Advancing the Value of Ethnography

Design & White Supremacy Culture: A Call and Response


Within the growing global discourse around race, whiteness, and racial injustice lies a call to address the ways systemic racism and normalized whiteness continue to shape our work. Many organizations have issued formal statements but struggle to identify and implement meaningful next steps. Through this panel, we will discuss how change works in concert with or opposition to dominant norms, values, and culture in our research and our organizations.


photos of panelists

Autumn Sanders Foster has worked with Fortune 500 companies, start-ups and non-profits, helping them grow their businesses by understanding their customers. She launched Quire Consulting in 2017 to provide clients access to qualitative research and design strategy that brings real people into the center of the design process. She leads clients through experiences with end-users to develop effective, scalable solutions to the challenges clients face. Autumn has worked with clients across a range of industries including education, arts, health care, retail, human resources, CPG, consumer electronics, and food. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ohio University (Athens, OH) and master’s degrees in design management and graphic design from the Savannah College of Art and Design (Savannah, GA). Autumn sees community engagement as essential to her work and role as a citizen. She has served on the board of Space One Eleven, a contemporary art gallery and center for arts education and as a member of the YMCA of Greater Birmingham marketing advisory team. She coaches local entrepreneurs through CO.STARTERS.

Nancy Douyon is a Global Design Ethicist & Product Philosopher. She is a trailblazer in human experience design with over 15 years of industry experience building scalable user research platforms and revitalizing user interfaces at leading companies such as Uber, Google, IBM, Cisco and Intel. Throughout her career, Nancy has gained a reputation for delivering big results in a culturally honest and purposeful way with hundreds of products deployed in over 80 countries worldwide. She consults globally on remote user research methods and development in emerging markets. Nancy is currently developing the Douyon Signature Labs, Silicon Valley’s first social enterprise research institute focused on bridging the gap between human potential and tech ecosystems for the humane use of technology. She has received numerous technical and leadership awards, is proudly Hatian, has traveled to over 70 countries and speaks fluent sarcasm. In her spare time, she lectures on user experience methodologies, dances in Carnivals all over the world, and is active in community service.

Angela Gist-Mackey, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Kansas (KU) with an expertise in organizational communication. She also serves as a Director for the Multicultural Scholars Program at KU. After her career in the advertising industry where she served as a Senior Account Executive managing campaigns for regional, national, and global consumer and business-to-business brands, she decided to pursue a doctorate in communication. Dr. Gist-Mackey is an interpretive critical scholar who largely researches issues of social mobility and power related to organizational contexts. Her program of research frequently combines these areas of interest: social class, social identity, communication, and power. Her most recent publication analyzed the struggles of unemployed racial minorities (working and upper/middle class) while they managed joblessness through organizational memberships. Much of Dr. Gist-Mackey’s research is engaged scholarship partnering with local, regional, and campus organizations to provide insightful recommendations for improving their community programming. Her scholarship has been published in outlets such as Organization Studies, Communication Monographs, Journal of Applied Communication Research, Management Communication Quarterly, and Departures in Critical Qualitative Research among other outlets. Dr. Gist-Mackey teaches undergraduate and graduate courses about organizational communication, organizational culture, stigmatized identities, and ethnographic research methods.

Dr. William Lez Henry was born in the London borough of Lewisham, London, England of Jamaican Parentage and is Professor of Criminology and Sociology, University of West London. He is the British Reggae Deejay Lezlee Lyrix and is a writer, poet and community activist who is renown as a first-rate public speaker. He has lectured nationally and internationally and featured in numerous documentaries and current affairs television and radio programmes. Prof Lez lectures in the areas of criminology, sociology, anthropology, black history, whiteness studies, race, education, ethnicity, gender, youth justice and cultural studies, and delivers educational programmes in community and grass-roots settings, as well as in universities, schools and colleges. With a keen interest in the counter-cultures of the African Diaspora, especially as recorded through the lens of popular cultural forms such as reggae music, his perspective makes known the historical black British and Caribbean influence / contribution to the social, cultural and political struggles of the global African Diaspora against white supremacist thought and action. He has a passion for martial arts and holds a Shodan Black Belt in IKK Kyokushinkai Karate and is a 2nd Degree, Black Belt, Instructor with London Hung Kuen, Five Animals, Shaolin Kung Fu.

