Talking About White Supremacy Doesn’t Have to Be Uncomfortable
“White supremacy” is a term people don’t use often and typically associate with Nazism, the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis. Why is that? What is it exactly? Why does it persist?
There’s so much more to the concept of white supremacy than meets the eye, and it’s high time people have frank discussions about it. After all, it is irrevocably tied to racism and all other challenges that impact the Black community and other people of colour.
Here, we take the bull by the horns to expose white supremacy for what it truly is and take action to eliminate it.
What is white supremacy?
In stating the meaning of white supremacy, American Chicana activist and feminist Elizabeth “Betita” Martinez quotes the definition set forth by the Challenging White Supremacy Workshop organization based in San Francisco, California.
Based on this definition, white supremacy has the following attributes:
It is historically based.
It is an institutionalized system of exploitation and oppression of non-white people and nations.
It was/is practiced by white people and nations of Europe (of a European origin).
Its goal is to maintain the status quo—that system of wealth, power and privilege enjoyed by whites to this day.
The ideology of white supremacy is inextricably linked to racism.
In fact, Martinez has dissected the concept and has gone so far as to consider white supremacy to be a less common term for racism as we know it. Racial discrimination—both institutionalized and not—is rooted in the belief that whites are superior and have the right (and obligation) to dominate non-whites.
Today, white supremacy continues to pervade everyday life through racist beliefs and discriminatory actions that put Blacks and people of colour at a distinct disadvantage.
Why DEI and anti-racism work need to decenter whiteness
While there are white people who profess or want to be Black allies, they are unclear as to what they need to do themselves to stop white supremacy and decenter whiteness.
Decentering whiteness entails dismantling or breaking down white privilege, which is at the core of the status quo. Therefore, to achieve diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) goals and for the anti-racism movement to succeed, there’s a need to decenter whiteness and do away with the institutions and laws that uphold white privilege.
DEI can’t exist as long as white privilege and white supremacist ideals exist. We cannot eliminate racism as long as the status quo holds on to its position of wealth, power and privilege. So the real question is, why are white folks so afraid to address white supremacy? Could it be because they are looking at it as a loss of privilege or identity, instead of as a gain of strength in unity, decency in humanity, and opportunity for all to be better.
How does white supremacy show up in the classroom?
That educators need to classify - or worse segregate - students into groups based on their ethnic background or skin colour is already an indication of white supremacy.
When teachers are asked to devise ways to better teach Black learners, this stance assumes that the needs of non-Black students are being met, but also that Black learners are a distinct group that requires specific approaches for them to learn.
White supremacy in education pervades reference materials, textbooks and history subjects, where the white perspective prevails and stories from different cultural perspectives are non-existent. History focuses on the achievements of the whites who oppressed, exploited, killed, and enslaved non-white people in the name of God and their country.
What are the four myths about white supremacy that allow it to continue?
There’s a secret as to why the system of white supremacy and white privilege continue their insidious hold on people. These four myths about white supremacy allow it to prevail:
It’s intentional. White supremacy has become so ingrained in people’s lives (especially whites) that it can manifest in ways that may not be intentional or deliberate. For example, you may notice that executive positions in your workplace favour whites while people of colour are typically hired for lower-level jobs (even when qualified non-white applicants are available for higher posts).
Only white people practice it. Well, there’s no question that white supremacy was disseminated by white Europeans colonizing the world for their benefit, but all races and cultures across the globe have been taught the ideology of white supremacy. Even Blacks and coloured people are guilty of white supremacy. It's simple to see when looking at castes related to skin colour in Asia and India, or non-white activists who align with white supremacist ideals.
It is uncommon. White supremacy is pervasive world wide, and not only practiced by neo-Nazis, domestic terrorists and other extremist groups. Remember, it is racism, colourism and oppression in almost every form, so it’s something you’ll see almost everywhere in everyday from music to media, education to politics, and business to religion.
It disappears when leadership changes. White supremacy supersedes the individual, but rather is part of the system of control, so it’s not tied to a specific leader. It’s ironic, but research on former U.S. President Barack Obama’s first term showed that racial prejudice against Blacks worsened during that period. Seeing Black excellence and successful Black folks does not resolve hate and intolerance that are taught.
Awareness of these myths help people realize how these false beliefs derail their own personal progress and the social consciousness. Not to mention, the negative effect they have on the implementation of DEI initiatives that actually address the deeper issues we are trying to expose and eliminate.
The sooner people accept that white supremacy continues to operate today, and is the root that needs to be pulled for these DEI initiates to work, the easier it will be to tackle it head-on and eventually dismantle white privilege. We are not asking white people to feel guilty for past transgressions, we are asking all people as a whole to take responsibility for what their ancestors of the past created that continues to strangle the very life out of our cohesion as a multicultural community.
Let's go boldly into the direction of our DEI goals.
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