In 2013 and 2014, a white supremacist paid for billboards in the South that read: “anti-racist is a code word for anti-white.”
Depending on how someone understands the term white, the white supremacist could be right.
If someone doesn’t understand white as a social construct of unjust superiority, then antiwhite is akin to being antiBlack or anti any racial group.
But people should not use the terms the same.
AntiBlack is a term first recorded in 1836.
Antiwhite is a term first recorded in 1867.
It appears one came after the other. The dictionaries don’t cite the original source of the term antiwhite, but the year is significant. That year, 1867, was during Reconstruction.
It’s conceivable white people used the term antiwhite to shut down gains for Black people during Reconstruction.
That’s one use of the term antiwhite today.
In the book, Rising Out of Hatred, a former white supremacist, Derek Black, recounts how white supremacists cheered those results.
Given the racial disparities in America, and the deadly spikes in hate crimes, the way most white people define antiwhite is ridiculous, racist, and dangerous.
What seems impossible within the racial hierarchy is separating skin color from superiority or inferiority.
But that’s the work people of color do already.
In The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin writes to his nephew that believing the white world’s definition of him will destroy him.
Baldwin’s advice applies to everyone. Accepting white definitions is destructive. For racial justice, white Americans should reject, oppose, and repurpose the white definition of themselves too.
Many Black Americans reject and oppose the white definition of Blackness. Other racial and ethnic groups do the same for themselves. People of color have had to separate our skin color from the conditions and the connotations that white people made.
White people must redefine and repurpose themselves too.
For most racial groups, this process of self-determination is an upward movement.
For most white people, their work is different. Their work is a downward motion from superiority to humanity, and from domination to community. It is a move from fiction and fraud to nonfiction and facts.
Dr. Marimba Ani, an African Studies scholar who coined the term Maafa for the African Holocaust, provides an African-centered critique on European cultural thought and behavior.
In her book, Yurugu, Dr. Ani wrote, “Europeans must learn to think of themselves as limited beings with limited powers, existing in a culture among other cultures.”
Her words apply to the global network of white supremacy.
Although today’s white people benefit from, and sustain, the white racial order, they did not set it in motion. That’s not an excuse, but in that way, today’s white people need a self-determination that’s free from the templates and systems of superiority.
In his essay, On Being White and Other Lies, James Baldwin wrote being white was a “moral choice.” And it still is.
Race is political.
According to polls, studies, and their votes, most white people follow the patterns of their ancestors in an updated and diluted form that still amounts to white supremacy.
As long as white is the construct that increases the likelihood of hiring, electability, Hollywood awards, TV anchor chairs, surviving birth and police encounters — antiracists should oppose the white construct of superiority.
In her collection of essays, she calls Thick, Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom, a distinguished professor of sociology, says the goal of anti-racist work is “to end whiteness.”
Racial justice must be antiwhite. Again, not for its skin color, but for its political position and how it works against racial justice.
The term antiwhite can subvert the white order.
The argument is not for a different word besides antiwhite because antiwhite can be a way for everyone to resist — white people too. I argue for a different definition and a different implication to the term antiwhite at a moral and political level.
In the past, and to a large degree in the present, the term “white supremacy” was redundant. Now, it’s easier for white people to oppose the superiority and the supremacy — in principle. But if the white part is unchanged — the white is still synonymous with supremacy — in practice.
In a white-supremacist society, being pro-white, as white supremacists use it, is not an option for racial justice in principle or in practice.
Most white people never became antiwhite, or race traitors, to oppose the construct of superiority, dominance, and ill-gotten gains. That’s one reason America isn’t further along with racial justice.
Hopefully, more white people will do the work for progress.
If so, that’s something no one should oppose. Until then, antiwhite is actually right.