The History Shaping Your Workplace: What You Need to Know to Advance D&I

The History Shaping Your Workplace: What You Need to Know to Advance D&I

90-minute Workshops

Day 3

Session Code: S6-A
When: April 12, 2018
Location/Room: M 100 FGH
Level: Introductory
Track: Critical Employment Practices
Presenter: Dr. Jacqueline Battalora, Saint Xavier University, Chicago


Imagine how dramatically planning for the future changed after it was discovered that the planet is not, in fact, flat but round. Discoveries in archeology continue to transform our understanding of the emergence of humanity and in turn our possibilities into the future. This session will explore discoveries in law and history that completely reorient the dominant conception of race. Laws and policies serve as invaluable artifacts that build understanding and strengthen capacity across cultures and sectors to advance workplace inclusion.

This session begins with an accessible and nuanced account of the invention of the human category “white” in law. People with low levels of melanin in the skin pre-existed the invention but they did not conceive of themselves as “white,” nor is there a single reference in law to them as “whites.” In this section of the session, participants will learn (1) when “white” was first used in law to reference a group of humanity; (2) the context out of which the invention of “white” people arose; (3) the meanings assigned to this group of humanity; and (4) the impact the invention had on the organization of society. The history reveals whiteness as a tremendous human effort imposed upon the masses. It removes individual blame and instead, exposes deeply historic and systemic roots.

The next part of the session explores the impact of the invention as revealed in founding U.S. law. In this section participants will learn (1) founding U.S. law that imposed whiteness; (2) the link between white and American; and (3) ways in which this law impacted access and opportunity in society. This history reveals the very fabric of U.S. law and policy as rooted in categories invented and ideas crafted within the British colonial era.

In the final section of the session, participants will engage in small group conversation exploring the links between this history and current practices within the workplace. First, the group will practice identifying whiteness. Then through guided questions, participants consider the footprints of this history in our present moment and the ways in which it shapes work environments and work products. Participants will also identify practices, policies, approaches, and language used in the workplace that suggests links to the history examined. There are more questions than time available within the workshop. These additional questions are provided to support either ongoing conversation or solo learning, to encourage a consideration of these historical forces in our workplace, and to engage participants beyond the workshop and the conference.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Learn a piece of the nation’s history that is central to a persistent human division that promotes exclusion within the workplace today.
  • Understand both conceptually and with specific historic evidence, that race is a social construction.
  • Draw links between the historical patterns discussed and practices within the workplace today.