'Perfectionism,' having a 'sense of urgency' are examples of White supremacy, academics argue

A recent virtual event at Washington University outlined whether 'professionalism is a racist construct.'

One speaker talked about 'getting into good trouble' with her colleagues.

The Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis hosted an event that made headlines before it even began, called “Is Professionalism a Racist Construct?”

In the event, the presenters characterized various qualities of workplace environments such as “perfectionism,” “a sense of urgency,” “defensiveness,” “worship of the written word,” and “quantity over quality” as characteristics of White supremacy culture.

One presenter, Assistant Dean for Field Education Jewel Stafford connected these alleged characteristics of White supremacy culture to the idea that “even though we’re working really hard, there’s a narrative that we’re not enough, that somehow who we are, what we do, it’s just not enough.”

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The host, Associate Dean for External Affairs Gary Parker, noted that “there were some media outlets that portrayed this talk in a less than flattering light.”

Another presenter, Assistant Dean of the Office of Community Partnerships Cynthia Williams, addressed this controversy in her speech, noting multiple times that she was “getting into good trouble” with her colleagues, and specifically addressed the “provocative” nature of the question, “Is professionalism racist?”

She said that depending on the marginalized group being recognized at the time, they might have changed the question.

For example, she noted that if the talk was given on Disability Awareness Day, the talk may have been called “Is it an Ableist Construct?” If it was given during Women’s History Month, it may have been called “Is it a Misogynistic or Sexist Construct?”

If the talk was given during Gay Pride Month, they might have called it “Is it a Heterosexist (Homophobic) Construct?” And if the talk was given during National Native American Heritage Month, it may have been called “Professionalism: Confronting Anti-Indigenous and Systemic Racism.”

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The presenters began their presentation with a land acknowledgment, noting that the Brown School “is within the ancestral homelands” of various “tribes that have resided, occupied, and called this region home.”

Williams then said, “We acknowledge the 1,252 black American men and women who since January 1, 2015, unjustifiably died due to police brutality and anti-black violence.”

The speakers also urged the audience to support the Crown Act, which has already been passed in a number of states, aiming to eliminate workplace discrimination on the basis of hairstyle.

Campus Reform reached out to Williams, Stafford, Parker, and Washington University for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.

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