10 Lessons About White Supremacy In The Age Of Obama

2. White Supremacy is comprised of habits, actions, and beliefs. It is not reliant on the specific intentions of its actors, practitioners, or beneficiaries. White Supremacy also has the power to reorient and reimagine empirical reality for those who have consciously and/or subconsciously internalized and learned its principals and assumptions.

3. Images of terrorist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan and Neo Nazis serve as outlier caricatures of racism in the post civil rights era. These cartoon versions of White racism do the work of White Supremacy as a social and political force because they present virulent White racism as an anachronism or the habit of somehow damaged and defective White people who should be ejected from the public square. In colorblind America, “polite” and “respectable” White Supremacy is far more dangerous to the life chances and safety of Black people than the overt racism of the Ku Klux Klan or other racially chauvinistic organizations.

4. In the most basic sense, White Supremacy is a philosophical, material, ethical, economic, scientific, religious, and political system that works to maintain the dominant and relative superior group position of those identified as “White” (and their allies) over those marked as “non-white”. Other types of identities such as gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and class simultaneously support the White Supremacist project while also complicating it.

Thus, White Supremacy is the philosophical and systemic umbrella for white racism.

5. Racism is not necessarily the same thing as White Supremacy. Racism is prejudice plus power. Without group power there can be no “racism”. In American society, racism by white people is the primary means through which White Supremacy is enacted and made real.

6. White Supremacy is an evolving political project. While American society’s laws and practices along the colorline have certainly changed, the relative superior group position of Whites over non-Whites in the West remains a relative constant.

This is one of the primary fruits of the White Supremacist project.

7. White Supremacy works on an institutional and inter-personal level. Its ultimate goal is securing more resources, power, opportunities, and privileges–material, psychological, or otherwise–for the in-group over the out-group.

White Supremacy involves, both in the present and historically, the systematic transfer of wealth, income, and other resources from non-Whites to Whites as a general group, and a White elite, in particular.

8. White Supremacy is a racial ideology that works to maintain class inequality. White supremacy also creates a commonsense notion that Black Americans are “naturally” poor and disadvantaged.

The racial logic and commonsense of White Supremacy (and a White Racist society) is sustained by not asking about first principles.

For example, what public policy decisions led to White Americans having at least 20 times the wealth of Black Americans? Why are urban Black communities economically disadvantaged and White communities, i.e. the suburbs, have been materially advantaged by comparison?

White Supremacy as enacted through public policy made those outcomes. White Supremacy creates historical amnesia and myopia in order to prevent those first order questions from being asked or answered in (White) mainstream American public discourse.

9. Colorblind racism is the most recent iteration in a White Supremacist order where it is possible to have “racism without racists”, and a Black American President, while social and institutional systems still privilege Whites over African-Americans.

White racial innocence, and a sincere belief by many White folks that they do not hold racist attitudes, or benefit personally or collectively from systemic White racism, is an example of how White Supremacy has evolved to make itself relatively invisible (to willfully ignorant White people) as a dominant social force in American life.

Consequently, one of the deep tensions and challenges surrounding racial discourse in post civil rights America is how to locate a given White person’s relationship to a broader system of institutional racism.

10. Austerity, neoliberalism, globalization, and the Culture of Cruelty are some of the most powerful social forces in post civil rights America. White Supremacy does not exist separate or apart from those ideologies and practices.

Chait’s effort to make excuses for the racism of contemporary conservatism is mesmerizing. The mental gymnastics are great: Chait is offering up a car accident and demolition derby of intellectual work as he tries to make sense of race in the Age of Obama.

Ultimately, Jonathan Chait is providing a teachable moment about the nature of White Supremacy in a colorblind era, one that may be quite contrary to the one he had originally intended.

By:  Chauncey DeVega