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date: 28 September 2022

White Supremacy in Business Practiceslocked

White Supremacy in Business Practiceslocked

  • Helena LiuHelena LiuManagement Discipline Group, University of Technology Sydney

Summary

Contrary to its popular use to refer to racially violent extremism, white supremacy in the tradition of critical race studies describes the normalized ideologies, structures, and conventions through which whiteness is constructed as biologically, intellectually, culturally, and morally superior. This socially constituted racial hierarchy was developed through European colonialism to justify the acts of genocide and slavery that extracted resources from “non-white” lands and bodies to enrich “white” elites. Despite prevailing myths that colonialism and racism are artifacts of the past, the cultural hegemony of white power and privilege remain enduring pillars of contemporary business and society.

White supremacy inextricably shapes business practices. Indeed, our current practices of business administration and management are themselves modeled on slavery—the possession, extraction, and control of human “resources.” White supremacist ideologies and structures can also be found in the highly romanticized discourses of leadership that continue to rely on imperialist myths that white people are more fit to govern. They likewise surface in entrepreneurship and innovation where white people are overwhelmingly cast in the glorified roles of geniuses and pioneers. Even diversity management, which purports to nurture inclusive organizations, ironically reinforces white supremacy, treating workers of color as commodities to exploit. Within liberal logics of multicultural tolerance, workers of color are often tokenistically hired, expected to assimilate to white structures and cultures, and used as alibis against racism.

White supremacy is an integral (and often invisible) dimension of work, organizations, society, and everyday life. Challenging white supremacy requires that we engage in frank, honest conversations about race and racism, and the brutal legacy of European colonialism that maintains these constructs and practices. The path ahead requires the relinquishment of beliefs that race is an immutable, primordial essence and recognize it instead as a socially constructed and politically contested identification that has been used for white gain. Two ways that white supremacy may be dismantled in our cultures include redoing whiteness and abolishing whiteness. Redoing whiteness requires collectively understanding the mundane cultural practices of whiteness and choosing to do otherwise. Abolishing whiteness calls for a more absolute rejection of whiteness and what it has come to represent in various cultures. Antiracist resistance demands people of all racial identifications to commit to thinking, doing, and being beyond the existing racial hierarchy.

Subjects

  • Ethics
  • Organization Theory
  • Social Issues

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