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Thursday, January 22, 2004

Does the Michigan Daily have a "White Supremacy Culture"?

I was sent this article by a friend of mine, and was immediately struck by how accurately it described my experiences at the Michigan Daily. I tried to analyze that organization in mostly journalistic terms last fall, but this cultural analysis seems to fit nicely with my thoughts. To be fair, I'm sure it also applies to any number of other campus organizations.

"White Supremacy Culture
From Dismantling Racism: A Workbook for Social Change Groups, by Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun, ChangeWork, 2001

This is a list of characteristics of white supremacy culture which show up in our organizations. Culture is powerful precisely because it is so present and at the same time so very difficult to name or identify. The characteristics listed below 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. Organizations that are people of color led or a majority people of color can also demonstrate many damaging characteristics of white supremacy culture. ... "
(the rest)

The characteristics: Perfectionism, Sense of Urgency, Defensiveness ("because of either/or thinking (see below), criticism of those with power is viewed as threatening and inappropriate (or rude)" IE: Editor Jon Schwartz firing me because he needed to "defend the flag of the Daily"), Quantity Over Quality, Worship of the Written Word, Paternalism ("those with power think they are capable of making decisions for and in the interests of those without power" IE: editors deny they need to consult staff over paper-wide decisions), Either/Or Thinking ("things are either/or good/bad, right/wrong, with us/against us" IE: during the Boycott, lots of rhetoric about who's "for" or "against" "us"), Power Hoarding, Fear of Open Conflict ("people in power are scared of conflict and try to ignore it or run from it" IE: editors firing people over email), Individualism, Progress is Bigger, More, Objectivity (see my note on objectivity), Right to Comfort."

Posted by Rob at 5:15 PM
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