Rae Carter says dominant ‘professional’ culture is white supremacy

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Rae Carter, the founder of EmpowR, a strengthening collective of womxn co-creating cultural healing and transformation. She is a former board member with Vermont Business for Social Responsibility, and the former communications director with Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund (VSJF) and Vermont Farm to Plate Network. She lives in Plainfield, Vermont.

Do you earn a living in a perfectionist, paternalistic, or always urgent work environment? Are you starting to make the connection between the harms of the incessant drive to achieve with the expectations of dominant white “professional” culture? Do you know how the insidious ways of white supremacy culture play out in the systems and behaviors of toxic work cultures?Are you questioning the ways so many businesses and organizations are approaching antiracism and anti-oppression work as characteristics of the very way white supremacy operates?

Rae Carter, founder of EmpowR

From my vantage point, as a recovering public relations, organizational, and economic development “professional,” I see the wealthy, white, privileged, progressive elite doing more damage than they can comprehend from the pedestals of righteousness and exceptionalism on which so many Vermont leaders perch.

When I was sick with cancer, and struggling to understand how I got so sick at age 41, I first began to connect how toxic work cultures amplify and exacerbate the insurmountable expectations of dominant society. I experienced firsthand how burnout, disease, marginalization, exclusion and gaslighting affects minds and bodies that cannot keep pace with the insatiable appetite of capitalism — especially in the name of sustainability. I suffered a mental health crisis directly due to the toxic work culture I was working in and my inability to access the time, resources, or support I needed to navigate the harm I was experiencing. The anxiety, depression, and repetitive cycle of “too much too fast for too long” directly contributed to my public fall from grace, cancer diagnosis, and multiple health ailments.

Then I learned dominant “professional” culture is white supremacy

The racial reckoning over these past few years has opened the floodgates to the understanding that toxic work cultures, stemming from the entire way organizations are structured (especially nonprofits) and the pervasiveness of domineering white (especially male) leaders are point blank examples of white supremacy culture. Sense of urgency, power hoarding, perfectionism, defensiveness, fear of open conflict, paternalism, either/or thinking, right to comfort, etc. (learn more at WhiteSupremacyCulture.info) are examples of so many of the harms I experienced, and I was made out to be crazy, because I challenged the status quo.

Since I have been rejected from the dominant Vermont workforce for speaking up about the harms I experienced in toxic work culture, I have been watching all that has been unfolding in Vermont over the past few years. I have also been listening and building relationships with people who work in or have since burned out from these cultures, yet who remain outside of the inner circle of the wealthy, privileged, white leaders — the “usual suspects” — who have been running the show in Vermont for far too long.

I’ve been watching the disgusting ways in which antiracism has become the biggest public relations campaign of our times — and how white leaders are falling all over themselves, seeking out magical Black people to solve equity issues (aka image nightmare) in the name of racial justice, while completely disregarding intersectionality and the layers of oppression in this state. Somehow centering BIPOC voices has been translated by the powers behind the messaging into performative allyship, rather than communicating the importance of addressing the systemic oppression of Black and Brown bodies, as how we can create the systemic change to meet the needs of all marginalized identities (gender, sexuality, class, age, ability, etc.).

Systemic change means the wealthy, white privileged elite would need to transform the very systems that uphold their wealth and privilege. Case and point — we need new leaders

From what I’ve seen in Vermont over my 20 year career serving the wealthy elite, there is way too much ego at play for authentic change to be in integrity to true equity. I’ll never forget before I got sick and was cancelled from the dominant Vermont workforce, knocking me down the economic and health ability ladders, how one prominent white leader said to me, “the problem with race in Vermont is the black people are too uppity.” This was said by one of many white elites who are trying to “lead” us forward now.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion work is decolonizing leadership. This is not something that can be accomplished in a workshop or training. The chance for tweaking systems and the behaviors behind them is in the past. Cultural and systemic transformation cannot be led by the same white leaders, organizations, and institutions who have been upholding the harms of the status quo.

New leaders, new structures, and completely different approaches are already being co-created by people with multiple marginalized identities, away from the white dominant gaze. Profit and return on investment are not the priority in these spaces. Reciprocity, community, relationship, spaciousness, healing, accountability, and collective nourishment, care, and support of each other and the land are centered as values—proving that when the most marginalized people lead, everyone’s needs can be met.

Racial injustice, climate crisis, economic disparity, and mental health/health inequity are all interwoven in a complex yet also simple root cause analysis stemming from capitalism. Solutions for the times that lie ahead demand leadership torches be passed to a full myriad of diverse identities in decision-making roles, recognizing all experience IS education. Now is the time for rites of passage for the elders who have been leading via their positions of power; circulating from nonprofit to government agency to institution to demi-god Vermont companies in a cesspool of elitism that silences voices who do not uphold the insular Vermont narrative of exceptionalism.

