What is white supremacy?
White supremacy encompasses the values of white culture that elevate the white ideal or norm.
These values are what one is supposed to aspire to and live up to. If you do, you get lauded, included, and praised. You are considered successful and are admired. If you meet these values, you are more likely to be rewarded materially and socially. This is what people refer to as "white privilege." *
If you don't meet these standards, you are belittled or marginalized. Think about all the harmful ways "non-white" things are classified: non-white neighborhoods are "sketchy." Non-white people are assumed to be less educated or more scary. If you don't meet the "white ideal," your needs are not considered as important, or sometimes even valid. You are not seen accurately for who you are, but are seen through the lens of your "othered" identity. You are constantly asked questions about this "othered" identity, which deepens your experience of being othered, less than, and like something to be observed in the zoo rather than someone treated with dignity and respect. It has real impact materially and socially. It also leads to daily increased stress. It is a lot harder to get the medical care you need, move up the ladder in jobs (or get them in the first place), have your abilities/talents noticed and encouraged, buy a house where you want, be socially accepted, safely interact with law enforcement, etc.
Both those who are able to meet these "white ideal" standards, and those who aren't, are implicitly taught to measure their self-worth by their ability to meet these standards. Who needs that? Our self-worth is derived from being a human being, and in that worthy of respect and dignity. This is a lot of the work I do in therapy - helping people realize that these arbitrary standards are just that, arbitrary. They are not there to benefit you. They are there to measure you and judge you. To keep you in line. AND they say absolutely NOTHING about your worth as a person. You are already good. You are already worthy. You don't have to prove it. You just have to recognize it and live out of it. AND work to change the system that bases everything on the "white ideal."
Here is a list of white supremacy values.
It's shockingly long, even though it's not comprehensive. I've tried to divide them into sections, even though some overlap.
Values around work:
- you’re not trying hard enough
- it’s all your job to figure it out and succeed, you will be blamed if you don’t
- sense of urgency
- Protestant work ethic
- Rest is suspect - you don't want to be called lazy
- pull yourself up by the boot straps
- live to work, produce, make money, and buy more things
Values about feelings & image:
- toxic masculinity
- toxic positivity
- Southern politeness (which can be laced with contempt)
- avoid conflict, be polite
- don’t talk about money, politics, sex, or race
- constant comparison (you constantly feel better than or less than)
Values about ways of knowing:
- rationalism - rational thought and logic are the only ways to know things
- judgment/evaluation of everything in relation to an idealized norm (of the white, rich, thin, male)
- focus on productivity, development, and progress
- solution oriented
- linear thinking
- enlightenment thinking
Values about money:
- more is better
- middle-class is the ideal (not too wealthy or too poor)
- colonization and slavery were condoned for the sake of making money
- extraction of resources from other countries
- unfair use of resources
- business is valued and has more power than people and the earth
Values around sexuality/embodiment/identity:
- thinness is next to godliness
- being thin, fit, and sexually attractive to men is the ideal
- heterosexuality and cis-gendered is the norm
- homophobia, transphobia
- able-bodied is the norm
- maleness is best
- female fragility is preferred (need men to rescue them)
- females as object of beauty and temptress but not primary actor
- women need to be self-sacrificing
Values around authority/power:
- white men know best, are seen as the authority
- respect for authority (white male authority)
- people (e.g. white men) have the right to use the earth (and others) for personal gain
Values around morals/religion:
- meeting these criteria is a moral issue
- Protestant Christian is ideal
- Christian nationalism
- Judeo-Christian values
- Eurocentric values
How are you feeling? This is a lot. I would love to help you unpack this. Send me an email or schedule a session with me: email@example.com.
Resources: I have a group program specifically for doing anti-oppression work around religion. I have a lot more resources to explore if you're ready to dig deeper: for personal healing, start with Burnout. For understanding systemic racism, start with the movie 13th and the book White Fragility.
These standards are societal burdens that we don't have to accept or keep in our lives. Which ones do you want to let go of? Which ones are you ready to fight against? Which ones hit you really hard? Which ones did I leave out that have been a huge part of your life?
Email me and let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Note: Some people don't like the term white privilege because privilege is equated with upper middle class material success. White privilege means that you are treated like a full human being with dignity and respect. And that shouldn't be a privilege, it should be a given for everyone.