The case to label workplace inequities as dominant culture instead of white supremacy

Ken Lawrence
10 min readNov 29, 2021

By doing so, create more equity

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Upspalsh

With diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts, you may often hear the term “white supremacy culture characteristics.” These cultural characteristics were made popular by Tema Okun to describe inequities specifically in the workplace.

Examples of these characteristics include either/or thinking, right to comfort and fear of conflict, individualism, and urgency.

In a recent podcast episode of The Modern White Man, we discussed white supremacy and a few of Okun’s white supremacy culture characteristics.

Since then, I have been thinking a lot about white supremacy.

Specifically, I have been thinking a lot about white supremacy as the label to describe these characteristics.

Using the term white supremacy to describe these everyday interactions in the workplace has itself become controversial. There are some individuals who subscribe to Okun’s definition and believe white supremacy can — and should — be used to describe everyday practices. There are others who will weaponize the term to minimize and discredit DEI efforts as “crazy.”

White supremacy exists. The four tenets from the Anti-Defamation League to describe white supremacy are most certainly the reality of our society. And Okun’s characteristics themselves, I believe, do exist and are upholding inequities.

It’s the label of “white supremacy culture” for these characteristics where I offer an alternative. What I propose is to label them as the “dominant culture characteristics.” And I am going to make my case as to why.

First, let’s define dominant culture. Alicia Sheares, in her article titled To dismantle systemic racism, White people must be willing to give up their power, provides a clear picture of the dominant culture.

One quote in particular lays out this dynamic directly. Sheares states,

“White people have a lot of power in the United States. A majority of our country’s educators, superintendents, governors, lawyers, doctors, CEOs, venture capitalists, and journalists are White. White people effectively have the power to decide…

Ken Lawrence

Founder of The Modern White Man podcast | Striving to be antiracist, antisexist, & play a part in creating an equitable society where all races & genders thrive