bell hooks frequently uses the phrase “white-supremacist, capitalist patriarchy.” I think it is a handy way to name the systems of oppression we live under, even if some identities are not included in it. In the last entry I talked about patriarchy and today I am going to talk about white supremacy.
The first thing that I want to say about this entry is that I am white. Therefore it colors what I have to say about the subject. Many white leftists like to talk about racism as if they are the experts on it. We are not and never will be. So take what I have to say here with a grain of salt given my white privilege.
White supremacy is a system of domestic terrorism. It has been going on for centuries. It started with the genocide of Native people and then proceeded to slavery with the arrival of the first African person in 1619. African Americans have suffered 400 years of horrific oppression. When slavery ended, the attacks continued via lynching. Then came Jim Crow segregation and now we have the prison industrial complex. Slavery has not really died; it has only been redesigned.
In recent years we have seen case after case of mostly African American men and some women be assassinated by the police. While this has been going on much longer, the availability of cell phones makes documenting the cases easier. In some cases police body cameras also show the event. But what is remarkable is that in most cases it doesn’t matter. In case after case we see officers exonerated even when there is video proof that they murdered someone. The fight for justice against police is an uphill battle. Police are seen as being in the right, and armed or unarmed Black men are targeted as the enemy who deserves to be killed. When we hold police accountable for their crimes?
When you think of genocide, forced relocation, boarding schools, slavery, Japanese internment in concentration camps, Jim Crow segregation, lynching, the prison industrial complex, police brutality against POC, you get a good sense of what the system of racial terrorism looks like in the U.S. POC can never really catch a breath when their lives are always on the line. The recent extreme presence of xenophobia and immigrant bashing is another facet of white supremacy. The fact that a president as blatantly racist as DJT could be elected president is proof positive of the continuing power of white supremacy.
White supremacy can also be used to refer to colorism, the system that assigns superior value to light or lighter skinned POC within POC communities. It can also be used to refer to POC collusion with dominant systems of race ideology. bell hooks has termed this the colonized mind. Internalized oppression is a huge problem in all oppressed groups. We must work to make members of our oppressed groups “woke.” This involves education and the willingness to stick your neck out in service to a larger cause.
Sometimes I am amazed that POC even talk to white people given the way we have treated them for centuries. To me, it would only be natural for POCs to have animosity for white people. At any rate, as white people we need to take responsibility for white racism and own up to our white privilege. We have created this problem and we have a duty to correct it.