In recognition of Black History Month, this month we feature work the impactful article, “Operationalizing critical race theory in the marketplace” written by Sonja Poole, Sonya Grier, Kevin Thomas, Francesca Sobande, Akon Ekpo, Lez Trujillo Torres, Lynn Addington, Melinda Weekes-Laidlow and (the late) Geraldine Henderson. To see information for the paper on the TCR website click here.
Sonya and Sonja reflect on the paper and the importance of this research topic:
How can we best understand and bring to light the dynamics related to race in the marketplace? That was the question that ignited our interest in a TCR Track and led us to conduct this research. As members of a global trans-disciplinary collaborative research network committed to creating research to support the development of more racially equitable marketplaces, we had been engaged in posting and analyzing practical examples of marketplace racism on the Race in the Marketplace (RIM) Facebook page for several years before the study began. Over time, we collectively observed and tracked countless instances where race played subtle and conspicuous roles in marketplace motivations, behaviors, or outcomes. Although the significance of race in the marketplace is clear, as scholars, we found that marketing discussions and analyses insufficiently engaged the construct of race.
We initially intended to develop a deep understanding of the diverse types of controversial race-related marketplace incidents. However, through our discussions, it became clear that Marketing was missing a cohesive critical perspective to undergird analyses of race in the marketplace. It was also apparent that significant research across many other disciplines converged on Critical Race Theory as an important framework that provides historical and contemporary explanations of the societal significance of race and racism. We engaged Critical Race Theory to illuminate marketplace dynamics and elucidate CRT's overall potential as a robust analytical tool in marketplace studies. We used AI, specifically facial recognition, as a relevant illustration of theoretical applicability. Our analysis demonstrates how CRT can support an enhanced understanding of racial dynamics in markets through diverse research methods and approaches that can lead to more equitable marketplaces worldwide.
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Citation: Poole, Sonja Martin, Sonya A. Grier, Kevin D. Thomas, Francesca Sobande, Akon E. Ekpo, Lez Trujillo Torres, Lynn A. Addington, Melinda Weekes-Laidlow, and Geraldine Rosa Henderson (2021) "Operationalizing critical race theory in the marketplace." Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 40 (2), 126-142.
Abstract: Race is integral to the functioning and ideological underpinnings of marketplace actions yet remains undertheorized in marketing. To understand and transform the insidious ways in which race operates, the authors examine its impact in marketplaces and how these effects are shaped by intersecting forms of systemic oppression. They introduce critical race theory (CRT) to the marketing community as a useful framework for understanding consumers, consumption, and contemporary marketplaces. They outline critical theory traditions as utilized in marketing and specify the particular role of CRT as a lens through which scholars can understand marketplace dynamics. The authors delineate key CRT tenets and how they may shape the way scholars conduct research, teach, and influence practice in the marketing discipline. To clearly highlight CRT’s overall potential as a robust analytical tool in marketplace studies, the authors elaborate on the application of artificial intelligence to consumption markets. This analysis demonstrates how CRT can support an enhanced understanding of the role of race in markets and lead to a more equitable version of the marketplace than what currently exists. Beyond mere procedural modifications, applying CRT to marketplace studies mandates a paradigm shift in how marketplace equity is understood and practiced.
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