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Is "Professional" a White thing?

In expanding my anti-oppression consulting work beyond schools into medical, counseling, and non-profit offices, one issue I constantly encounter is confusion around the term "professional." Many leaders view professionalism as the "right" way to be in an office. They believe that professional standards aren't "White" and that it is oppressive to label "professional" a White thing. Some believe that when we deem professionalism "White," we degrade people of color who authentically act in concert with current professional standards and norms. While it is true that people who are marginalized deserve the freedom to dress, speak, and be however they choose without being called "White," we must also come to terms with the racist, sexist, and classist history of what we now deem professional dress and behavior. Until we can recognize what is racist, sexist, and classist about current professional standards, we will not be able to undo oppression in companies, organizations, and schools.

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