2022-05-15 – Attributes of White Supremacy Culture: Individualism

As we work to dismantle racism in our institution, we are continuing our exploration of the attributes of White Supremacy Culture. Today we will look at individualism.

Individualism appears in the construct of individual responsibility; this is not that individuals are responsible for themselves, but rather that individuals have no responsibility to other members of society. It is, at its core, a denial of the Interdependent Web of All Existence. One would think that something so completely antithetical to UUs would not be part of our organizations, and yet individualism manifests itself in our practices. People often work in silos rather than seeking out teams, they believe that they alone are responsible for solving problems, they desire individual recognition and credit. Accountability, where it exists, goes up and down the hierarchy rather than flowing laterally to peers and those served, competition is valued over cooperation. Individual contributors who work in isolation are valued for their independence and the lack of cooperative efforts are not recognized as a core problem. Individuals believe that if something is to get done, they must be the one to do it and have little or no ability to delegate work to others.

Antidotes for this are rooted in valuing cooperation over competition:

  • Evaluate people based on their ability to delegate to others and to work as a member of a team.
  • Measure success by how a goal was achieved – whether a collaborative approach was taken.
  • Honor process as much as product
  • Recognition should go to teams, not individuals
  • Develop and foster the ability to collaborate and delegate
  • Create a culture in which people can bring problems to a group without fear of recrimination or loss of power or position
  • Create a culture of collective, rather than individual accountability