Question It All: A Word For White Leaders

As I prepare to begin a new pastoral appointment on July 1, I'm sitting with an invitation to question it all.


The way we communicate.

The way we measure time.

The way we identify success.

The way we overwork.

The way we respond during conflict.

The source of our urgency.

The backstory of our frustration.

The patterns of power and who has it.


Because I've been given an opportunity I don't intend to miss by opening my bag of leadership tricks and deploying them as if one size fits all. No. Not now. Never again.


I'm questioning it all.


Want to know where I'm starting? With this list: The Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture by Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun. These characteristics "are damaging because they are used as norms and standards without being pro-actively named or chosen by the group. They are damaging because they promote white supremacy thinking. They are damaging to both people of color and to white people."


Perfectionism


Sense of Urgency


Defensiveness


Quantity Over Quality


Worship of the Written Word


Paternalism


Either/Or Thinking


Power Hoarding


Fear of Open Conflict


Individualism


Progress is Bigger, More


Objectivity


Right to Comfort


One of the purposes of listing characteristics of white supremacy culture is to point out how organizations which 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 multicultural, 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."

I invite you to read the list and explanation of these characteristics.


The authors include antidotes for each characteristic. As I internalize this list, it's enabling me to show up and pay attention to the culture of the organization in a more nuanced way. As a team, we'll be able to notice where unnamed norms are pushing us down a path we may not want. As a person, I see these characteristics in my life as I relate to my family and others.


I've been studying and writing about hustle culture for the last couple of years. Seeing the depth and connection of hustle culture to white supremacy culture convicts and invites the practice of questioning it all.


There's a good reason so many of us are trying to resist hustle culture. The whole system needs to die.



Let's be leaders who question how we show up in our systems.


Let's be humans who don't assume we're right.


Let's be learners who pass the mic to our black and brown colleagues.


Let's be listeners who are deeply curious about how others experience our teams.


Let's be people who courageously enter difficult conversations.


Let's be leaders who share and trust power to others.


Let's be people who dismantle, one conversation at a time, our assumptions, and ways of

being that harm and hurt.


We can do this. I have every confidence in us all.


I wonder what we'll notice, embody, and receive when we show up, pay attention, cooperate with God, and release the outcome? I'm wildly curious to be engaged in this work with you.


Palms up.

 

 

© 2020 by Jenny Smith

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