Many people today associate “white supremacy” with images of Nazis painting swastikas, the KKK burning crosses, or khaki-wearing white nationalists carrying tiki torches chanting “we will not be replaced” at Unite the Right rallies. Although these people are fighting for white supremacy and oft-referred to as “white supremacists,” they are just one of many symptoms of white supremacy.
Last week in part I, I focused on the barriers to understanding white supremacy and its definition. This addition will concentrate on the historical legacy of white supremacy and racism as a system.
White supremacy is a child of Western European colonialism nurtured in ideologies such as the Doctrine of Discovery, Manifest Destiny (back when it was just called spreading civilization), and the dehumanization of people of color, before it even set foot in America. Once it took that first step into a continent that wasn’t ready for what author Jared Diamond refers to as European guns, germs, and steal, white supremacy quickly established itself as the dominant ideology steering most American institutions from capitalism to democracy.
Quote 7: Elizabeth Martinez: RACE: The U.S. Creation Myth and Its Premise Keepers
“The roots of U.S. racism or White Supremacy lie in economic exploitation by the theft of resources and human labor. That exploitation has been justified by a racist ideology affirming the inferiority of its victims. The first application of White Supremacy or racism by Euroamericans was against indigenous peoples, whose land was stolen; then Blacks, originally as slaves and later as exploited waged labor; followed by Mexicans when they lost their land holdings and also became wage-slaves. Chinese, Filipino, Japanese and other Asian/Pacific peoples also became low-wage workers here, subject to racism.
In short, White Supremacy and economic power were born together. The United States is the first nation in the world to be born racist and also the first to be born capitalist. That is not a coincidence. In this country, as history shows, capitalism and racism go hand in hand.”
Quote 8: Martin Luther King, Jr.: Strength to Love
“Men convinced themselves that a system that was so economically profitable must be morally justifiable. They formulated elaborate theories of racial superiority. Their rationalizations clothed obvious wrongs in the beautiful garments of righteousness …
Religion and the Bible were cited to crystallize the status quo. Science was commandeered to prove the biological inferiority of the Negro …
So men took the insights of religion, science, and philosophy and conveniently twisted them to give sanction to the doctrine of white supremacy. This idea was soon embedded in every textbook and preached in practically every pulpit. It became a structured part of the culture.”
Quote 9: Keith Boykin: Trading Hoods for Neckties
“Despite the progress of the past half-century, the struggle continues. ‘The bigger difference is that back then they had hoods. Now they have neckties and starched shirts.’ So said baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron in an interview with USA Today this week, in which he seemed to compare the racist klansmen of the 1960s with the supposedly post-racial cynics of our current generation.
You see, today’s racists don’t wear white hoods and scream the N-word. They wear dark suits and scream about government handouts. They don’t set up racist poll taxes to deter Blacks from voting. They set up voter ID laws to do the same thing. And they certainly don’t defend lynch mobs, which legitimize vigilante justice. Instead, they defend Stand Your Ground laws, which achieve the same purpose.”
Racism as a System
The modern definition of racism is Racism = prejudice + power. While all people can be prejudiced, only those who have power can be racist. For example, black people can be prejudiced against white people and that prejudice can be hurtful and wrong, but their prejudice lacks the institutional power needed for racism such as denying white people housing loans, jobs, or safety from police brutality. To understand racism, we have to move past the explicit expression and understand it as a system of white supremacy.
Quote 10: Elizabeth Martinez: RACE: The U.S. Creation Myth and it Premise Keepers
“White Supremacy is an historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations, and peoples of color by white peoples and nations of the European continent, for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power, and privilege.”
The most common mistake people make when they talk about racism is to think of it as a collection of prejudices and individual acts of discrimination. They do not see that it is a system, a web of interlocking, reinforcing institutions: economic, military, legal, educational, religious, and cultural. As a system, racism affects every aspect of life in a country.
“By not seeing that racism is systemic (part of a system), people often personalize or individualize racist acts. For example, they will reduce racist police behavior to “a few bad apples” who need to be removed, rather than seeing it exists in police departments all over the country and is basic to the society. This mistake has real consequences: refusing to see police brutality as part of a system, and that the system needs to be changed, means that the brutality will continue.
The need to recognize racism as being systemic is one reason the term White Supremacy has been more useful than the term racism.“
Check back next week for The Difference Between White Supremacy and White Supremacists (Part III), with quotes on privilege and internalized racism.
What’s Next? Talk with others. Take action.
We are proud of our SOCIAL INTEREST GROUPS—WEEKLY PHONE CALLS to discuss, gain insights, build communities— and help solve some of the most difficult challenges the world has today. Calls are for Members Only (although you can join the first call for free). Not yet a member of The Good Men Project? Join below!
Join the Conscious Intersectionality FACEBOOK GROUP here. Includes our new call series on Human Rights.
Join The Good Men Project Community
All levels get to view The Good Men Project site AD-FREE. The $50 Platinum Level is an ALL-ACCESS PASS—join as many groups and classes as you want for the entire year. The $25 Gold Level gives you access to any ONE Social Interest Group and ONE Class–and other benefits listed below the form. Or…for $12, join as a Bronze Member and support our mission, and have a great ad-free viewing experience.
Register New Account
Please note: If you are already a writer/contributor at The Good Men Project, log in here before registering. (Request a new password if needed).
ANNUAL PLATINUM membership ($50 per year) includes:
1. AN ALL ACCESS PASS — Join ANY and ALL of our weekly calls, Social Interest Groups, classes, workshops, and private Facebook groups. We have at least one group phone call or online class every day of the week.
2. See the website with no ads when logged in!
3. MEMBER commenting badge.
ANNUAL GOLD membership ($25 per year) includes all the benefits above — but only ONE Weekly Social Interest Group and ONE class.
ANNUAL BRONZE membership ($12 per year) is great if you are not ready to join the full conversation but want to support our mission anyway. You’ll still get a BRONZE commenting badge, and you can pop into any of our weekly Friday Calls with the Publisher when you have time. This is for people who believe—like we do—that this conversation about men and changing roles and goodness in the 21st century is one of the most important conversations you can have today.
We have pioneered the largest worldwide conversation about what it means to be a good man in the 21st century. Your support of our work is inspiring and invaluable.
Shutterstock ID: 1348368158