New perspectives, new leaders, new ideas, new solutions so we can reimagine and recreate for collective liberation

More of us are looking at anti-oppression and antiracism work for what it is — embodiment work, emotional work, decolonizing our behavior work. Racism exists because of how white people control bodies and so it is with the body where we can start. Racialized trauma affects all bodies and we are all harmed by white supremacy culture (My Grandmother’s Hands). The work of white bodies is different than Black and Brown bodies. For us with white skin, it is feeling into our hearts and minds where we can begin the collective healing, and this requires us to be inclusive of all people with white skin, or white culture will never be safe. Our behavior is influenced directly from what we feel in our hearts and minds, and those behaviors are what influence systems. Plans and policies don’t change systems, people do. Workshops and trainings can start with feeling into our bodies, recognizing emotional triggers, and learning how to take responsibility for our behaviors and how we cause harm to other bodies.

I know this article is triggering and uncomfortable, yet these are the kinds of conversations more of us must be willing to have. I am calling on people who work in the current systems and who are fed up with the hypocrisy, greed, competition, burnout, anxiety, depression, racism, and harms that link toxic work culture and white supremacy culture (basically one and the same). We have the power to change culture when we come together in community to support, demand, and upend the harms of dominant culture and white “professionalism.” We need to align because being vocal in silos is easily silenced by those with the most white power.

I was told the other day, “we can’t just rip off the band-aid.” And my response is, that is exactly what we need to do because the only way we can heal the wound is if we see it fully for what it is. If we can de-center our value away from the individual ego to caring for the collective — and embrace all of our unique gifts, we won’t have to fear the individual fall. Instead, we will have co-created the community models that are already being woven beneath the surface, ones that can support us all in our needs.

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14 thoughts on “Rae Carter says dominant ‘professional’ culture is white supremacy

  1. It’s helpful to see how triggering speaking ones truth is to people. This provides valuable information in where we can start to heal as a society, beginning with the emotional wounds and trauma that are buried beneath the surface in every one of us. Thank you for such insightful comments.

  2. Unraveling patriarchy isn’t going to happen in Vermont – or its tendrils in addiction, cancel culture, medical tyranny (historical eugenics program that put Daddy in charge of who was fit to be called human and who was not), elite classism, imported ‘exceptionalism’ – isn’t going to happen anytime soon.
    Our two senators and representatives in Congress are all made, tried and true patriarchs, anointed by the NWO, and paid to keep patriarchy alive and well here.
    In all its divide and conquer forms: racism, classism, gender inequality, education, equal pay, and paternalism.
    Capitalism depends on patriarchy to continue to exploit workers.
    2020 showed us that and the immediate results of true patriarchal narcissism: the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer, demonized, marginalized and then criminalized.
    This State is well on the way to criminalizing what a true Vermonter IS – self-reliant, independent thinker, and less not more government.
    But again…we lost the plot when we compromised just a little bit, and allowed capitalism to denut us to the point of becoming, literally, a nanny state.
    Now THAT’s a sustainable future.

  3. Ms. Carter is lucky……As she tells us, she is a cancer and heart disease survivor. One would think that she is eternally grateful for the system of doctors, nurses, scientists and other professionals who spent years in study, research and ultimately cared for her and got her through the medical traumas.

    Ms. Carter is lucky that these professionals elected to work tirelessly in school, hospitals and labs for years struggling against endless stress, crushing workloads, brutal deadlines, unforgiving teachers and supervisors who understood what it takes to save lives…….What if takes to make positive and life saving contributions to society.

    Ms. Carter is lucky that these very same heroes didn’t elect to view their work, sacrifices and subsequent accomplishments as the evil product of white supremacy and paternalism to be rejected because of the naive thinking “du jour” she is now peddling.

    Yes, Ms. Carter beat cancer, beat heart disease and now lives and benefits from a system that she now condemns…….So myopic.

  4. How on earth do you “decolonize” your behavior??? She’s amazing — she manages to use all of the progressive rhetoric in one essay! “Let me see, how can I use the phrases ‘Racial injustice, climate crisis, economic disparity, and mental health/health inequity….’ in this essay?” …… hummmmm What a total bunch of crap!

  5. I suspect her mental health crisis occurred long before she reached the age of employment.

  6. This is what happens when you can’t look yourself in the mirror in the morning. You forget what color you are and decide that everything is someone else’s fault.

