top of page

Equitable Collaboration:
Dominant Culture

What is dominant culture?


Dominant culture in a society refers to the established language, religion, values, rituals, and social customs on which the society was built. It has the most power, is widespread, and influential within a social entity, such as an organization, in which multiple cultures are present. In the United States, the dominant culture is that of white, middle-class, Protestant people of northern European descent. An organization’s dominant culture is heavily influenced by the leadership and management standards and preferences of those at the top of the hierarchy. A group does not have to be a majority to be a dominant culture. In South Africa, there are four times as many black Africans as white Africans of European descent. Yet under a system of racial segregation and domination called apartheid, which was legally in effect from 1948 to 1991, the white population managed to hold political and economic power. South African whites thus were the dominant culture.


Dominant Culture

Awake, Woke to Work - page 24



White Culture Operates All Around Us, Yet Remains Invisible


By “white culture,” we mean the dominant, unquestioned standards of behavior and ways of functioning embodied by the vast majority of institutions in the United States. Because it is so normalized it can be hard to see, which only adds to its powerful hold. In many ways, it is indistinguishable from what we might call U.S. culture or norms – a focus on individuals over groups, for example, or an emphasis on the written word as a form of professional communication. But it operates in even more subtle ways, by actually defining what “normal” is – and likewise, what “professional,” “effective,” or even “good” is. In turn, white culture also defines what is not good, “at risk,” or “unsustainable.” White culture values some ways – ways that are more familiar and come more naturally to those from a white, western tradition – of thinking, behaving, deciding, and knowing, while devaluing or rendering invisible other ways. And it does this without ever having to explicitly say so.


Paying Attention to White Culture and Privilege: A Missing Link to Advancing Racial Equity - Page 27

bottom of page