Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Tomeka Davis

Second Advisor

Deirdre Oakley

Third Advisor

Veronica Newton


My dissertation utilizes semi-structured interviews with Black professionals (N =25) across various industries to explore discourses of racism within professionalized workplaces. My dissertation forwards systemic racism theories by considering the emerging arguments of racial capitalism to investigate the relationship between racial hierarchies, job authority hierarchies, and racialized valuation in professionalized work. My research finds that the hierarchical structure of professionalized work grants Whites in positions of influence authority to define the conceptual boundaries of what constitutes a racist action or expression and the ramifications of such actions/expressions. With the power to define, White managers and supervisors continuously render behaviors that Black professionals see as racist as behaviors needing no institutional consideration or intervention. As such, many Black professionals avoid making their experiences with racism public because they understand that Whites will use their discretion to dismiss their concerns or harness White racial frames to taint their career prospects in fields dominated by peer evaluation. White professionals' structural authority over what constitutes racism - and the distribution of resources to deal with racist incidents -only reify their preferred stance that racism does not exist within their workplace.

A central theme of my research is the absence of institutional support in contesting racism and racial inequality in the workplace. The continuing maintenance of predominately White authority centers influences Black professionals to conceal their experiences of racial inequality to be evaluated as ideal workers by White leadership. My research calls for institutional efforts that challenge the persistence of White systemic racism and market-dependent individualism to provide the collective support necessary to counter the collective issue of anti-Black racism in the workplace.


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