‘White Supremacy’ those words hold power, an emotive language which evokes a picture of white men in hoods with burning crosses, or the brutalities of chattel slavery. Recently I have been advised to stop using such language as it has the tendency to shut down peoples propensity to listen as people become defensive and reject reason.
‘White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviours such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviours, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.‘ (Di Angelo 2011)
If you (regardless of race) act (or use discourse) in a way that serves to reinforce the existing structures which oppress people of colour, you are promoting a white supremacist agenda.
I Don’t See Colour
Gillbourn (2000) Discourse and Policy – Chapter 2 – Racism and Anti-Racism in Real Schools.
The only time any discourse should be deracialised is in the bottom right quadrant! ‘I don’t see colour’ ‘I only see people’ this ‘Colour blind’ rhetoric often falls into spurious de-racialisation. This only serves to reinforce the structures of power which lead to the existing norm.
‘White fragility and privilege result in responses that function to restore equilibrium’ (Di Angelo, 2011). That equilibrium restores white superiority and the norm, the current systems, like it or not, hold people of colour down.
‘President Donald Trump said Friday that European leaders “better watch themselves” because immigration is “changing the culture” of their societies’ CNN
Lady Olga Maitland (Conservative UK) stated:
We should not allow non-believers to undermine our traditions… It is a tragedy that the teaching of the Christian faith has become woefully neglected in the face of multiculturism which is promoting minority faiths at the expense of Christianity. (quoted in CRE/Runnymede Trust 1993)
Although the words race, racist, black, white, etc in statements such as the above are not explicit. It is not difficult to see that this leads to the othering, this is the highlighting of the lack of decency of non-followers in the idolisation of the national collective.
I’m Not A Racist You Can’t Say That To Me.
You do not need to think of yourself as superior – you do not even need to dislike or blame those who are so different from you – in order to say that the presence of those aliens constitutes a threat to our way of life. (Barker 1981:18)
I am not a fan of the term unconscious bias (see blog), however, here I must concede there are elements of racially motivated action which seek to restore the norm. I’m not convinced that any of these shifts or microaggressions are deliberate.
Di Angelo 2011 argues when challenged within educational programs, and I would expand this to the wider world, that “common responses [to challenges to orthodoxy] would be anger, withdrawal, emotional incapacitation, guilt, argumentation, and cognitive dissonance (all of which reinforce the pressure on facilitators to avoid directly addressing racism)”
Anger towards the non-congruence caused by personal evaluation and external stimuli is due to human being’s fear of embracing that uncomfortable truth? This does make it difficult for these individuals to even reflect or even consider the concept.
Entitlement to Racial Comfort
In the dominant position, whites are almost always racially comfortable and thus have developed unchallenged expectations to remain so (DiAngelo, 2006b). This is further compounded by Bordieu concept of habitus (1993), where systems seek to reproduce a societal subjectivity which ultimately impacts on the actions of those within it.
As a result, we see the existence of the white saviour complex, The racial norm, looking at the entertainment industry. Bear with me, this is a little random and a probable blog for another day.
Let’s talk protagonists, Tarzan a white male lost in a jungle develops the ability to talk to the animals, the indigenous people don’t have this ability although they’ve been there for thousands of years. Next, Django Unchained, other than the obvious explicit racist overtones in the film, can someone explain to me why there is a need for ‘Dr King’ (the white saviour of the black slaves, named ‘Dr King’, I know).
Within education, this is has percolated into the inculcating nature of the curriculum with the lack of diversity and the colonisation of the curriculum (see blog). Ask yourself who discovered Australia? Who discovered the Americas? Where was modern mathematics, algebra, medicine, universities and hospitals first devised and conceived?
Which leads me to the various photos of poor starving African children in assembly slides along with their white saviour charity workers I have been subjected to. White people are not the saviours of people of colour, the white man’s burden (Kipling) is a lie told to justify colonisation, abuse and to alleviate empire guilt.
This all leads to further oppression or the continuation of the kyriarchal structures.
Therefore, I shall not be mute and nor should anyone else who claims to be anti-racist. In not challenging the habitus leads to society to acquiescence back to the norm, back to the oppression.
Call white supremacy out, be brave, cause dissonance, take people from habitus to hiatus and ultimately do what is right.