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on white supremacy


"White supremacy" needs to be clarified. Partisan distortions of what "white supremacy" is and means are a barrier to human rights, democracy, freedom, and justice for the people it targets.


This post conceptually clarifys what white supremacy refers to. It refers to power - who defines power, has access to power, and benefits from power structures like law, education systems, political process, economic resources and opprotunity. To say that white supremacy is limited to or primarily about personal prejudice and skin color is a convenient distortion that hides white supremacy in plain sight. This definition has become political propaganda to mislead and serve the status quo of white supremacy in America.


Most of the people I know think of white supremacy as extremism. They think of Klansmen or imagine a fringe group who hold strange beliefs about white power.


Certainly, these are examples of white supremacists and white supremacist organizations. But, reducing white supremacy to these representations is historically uninformed and incomplete. White supremacy and white power have always been power arrangements. As the words simply state, white supremacy and white power are about supremacy and power. Their aim is to control power and resources, and maintain their benefits. White supremacy and white power actually benefit from images and understandings of white power as extremist, fringe, and individual prejudices.


Historically, white supremacy is much more than personal prejudices or beliefs. It's a pattern of laws and court decisions, government policies, cultural representations, and economic practices that protect and enforce historically white wealth and influence over American institutions.


Historical works, research, and books explaining the construction of race and white supremacy in America are easy to come by.


White supremacy effectively disadvantages or excludes non-white persons and interests from equal power, protections, and access, while also justifying non-white communities and their interests to acceptable and lesser terms, such as complementary roles or "special interests." White supremacy cannot be reduced to individual prejudices and beliefs without erasing its effects and history, i.e. how it's organized and practiced, and who it benefits.


I believe white supremacy is an American legacy with roots in colonialism, which continues through America's modern-day empire. It is not ultimately about skin color, but power: who defines, represents, and benefits from it. It always has been. "Whiteness" as a race and color is simply a visual reference and social mechanism for organizing power. Now that "white" as a race is debunked in mainline science, too many mistakenly believe white supremacy and white power are simply antiquated beliefs. This narrow definition of race and supremacy is simply naive, short-sighted, and often reinforced by white experience. The facts are that US borders still contain reservations for colonized peoples. The fact that the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments had to be added to the Constitution is evidence that white supremacy is woven into the founding assumptions of American freedom and its Constitution. The fact that non-white citizens disproportionately earn less, suffer from poverty, are at higher risk for poor health and healthcare, and suffer unequal treatment in our justice system is evidence that white supremacy remains woven into U.S. society and culture.

It's important to understand: whiteness as white skin is indicative of white supremacy, but not determinative of it. Qgain, white supremacy is ultimately about power. Whiteness is not a color, but a category of power and freedom: who has power and freedom, who defines power and freedom, who represents power and freedom, who is deserving of power and freedom, and who benefits from power and freedom. "White" is an American invention by legal and cultural definition, not simply a matter of melanin. Because the defining logic of white supremacy is power and supremacy - not primarily skin color - white supremacists can be non-white. The interests and perspectives of white supremacy can be represented, propagated, and reinforced by non-white persons and institutions. What matters is who defines power and freedom, how protections and privileges are organized, and privileges of those in power are preserved.


Under white supremacy, even those who claim no personal prejudice or beliefs in racial supremacy benefit from it. This has always been. To conform is to benefit in any reigning order. Under white supremacy, segregation, white privilege, and economic disparities among whites and non-white appear "natural" or normal to the order of things. Even if these things (segregation, white privilege, and economic disparities) are undesirable, under white supremacy both white and non-white persons tolerate them because norms and benefits are preserved. Hose who suffer are "special interests." To oppose white supremacy, we must oppose its order and effects, not just its melanin-based prejudices. To move past colorblindness, accept that the world and its relationships are not colorblind. Not only does science confirm human being's unconscious bias, historically the world is shaped by colonialization, race, and white supremacy.


To minimally begin undoing their effects, I invite white folk like me to decenter ourselves and our experience. To say it another way, reclaim your own experience by allowing it to transform the norm. Accept that historically white folk have experienced the privilege of being received and respected as individuals, not a minority group. "Flip the script" on privilege by listenjng to and privileging the experience of non-white persons in your understandings of white people, America, Christianity, freedom, and justice. At a minimum, do the emotional and intellectual work of accepting non-white persons' perspectives and experiences as equal to your own - equally valid, equally important, equally accurate, equally true. Resist white confirmation bias by facing uncomfortable, even personally offensive truths of others' experience, and not only embracing non-white voices that reinforce your own point of view.

Social justice is also essential. Seek out and support politicians and policies that put the people, interests, and equal welfare of historically non-white communities at the center of political and economic reform. Without this, colorblindness is self-deceptive and empty. MLK's dream was never colorblindness without first undoing the evils of segregation, legal discrimination, and economic inequality.

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