I think white people often get confused, and it’s understandable.
You don’t learn in K-12 education the the definitions of White Supremacy or White Privilege. Especially in Texas.
From seeing blog posts, Facebook comments, Twitter subtweets, etc. I have seen a growing misunderstanding of these two terms and yes, supremacy and privilege plays into the very comprehension itself.
First is the term white supremacy. At first glance a white person will get a puffed chest about this term, immediately going to thoughts of white robes/hoodies or skinheads. Their thoughts are that white supremacy is for those that are a part of the KKK or Aryan Brotherhood, extremist groups that are vocal and visible.
Actually, white supremacy is an entire system of power or ideology that allows white politics, economics, culture, to take center stage over any other system. A system set up for whites to succeed in and others to be second class. The whiteness in the term has little to do with a people group or skin color, you can be born into white supremacy or indoctrinated into the system. Yet, prominently those that hold to white supremacy are in fact white skinned people.
A few Example sentences of white supremacy:
“ Why would a black person be scared of a cop, if you just act right then you don’t have anything to worry about.”
Can you find the supremacy in this sentence? Acting right indicates that if you act more white, then you will be ok. It takes into no consideration the hundreds of years of oppression that would go into why a black person would be scared of an encounter with a police officer.
“ Why would a black or hispanic person be turned off from voting by voter ID laws, if they have the correct ID then go vote.”
White supremacy and privilege rule in this statement. White people as the majority in the U.S.A. have no second thoughts about voting, it’s their right. How does a minority feel about approaching the voting center? Ask a person of color, they will tell you.
My very own white supremacy was exposed as I drove with people of color in my car the other day. I pulled up next to one of my white friends in the community, and he needed to give me something so I yelled out jokingly “pull over you got the stuff, I got the money.” My friends in the car said “only white people” and I asked them why they said that. Well it was because we were in a majority black area of town, and here are two white people joking about selling drugs. First of all white supremacy makes all black people criminals. Second if they played around like that, they might get reported, arrested or shaken down.
White people, knowingly or not, feel supreme in our country. We feel that we can do anything short of breaking the law, and we can do it because it’s our constitutional right. I didn’t think twice about joking about something that my friends are very cautious of while they are driving around in their communities. They are cautious of their behavior while driving, especially around police, as they are afraid of unfair treatment by law enforcement.
White privilege is our next term. White privilege is better explained here by Drew G.I. Hart, but the basic idea is that white people benefit from a white supremacist society. White privilege is sometimes misunderstood as having more money or possessions than other people, or people of color. This is not the case. Privilege, like supremacy, has to do with a white persons position of power, for just being white. It is not, as Drew talks about, something for white people to be proud of to use to help solve racism.
What can you, a white person, do to make sure your actions aren’t ruled by supremacy and privilege?
First acknowledge that you and your ancestors have had a role in white supremacy. This isn’t feeling guilty and sulking about it. That does nothing to help people of color.
Second, begin to filter all of your thoughts and actions. Asking “is this comment, post, email, text, conversation putting people of color and those that are oppressed at the center or margins.” White Supremacy loves to put itself first, without taking into thought how this thought or action might not be the best for people of color as well.
Third, start reading tweets, posts, and books from people of color as quick as you can. If you don’t like reading, YouTube. If you are on Twitter, go to search and enter #BlackTwitter. DO NOT COMMENT! JUST SHUT UP AND READ.
Fourth, hang around places that aren’t full of white people. Church, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, places of business should all be under your critical analysis of is it too white or not. If you are able to make friends and people of color allow you into their lives, also allow them to deconstruct and strip away at your privilege and supremacy. If they call you out on something, shut up and listen.
Fifth, don’t expect people of color to train you on these terms. That would be itself white supremacy, to think that people of color need to teach you how not to be racist. Buy books and read, go to seminars on race, pay for webinars, and if you are fortunate to have friends of color, then they might help you and if they do, your biggest goal is to LISTEN.