Naturalising Whiteness: Cultural competency and the perpetuation of White supremacy


  • Morris Beckford York University


Non-profit organisations engage with us from birth to grave.  In Canada, there are over 170,000 of them. Non-profits account for more ‘value add’ than motor vehicle manufacturing, mining, oil and gas extraction combined. Yet, in an increasingly diverse society where right-wing populism has, arguably, seemed to re-assert, re-root and reposition itself to reframe systems with which we engage on a daily basis, we still insist on using an individualistic approach to working with people who have been and continue to be harmed by those systems. A central problem is cultural competency and the ways in which it supports the positioning of race. In the Canadian context, despite historical and contemporary evidence to the contrary, Whiteness is positioned as the ideal and the normal. The concept of cultural competency helps to position Whiteness as the ideal against which race in organisations must be measured by allowing organisations to focus only on individuals and their inability to engage effectively with organisations and organisational systems, not on the systems. My argument is that the concept of cultural competency aids in the perpetuation and naturalisation of Whiteness as normative, thereby aiding in the maintenance of systemic oppression.      


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Beyond “cultural competency”: Confronting whiteness in social work