Challenging racism as a Black police officer: An emergent theory of employee anti-racism. Academic Article uri icon


  • Organizations are key mechanisms by which racism is enacted and perpetuated. Although much of the management literature has focused on organizational efforts to combat racial discrimination, some of the most transformative changes come from the everyday actions of employees themselves. In this study, we develop grounded theory on racial minority employees who choose to challenge racism from within the organizational structures that perpetuate it most (i.e., highly racialized organizations). We present a theoretical model of employee anti-racism that emerged from our analysis of qualitative data-comprising 80.7 audio hours from 48 interviews with Black law enforcement officers. This model articulates anti-racism motivation as a key mechanism that motivates racial minority employees to join and stay within highly racialized organizations. Our analysis suggests that these employees enact anti-racism behaviors targeted at both the racialized organization and their racial community, with these behaviors playing a critical role in positively transforming the interface between the organization and the communities that are harmed by racism. Perceptions of transformation help sustain racial minority employees' anti-racism motivation, particularly as they experience continued racism and encounter backlash for their anti-racism efforts. In the absence of perceived transformation, we found that racial minority employees are likely to withdraw from the highly racialized organization. Altogether, our study provides a theoretical and practical roadmap highlighting how racial minority employees combat racism via organizational membership and sustain their positive impact on both their work organization and their racial communities. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved).

published proceedings

  • J Appl Psychol

altmetric score

  • 32.9

author list (cited authors)

  • Prengler, M. K., Chawla, N., Leigh, A., & Rogers, K. M.

citation count

  • 2

complete list of authors

  • Prengler, Melanie K||Chawla, Nitya||Leigh, Angelica||Rogers, Kristie M

publication date

  • February 2023