White Supremacy: Perspectives, Voices, and Resources
In these waning days of summer, you may be nearing the end of your summer reading list. And if you are like me, you are wondering why on earth this or that made it onto the list in the first place. For those of you looking for a few alternatives, we at Allies for Racial Equity have some suggestions, particularly for folks who are still wondering why we keep talking about white supremacy in relationship to Unitarian Universalism, a liberal religious tradition that is supposedly full of free thinkers who don’t have a racist bone in their body, let alone ascribe to white supremacist notions.
Our website has quite a few recommended resources to get folks started and includes some resources about microaggressions and cultural appropriation, which can be useful for those who want to start a dialogue in their congregations and communities.
This is also a matter of our own continuing education and development of power analysis, which is often best served by more comprehensive study. Our individual anti-racist, anti-oppressive journeys are always evolving and life-long. Recognition and disruption of our enculturated preference (see Harvard Implicit Bias Test) for listening to white (cis) men on all matters — including those of race and white supremacy — is a part of this work.
We have compiled a by-no-means exhaustive list of people from whom we have learned, and continue to learn, about white supremacy and how to dismantle it. In making this list we felt it important to prioritize the voices of people most affected/marginalized — who have, by our own (and society’s) making, become experts on oppression. Any free and responsible search for truth and meaning demands it.
(click on the names to learn more . . . )
When we identify where our privilege intersects with somebody else’s oppression, we’ll find our opportunities to make real change.
If your anti-racism work prioritizes the “growth” and “enlightenment” of white America over the safety, dignity and humanity of people of color — it’s not anti-racism work.
It’s white supremacy.
Cultural patterns of oppression are not only interrelated but are bound together and influenced by the intersectional systems of society. Examples of this include race, gender, class, ability, and ethnicity.
Treating different things the same can generate as much inequality as treating the same things differently.
White rage is not about visible violence, but rather it works its way through the courts, the legislatures, and a range of government bureaucracies. It wreaks havoc subtly, almost imperceptibly. Too imperceptibly, certainly, for a nation consistently drawn to the spectacular — to what it can see. It’s not the Klan. White rage doesn’t have to wear sheets, burn crosses, or take to the streets. Working the halls of power, it can achieve its ends far more effectively, far more destructively.
Since the nation’s founding, African Americans repeatedly have been controlled through institutions such as slavery and Jim Crow, which appear to die, but then are reborn in new form, tailored to the needs and constraints of the time.
Often in my lectures when I use the phrase “imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy” to describe our nation’s political system, audiences laugh. No one has ever explained why accurately naming this system is funny. The laughter is itself a weapon of patriarchal terrorism.
When liberal whites fail to understand how they can and/or do embody white supremacist values and beliefs even though they may not embrace racism as prejudice or domination (especially domination that involves coercive control), they cannot recognize the ways their actions support and affirm the very structure of racist domination and oppression that they wish to see eradicated.
For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. Racism and homophobia are real conditions of all our lives in this place and time. I urge each one of us here to reach down into that deep place of knowledge inside herself and touch that terror and loathing of any difference that lives here. See whose face it wears. Then the personal as the political can begin to illuminate all our choices.
Time and again, racist ideas have not been cooked up from the boiling pot of ignorance and hate. Time and again, powerful and brilliant men and women have produced racist ideas in order to justify the racist policies of their era, in order to redirect the blame for their era’s racial disparities away from those policies and onto Black people.
If you are attempting to study American history, and you don’t understand the force of white supremacy, you fundamentally misunderstand America.
An America that asks what it owes its most vulnerable citizens is improved and humane. An America that looks away is ignoring not just the sins of the past but the sins of the present and the certain sins of the future.
I don’t know what most white people in this country feel, but I can only conclude what they feel from the state of their institutions . . . .
There are so many ways of being despicable it quite makes one’s head spin. But the way to be really despicable is to be contemptuous of other people’s pain.
Now, this is the evidence. You want me to make an act of faith — risking myself, my wife, my woman, my sister, my children — on some idealization which you assure me exists in America, which I have never seen.
Until the killing of black men, black mothers’ sons, becomes as important to the rest of the country as the killing of a white mother’s sons, we who believe in freedom cannot rest until this happens.
The voice I have now, I got the first time I sang in a movement meeting, after I got out of jail… and I’d never heard it before in my life.
When the universe is polarized by hatred
When we ourselves have been baptized in fear
When some of us are paralyzed in principle
When there’s anger in the falling of each tear
Let us, let us rise in love
We are our grandmothers’ prayers.
We are our grandfathers’ dreamings.
We are the breath of our ancestors.
We are the spirit of God.
The task of resisting our own oppression does not relieve us of the responsibility of acknowledging our complicity in the oppression of others.
It is important to understand that the system of advantage is perpetuated when we do not acknowledge its existence.
