3 Ways White Supremacy Thrives in our Lives

Katie Zink
6 min readOct 15, 2020

Let’s take an honest look at the values of white supremacy culture and how they show up in our personal and professional lives. It might slightly shock you to see how these elements are omnipresent in the ways we, as North Americans, describe ourselves, what we strive to be, and how we describe our societal makeup.

We’re praised for them, motivated by them, and even define success using them. Everything we know has been steeped in these values like a strong cup of tea, particularly in the ways they show up in our working environments.

Albeit in its most extreme form, let’s not forget the tone that’s been set by the current administration. They not only refuse to denounce those actively participating in extreme stances of white supremacy but dignify their place in society and have directed them to “stand by”. These leaders also refute any evidence of targeting the Black population, despite what we know about the history of policing. In their most extreme demonstrations, these nationalist groups have been fully absconded from any real consequences to their harmful and violent actions.

Insidious in nature to our societal upbringing, if modern professionals and visionary leaders take an honest look at where subtle traces of white supremacy appear in our own lives, where it may be harmful, and how to address it, we create space for some real change and innovation to occur.

Showing up for Racial Justice points to the many common ways white supremacy operates in our daily and professional lives and even offers new practices around what we can do about it.

Here are 3 values I’ve noticed in my life and business.

Either/Or Thinking

This is a current struggle for me. It manifests in how I want to show up in my business, in my niche, in my expertise, for my audience.

Thinking things like, I do this but I don’t do that. This is who I help. This is my expertise, not that. Based on what I know about business, not having this determined will affect the long term success of my work.

Either/or thinking assumes a villain and a victim. If you’re not this way, you’re that way. If you’re not with us, you’re against us. Our society demands us to make drastic decisions that impact people outside the conversation, synthesize complex issues that result in sweeping declarations, and we often end up experiencing decision-fatigue though are expected to keep up an image of strength.

Decision fatigue is the idea that after making many decisions, a person’s ability to make additional decisions becomes worse.

Thus, we’re praised for our abilities to work well under pressure.

Instead, try this:

  • Notice when people use either/or language and advocate the potential for more than two alternatives.
  • Notice when people are simplifying complex issues, particularly when the stakes seem high or an urgent decision needs to be made.
  • When faced with an urgent decision, slow down the conversation and encourage deeper analysis; encourage creative problem solving; avoid making decisions under extreme pressure.


This is one I grapple on and off with, but believe to be on my way to identifying and interrupting how it operates for me.

In the last juncture of my career, I had a dream to be more entrepreneurial and aspired for self-employment. I thought I struggled with collaboration, but realized the organizations I’d worked for did not value or teach people how to collaborate well. So, I thought I was better suited to do it all myself.

One way to detect the impact of individualistic tendencies is to examine them alongside collectivist behavior. Cross-cultural psychologists have discovered much in the way these each impact culture. A post by Verywell Mind shares,

Individualistic cultures are those that stress the needs of the individual over the needs of the group as a whole. In this type of culture, people are seen as independent and autonomous. Social behavior tends to be dictated by the attitudes and preferences of individuals. Cultures in North America and Western Europe tend to be individualistic.

Instead, try this:

  • Place value on the ability to delegate and bring in outside resources.
  • Evaluate the strengths in the way people collaborate and accomplish shared goals.


This touches on a concept I visited in last month’s posts about intersectional safety.

Many of us might be familiar with the “fail fast” philosophy we hear from business owners, CEO, or others in leadership. CEOs I’ve worked for in the past seem to like this mantra, as it connotes a certain attitude of, we can afford to make mistakes as long as we move away from them quickly.

The ability to take risks is dependent on our sense of resilience, financial backing, and feeling both physically and psychologically safe enough to do so.

In these times, we’re repeatedly reminded that we collectively lack intersectional safety. This means the things that keep some of us feeling safe, do not help others feel that same sense of safety.

In our society, we’ve effectively made the connection to why risk-taking leads to success. In fact, some would say it’s essential and is even synonymous with the systemically dominant culture. Some may say being risk-averse is a detriment to our ability to achieve in life.

We women are a little more risk-averse because whenever you launch something there’s a big chance it’s not going to work. And we have a bigger problem with failure … [Women deal with] what I call the obnoxious roommate living in our head that constantly puts us down, doesn’t want us to fail because we become identified with our successes and failures. — Ariana Huffington

Our societal risk-taking mentality stems from generational praise of doing what’s more than expected, acting on impulse, and pushing our desires to continually achieve (or produce) every day. Themes in how we characterize success are often attributed to the risks we could afford to take.

Instead, try this:

  • Consider what safety or job security means to an entrepreneur or someone who can work from home.
  • How does this differ for professionals who don’t feel safe enough to work at all?
  • Ask yourself, who can afford to take a risk right now? Why?

Pervasive white supremacy can no longer be the white elephant in the room. Let’s start collectively identifying if and when these characteristics are at play, and more importantly, are influencing the way we think, plan our lives, and see ourselves. Eventually, we may be able to interrupt and dismantle the ways we’re barring other cultures from thriving (with us) because of it.

In an effort to do better (though not always done completely to perfection) in my business today, I love to collaborate, define my own version of success that way, and created my signature program around collective success. I place value on creative problem solving and don’t work under conditions of decision-fatigue. I’m paying attention to who feels safe when and what conditions need to shift so that more people feel safe and empowered as a collective.

Seeking ways to accomplish this in your life and business? Let’s connect in a complimentary discovery call. >>Contact me here.

Originally published at https://katiezink.co on October 15, 2020.



Katie Zink

DEI Strategist | Facilitator | Writer | Believes we’re all capable of our own revolution. Learn more about my signature consulting program at katiezink.co