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Let's (Not) Talk About White Supremacy

Since Trump became President I’ve been thinking about race and politics a lot, and I’ve come to a firm conclusion: "white privilege" captures the existing dynamic in the United States much better than "white supremacy".

This essay was prompted by this thought-provoking article: "Donald Trump Was White Supremacy’s Battle of the Bulge" by Patrick Tompkins. https://link.medium.com/fa8hMF2SX6

Consider a description of white privilege as compared to white supremacy.

"White privilege (or white skin privilege) refers to the societal privilege that benefits white people over non-white people in some societies, particularly if they are otherwise under the same social, political, or economic circumstances. With roots in European colonialism, [1] the Atlantic slave trade, and the growth of the Second British Empire after 1783, white privilege has developed [2] in circumstances that have broadly sought to protect white racial privileges, [3] various national citizenships and other rights or special benefits. [4][5]
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_privilege

"White supremacy or white supremacism is the racist belief that white people are superior to people of other races and therefore should be dominant over them. White supremacy has roots in the now-discredited doctrine of scientific racism and often relies on pseudoscientific arguments. Like most similar movements such as neo-Nazism, white supremacists typically oppose members of other races as well as Jews."
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_supremacy

Francis E. Kendall says white privilege is “Having greater access to power and resources than people of color [in the same situation] do.”
https://www.tolerance.org/magazine/fall-2018/what-is-white-p...

The problem with talking about white supremacy is that unavoidably the question of racial superiority is introduced as we see above. This supposition of racial superiority is typically cited as the rationale for racial dominance. At this point in the debate an egalitarian feels compelled to deny the possibility of racial differences. Only skin color can be admitted as a racial characteristic.

>>Led by 100-meter world record holder Usain Bolt, Jamaican men swept the sprinting events at the London Olympics. It was a stunning feat for the small Caribbean nation. But as part of a broader trend, it’s hardly surprising. Runners of West African descent are the fastest humans on earth.<<
https://www.forbes.com/sites/jonentine/2012/08/12/the-dna-ol...

Jamaican dominance of sprinting events is an inconvenient truth for opponents of white supremacy. One must not claim that certain racial stocks are superior in any regard because to do so invites the thought that white European descendents might be superior in some regard. This is ideology suppressing science which is generally a bad place to go.

Focussing on white privilege instead skips nimbly past the rabbit hole of white supremacy and racial superiority. Few people feel the need to deny the reality of white privilege. It fact a discussion of white privilege will quickly shine a light on any actual racists who typically deny that white privilege even exists.

A search of the 2019 Southern Poverty Law Center list of 940 hate groups revealed only one where the word supremacy was used and that group, "A Voice For Men", advocated male supremacy.

A more useful classification is "white nationalist". SPLC says that white nationalist groups espouse white supremacist or white separatist ideologies, often focusing on the alleged inferiority of nonwhites. Groups listed in a variety of other categories - Ku Klux Klan, neo-Confederate, neo-Nazi, racist skinhead, and Christian Identity - could also be fairly described as white nationalist.

https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/ideo...

Unwavering support for Trump among some 30-40% of the American population has had me wondering what the hell is going on. What would motivate people to rally behind this disaster of a human being?

For me the inescapable conclusion is the importance of maintaining white privilege at a point in history when many persons realize that within their lifetime white Christians will no longer be a majority in America.

For persons terrified by the prospect of being in a minority anything that can be done to avoid this fate, like stopping immigration of brown and Muslim people, must be done. Every means of white dominance such as police brutality must be maintained.

Ironically, when considering race and religion simultaneously, it seems that minority status has already happened.

>>After more than two centuries of white Anglo-Saxon Protestant dominance, the United States has moved from being a majority-white Christian nation to one with no single racial and religious majority. ... Now, at the end of the decade, only 42 percent of Americans identify as white and Christian<<
https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/2010s-spelled-end-whit...

Racist whites know that Trump is on their side in a way that no American president before has been. They are certainly not going to give up that advantage because of Trump's personal failings. Even more than 100,000 Americans dead from Covid-19 seems like a price worth paying to have Trump in the White House.

Tompkins writes:

>>A black man living in the White House did not sit right with white supremacists. To them, he did not belong there. It was a degradation of the office.<<

A white friend confided in me after Obama's election that he wouldn't be alive for long. Those must have been eight long years for my friend. And the propect of going from rule by a "nigger" to rule by a "bitch" must have been further traumatizing. I must imagine that Trump's triumph in the electoral college seemed like salvation to white nationalists. Tompkins continues:

>>Finally they had someone in the White House who looked like them, talked like them, and most importantly, thought like them. The others were bad people and finally the President knew it too. ... Donald Trump gave white supremacists something they had not felt in a very long time: hope.<<

I think of Trump supporters not as white supremacists but as champions of white privilege. It is clarifying for me to admit that I also have benefited from white privilege my entire life. This is true for practically every white person in America, and I think we all should admit it. It is hopeful, however, that many of us do not feel threatened by the prospect of being a minority among minorities in a greater America.
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