What Did You Say? Racial Slurs In The Workplace

Mar 13, 2013

A researcher from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business has helped analyze a series of studies and publish a paper on the prevalence of racial slurs used in the workplace.  There’s a growing body of online humor that has been pegged “friendly prejudice.”  You can hear it in this popular video titled – “Dear White People.”

Duke Associate Prof. Ashleigh Rosette is one of the authors of 'Why Do Racial Slurs Remain Prevalent in the Workplace.'
Credit Duke University

“Dear white people, breaking news. The amount of black friends required to not seem racist has now been raised to two.  Sorry,” says a young African American woman in the video.

Duke’s Ashleigh Rosette worked with professors from London Business School, Western New England University and McGill University in Canada to write the paper “Why Do Racial Slurs Remain Prevalent in the Workplace: Integrating Theory on Intergroup Behavior.” Rosette says, racial slurs have nothing to do with being cool or friendly at work when white men are the most likely to use slurs and are the least likely to report it.

“So specifically, socially dominant groups may not speak out because it is to their benefit to maintain the social inequality that racial slurs actually insight,” says Rosette.  "People who had a high social dominance orientation, which is a high preference for inequality or they value inequality more than those people, were more likely to remain silent."

A part of the study also included a behavioral experiment which included black and white college students who were purposefully exposed to racial slurs.  Most of them were employed.  The article has been published online in the journal Organization Science.