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Perfectionism and White Supremacy

White supremacy shows up in even the most well-intentioned organizations. As explained by Tema Okun of dRworks, it doesn’t always look like overt discrimination; the subtler characteristics of white supremacy can be just as ingrained and harmful. By explicitly naming and challenging these characteristics, organizations can take steps towards establishing a more equitable and inclusive culture.

How Perfectionism Reinforces White Supremacy

Perfectionism is a characteristic of white supremacy that holds everyone’s work to an unreasonable standard set by those with the most privilege.

In practice, white supremacist perfectionism can look like:

  • Failing to spend necessary time and energy on training
  • Giving credit only to the loudest and most visible contributors
  • Focusing on the few mistakes over the many successes
  • Conflating someone’s work with their worth

Overcoming White Supremacist Perfectionism

Changing a culture of perfection can start right away, even just with one person.

Here are a few ways to get started:

  • Focus on the positives as well as areas for improvement
  • Give consistent appreciation for everyday efforts
  • Offer patience for mistakes and growing pains
  • Invite suggestions for improving the feedback process

Be a Leader for Equity and Inclusion

Public Allies is a national movement committed to advancing social justice and equity by engaging and activating the leadership capacities of our young people. Our growing network of alumni and partner organizations is dedicated to listening, learning, and working across differences to build the common good. Join us.