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Yes, White Supremacy Culture Can be Unlearned 

Updated: May 31

After losing the 2020 presidential election, the GOP adjusted their strategy to now include school boards as a battleground for swinging White suburban areas back in their favor, training future candidates, and advancing conservative ideology by outlawing discussions about race and gender in schools. 

5 white women stand behind a table with a sign that says STOP WOKE INDOCTRINATION Moms for Liberty. Each woman is wearing a moms for liberty t-shirt and holding a book.

While the success of said plan has been mixed, it has resulted in numerous conservative officials being voted into office. One of those candidates was Courtney Gore, a school board member in Granbury, Texas. She campaigned on promises to inspect and remove all educational materials that had messages about sexuality and race. 

And then she changed her mind. 

After actually reviewing the district’s curriculum, Gore was stunned to find that the content that was inappropriate for children and mentions of critical race theory simply did not exist. While Gore has not fully disconnected from her party, and her story certainly isn’t one of a hero, it does teach us a few key lessons about the function of White supremacy culture:  

It’s a Lie.

A myth. A tall tale. The greatest lie ever told. 

It’s typically a waste of time attempting to debunk every racist trope you come across, not because what you witnessed isn’t important but because it comes from a larger, more pervasive narrative. It’s also for this same reason that we typically don’t get into the political implications of DEI in America on this blog – as Toni Morrison would suggest, the racism of it all is simply a distraction. 

The lies of White supremacy culture govern both our democratic institutions and our workspaces. Working from the same playbook, both function to suppress ideologies that don’t align with it. 

In the workplace, these lies can come in the form of it being acceptable to believe that Black women are not professional or competent because of their hairstyle or other visual cues of Black culture. It can also look like perpetually believing that Black people are not ready for leadership positions because of the lie that only White faces and voices can represent a company’s best interests. 

A solid DEI strategy aims to not only put out the fires these lies can cause in a company as they arise but also to challenge and shift the ideologies that they stem from. 

It Will Harm Anyone Who It Deems Threatening.

When Courtney Gore began challenging the ultra-conservative narrative she had believed and amplified for so long, she was ostracized from her party and ultimately faced threats of violence. Her experience shows that the web of White supremacy culture is so vicious that it will attack anyone who threatens it in any way. 

Courtney Gore walks down a hallway with a crossbody bag, holding files in her left hand. She is looking up at a police officer who is walking with her.  The police officer is wearing a bullet proof vest.

The same happens in toxic, racist workplaces. The manager who treats employees as disposable can easily be disposed of themselves should they ever rock the boat or if the company ever decides they’re no longer of value there. 

It Rallies Around Fear. 

White supremacy uses fear to intimidate masses of people into believing its lies and to ultimately condone the violence it will use to implement its agenda. 

Historically, this fear has driven policies and legislation that have been harmful to Black folks and has successfully driven the public into being distrustful of one another and of institutions. In the workplace, this can look like worker intimidation, which discourages employees from not cooperating with policies or procedures that are blatantly racist or harmful. 

For White folks, choosing to relinquish that fear ultimately means acknowledging their own power and privilege within this system and being okay with surrendering it. For Black and Brown folks, the work comes in relinquishing the fear of seeing ourselves outside of all the lies White supremacy culture has convinced us are true about ourselves. A successful DEI strategy supports employees in both checking their own privilege and unlearning the ways they’ve internalized White supremacy culture. 

It Can be Unlearned. 

As we see from Courtney Gore, simply being informed and reading can easily expose the lies of a White supremacist narrative. While this kind of change in stance is rare, it’s not impossible. Like any learned behavior, it can be unlearned. 

Again, Gore’s story is no heroic act. It would take observing change over the course of time and a complete disavowal of White supremacist values to see this as a good deed. But, it does show the potential for change and to speak up about harmful narratives in real time. 

A successful workplace DEI strategy recognizes that White supremacy culture is a lie and takes active steps not only to debunk the myths but to create a culture that does not allow racism and anti-Blackness to thrive. Change is possible– schedule a consultation to start your journey with ShiftEd today!

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1 Comment

Jasmine Fluker
Jasmine Fluker
May 29

I love the fact that you pulled out how it can be unlearned because far to many times, because there is a pendulum swing, we like to unacknowledged all of the movement building done before us. We can unlearn, and have a different reality.

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