Melinda Weekes-Laidlow is a social change architect, master facilitator, ordained minister, and social entrepreneur. She is President of Weekes In Advance Enterprises LLC, an organizational development firm offering facilitation, strategy, training and collaborative skills capacity building in arts and entertainment, social innovation, racial equity, and social justice spaces. Melinda is also the Founder/CEO of Beautiful Ventures, a creative social enterprise that influences popular culture, disrupts anti-blackness and elevates perceptions of Black humanity. Previously, Melinda was the Managing Director at Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation and Senior Consultant at the Interaction Institute for Social Change. One of her great loves is teaching. As Graduate Professor of Management at Marlboro College, Melinda teaches at the intersections of racial equity, design thinking and collaborative leadership. In 2015, leading social impact fund Echoing Green named Melinda its first-ever Social Entrepreneur in Residence. She feels honored to render service to institutions that have profoundly shaped her life — as member of the Advisory Board of Wesleyan University’s Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship, the ministerial staff of the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York and of the Board of Directors at the Interaction Institute for Social Change. Melinda holds degrees from Wesleyan University, New York University School of Law and Harvard Divinity School. A native New Yorker born in The Bronx, Melinda flows between the Big Apple and the Big Peach – Atlanta, GA – where she now makes home and community.


These resources are offered by the panelists for further learning:


The Privilege Institute

The Design Justice Network: an “international community of people and organizations who are committed to rethinking design processes so that they center people who are too often marginalized by design.”


“Microaggressions in Everyday Life.” Derald Wing Sue (Wiley), Oct 4, 2010. 

“Look Different.” MTV.

Define America.

“Banaji and Greenwald: How Biased Are You?” The Implicit Association Test. Rivermaker, June 27, 2007. 

“Moving the Race Conversation Forward.” Race Forward, Jan 22, 2014. 


Henry, W. (L.). (2007). Whiteness Made Simple: Stepping into the GREY Zone, London: Learning By Choice Publications.

Johnson, D.G. et al, eds (2019) Race in the Marketplace. Palgrave Macmillan.

Sue, D. W. (2015). Race talk and the conspiracy of silence: Understanding and facilitating difficult dialogues on race. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Sue, D. W. (2010). Microaggressions in everyday life: Race, Gender & Sexual Orientation. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley

Sue, D. W., ed. (2010). Microaggressions and Marginality: Manifestation, Dynamics and Impact. 

Williams, D. A. (2013). Strategic diversity leadership. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing

Articles & Chapters

Gist-Mackey, A. and A. Guy (2019). “You Get in a Hole, It’s Like Quicksand’: A Grounded Theory Analysis of Social Support amid Materially Bounded Decision-making Processes.” Journal of Applied Communication Research 47(3): 237–259.

Gist-Mackey, A. N. (2017). “(Dis)embodied Job Search Communication Training: Comparative Critical Ethnographic Analysis of Materiality and Discourse During the Unequal Search for Work.” Organization Studies 39(9): 125–1275.

Jenson, P.R. et al (2020). “Pushing beyond Positionalities through ‘Failures’ in Qualitative Organizational Communication: Experiences and Lessons on Identities in Ethnographic Praxis.” Management Communication Quarterly 34(1) 121–151.

EquityXDesign (2016).  “Racism and Inequity are Products of Design. They Can Be Redesigned.” Medium, November 15. 

Henry, W, A. (2020). “Schooling, Education and the Reproduction of Inequality: Understanding Black and Minority Ethnic Attitudes to Learning in Two London Schools.” Race Ethnicity and Education.

Henry, W, A. (2020), ‘While Nuff Ah Right and Rahbit, We Write and Arrange: Deejay Lyricism and the Transcendental Use of the Voice in Alternative Public Spaces in the UK’. In Webb, J. Westmaas, R. Kaladeen, M. & Tantam, W. (eds), Memory, Migration and (De)colonisation in the Caribbean and Beyond. London: University of London Press.

Henry, W, A. & Mullings-Lawrence, S. (2017), ‘Silence is Virtual’, Youth Violence, Belonging, Death and Mourning’. In Subcultures Network (ed), Youth Culture and Social Change: Making a Difference by Making a Noise. UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Henry, W, A. (2012) ‘Shades of Consciousness: From Jamaica to the UK’. In Hall, R. (ed) The Melanin Millennium: Skin Color as the 21st Century International Discourse. Michigan, USA: Springer.