Racial workforce diversity has been suggested as a critical pathway to address persistent racial mental health disparities. However, structural racism has been noted to diminish such workforce diversity efforts. The purpose of this critical review is to identify the mechanisms through which structural racism operates in organizations, including mental health organizations, to undermine workforce diversity efforts and reinforce inequities.
Using the theories of racialized organizations, the current review critically draws on literature underscoring the racial character of organizations as mezzo-level racialized structures that may systematically activate and uphold white privilege in the mental health workplace.
Findings suggest that in the context of institutionalized white dominance, workers of color within mental health organizations may experience race-based cultural exclusion, identity threat, and racialized workplace emotional expression, and be burdened by racialized tasks. The workers of color may also become the means for organizations to attract communities of color due to their diverse characteristics, yet workers’ effects to address disparities in mental health are minimized due to potential racialized organizational forces, including the whiteness of organizational leadership and color-blindness.
Conclusions and Implications for Practice
Structural racism may create resistance to the efforts and effects of a racially diverse workforce within mental health organizations. This review calls for a race-conscious framework that drastically shifts the traditional organizational structure to an inverted hierarchy (i.e., client-centered management) to maximize diversity efforts in the mental health organizational workforce to address racial disparities in mental health.