6 January, 2021. The year that was thought to usher a new beginning after a pandemic, brought nothing but an awful episode that smeared the American democracy. Apart from the social media ban on the alleged instigator, the event also mainstreamed the term- White Supremacy. How is white supremacy still a thing in the modern time? Is it just a harmless ideology that whites are better than people of color? Is the extent of ideology limited to America?
Often, people use terms- racism and white supremacy- interchangeably. Both are similar in a way that both are a way to oppress minorities. However, they vary in extent. Racism is, simply put, unscientific and baseless individual beliefs. While, the latter is a broad system of laws, norms, and customs that create a society with unequal opportunities for people based on race.
To deal with a problem, one should be aware of its roots. Ideas like these don’t just spring out of blue but are implanted in society to benefit a certain group. For instance, the seed of hatred in Muslims and Hindus in India was sowed by colonisers to consolidate their control. Similarly, white supremacy is a system of power and domination that provide material benefits to people socially defined as “white.” Additionally, it was used to justify the genocide by the colonisers.
It should be noted that it is not limited to a single nation. It was implanted in different societies for different reasons. In American history, this ideology was first used by the Euro-Americans 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 landholdings and also became wage-slaves.
Leaders of the British Empire embraced the belief that Anglo-Saxons had a duty to educate backward civilisations. Euphemistically, they called it “white man’s burden,” a term coined by Rudyard Kipling in 1899. In reality, Colonisers were after the natural resources of the colonies. The last regimes to dismantle this system in their society were Rhodesia( Myanmar) after the white minority finally ceded power in 1980, and South Africa, whose apartheid(segregation) system was bulldozed in the 1990s.
Now, this moment begs an important question. Is white supremacy still prevalent? Yes. The reason you don’t often hear about it is because of the way it is packaged and presented to you. Politicians don’t publicly support this racism as it harms their reputation. Thus, they use euphemisms to appeal to white nationalist supporters without alienating the moderate public. The popular expression to covertly promulgate this ideology is anti-immigrant notions. Authorities stoke fear of immigrants and minorities to inflame grievances for political ends, and attempts to build a notion of an embattled white majority that has to defend its power by any means necessary. Apart from Brexit and Trumpism, political parties such as the National Front in France, The Republicans in Germany, and the Freedom Party of Austria portray immigrants as a threat to the native population. Often, people, who are influenced by this ideology, feel empowered when the person holding power also resonates with their belief. Such maneuver results in violent hate crimes like the 2018 killings at a Pittsburgh synagogue by a white supremacist who believed that Jews were orchestrating white genocide by abetting immigration from Latin America; and the 2019 murder of Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand, by an Australian white supremacist.
How could we tackle such a thing which humankind failed to eradicate in years? Honestly, it is hard to say that, even with our combined efforts, we would be able to live in a world of equals in our lifetime. But, this notion should not stop us from doing the right thing.
To counter this issue, one should thoroughly know what white supremacy is and isn’t. Be racially literate. There are various myths and beliefs about the ideology that blurs our vision to see its deep infiltration into our everyday life. One such idea is racial gaslighting- denying the existence of racial oppression. If any person of color holds a position of authority or experiences any degree of success, their mere existence is taken to be evidence that systemic racism is no more. No!!! One swallow doesn’t make a summer. It’s like saying that the existence of a few wealthy women and women professionals is “proof” that sexism doesn’t exist, disregarding the fact that women are systematically disadvantaged in every sphere of power.
Another very popular belief is that only white people uphold white supremacy. People of color indirectly endorse racism through white adjacency- the act of aligning with whiteness and distancing yourself from your ethnic and racial identity to gain access and opportunities. In India, when a family put up a matrimonial ad for a white girl, or when a mother tells her daughter to not play in the sun because her skin will get too dark, they are upholding white supremacy and subtly reinforces the belief that proximity to whiteness via lighter skin makes a woman more beautiful.
Lastly, don’t give a pat on your shoulder by removing an administration or a leader promulgating this idea. Removing a politician or an administration doesn’t suddenly eliminate a country of white supremacist structures and systems. For instance, even though America elected its first Black president in 2008, research indicates that anti-black racism increased during President Obama’s tenure.
What we need to do is change the hearts and minds of people. It can be achieved through education, reading, and continued dialogue. Regardless of which party is governing a country, there must be a constant force that endeavours to uproot white supremacy in every system and structure that exists.
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