White (Liberal) Supremacy: More Denial in the Service of Maintaining Power
I was reading commentary on certain books on my Goodreads account and noticed that certain defensive reactions on the parts of white people are often employed to denigrate books which fall under the general category of critical race theory. Because these defensive reactions seemed repetitive among white people I assume don’t know each other, I started to write these down. Because certain responses are so pervasive, I assume they are part of the construct of dominance that allows white people to employ any method which maintains their advantage while simultaneously washing themselves clean of the profoundly self-serving — and ultimately deforming — nature of these choices.
As per usual, I note that there are also a set of responses, typically from people of color, who attempt to bring to light these onerous forms of self-deception.
I use commentary/written reviews on Charles W. Mills The Racial Contract as an example, though any number of books which clarify the long-standing, global nature of white supremacy garners much the same defensive reactions. I have not used any quotations so as to preserve privacy; in any case, given the penetrated persistence among white people as a group in accepting these distortions, individuals are less relevant than the collective devotion to maintaining white supremacy and then conveniently denying one’s role in it. This type of behavior is as ubiquitous as virus, and just as toxic.
1. Everyone had slavery since the beginning of time: not just white people.
This type of response is a combination of projection and minimization. First of all, responding to one’s historical — and continued — dominance by reverting to the behavior of others is childish and ultimately absurd. When a parent asks a child to take accountability for bad behavior, does the parent accept the response: ‘everybody else did it.’ Why is it that large swathes of adults, white ones, resort to this childish response?
But the behavior goes even further than this already childish response: it minimizes by claiming not only that others had slavery but by distracting through projection, casting the negative attention at all humans.
The reality is that the TransAtlantic Slave Trade is historically unique for several reasons, and thus cannot be lumped into ‘all slavery.’
‘Everyone’ had slavery is a potent form of gaslighting: distraction; projection; minimization. All behaviors of narcissists. This sort of stance should be rapidly diminished in favor of reality. UNESCO’s Statement:
2. Why don’t we look at what Europeans did RIGHT??
This onerous response is perhaps one of the most insidious. When white people deploy this response, it is as if they ignore the elephant in the room: the overwhelmingly toxic nature of the last half-era’s behaviors.
Again, would these same white people respond to their own children this way if children exhibited this sort of denial and responsibility-shirking behavior?
Example: a child pushes another child down. When caught, the bully states “but at least his arm isn’t broken.” Would the appropriate adult, moral response be to say: “Oh, yes. His arm isn’t broken. It’s a good thing you didn’t push him THAT hard. What a good bully you actually are!”
Yet, this is the childish behavior in which we see large swathes of white people behaving: this is a frequent stance of white people. In other words, rather than examining the deleterious effects of white supremacy on the entire rest of the world’s population, white people say that they were the ones who advocated for slavery to end, as if they generated this idea. Slavery only ended after hard work was done by African-Americans, at great loss of their lives; after stealing so much from black Americans, why are white people still talking about what a great job they did?? Nobody should be getting gold stars for exhibiting moral behaviors, never mind granting them to themselves. Morality should be baseline moral behavior; it is the lack of it which characterizes white supremacy which is alarming, and not in a positive way.
The egregious crime that is the invention of whiteness has much larger relevance and (negative) impact than whether or not a few anti-racist white people (and my experience is that there are precious few) might have been convinced to end slavery.
Again, this constitutes white people collectively giving themselves the benefit of the doubt when a true perusal of reality would, frankly, preclude it.
3. Connection between centuries-long increasing white wealth and domination severed through denial
I am repeatedly fascinated with the way white/European/Western wealth is conveniently uncoupled from white supremacy as if the two have no relationship. The purpose for this particular form of denial could only be to claim, ultimately, that the wealth white people ‘created’ actually belongs to them. This belief flies in the face of reality.
The fundamental relationship of white supremacy — ie, the distribution of wealth from brown/black/indigenous peoples worldwide into the laps of white people, and the invention of race instituted in order to automate this freebie — is once again shirked in favor of a convenient lie.
Here are some ways this is achieved: the West is successful due to technology; the West is successful due to ‘merit’ and ‘hard work’ (possibly the biggest collective lie of whiteness — once again, Emperor Horatio Alger, AKA ‘merit,’ appears without his clothes); that the West was somehow isolated from the rest of the world, its success due to European innovation.
Conveniently forgotten: millions of Native/Indigenous people murdered; millions of Africans murdered; Chinese tossed in cages; all sorts of Middle Eastern peoples murdered through sanctions; Japan, the one noncolonized country, cowed instead by nuclear bombs; and the list goes on.
This stance allows white people to believe that they are isolated from the rest of the world and the carnage proactively inflicted on the rest of the human race in order to create the ability to take from others.
White wealth in the US and Europe is directly connected to dominance, slavery, and the wholesale subordination of brown, black, and indigenous peoples worldwide. No amount of pretense and self-serving bias — we ‘earned’ it — can change the fact that these resources were — and continue to be — stolen from a wide range of people of color and handed to white people.
4. Do we really want to call the Enlightenment….bad? Denial of the fundamental hypocrisy that undergirds the philosophical basis of whiteness.
The problem with the Enlightenment is that its basic philosophy is individuality. This is not a problem to human beings who are considered individuals, and assuming any amount of human morality, this would be all of us.
The problem is that, during the Enlightenment, white men went to great lengths to assert the opposite of human individuality while claiming to promote equality. This is true of the major philosophers, such as Kant, who declared all non-Europeans ‘subhuman’ in no uncertain terms to Kipling, whose arrogant and condescending poetry about Phillipinos was just an example of how he felt about all nonwhite peoples. All professions and disciplines did the same: prominent religious and academic white people followed, all transmogrifying ‘steal’ into ‘earn’ by calling this system of worldwide poaching the ‘Enlightenment.’
It is hard to imagine that the 90% of the human race (nonwhite) subjected to this sort of denigration would call this period the ‘Enlightenment.’ To many people of color, the last 500 years have been a quintessential darkness: how much darker can it get than 90% of the human race subordinated to the other 10%? It may seem to white people that it is evidence of the ‘Enlightenment’ to justify poaching other people’s resources, but for obvious reasons, this will not seem very ‘enlightened’ to the actual majority who is now shoved into darkness due to loss of stolen resources.
But the issue is that white people CHOOSE TO PERCEIVE it this way: that, when faced with the egregious behaviors which characterize the last few centuries, they STILL call this period the ‘Enlightenment’ and deny the profoundly disastrous effects on black, brown, and indigenous peoples worldwide.
True anti-racists don’t participate in the hypocrisy of demeaning, destroying, and stealing from others. True anti-racists are willing to face their history AND to acknowledge where it is ACTUALLY ugly, even if the denial of this supports their continued positive view of themselves and acknowledgement of it means NOT perceiving one in a constantly-exalted fashion. The disparity between how most white people are told to view themselves and reality is big, and it is widening.
There is no reason whatsoever for POC’s to continue to entertain these absurd forms of denial — which only serve to uphold white supremacy. It is time to expose these behaviors and along with them the profound hypocrisy fundamentally inherent in white liberal supremacy.