If I was asked to write a story about white, cisgender, hetersexual males and females, I could do so with between 90 and 98 percent accuracy. Why? Because I have been saturated with the stories of this dominant culture narrative MY ENTIRE LIFE. We ALL HAVE. The last thing anyone needed, especially coming from our UU Faith community is yet another narrative centering the already firmly centered. The White Supremacy Teach In was about exactly this phenomenon. We are swimming in the water of preferred white, cisgender, heteronormative cultural leadership. We can only BEGIN to dismantle this when we are intentional about NOT continually centering the voices of the dominant culture. The editors of UU World and the writer herself thought they were offering a needed perspective (I’m guessing here) And therein lies the rub. The needed perspective is from folks NOT ALREADY CENTERED. Harm was caused and the actual TRUUST report that was published immediately AFTER the harmful piece has now been overshadowed by the harm done. My heart is with my Trans Family. I love you all and I need you to survive. Cis folks—WE MUST DO BETTER.
I continue to be intrigued by UUs who assert that “We can’t hit people over the head” when talking about racial justice. Let’s unpack this on MLK Day—Whose “heads” are we talking about? Black and Brown people have been repeatedly hit over the head literally and figuratively for generations. Let’s be clear, what we are talking about is the comfort of white UUs. Let’s somehow find a way to make even talking about racial justice “comfortable,” for white people who can somehow—and with the correct inoffensive words and with the gentle tone of our voices-be convinced that institutional racism is real and that white supremacy culture is real and that violence against Black and Brown people is real. I’ve said this many times and will say it again, if “Please don’t” and “Would you kindly not engage in racist practices,” was all it took to end systemic racism, it would have already worked. At some point we need to be honest with ourselves. This continued call for “not hitting people over the head,” is simply another way to avoid talking about how to transform the system so it is more equitable. If you haven’t already read “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr… take the time to do it today.
Are you confused? This faith that you love has said over and over, sometimes in word but more often in deed: black lives don’t matter.
[W]hen I enter this white space, these are the sorts of things I get to sit with and wrestle with while most of you are able to remain oblivious and contently so.
When you ask me what white privilege is, I would say it is this power you have to not notice.
When you ask me what white supremacy is, I would say it this power you have to be angry when I notice.
UU Organizations Dedicated to Countering Oppression and Dismantling White Supremacy
Transforming Hearts Collective
Allies for Racial Equity
White Folx Who Know a Thing or Two
If your first response to accountability is a sense of loss of autonomy, that’s the voice of privilege . . . . Our white supremacist, colonialist, patriarchal cultural heritage means we have been designed to believe our ancestors were heroic defenders of democracy for all, to bristle at the idea that many of our ancestors were pretty monstrous, and outright reject the idea that this cultural and economic heritage means we ourselves are saturated by and participatory in it today.
But our ethical and religious commitments call us to notice that internal resistance, to turn away from it, and face reality.
Power from unearned privilege can look like strength when it is in fact permission to escape or to dominate.
Privileged resistance is the enactment of defensiveness and denial on the part of those sitting in positions of privilege to any acknowledgement of that privilege and the oppression that creates it.
Healing lies in the courageous move to interrogate our racial legacy and understand its continued manifestations . . . . Basically, white people must be able to bear witness to the overt and subtle ways that issues of race and dominating whiteness continue to emerge in our daily lives if we are going to be able to do anything about it.
The most effective adaptation of racism over time is the idea that racism is conscious bias held by mean people.
We are still conditioning people in this country and, indeed, all over the globe to the myth of white superiority. We are constantly being told that we don’t have racism in this country anymore, but most of the people who are saying that are white. White people think it isn’t happening because it isn’t happening to them.
To believe that the United States is post-racial requires an almost incomprehensible inability or unwillingness to stare truth in the face.
There are lots of research, of course, saying that a vast majority of us have been exposed to racial biases and stereotypes and, to some extent, we’ve internalized them, because that’s so ubiquitous. That’s why I’m so bored with the conversation about who’s a racist and who’s not.
We’re all in the race game, so to speak, either consciously or unconsciously. We can overtly support white-supremacist racial projects. We can reject white supremacy and support racial projects aimed at a democratic distribution of power and a just distribution of resources. Or we can claim to not be interested in race, in which case we almost certainly will end up tacitly supporting white supremacy by virtue of our unwillingness to confront it. In a society in which white supremacy has structured every aspect of our world, there can be no claim to neutrality.
The more you can increase fear of drugs, crime, welfare mothers, immigrants and aliens, the more you control all of the people.
That’s the whole point of good propaganda. You want to create a slogan that nobody’s going to be against, and everybody’s going to be for. Nobody knows what it means, because it doesn’t mean anything.
Sometimes change comes not in the first round, but at the second, third or fourth. Change starts with one person questioning, challenging, speaking up and doing something to make a difference. We can each make a difference…because each of us is already part of the community where racism exists and thrives.
White supremacy has taught white people to be racially, culturally, and politically illiterate.
Where have you sought counsel and wisdom on how to confront whiteness, undo racism, and dismantle systems of white supremacy from? Tell us in the comments below!