White (Liberal) Supremacy’s ‘Helping Hand’: Yet Another Form of Gaslighting
Overt white supremacists have never left any doubt as to their goals with regard to dominating others and maintaining power, directly admitting that they believe only white people should dominate. Inherent in this — and sometimes also overtly stated — is the belief that whether or not this comes at the expense of all people of color (POC) is largely irrelevant since white people, by definition of superiority, are the ones who matter. White liberals, on the other hand, take the formal stance that maintaining a white supremacist society is wrong, whether for moral, economic, other, or a combination of reasons. Unfortunately, the behaviors exhibited by white liberals often support white supremacy rather than leading to authentic anti-racist action. One behavior utilized routinely is the ‘helping hand’ of the white liberal who, in his/her/their assertion of desire to aid conveys an actual insidious condescension, arrogance, and self-centered self-deception which supports white supremacy.
The fact that many self-described white liberals state overtly that they want to ‘help’ people of color conveys a subconscious belief that the power of white supremacy will be maintained. In fact, the history of the United States indicates without question that white people established themselves as dominant and, as required by the concept of dominance, subordinated all peoples from non-European countries. This same concept was elaborated worldwide over a period of centuries through widespread colonization. Our current dilemmas are based on this long-standing privileging which is based on actual behaviors. These behaviors are rarely in dispute amongst white liberals as a group.
White liberals, however, negotiate these realities by pointing the finger at white supremacists and then proceeding to act, in more covert fashion, similarly. As a result, a response which remediates the original criminal behaviors and which should be expected — that is, actual anti-racist action — doesn’t ever happen, because regardless of degree of (stated) liberal stance, the behaviors support white supremacy and the result to POC is the same. A natural assumption would be that, if white people as a group have taken from other people of color — specifically, lives and land from Native Americans, lives and labor/$$ from African-Americans, and on a less onerous but still criminal basis, Ivy League positions from actually performing Asians, a whole host of medical resources from a wide range of POC’s (as reflected in the consistently-higher disease rates of a multitude of non-white peoples relative to white people as a group), promotions, awards, etc, etc — the responses of white liberals should address these issues. Unfortunately, this actual moral action isn’t undertaken.
This juncture is the point at which white liberals join white supremacists in their general beliefs, not necessarily in word but often in action. Action, in the final analysis, is what matters; as white liberals often say out loud, anti-racist action is needed. However, the white liberal response to centuries of oppression of ALL POC is ‘I helped them [POC]; aren’t I nice?’ This isn’t true anti-racist action. The word ‘help’ denies that centuries of white supremacy not only established a white polity in which others are not treated equally but also continues to promote white people at all levels, maintaining the same power structure in our current context. That is, for approximately 500 years, POC of all kinds have been ‘helping’ white people become successful by being consistently oppressed. Thus, it is white people who are under a constant umbrella of ‘help’ which confers to them on the basis of being born white.
As a result, to ‘help’ POC, white liberals need only remove the extra ‘help’ — privilege in every arena, worldwide — they’ve been getting for years as a result of the establishment of white supremacy. The proper reaction to taking things from others — whether it be economic in the form of money or cultural in the form of basic dignity — is to return those items. An honest evaluation of history should lead white people to conclude that they should remove the oppression which keeps POC subordinated, that this is the only ‘help’ that is needed. The original concept of white supremacy ‘helped’ white people obtain resources — even ones that aren’t concrete — which rightfully belong to others if equality is even marginally relevant.
The removal of that oppression, because it is anchored to the success of white people, will require that white people perceive their current behaviors as fundamentally oppressive at baseline. Because we all swim in the toxic waters of white supremacy, only white people breathe easily. When white liberals take the stance that they are ‘helping,’ they essentially refuse to see that the fundamental oppression is their own dominance, not a lack of ability on the part of POC (which is implied by the concept of ‘help.’) White liberals convey beliefs much more consistent with white supremacists when they refuse to acknowledge that whiteness in and of itself has privileged them — that is, given them things for free that belongs to others. This stance would lead to the (appropriate) assumption that white people as a group owe others, not the stance white liberals imply by ‘help,’ which is that they are providing something extra to POC (which, they are always quick to point out, white supremacists don’t do.)
This isn’t generosity, or ‘nice.’ It is patronizing self-deception — the kind which allows white liberals as a group to focus on their true goals: maintain white power without ever admitting it to themselves. That fundamental belief — which is embraced with such vigor — must be attended by a lie because the authentic priority of that group is to make sure everybody knows that they are the ‘nice’ white people and thus separate from those who are taking advantage, while still maintaining that power which allows them the power to be ‘helpful.’
White liberals need not ‘help’ POC: we do not need help. We need the admission amongst all white people that they have an unearned advantage as a group which allows them to procure things more easily and often at the expense of POC. It is the heavy foot of domination which has kept us down, not — as ‘help’ would imply — our lack of skill and intelligence. When the wide range of POC performs at higher levels than white people, simply let the winner win. The stance that POC need ‘help’ is grossly inappropriate in its assumption that POC are not performing.
White liberals are frequently hypocritical and, sadly, seem so vigorously focused on lying to themselves that they rarely, as a group, make any sort of genuine anti-racist contribution. Having a closetful of Birks and bringing a box of donuts to the Unitarian church meeting is ‘nice’ but ultimately useless: it involves an insidious self-deception that both refuses to represent any real anti-racist action AND refuses to admit that as fact. It is a sad testament to a society’s integrity when the people who position themselves as open-minded are instead participating in widespread self-gaslighting which maintains the same white supremacy they claim to be working to dismantle.
As a group, white liberals should simply step aside when they see POC performing at higher levels as opposed to taking the stance that you will offer ‘help.’ It is insidious and hypocritical to feign ‘helping’ people who are higher performers — the reward should confer properly, which has not happened because white liberals refuse to admit that they are also upholding white supremacy. The larger society, worldwide, has been deprived of the potential contributions of 90% of the human race as a result of privileging people with a European background. True anti-racist action acknowledges this; instead, white liberals, as a group, ignore it and point the finger at other (often poorer) white people.
White liberals have a very heavy foot of white supremacy on the necks of POC, and most of them have yet to acknowledge it. Leaning down with a ‘helping hand’ whilst keeping that heavy boot in place is hypocrisy. It is time to hold white liberals, as a group, accountable for their words so that true anti-racist action can take place.