White – Supremacy – Culture. There are normally a lot of feelings, reactions and images around these three words. It is easy to pass blame around because it is 2019 and we are still having these conversations. For people of color the word “white” is believed to let them off the hook; For people who are white, “supremacy” is the trigger because now it is associated with the worst of the worst, such as the KKK. However the last word “culture” brings us all together. Culture is our values, traditions and ways of being.
I’m from the great state of Texas and we have a word we are known for probably more than any other state: Y’ALL. It doesn’t matter their gender, income, education level, geographic location or race, people who grew up in Texas most likely use this gender neutral phrase. “Y’all” is a part of the CULTURE of Texas. I have had people come up to me during breaks in trainings and confessed they are not from Texas, but have spent long periods of time there and now “y’all” is apart of their everyday speech.
In the same way The United States of America has a culture of white supremacy and no matter your race, gender, income, education level, or where you live, it can ( and probably has ) rubbed off on you. Not just you, but all of US. It takes form in our habits, our language, patterns of thoughts, and our actions. Here are two examples of how it can show up in our personal/professional lives and in our networks.
In 2001, an article came out by Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun entitled, ‘The Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture’ where they submitted fifteen ways it manifests. Two ways it manifests are through “either/or” thinking and “individualism”.
Either/or thinking shows up in how we talk about things such as ‘either you pass or fail’, ‘it’s my way or no way’ and ‘male or female’. Ultimately, there is no room for ambiguity and other truths. When it comes to individualism and how it manifests, it could sound like “ I am successful because of my own hard work” or the famous hip-hop song “Independent” by lil’ Bosie or not asking for support because you feel you have to do all of the work yourself and can’t rely on others. It also sounds like “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps”. It is hard to imagine life without hearing one of these phases in the United States and are some ways that we experience patterns of white supremacy.
These patterns make it hard to be inclusive and thrive as a network when ‘either/or thinking’ and ‘individualism’ are present. If there are network members who are not leaning on the collective, the network is missing out on their expertise and knowledge. Furthermore, if ‘either/or thinking’ is present, it could be hard to get things done because there is no room for multiple ideas. Also, either/or thinking doesn’t let you build on another’s ideas which can harm innovation and creativity within the network.
These two manifestations of white supremacy culture can show up in anybody at anytime. We need to be aware of our own patterns, because we are all a part of the problem, so we can collectively create a better, more inclusive solution.
I hope you join us for the Network Thinking Academies as we identify some more of these patterns or habits that shows up in our networks and collectively look for ways to give way to new, life – giving habits; So that our networks can thrive, be inclusive, and create the change we want to see in the world.