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Dismantling the organisational impact of white supremacy

It is easy to march for the marginalised. But to stand against a system of supremacy takes grit, authenticity and power. White supremacy serves the leaders at the top of the corporate hierarchy – mainly white men.

At present, they remain silent and hope to profit from allyship routines masked in fear of the loss of power and privilege. But organisations striving to drive inclusivity while repositioning equity must recognise how their cultural norms reflect and align with white supremacy.

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The image of a knee on the neck of dying black man George Floyd shook corporate leaders enough to speak out and take a stance against racism. But what about the system of white supremacy that has promoted their position?

Becoming an ally and amplifying a marginalised voice with your platform is not the same thing as deconstructing the racist roots of a business. It's time for business leaders to act with humility and stand as silent sponsors rather than misaligned allies.

White supremacy is an ideological framework that constructs, preserves and exploits the privilege and clout of the white male. White supremacy has shifted its influence over the years and, although it may not always look like white hoods, its culture still strongly exists in preferential systems. White supremacy culture and its organisational impact make no space for any culture outside of its own. 

Paternalism, power hoarding and perfectionism are three main elements of white supremacy culture that corporate leaders can examine and eradicate:

● Paternalism exists in the structures that hold the potential for promotion. It says that someone's position is to be respected only because they hold a certain title or authority – no matter what their contributions are. Paternalism distinguishes power and says to steer clear of decision-makers.

● Power hoarding is built on the misalignment of control and grants few the opportunity to excel. 

● Perfectionism limits potential and allows for inequitable offerings to existing parties of privilege. 

These accepted workplace norms make up the corporate culture and deny the presence of any culture-shifting principles. Human resource professionals must be sure to apply the appropriate guardrails around their company’s culture to retain inclusive practices and behaviours, while refuting elements of white supremacy culture. Here are some practical guardrails that will drive the greatest change:

● When confronted with paternalism, it is important to immediately change promotion processes and routines to expand their reach. Employees at all levels must be aware and engaged in opportunities for promotion. 

● If power hoarding is identified, it must immediately be dismantled. An inclusive work environment enables all employees to feel empowered with their own respective power alignment in the firm. Power must be equitable. 

● Perfectionism exists in the expectations of results. This idea of exceeding the benchmark of 100% and having your value being determined by this weighting is unrealistic. Allow for proper scorecard alignment to be based on capability. 

Now is the time for those who benefit from white supremacy culture to stand out against the very system that determines their value. Corporate leaders who claim to be inclusive while fostering a diverse workforce must look beyond their footprint to examine the impact of their influence. To say no to white supremacy is to say no to a system that hoards power, craves perfectionism and fears paternal preference.

Nicole A Simmonds-Jordan, a global account director at diversity and inclusion training consultancy PDT Global, part of Affirmity

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