“What’s Possible for Them is Possible for You”: White Supremacy and The Myth of Meritocracy in the Coaching Industry

Erin Monahan
7 min readNov 5, 2020

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*You can also listen to this essay here*

Have you heard this before? “What’s possible for me, is possible for you.” Or I’ve also heard, “What’s possible for them, is possible for you.”

I hear this a lot in the coaching industry and not only is it just not true, it’s harmful and could lead people to feeling shame or blaming themselves for their circumstances or results. It’s also extremely ableist and doesn’t account for the fact that many people are neurodivergent and/or disabled (shout out and thank you to Dan for highlighting this while I was discussing this live on Instagram!)

I’m sure it’s not the intention when people say this, but this is the problem of “covert” white supremacy. (Also, intentions don’t matter, impact does). And I put “covert” in quotations because for the people are targeted by white supremacy it’s not covert. It’s only “covert” to us white people because we are enacting it on a daily basis, and it’s the way we’ve been conditioned to behave, to think, to talk, to treat people, etc. It’s so entrenched in our minds, (white people’s specifically), and systems that we say and believe oppressive things without thinking twice.

Saying, “What’s possible for them is possible for you” is like saying all you need to do is pull yourselves up by your bootstraps. It’s buying into the myth of meritocracy. It’s assuming we’re all starting from the same positions of power and privilege. And we’re not.

This is the week of the presidential election in the so-called United States, or occupied Turtle Island. I just listened to the latest episode of Hoodrat to Headwrap, Ericka Hart and Ebony Donnley’s podcast in which they talk about how you can’t vote fascism out in a fascist country — that’s just not how it’s going to work.

They talked about how slavery was abolished except as punishment for a crime, and how this country had to pass the 14th amendment which was supposed to give Black people actual citizenship, but this amendment, as Ebony Donnley explains, didn’t grant people the right to vote. There’s always been a history of violence to keep Black people from voting, not to mention poll taxes…

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Erin Monahan

Trauma-Informed Mindset Coach. Host of OFF THE DEEP END podcast. Founder of Terra Incognita Media. Guide at Vesta Business School. Writer + Speaker.