There’s no color line with white-supremacist thinking
You can count on Charles Blow, an opinion writer for the New York Times, to write and deliver the fire shut up in his bones with precise punches. Recently, he took to social media to tell the whole story about Abraham Lincoln to include Lincoln’s well-documented belief in white supremacy.
In response, one of Charles Blow’s followers tweeted if Charles Blow had been born white in 1809, he’d “be a white supremacist too.”
Well, is that how it works? That’s the logic from a mind that shrugs its shoulders and says, “there wasn’t a choice,” and “that was the time.”
I reject that logic. Usually, when I wonder if a Black person were white, I don’t assume they’d be a white supremacist too. That’s not where my mind goes. Instead, I think about life and liberty. My mind knows if Sandra Bland or Tamir Rice were white — they’d be alive.
To say, regarding any time period in U.S. history, “if you were white, you’d be a white supremacist too,” isn’t accurate. Here, technicalities count. There were white abolitionists in Lincoln’s day who were antiracist in thought and deed, and they believed in human equality.
The converse is also true. In the book, Stamped from the Beginning, antiracism expert Dr. Ibram X. Kendi makes it clear, with history, that some Black people had white-supremacist ideas.
“White-supremacist thinking does not segregate itself.”
The assumption that white supremacy only comes in white people is an insidious delusion that forgets that America is a racist nation. While there is a choice, America socializes everyone into white supremacy. This includes new infants, new immigrants, people of color, and Black people.
To be clear, white people originated and engineered all of this, every bit. But they don’t own it exclusively. The original intellectual property of white supremacy is freely in the public domain.
For Dr. Beverly Tatum, who wrote the insightful book, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, white-supremacist thinking is smog we breathe in and breathe out daily.
For Dr. Brittney Cooper, in her stunning book, Eloquent Rage, she compares the ideology of white supremacy to a virus that infects and affects us all.
White-supremacist thinking does not segregate itself. There’s no color line with its thoughts. There’s no single point of attack. There are no automatic or absolute boundaries, and no one has to be white to subscribe and adhere to white supremacy.
“White supremacy lives and works on a spectrum.”
The dense dogma of white supremacy, which has many manifestations and mutations, is not a matter of haves and have nots. It’s a matter of how much you got. Everyone has it or could assume the position.
With this subject, if we only think in terms of Black and white, or Us versus Them, or what we may call the North versus the South, then we aren’t thorough or through with our indictments of white supremacy.
That’s been a historical failure. It’s failing to distinguish and extinguish white supremacy in every size and character.
To see white-supremacist thinking as only white is an injustice to racial justice. In fact, that injustice is an obstruction to the full work of racial justice. That injustice falls into Dr. King’s definition of an injustice anywhere that threatens justice everywhere. The reality is — some of us aren’t with us, and some of them are for us.
“White supremacy can be more concerned with a mind than it is color.”
Everyone knows power matters. But what people talk less about is how even those with the status of pawns can become tokens of racist royalty, which is a particular disloyalty.
White supremacy happily crowns pawns of any racial group for its bidding. Then, those elevated pawns with institutional power behind them — placed in a point-and-shoot position — can be royal pains from their perches. White supremacy can be more concerned with a mind than it is color.
And white supremacy is never benign.
If a police officer, who’s a person of color or Black, murders a Black child because they instantly fear any race that isn’t white, that isn’t benign.
If judges or school administrators, who aren’t white, issue harsher punishments for Black people, that isn’t benign.
Let me put it this way — if Ben Carson and Clarence Thomas can shred protections and oversight for Black people and people of color, that isn’t benign.
Even as we fight against systems and structures, we must realize there are actual people with white-supremacist thoughts — which includes not thinking accurately about race and racism — who uphold, collude, or do nothing about those systems and structures.
White-supremacist thinking is not separate, and it is not equal. It lives and works on a spectrum. There aren’t moral equivalencies for all of it, but there are moral imperatives for all of us.
In her book, Writing Beyond Race, feminist scholar bell hooks writes about shifting from the politics of blame and shame to accountability and action.
Decolonizing the mind is everyone’s work, and it’s work for everyone. Step right up. There’s no need to wait.