Why Dismantling Racism and White Supremacy Culture Unleashes the Benefits of Networks

Why Dismantling Racism and White Supremacy Culture Unleashes the Benefits of Networks

Before we go any further down the road of this blog, we need to point out that network approaches cannot become transformative unless the network explicitly works on dismantling white supremacy culture and racism.

This is because networks only flourish when people in them are able to interact as peers, valuing everyone’s input and involvement. In addition, many aspects of dominant or white supremacy culture hold us back from reaping the benefits of networks, but are so pervasive as to be hidden from our awareness. Tema Okun has one of the best lists of these cultural characteristics which include (the next two sections are quoted verbatim from her article):


1. Perfectionism

  • Little appreciation expressed among people for the work that others are doing; appreciation that is expressed usually directed to those who get most of the credit anyway
  • more common is to point out either how the person or work is inadequate – or even more common, to talk to others about the inadequacies of a person or their work without ever talking directly to them
  • mistakes are seen as personal, i.e. they reflect badly on the person making them as opposed to being seen for what they are – mistakes
  • making a mistake is confused with being a mistake, doing wrong with being wrong
  • little time, energy, or money put into reflection or identifying lessons learned that can improve practice, in other words little or no learning from mistakes
  • tendency to identify what’s wrong; little ability to identify, name, and appreciate what’s right
  • often internally felt, in other words the perfectionist fails to appreciate her own good work, more often pointing out his faults or ‘failures,’ focusing on inadequacies and mistakes rather than learning from them; the person works with a harsh and constant inner critic

2. Sense of Urgency

  • continued sense of urgency that makes it difficult to take time to be inclusive, encourage democratic and/or thoughtful decision-making, to think long-term, to consider consequences
  • frequently results in sacrificing potential allies for quick or highly visible results, for example sacrificing interests of communities of color in order to win victories for white people (seen as default or norm community)
  • reinforced by funding proposals which promise too much work for too little money and by funders who expect too much for too little

Others are: defensiveness, quantity over quality, worship of the written word, only one right way, paternalism, “either/or” thinking, power hoarding, fear of open conflict, individualism, “I’m the only one”, objectivity, and right to comfort.


Please read the entire article here.

As Tema points out,

“[Organizations] who unconsciously use these characteristics as their norms and standards make it difficult, if not impossible, to open the door to other cultural norms and standards. As a result, many of our organizations, while saying we want to be multi-cultural, really only allow other people and cultures to come in if they adapt or conform to already existing cultural norms. Being able to identify and name the cultural norms and standards you want is a first step to making room for a truly multi-cultural organization.” 


Please share experiences you have had or how your organization or network is working to dismantle racism and dominant culture.

2 thoughts on “Why Dismantling Racism and White Supremacy Culture Unleashes the Benefits of Networks

  1. Encouraging to see a leader of June’s stature talking about how racism is embedded in organizational cultural practices and how dismantling those practices improves our work. Thank you!

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