Social Justice Usage
White supremacy is a historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations and peoples of color by white peoples and nations of the European continent; for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power and privilege.
Source: DiAngelo, Robin J. What Does It Mean to Be White?: Developing White Racial Literacy, revised edition. New York: Peter Lang, 2016, p. 148.
Remember: When I use the term “white supremacy”, I do not use it to refer to extreme hate groups. I use the term to capture the pervasiveness, magnitude, and normalcy of white dominance and assumed superiority.
New Discourses Commentary
As the above remarks make clear, Critical Social Justice does not (always) use the definition for “white supremacy” that most of us think goes with this term, which would evoke images of Neo-Nazis and the KKK. Indeed, Robin DiAngelo (also along with Ozlem Sensoy) specify repeatedly that they are not using that common-parlance definition and mean something else entirely, namely white power and privilege. Similarly, Collins completely equates white supremacy with “Eurocentrism,” which doesn’t carry anything remotely like the meaning most of us associate with “white supremacy.” These terms, like so many in Social Justice, are designed to explicitly connect happening to be white with participation in a system of dominance and oppression that marginalizes people of color and aims to preserve unjust white advantages in society (see also, privilege). (NB: Some authors do restrict the meaning of “white supremacy” to something nearer to the common-parlance meaning of the term.)
White supremacy, in common parlance, refers to the belief that there is something about being white that renders people intrinsically superior to those of other races (and, in the extreme, that this is necessarily actionable). Under Theory, especially critical race Theory, white supremacy typically means something entirely different. In Social Justice, then, “white supremacy” is the name given to the “racist” system, an attitude of “support” for that system, being comfortable in that system (see also, white comfort, white equilibrium, white innocence, and white ignorance), or witting or unwitting complicity with that system (see also, white complicity). Complicity in this sense is usually taken to mean anything short of actively fighting against systemic racism as prescribed by critical race Theory. Thus, a white supremacist is anyone who is not actively antiracist, according to the critical definition of antiracism, which is to say anyone who is not sufficiently woke with respect to race (especially if that person is also white).
It bears repeating that while in the preceding paragraph, the phrase “an attitude of ‘support’ for that system” appears to lend legitimacy to this understanding of “white supremacy,” the idea of “support” is defined very broadly under Critical Social Justice. Supporting the system—which critical race Theory assumes is racist, even if this assumption wouldn’t bear scrutiny or skepticism—includes just about everything. In particular, critical theories (e.g., whiteness studies) consider as “support” not actively dismantling the entire system in which it is alleged to occur, i.e. a social revolution, and taking active steps to facilitate that program. It also includes supporting things like liberalism, science, reason, civility, dialogue, free speech, and any number of other fundamental principles one might not immediately assume have anything to do with “whiteness” or being “white” (see also, ideology, equality, individualism, meritocracy, human nature, universalism, and master’s tools.)
For examples, belief in or support for activities including keeping a schedule, working to accomplish an agenda, or asking for evidence to back up one’s assertions can all be filed under a rubric of “white supremacy” as Critical Social justice sees it. This seems strange, but it is because those things are considered within Theory to have been created by white people as features of “white society” that implicitly or explicitly “do work” to support white privilege. Acceptance of these attitudes by white people will be modeled under internalized dominance and by people of color under internalized oppression, particularly internalized racism or internalized anti-blackness (see also, acting white), which are all forms of false consciousness that are believed to maintain and uphold social injustice (see also, hegemony, critical consciousness, Neo-Marxism, and Cultural Marxism).
This is because Critical Social Justice scholars have Theorized those things as cultural artifacts of the very “white supremacist” culture that they are attacking, sometimes because of legitimate historical connections to white supremacy (see also, race and critical race Theory) and sometimes because the majority of the people involved in those concepts happened to be white and/or European (see also, structuralism, social constructivism, and Foucauldian). Under the model of knowledge and its relationship to power operative in critical race Theory (see also, discourses and postmodern), all knowledge is merely a product of the culture that produced it, and after critical race Theory took pains in the 1980s and 1990s to reify race and racial identity for the purpose of identity politics, cultures and all artifacts of those cultures are assumed to intrinsically carry the racial biases of the people who are “dominant” within them (see also, position, racial knowledge, and standpoint epistemology).
Among other things, like calling essentially every white person and any person of color who disagrees with the Critical Social Justice ideology (especially critical race Theory) a “white supremacist” (see also, white fragility, white silence, and white complicity), this alternative meaning for the term allows critical race Theorists to link the relatively minor racial discrepancies of today to the genuine white supremacy upon which institutions such as slavery were built (see also, 1619 Project). This is a tactical redefinition of an extremely morally salient term—a Trojan Horse in the form of vocabulary.
1619 Project; Acting white; Anti-blackness; Antiracism; Bias; Complicity; Critical; Critical consciousness; Critical race Theory; Dismantle; Disrupt; Dominance; Equality; Eurocentrism; False consciousness; Foucauldian; Hegemony; Human nature; Identity politics; Ideology; Individualism; Injustice; Internalized dominance; Internalized oppression; Internalized racism; Knowledge(s); Liberalism; Marginalization; Master’s tools; Meritocracy; Oppression; People of color; Position; Postmodern; Privilege; Race; Racial knowledge; Racism (systemic); Revolution; Science; Social construction; Social constructivism; Social Justice; Standpoint epistemology; Structuralism; Systemic power; Theory; Universalism; White; White comfort; White complicity; White fragility; White innocence; White ignorance; White silence; Whiteness; Whiteness studies; Woke/Wokeness
Source: Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment, Second Edition. New York: Routledge, 2000, p. 299.
Eurocentrism: an ideology that presents the ideas and experiences of Whites as normal, normative, and ideal. Also known as white racism or white supremacy.
Source: Sensoy, Ozlem, and Robin DiAngelo. Is Everyone Really Equal?: An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education, first edition. Teacher’s College Press: New York, 2012, p. 120.
“White power and privilege is termed White supremacy. When we use the term White supremcy, we do not mean it in its lay usage to indicate extreme hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. Rather, we use the term to capture the pervasiveness, magnitude, and normalcy of White privilege, dominance, and assumed superiority.” … “When we use the term White supremacy, we are not referring to extreme hate groups or ‘bad racists.’ We use the term to capture the all-encompassing dimensions of White privilege, dominance, and assumed superiority in mainstream society.”
Source: Sensoy, Ozlem, and Robin DiAngelo. Is Everyone Really Equal?: An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education, first edition. Teacher’s College Press: New York, 2012, p. 122.
“Remember, White supremacy does not refer to individual White people per se and their individual intentions, but to a political-economic social order based on the historical and current accumulation of structural power that privileges White people as a group.”
Source: Charles R. Lawrence III. “If He Hollers Let Him Go: Regulating Racist Speech on Campus,” in Words That Wound: Critical Race Theory, Assaultive Speech, and The First Amendment, ed. Marie Matsuda. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993, p. 61.
The institutionalization of white supremacy within our culture has created conduct on the societal level that is greater than the sum of individual racist acts. The racist acts of millions are mutually reinforcing and cumulative because the status quo of institutionalized white supremacy remains long after deliberate racist actions subside.
Revision date: 3/11/20