The event's organizers argue that dressing professionally upholds ?white supremacy?
In a virtual talk scheduled for February 1, students at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, will hear how "professionalism," understood here as codes of dress, behavior and etiquette in the workplace, is actually racist.
The university's website explains that "the term 'professionalism' has at times been used to silence and marginalize people of color, when attributes of appearance, language or interactions that have nothing to do with job knowledge or constructive collegial relationships are labeled as 'unprofessional.'"
"In this context, so-called professionalism is coded language, a construct that upholds institutional racist policies and excluding practices."
Behind the social justice-speak, the argument is similar to one put forward by the National Museum of African American History and Culture in 2020. Back then, the taxpayer-funded museum drew outrage when it suggested that a number of American virtues - including hard work, timekeeping, the nuclear family and planning for the future - are traits of "whiteness," which must be dismantled. The implication, some critics argued, was that the museum thought 'people of color' lacked these virtues.
The talk at Washington University is being given by Cynthia Williams, the school's 'Assistant Dean of Community Partnerships' and Jewel Stafford, director of its 'Racial Equity Fellowship Program'. Despite her apparent disdain for the concept of professionalism, Williams' biography describes her as "a skilled and highly motivated professional with 37 years of experience in academia."
The event, which kicks off the university's Black History Month program, will also "explore dismantling white supremacy and privilege in varied contexts."
Conservative commenters ridiculed the university, which charges undergraduate students $76,766 per year to attend. One Twitter user accused it of dismantling "responsibility and merit" in favor of "victimhood," while another argued that "this sort of thinking and teaching does nothing but set people up for failure, if they adhere to it."