  7. I’m sorry, but after reading this article three times, all I can get from this gibberish is the sense that it’s a high school term paper and the writer is under the impression that the more four and five syllable nonsense words used and oblique phrasing strung together, the greater the credit received. If Vermont Business Magazine actually printed this, what a waste of paper and ink. If this paper were submitted by one of my former students, I’d give it a big (?) followed by a D-…

  8. She’s just another brainwashed liberal fool, I love it when these ” leftist ” get where they
    want to be in life, then complain about how they got there …………

    As far as socialist sanders and his family brain trust, they surely know how to bring a college
    down in a few short years, Hey Jane, why were you let go from the Burlington Police Dept
    when you worked there years ago ???? ……… Oh yeah, I remember now, shame on you !!

    VBM, just another rag trying to stay relevant, going with the flow, and doing a little CYA in this
    article, as most of Vermont’s businesses, are in the tank.

  9. This is exactly what the Great Reset preaches.

    Sounds wonderful, except that many of us believe that the way forward is to preserve liberty and tolerance toward others, and not to allow the collective– necessarily represented by the state– to gain power and control over individuals. Liberty and tolerance are what America is about.

    I’ve met many good, decent, caring ‘capitalists’ during my life, who wanted to do the right thing and treat people decently, and who did. I’ve also met some real a-holes. That’s life: these sorts are everywhere and always will be, whether we have capitalism or socialism or communism or a beautiful great reset where all is peace and love and happiness and freedom from climate catastrophe. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen and find another way.

    “Hypocrisy, greed, competition, burnout, anxiety, depression, racism, and harms that link toxic work culture and … supremacy culture (basically one and the same.)” I hate to tell you, but it’s all over the world, even in African countries, and it’s nothing new. Yes, we should work to make things better, and if you had lived in 19th century cities, you’d know that things have definitely improved– for everyone. We do the best we can and there are good people, like yourself and like many other people I know, trying to do the right thing. But taking the band-aid off and assenting to a seductive Great Reset vision is playing into the hands of those who want power and control and are trying to seduce us with their visions of peace and justice and freedom from catastrophe. We should not be so blind as to fall for what’s really a desire to monitor and manage everyone for some ‘greater good’ that they decide for us, which many of us suspect will look very much like the Chinese system of technological surveillance (it’s said they can find anyone in China in 15 minutes– not a comforting thought to many of us.) Look at what’s happening already: censorship of views that don’t fit the mainstream narrative. Is this the mark of a tolerant society or of a society lurching toward the Great Reset totalitarianism?

    Your words fail to convince many of us; we see you not as an enlightened warrior, but as a deluded pawn. CRT, a dogma that teaches intolerance and that insistently divides by race, isn’t the answer, and neither is the Great Reset.

  10. I will suggest to your plumber to drop “his sense of urgency ” when your toilet is plugged .

  11. She actually believes that corporate greed is whitey’s fault? I bet she voted for Bernie Sanders – the humble millionaire and his wife Jane – aka mega-rich socialists. The woke billionaire tech giants that care about social issues and the climate – they aren’t creating a slave labor mentality in today’s market are they? Too funny and really, really pathetic. Grow up and put your big girl pants on sister…you are in for a rude awakening.

    • And let’s not forget to mention Patrisse Cullors, the BLM co-founder who—with the money that blind SJWs like the author donated—bought multiple million-dollar homes in rich white neighborhoods. Let’s talk about equity again, shall we?

      These useful idiots don’t understand that Marxism/communism ALWAYS means that there’s a super-wealthy and all-powerful elite owning everything, no middle class whatsoever, and a huge mass of faceless drones owning nothing. THAT’S the precious “equity” that you’re going to get pursuing your “woke Utopia.”

  12. This Rae Carter commentary was published in the Vermont Business Magazine about a week ago. My response then stands today.

    Re: “….the harms of the incessant drive to achieve…”. What? Now it’s ‘harmful’ to be an achiever?

    ‘There are many who find a good alibi far more attractive than an achievement. For an achievement does not settle anything permanently. We still have to prove our worth anew each day: we have to prove that we are as good today as we were yesterday. But when we have a valid alibi for not achieving anything we are fixed, so to speak, for life.’ –Eric Hoffer

    Re: “The work of white bodies is different than Black and Brown bodies.” This is an undeniably racist remark. Since when is the ‘content of one’s character’ subservient to the color of their skin?

    I am surprised and disappointed in VBM’s acquiescence to this unconscionable indoctrination. At the very least, I would have expected VBM to have included the following disclaimer:

    ‘The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Vermont Business Magazine.’

    Unless, of course, VBM has become yet another Marxist propaganda outlet.

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