Eliminating White Supremacy Must Become a Priority in Order to Solve the World's Most Pressing Issues
Americans today grow up in a system of white supremacy. This white supremacy is so ingrained, so deep and so penetrating that it becomes almost part of the subconscious in many cases. It infects our school systems, the education system, the government, science/medicine, media, corporate America, the health care system, the financial system, people's psychology and their very souls.
The ethnic cleansing and genocide of Native Americans, the theft of their lands, and the dehumanization (among other crimes committed against them) is not something in the distant past. When Native Americans attempted to stand up for their rights in the 1970s, the US government once again displayed profound racism based upon white supremacy with its actions. Today, some reservations face dire economic circumstances, health crises, environmental devastation, etc. If racism were truly a thing of the past, uranium mining and contamination of Native American lands would not still be an issue. In addition, massive and fair reparations would have been given, without the whining and groaning and excuses typical of those people opposed to reparations.
Slavery existed for hundreds of years against African-Americans. Yet even after 1865 and the official end of slavery, Jim Crow laws and segregation were in place until the 1960s. In the 1920s, to provide a single example, the KKK (Klu Klux Klan), that racist terrorist organization, controlled nearly every branch of government in the state of Indiana. Since then, corporate America has brought back slavery in a different form. Mass incarceration of Black people has provided corporate America and the government with nearly free labor. This is so outrageous, so criminal, that it must be emphasized. Americans can never claim to be past racism when the drug war, drug laws, the criminal justice system, police brutality and mass incarceration are all combined together to create this new type of slavery. The white supremacist system didn't go away, it simply adapted to the "progress" by morphing into something less visible but equally morally bankrupt. All of the discrimination -- from slavery, to Jim Crow, to segregation, to mass incarceration, to denying people the right to vote based upon criminal records in a system which is designed to incarcerate people based upon color, to housing and employment discrimination, to discriminatory zoning laws, to discriminatory real estate agents -- have led to where we are today. With all of this history, the generational wealth transfer which allows people and families to improve their lot economically has been denied to many Black Americans.
Symbolic progress has occurred, yes, but on a deeper level, very little has changed. Electing a Black president absolutely was a huge symbolic achievement, and symbols do matter. So yes, indeed, this was progress in that sense. Unfortunately, all of the deeper issues remain unresolved. And, being that the first Black president won in a corrupt political system which favors people who sell out their principles, it is no surprise that Barack Obama has done little of substance to solve these underlying issues. Yes, there has been incredible obstructionism from the Republicans. Yet Obama's receipt of large amounts of campaign contributions from financial institutions in his 2008 campaign suggest another part of the problem. And despite objecting to some of Obama's actions, he has done some positive things. And criticizing the president, regardless of their skin color, is absolutely correct and appropriate when the action is wrong. Such criticism must never be based upon race.
And this emphasizes further evidence of racism still being an issue -- many people who criticize Obama or do not care for him do so with underlying racist motivation. This is absolutely clear and obvious. The "birther" movement clearly has many racists involved in it. Such racists would not go looking for "fake birth certificates" of white politicians. Such racists blame everything going wrong in the US on Obama, which is clearly ridiculous. There is this seething white supremacist feeling that "the country is changing."
The shocking videos that are coming out so frequently showing blatant disregard for Black lives has provided further evidence that not much has changed in the United States with regard to race. Again, as in the case of Native Americans, African-Americans deserve massive and fair reparations, which provide a starting point to improve the community's situation. Race and economics are tied together deeply, and improving the economic situation will have dramatic impacts on all issues faced by the Black community. Unfortunately, in order to get enough Americans to agree to reparations, the white supremacist system would have to dissolve. The fact that reparations have not happened proves that the system is still controlled and dominated by the white supremacist mindset. Any moral human being who is not a racist and understands the true history of Black people in the US should not hesitate to be in support of substantial reparations.
Everyone in the US, regardless of race, is programmed through the media, corporations, the government, education, etc., to become a part of this white supremacist system. This creates very high levels of conscious and subconscious bias in favor of white Americans throughout the system. It even creates self-hatred among non-white people. Everyone who has grown up in this system must cleanse themselves of this programming. It requires a lot of work, because many of the effects of the system are subconscious.
Internally, the history and current events in the United States prove that racism continues to play a large role. Outside of the United States, the US government's actions throughout history and currently demonstrate that white supremacy factors into the decision-making process. Wars fought in Korea, Vietnam, Libya and Iraq (twice) are all in non-white majority countries. The current drone war program, which has killed so many civilians, takes place in countries like Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen -- again, countries with non-white majorities. The US government has intervened and continues to intervene in Central and South America, in Venezuela, Chile, Honduras, Haiti and Cuba, for example. It always seems that when dealing with issues that come up in foreign policy, bombing, killing, assassinations, war and force seem to be the preferred option when dealing with non-white majority countries. Again, this is more evidence of racism.
White European supremacist and white American supremacist systems of thought penetrate everything, deciding that white is superior for the rest of us people of color. Our input was not taken apparently when coming up with the idea of "first world" versus "third world" in terms of language use. It is obvious that such a system is largely racist and must be abandoned. Nearly all of the "first world" countries are majority-white, with European countries, plus Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States. As a side note, even within European societies, there isa form of internalized white supremacy with northern, lighter-skinned European whites being treated better than southern, darker-skinned European whites.
Another issue negatively impacted by the white supremacist system is climate change, which is obvious from looking at the situation. Colonialism is yet another issue related to racism. Many of the issues faced today by Middle Eastern, African, Asian, Central and South American countries trace their roots to colonialism. And colonialism is white supremacy. The United States government's policy toward Puerto Rico is an example. And European governments colonizing throughout Africa and Asia reflect the essence of white supremacy. Some of these things have morphed into different forms today, but essentially, there is still this arrogant white supremacist believe in some European governments (and the US government) that intervention into non-white countries' affairs is acceptable. Sometimes this takes military form, and other times economic and political forms.
Daily language and conversations are filled with examples of racism which are based upon white Americans being "true Americans." Why is it that people rarely ask what a white person's ethnicity or heritage is while the same question is routinely asked of people of color?
"Where are you from?" is a question I routinely receive when people find out what my name is. And if I answer that I am American, for example, they may press further. They may say "Where are you from? You know what I mean." In actuality, this question supposes that the "normal" American is of European descent, while anyone else is open to question as to "where they are really from."
Thus, it is quite clear that we are very far from living in a country free from racism. People who look at history from a class-based perspective without including the issue of race make a grave error in judgment. This issue requires a significant amount of work and will require a fundamental transformation of thinking among a large segment of the US population. So let's get to work.
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Shady Srour is a writer, activist and musician. His interests include peacemaking, social justice, environmentalism, organic agriculture, permaculture, cooperative movements, naturopathic medicine, ecological living, sustainability, homeopathy and spirituality. He received his BA in zoology with a minor in neuroscience from Miami University-Oxford, Ohio. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. In 2014, he wrote Radical Revolution: A Conversation with God.