White Supremacy ideology is based upon the mythology that those designated and perceived as “white” in America are inherently superior to those of other races, especially black people, and should rightfully be the dominant and controlling group in the society. This belief in white superiority is an illusion, based upon mythology as there is no biological or scientific evidence to support such a belief. There is anxiety and sense of fear of white loss of control and domination of America, that has seized a segment of the white American population, like nothing since Reconstruction. The anxiety is spreading furiously fueled by the media, social media, and conspiracy theories.
What is the source of this desperate need to dominate and be in control of non-whites? What is this need for a sense of white superiority based upon? When the social construction of “whiteness” was invented in the late 17th century, it included three core tenets or promises of “whiteness”. The first was that “whiteness” placed one at the apex of the top of the racial hierarchy in America; the concept of racial “place” was critical, blacks were to always remain in their subservient place, ‘forgetting one’s place” as a black could get one killed. The second tenet of whiteness was that this “place” at the top of the hierarchy meant that one was superior to those at the bottom, especially blacks. This sense of superiority was measured in opposition to the stereotypical and negative character traits attributed to blacks. Third, place and superiority made control and domination of non-whites normal and necessary in white America.
These three concepts, the white place, white superiority and white control and domination created the next major tenet, that of “inequality”. Blacks and other non-whites were to never experience social, political, or economic equality with whites in America. When the tenet of “inequality” was violated in any respect, violence threats, intimidation and violence were the punishment.
An awareness of the events of Reconstruction is crucial to understanding the current anxiety and fear that is expressed by many white Americans, as well as the current surge of white supremacy ideology. Reconstruction was a major violation of the tenets of whiteness, especially of total white control and domination. The status or “place” of blacks under the U.S. Constitution was permanently altered as the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments were ratified. The first Civil Rights law was passed in 1866. During Reconstruction, 2,000 black men were office holders in varying positions. Black men were able to vote, gained equal protection and equal justice under the law, public schools, freedom of movement and land ownership. The response to black “equality” was vicious, as the Reconstruction process was thoroughly resented. The idea of social equality was appalling and there was great fear of “Negro control”. The effort to create a “biracial” democracy was doomed.
The Jim Crow era, orchestrated by law and customs reinforced by violence “redeemed the promise of “whiteness” and restored the “place “of whites, erased any notion of social equality, punished attempts at political equality, and punished economic prosperity among blacks. Whites again were in control and could feel a sense of superiority.
What is the source of the current obsession with the need for whites to control and dominate the country? Nearly four hundred years of indoctrination in the tenets of whiteness has created the psychological need to feel superior and to dominate the society. In order to feel worthy and valued many must tightly grasp hold of and remain committed to the myth of white superiority.
Several factors have fueled white anxiety about control over the last 60 years. First, the laws put in place which on paper supported the 13th, 14th, and 15th Reconstruction Amendments; second, Affirmative Action, OEO, and other strategies increased the employment and educational opportunities of African Americans. The most aggravating and anxious moments came with the two-terms presidency of Barack Obama, for some this was the moment feared since Reconstruction, “Negro control”.
The” replacement theory” or conspiracy has tremendous currency at this time. The Census Bureau prediction of 2008, that by 2050, “minorities” would make up more than 50 percent of the American population has created tremendous fear of the loss of white control and white cultural dominance. There is the belief that whites will become a powerless minority in the face of demographic changes. It is particularly feared that whites will be surpassed numerically by immigrants from Latin America. Reconstruction was fear of “black” control, while the current fear is that of “brown” control.
The rallying cry of “You Will Not Replace Us” at university events and catchphrases on fliers posted on campuses are signs of the preoccupation with the conspiracy, even among young whites. Other overt responses to the fear are attacks on immigrants and efforts to curtail immigration. In addition to these overt responses, more legalistic means are being employed to respond to the fear; efforts to disenfranchise black and brown voters and the assailing of abortion rights.
How do those white Americans attached to the mythology of white superiority and their right to control and dominate others come to some realistic understanding of a changed American society? How do they find internal strength and courage to give up the myth and establish a sense of humanity rather than the need to have or “phobic other” or “inferior” to look down upon to have a sense of esteem and value? How do all Americans work together to create a new narrative based upon the ideal of humanity that moves beyond mythology established almost four hundred years ago for the control of the white masses?