Impossible Burdens: White Institutions, Emotional Labor, and Micro-Resistance Academic Article uri icon


  • © The Author 2015. This article explores the connections between white institutional spaces, emotional labor, and resistance by illuminating the shared experiences of people of color in elite law schools and the commercial aviation industry. Based on in-depth qualitative data combined from two individual studies, we illustrate the processes by which white institutional spaces create a complex environment where people of color must navigate racial narratives, ideologies, and discourses, while simultaneously attempting to achieve institutional success to reap the material rewards of these elite institutional settings. In these distinct environments, people of color experience an unequal distribution of emotional labor as a result of negotiating both everyday racial micro-aggressions and dismissive dominant ideologies that deny the relevance of race and racism. As a result they must actively seek ways to engage in forms of resistance that promote counter narratives and protect themselves from denigration while minimizing the risk of severe consequence. Our data suggest that a more nuanced conceptualization of resistance and the context in which resistance occurs is needed in order to understand the everyday experiences of people of color.

altmetric score

  • 43.672

author list (cited authors)

  • Evans, L., & Moore, W. L.

citation count

  • 64

publication date

  • July 2015