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When the “Blank Slate” Is a White One: White Institutional Isomorphism in the Birth of National Public Radio

When the “Blank Slate” Is a White One: White Institutional Isomorphism in the Birth of National... A burgeoning literature at the intersection of the sociology of race and organizations explores the organization’s role in (re)producing racial inequalities. The present article builds from this growing literature in its analysis of the formation of National Public Radio (NPR), to better understand how organizational actors translate racialized practices into new organizations at their foundation, even when they seek greater racial inclusivity. I coin a new analytical concept, white institutional isomorphism, to analyze how organizations that embrace a mission of diversity may end up reproducing racially exclusionary practices. White institutional isomorphic pressures are racialized norms that shape the standards and practices adopted across organizations within a given field. Using organizational meeting minutes, external reports, oral histories, and founder memoirs, I show that early implementation of station membership criteria, hiring practices, and programming priorities, while considered race-neutral decisions by the founders that shared a white habitus, inhibited the inclusion of nonwhite voices into NPR’s workforce, station membership, and programming. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Sociology of Race and Ethnicity SAGE

When the “Blank Slate” Is a White One: White Institutional Isomorphism in the Birth of National Public Radio

Sociology of Race and Ethnicity , Volume 8 (1): 16 – Jan 1, 2022

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Publisher
SAGE
Copyright
© American Sociological Association 2021
ISSN
2332-6492
eISSN
2332-6506
DOI
10.1177/2332649221994619
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

A burgeoning literature at the intersection of the sociology of race and organizations explores the organization’s role in (re)producing racial inequalities. The present article builds from this growing literature in its analysis of the formation of National Public Radio (NPR), to better understand how organizational actors translate racialized practices into new organizations at their foundation, even when they seek greater racial inclusivity. I coin a new analytical concept, white institutional isomorphism, to analyze how organizations that embrace a mission of diversity may end up reproducing racially exclusionary practices. White institutional isomorphic pressures are racialized norms that shape the standards and practices adopted across organizations within a given field. Using organizational meeting minutes, external reports, oral histories, and founder memoirs, I show that early implementation of station membership criteria, hiring practices, and programming priorities, while considered race-neutral decisions by the founders that shared a white habitus, inhibited the inclusion of nonwhite voices into NPR’s workforce, station membership, and programming.

Journal

Sociology of Race and EthnicitySAGE

Published: Jan 1, 2022

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