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CSotD: Defining White Supremacy

This is going to be a text-heavy blog, so let’s warm up first with a couple of cartoons. (Oh, it’s also going to feature more cartoons I disagree with than usual, but we can take that up next month in Columbus.)

 

For instance, I greatly admire the work of Jack Ohman, but here he feeds into something I can’t agree with: It’s the guns, but it’s not the gun.

That is, we have too much easy access to guns and it’s foolish not to have universal background checks, and it’s also foolish to let private citizens have weapons of war.

A 30.06 or shotgun with a 10-round magazine is more than generous for legitimate needs, and a five-round magazine would be sufficient.

But the change in technology is irrelevant: If the Second Amendment were as the Founders intended, yes, we’d have assault rifles in our homes. And we’d bring them to drill regularly down at the local armory, as part of our membership in a well-regulated militia.

We gave that concept up 200-some years ago.

Our courts and laws need to catch up.

 

I agree with John Deering, though I’m not sure where he wants to go from here.

As a free-speech advocate, I’m troubled by censorship, but when someone says “I’m going to kill a bunch of people,” that calls for an intervention.

However, Deering’s picture of a horse-and-wagon is accurate: We don’t have the resources nor, apparently, the will to keep up with the Internet.

Remember when the feds intercepted messages from the 9/11 hijackers but didn’t have enough Arabic translators to process them in time?

It’s become significantly more complex since then.

 

But guns and Internet crazies are the sideshow. Chip Bok presents, unintentionally, the main event, which is our deafness to what “White Supremacy” really is.

The cartoon echoes Tucker Carlson’s declaration that white supremacy is a Democratic Party hoax, down to his saying “I’ve lived here 50 years and I’ve never met anybody, not one person who ascribes to white supremacy.”

He’s either a stone-cold liar or more sheltered than the Bubble Boy.

And even the Bubble Boy knew who the “Moors” were.

You don’t need special headphones. You just need to open your ears, and your heart.

It’s not about lynchings. It’s far more subtle. You have to listen carefully.

Mostly to yourself.

 

What is “White Supremacy”?

When I was 12, my parents bought some property that included a ramshackle garage in which I found half a dozen 19th century boys’ novels. Most of them were dime-novel drivel, but one was a historical novel by G.A. Henty and it was captivating.

I eventually began collecting and reading his works. Henty had been a war correspondent starting in the Crimean War and his journalism included meeting Garibaldi, covering the Franco-Prussian War and seeing a variety of British wars in Africa and elsewhere.

His history was accurate and, in his books, when someone got wounded, they were out of action for six months or more. He knew how war really works.

He was also, as that above linked Wikipedia entry will tell you, an imperialist and a racist.

I’ve read roughly half of his 122 boys’ novels, including the two cited there, one set in the Haitian Revolution and the other in the Ashanti Wars, in both of which he was virulently racist.

He also went through a brief period of including comical black servants, which were painful to read but which he soon gave up.

However, most of the time, he was fair-handed at least in that he was as apt to disrespect the French, Spanish, Russians and other non-British types as he was to disrespect racial minorities.

That’s not high praise, but bear with me.

Along about Novel #57, I caught the key to Henty’s white supremacy, and it sheds a light not simply on British imperialism of the 19th century but on life here in the 21st.

Henty, first of all, lived with the assumption that Englishmen were the default. Most of his plucky young lads were English and those who weren’t were made to speak and act as proper English boys of above-average character, even if they lived in ancient Egypt or Rome.

The girls in his stories were as plucky as his lads, and he even wrote a preface to one of his novels in which he took boys to task for assuming otherwise.

But the second piece to his puzzle was that, not only did he assume that the English were the default — every culture falls into that trap — but he assumed that they were superior and that other nations recognized it, or would if properly introduced to the British way of life.

He honestly, innocently thought that imposing British culture on other people was doing them a favor for which they should be grateful.

And he was hardly alone.

White Supremacy is not limited to the Klan or lynchings or the Holocaust. Those are only the most egregious, toxic sides of it.

It’s that damned word “we.”

Many hunter/gatherer cultures name themselves “The People,” but they rarely have the power or geographical range to impose that in-group sense of “we” on others.

White supremacy is a combination of thinking of white Europeans as “We,” and having the power — through media and money as often as military conquest — to make that concept stick, even when the world around you is clearly made up of many cultures.

It starts with the assumption that our world is divided into “they” and “we.”

And it’s so embedded in our culture that we don’t even see it. Talking about “White Supremacy” to a white American is like talking about “wetness” to a fish.

There’s very little evil intent, but that’s no excuse to let it continue.

Next time you hear the word “We,” ask yourself who the speaker means.

And the speaker ought to ask himself, too.

 

Are we awake?
We’re not sure. Are we black?
We are.
Then we’re awake, but we’re very puzzled. I think I’d better straighten myself out.
Need any help?
Oh, all I can get.

Community Comments

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#1 Mitch Marks
August/8/2019
@ 8:56 am

Here is a link to PBS News Hour segment, including Prof. Kathleen Belew of UChicago, an outspoken academic expert on white supremacist movements.

https://youtu.be/HTuA3uP6g4g

#2 Mitch Marks
August/8/2019
@ 9:02 am

And here is Prof. Belew in written form, an Opinion piece in the NYT.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/04/opinion/el-paso-terrorism.html

#3 Mike Peterson
August/8/2019
@ 10:44 am

My point, and I’m sorry if it wasn’t clear, is that “white supremacy” as a philosophy is far more ingrained in our culture than the “white supremacist movements” that are often thought of as its manifestation.

It’s obvious that “white supremacist” groups are terrorists and need to be watched and opposed along with other terrorist groups.

But we — there’s that word again — let ourselves off the hook if we assume that they are the only manifestation of “white supremacy.”

As said, it’s not intentional and it’s not consciously “evil,” but it is deeply embedded in our culture.

Rooting out the obvious, violent manifestations this expert speaks of is necessary for peace and order, of course, but rooting out the less obvious cultural grounding is necessary for justice.

#4 Henry Davison
August/8/2019
@ 1:11 pm

I try to counter my sense of “we-ness” with the quote by John Holmes:

“It is well to remember that the entire universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others.”

#5 Fran Allen
August/8/2019
@ 1:48 pm

Thanks, Henry Davison. I like that quote. And the Henty Preface is wonderful, Mike.

#6 Blinky the Wonder Wombat
August/9/2019
@ 10:15 am

I think to the average white American the term “white supremacy” invokes images of the Klan and thus doesn’t resonate with them as people usually don’t see themselves as racist. Perhaps “American cultural supremacy” might be a better term to identify the problem while not being off-putting.

#7 Mike Peterson
August/9/2019
@ 10:25 am

Not off-putting to white Americans. Very off-putting to other Americans, which is precisely the point.

#8 Blinky the Wonder Wombat
August/9/2019
@ 12:44 pm

But if you can’t get white America (and the rest of assimilated America) to talk about it, how can we start to fix it?

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