would have those whose hearts are open no matter race socio- economic level. gender or religion stop thinking in terms of differences and begin to see the world and America most especially as a land of transformation and transcendence…a place where light replaces darkness, love replaces hatred, and fairness, kindness and love become emotions and behaviors that speak to everyone and bring harmony, balance and justice for ALL.