Let’s keep this fast: You don’t have to be an Arian Nation airhead wrapped in a confederate flag to be a white supremacist. You don’t need to hate people of color and love being pink. You don’t need to believe in segregation. You don’t need to be bad person. While the overt manifestations of white supremacy are are often violent and segregationist like Greenville Texas in the 50″s, the thing itself is more subtle and is manifest constantly in our society. There are multiple definitions, some with sophisticated analysis of power. I’ll suggest the following definition is useful for discussion:
White supremacy is the belief that a certain set of cultural norms arising from and associated with European, primarily Anglo-Saxon culture are both superior to other cultural norms and (most importantly) should be regarded as the normal culture of the United States.
The cultural norms include the English language, particular modes of dress, forms of public behavior and interaction, particular values, religious beliefs, and so on. In almost all discussions of what is the “real” America and who are “real” Americans white supremacy comes into play, sometimes on both sides of the progressive / conservative divide. (An entire separate essay could be written on norms of physical beauty and how these discriminate against people of color, or about power relationships ingrained in larger social structures.)What makes white supremacy so dangerous is that because it is associated with appearance and behavior particular groups (African Americans, Latinos, Asia Americans, Muslims, and others) are readily subject to physical and verbal abuse for their failure to be “real” Americans – regardless of their actual cultural values. There are efforts to crush their cultural distinctiveness as “un-American.”
What is the alternative to white supremacy? I believe that every culture found in the United States is uniquely valuable and that this mosaic of cultures, including their conflicting norms and sometimes unsettling behaviors, is fully American and those who live out of these cultures are “real” Americans. And secondly, to realize that American culture is something always evolving and emerging out of this continual engagement between cultures. The real America is never really present, and certainly cannot be found in the past. It is always emerging as we Americans, all of us together, create it.
I know that this frightens some people. That is why the land of the free must also be the home of the brave.