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White supremacy - valuing quantity over quality

Updated: Feb 1, 2021

White supremacy. It dominates our society; it’s difficult to see places in this nation that it hasn’t touched. It’s wound its way deep into the foundation of our culture, and it permeates our history. It’s embedded in our psychology, and it’s sometimes difficult to envision a way out of it. White people are often blind to the presence of white supremacy culture, and due to this inability to see it, we constantly reinforce its power. Luckily there are ways to fight back against the influence of white supremacy culture! One of these ways is to actively challenge the characteristics of white supremacy culture that come up within ourselves, our daily lives, and in the systems with which we engage.

The brilliant Tema Okun has created a document that breaks down the characteristics of white supremacy culture, and provides remedies to them. The document can be found here, and is part of a larger body of work that she and her collaborators have produced in the name of fighting to dismantle racism. White supremacy culture reinforces self-reliance and toxic individualism - to fight it we need to communicate and collaborate with each other. So far we’ve discussed “individualism”, “perfectionism”, "paternalism", the concept of there being only “one right way”, and feeling a “sense of urgency” in regards to completing tasks. We’ve also talked about how to push back against these characteristics! This week we are going to tackle “quantity over quality”.

What is “quantity over quality” and what does it mean?

The concept of “quantity over quality” refers to the practice of valuing numbers and output over the quality of the work being produced.

Emphasizing productivity in this case often results in success being equated to measurable results. If it cannot be measured, it is irrelevant. Focusing on only the finished product without paying attention to the process of how it is arrived at incorrectly assumes that the only things that matter are those that can be physically and/or numerically demonstrated.

This mindset ignores giving attention to feelings and emotions, and fails to recognize that the product will likely not be what is desired if people’s needs are not met during the process.

So how does this relate to social justice issues?

The emphasis on quantity over quality runs rampant in organizations that aim to fight back against social injustice.

  • Any time success is measured solely by the number of participants in an event, for example, is a perfect example of valuing quantity over quality.

  • Any time producing large amounts of initiatives, events, content - you name it - is given priority over making well-crafted initiatives/events/content, quantity is being given priority over quality.

Furthermore, if in the process of creating projects and campaigns, the emotional labor and needs of the people involved are being ignored, the quality of the final product is not being given its due consideration.

When we care only about the product and not the process we are perpetuating a culture of white supremacy that values output and productivity over people. Reducing people to how much they can produce is not only an upsetting manifestation of capitalism, but it is also a way to dehumanize people unless they reach the impossible “standards” demanded by white supremacy culture. White supremacy culture is all about devaluing people; we have to work to prioritize valuing each other.

What can we do to fight it?

Combatting this particular characteristic of white supremacy culture can be done by valuing the process of creating. Value should be given to the way things are done, rather than just to what is done. Values affirming the importance of the process should be documented, available, and continually referenced. These values should also be flexible and open to change as situations change. The development process should be inclusive, and it should put people, and their needs, first. By placing value on the process of decision making we can empower and bolster those people and voices that are often ignored, and we can ensure QUALITY final results.

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