Hitting the white ceiling: Structural racism and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander university graduates15 July 2019
This article reports on a study that explored what it means to be a mature-age Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander university graduate in the context of age, life-stage, history, culture, socioeconomic status, race and place. Using narrative interview data and fieldwork observation, we focus on the graduates’ workplace experiences and take a case study approach to amplify their voices. We argue that the data challenges the ideological construct of Australia as a ‘post-racial’ society and illustrates how interrelated variants of structural racism function to sanction, silence and control educated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, divide communities into quasi-hierarchies and sustain white power and privilege. We show how these variants are expressed as low expectations, shadeism, culturism and privilege protectionism, and argue that their enactment can erect an invisible barrier to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander professional progression: a ‘white ceiling’ above which many graduates struggle to ascend.