D. The Role of Minorities at the Top
When a baseball club hires an African American to a significant front office role, an increased amount of scrutiny is placed on the team and individual. A lack of success re-enforces the stereotype that African Americans are not effective leaders.[i] On the other hand, it is assumed that success naturally leads other teams to hire more African Americans. However, Critical Race Theorists posit that the latter is not the case.
Devon Carbado and Mitu Gulati, Critical Race Theorists who focus on the area of employment law, have outlined the problems that face minorities[ii] when other minorities reach the top of a corporate hierarchy.[iii] First, Carbado and Gulati identify many of the "advancement traits" that are inherent in climbers of the corporate ladder: overconfidence, substantial risk taking, and ethical plasticity.[iv] Further, minorities who are hired into these positions are viewed as racially palatable and able to be molded by corporate culture.[v]
Next, Clabrado and Gulati identify some of the presumed group benefits that flow from first generation minority corporate success: reduction of negative stereotyping, creation of better mentorship opportunities, and enhancement of internal accountability on racial issues.[vi] However, the aforementioned characteristics requisite for corporate ladder climbing disincentivises individuals from working to further these goals.[vii]
First, negative stereotypes are not reduced because individuals are more likely to negate stereotypes associated with themselves as opposed to their minority group.[viii] This leads to "racial exceptionalism", the notion that a successful minority is viewed as an exception from various racial stereotypes that continue to permeate.[ix] Second, overconfidence and the need to continue to be a "team player" diminishes the likelihood that senior minorities mentor junior minorities within the corporation.[x] Overconfidence causes the senior minority, who succeeded despite a lack of mentoring, to believe that other minorities do not, or should not, need mentoring.[xi] Further, mentoring other minorities may present the senior minority as not being a "team player" due to a perceived special interest stemming from their association with fellow minorities.[xii] Lastly, internal accountability is not enhanced because the requisite characteristics previously discussed have become an expectation for promotion and hiring of minorities and thus provides an answer for why minorities are not hired or promoted.[xiii]
These dynamics play out frequently in baseball front offices. For example, the aforementioned Kenny Williams had to overcome claims that he was a "yes man" by taking significant risks.[xiv] Further, his Stanford education could be perceived as racial exceptionalism, with other teams assuming his personal success as an African American general manager is an exception to the prevalent stereotypes. Finally, this quote from Williams supports the notion that minorities at the top frequently feel compelled to dispel stereotypes associated with them personally, as opposed to their minority group: "All I could do, was give it my best and let accomplishments speak for themselves. The only way I could make it better for people who follow me was to win and do it with dignity".[xv]
[i] See Supra Note II A.
[ii] This general discussion of minorities in corporate structure includes African Americans.
[iii] Devon W. Carbado & Mitu Gulati, Race to the Top of the Corporate Ladder: What Minorities Do When They Get There, 61 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. 1645 (2004).
[iv] Id at 1645-1655 (Carbado and Gulati follow Don Langevoort in noting that the individual most likely to be promoted is the one who appears to be the most loyal, as opposed to actually being loyal).
[v] Id at 1658.
[viii] Id at 1682.
[x] Id at 1690.
[xii] Id at 1691.
[xiii] Id at 1685.
[xiv] Powell, 223-224.
[xv] Powell, at 225.