Community Colleges as Racialized Organizations: Outlining Opportunities for Equity

Heather N. McCambly, Stephanie Aguilar-Smith, Eric R. Felix, Xiaodan Hu, Lorenzo Du Bois Baber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The purpose of this article is to use Victor Ray’s theory of racialized organizations (TRO), and multiple applied exemplars, as a framework and call to action for community college researchers and policymakers. In doing so, we provide a meso-level analytic view on how and why the most accessible postsecondary pathway for minoritized students is also the most chronically under-resourced sector of higher education in the United States. Argument: Understanding community colleges as a type of racialized organization opposes traditional meritocratic perspectives that view these institutions as culturally neutral spaces, guided by open access and unrestricted credential choice. Decades of research suggest that egalitarian principles attached to community colleges do not necessarily translate into equitable student experiences and outcomes. Responses to these inequitable outcomes, however, primarily assign blame to individual dispositions. Without deep consideration of contextual conditions that shape organizational policies and practices, outcome disparities are viewed as a condition of cultural deficits rather than structured impotence. Conclusions: This paper advances our collective attunement, as community college scholars, to organizational arrangements that perpetuate and weaken white supremacy. In short, we use a racialized organizational lens to think in new ways about how community colleges, as an institutional type, are often as marginalized as the students they serve.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)658-679
Number of pages22
JournalCommunity College Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2023


  • organizational change
  • praxis
  • racial equity
  • racialized organizations
  • research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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