by Patricia A. Banks
Stanford University Press
A surprising and fascinating look at how Black culture has been leveraged by corporate America.
Open the brochure for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and you'll see logos for corporations like American Express. Visit the website for the Apollo Theater, and you'll notice acknowledgments to corporations like Coca Cola and Citibank. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, owe their very existence to large corporate donations from companies like General Motors. And while we can easily make sense of the need for such funding to keep cultural spaces afloat, less obvious are the reasons that corporations give to them. In Black Culture, Inc., Patricia A. Banks interrogates the notion that such giving is completely altruistic, and argues for a deeper understanding of the hidden transactions being conducted that render corporate America dependent on Black culture.
Drawing on a range of sources, such as public relations and advertising texts on corporate cultural patronage and observations at sponsored cultural events, Banks argues that Black cultural patronage profits firms by signaling that they value diversity, equity, and inclusion. By functioning in this manner, support of Black cultural initiatives affords these companies something called diversity capital, an increasingly valuable commodity in today's business landscape. While this does not necessarily detract from the social good that cultural patronage does, it reveals its secret cost: ethnic community support may serve to obscure an otherwise poor track record with social justice.
Banks deftly weaves innovative theory with detailed observations and a discerning critical gaze at the various agendas infiltrating memorials, museums, and music festivals meant to celebrate Black culture. At a time when accusations of discriminatory practices are met with immediate legal and social condemnation, the insights offered here are urgent and necessary.
"Many of us rarely think about the connections between race, organizations, and culture, but Patricia Banks's innovative concept of 'diversity capital' shows why we should. Her illuminating book reveals that while today's companies demonstrate their commitment to racial equity with donations to black cultural initiatives, this corporate largesse is more complicated than we might realize." -- Adia Harvey Wingfield, author of Flatlining
"In this strongly argued and beautifully written book, Banks provides a conceptual framework for understanding the racial politics of organizational behavior. Her concept of 'diversity capital' is rooted in classical sociological theory but pushes that scholarship forward to make it more relevant today. This analysis will be foundational for future work on race and organizations." -- Shyon Baumann, co-author of Foodies
"As businesses and organizations strive to prove their commitments to equity and inclusion, Black Culture, Inc. provides a nuanced corrective to corporate narratives. Alongside the rich and detailed empirical analysis, the conceptualization of 'diversity capital' is a crucial intervention with relevance across the social sciences." -- Dave O'Brien, author of Culture is Bad For You
"Black Culture, Inc. is an important book. In connecting corporate sponsorship of Black cultural institutions with urgent issues of racial justice, Banks demonstrates the wide, and often disturbing, ramifications of corporate efforts to increase their 'diversity capital.' Packed with scholarly insights, relevant case studies, and vivid anecdotes, this engaging book should be read by scholars, practitioners, students, and anyone interested in Black cultural institutions and how American corporations use cultural philanthropy." -- Victoria D. Alexander, author of Sociology of the Arts
About the Author:
Patricia A. Banks is Professor of Sociology and a faculty member in the Program in Africana Studies and the Program in Entrepreneurship, Organizations, and Society at Mount Holyoke College. She is author of Represent: Art and Identity Among the Black Upper-Middle Class (2010).