The idea that White people are superior to people of color, especially Black people is quite old. Our brush with it probably originated in colonialism as Europe set off to divvy up the world and there was a race to empire. Humans never do things halfway. If you collect one exotic place, if you admire the artistry and the foods that will please the folks back home and allow for profitable trading, then you must seek out more and more such places until you have an empire. Then other nations will race to become empire builders also. It is very similar to skyscraper wars and billionaire wars, the fight over who has the best army, who has the best GDP, the best life span. We even compete about happiness. We are very competitive. We like to rank everything.
You can suppose that when the Europeans arrived in Africa, they concluded, since the cultures they found were agrarian-hunter societies without big cities, that these cultures and the people who built them must be inferior to people who created the splendors of Europe. It made it easier for Europeans to treat Africans as objects to be traded into slavery. Wealthy pseudoscientists set out to prove that people with Black skin had smaller brains than White folks. They collected skulls, we must assume that they did this only once a Black person had died, although it may not be totally safe to make such an assumption. They weighed and measured and compared these brains to the brains of White people. They wrote books about it, although later these studies proved to have no merit.
Europeans gave up slavery before America did. In a new “Europe” called America, rich men could not be expected to toil on the land. They owned the land, but it was farmed by others. There was so much land that most who immigrated or were forced to immigrate to America wanted to own their own property. They did not want to toil for rich people as they had in England and Europe. There were indentured servants who traded seven years of labor for ocean passage, but there were not enough to run the enormous plantations Americans came to own in the Southern states. Since they had already decided to convince themselves that they were superior to people with darker skin, slave labor seemed the perfect solution to the dilemmas of wealthy southern landowners. Apparently, they thought the plantation system would last in perpetuity because they did not give a thought to what might happen if their grand plan didn’t work.
However, not all wealthy planters knew an awful lot about planting. They planted tobacco year after year and did not realize that this would deplete the soil. Over-farming the land ruined the quality of their crops and the profits from their crops decreased. New land was always needed, and that land was further south. Wealthy farmers fought indigenous people for the land and forced “Indians, as they incorrectly called them, further west. African slaves were sent farther south to toil in new fields, families were torn apart. Family histories became almost impossible to trace until recent DNA developments. And America fought a Civil War because of bad science and expediency.
After the Civil War Americans did not want to exacerbate divisions between the South and the North so they did not see beyond the mere fact of freedom for Black people, people of African descent. They did not oversee the retribution Southerners took for losing, retribution against freed slaves. Southerners stole land when Black Americas were able to own it. They outright massacred Black Americans when they tried to vote. Federal troops protected Black Americans from the worst atrocities for a while, but soon our federal government turned oversight back to local sheriffs, in other words they gave angry White southerners hegemony over newly freed Black Americans and gave free rein to racism for over a century and a half.
Here we are in the twenty-first century, which we pictured as futuristic and peaceful, and we are still torn by archaic pseudoscience and feelings of false superiority, the result of unequal opportunity and continuous oppression. We are in a new age of something we never suspected would infect an ‘advanced’ society such as ours. America is pedaling White Supremacy out loud on the world stage. It’s embarrassing but that is not the worst thing it is. Since we have long been given a sort of tacit permission to lead the world’s nations, (a position we are losing) we are influencing similar prejudices all around the globe, which seems considerably smaller than it was in 1860. We are a country that once condemned Nazi Germany for its genocide against Jewish people. We were appalled when a small brown-haired man with an outsized understanding of how to sway Germans, who had already suffered defeat in one world war, tried to collect around him a ‘master race’ of Aryans, basically what we would now call a clone army, of blond, blue-eyed mesomorphs. Now people in America find that palatable once again.
What do White Supremacists want? What is their end game? Some seem to want an end to laws intended to provide opportunities for Black Americans still negatively affected by slavery and racism, as in ending affirmative action. Some want to be able to use language any way they please, even if Black people find what is being said hurtful or offensive?
Some White Supremacists want America to be White. How do they expect to accomplish that? Will we set aside sections of the country for people of color only? Will we build walls between white sections and sections for people of color? Is the plan to deport everyone who isn’t pure white? (Is anyone pure white?) Or is the plan to execute anyone who is not white? Is genocide the plan? How do White Supremacists plan to make America an all-white nation? We really need to think about the end game.
Religion has also been added to the wish list of White Supremacists who apparently consider themselves Christians, born into the ‘true American religion’. So, does their plan include killing anyone who isn’t a Christian or deporting them? Where would we deport them to? What do ‘White “Christian” Supremacists’ plan to do to have their wishes fulfilled. We certainly must give due consideration to where racism could lead. We cannot afford any more denial. We can’t assume that this is a fringe trend that will die out, not when we still have that old white supremacist waiting in the wings to take control of America once again with all his old cronies already out of jail and still loyal to the racist mob boss who “doesn’t have a racist bone in his body”. He can say this which some conviction because he is tricky. He can say this because attitudes are not stored in our bones; they are stored in our brains. Brains don’t have bones. He uses this lie to prove that he is the genius he claims to be, but his hate will destroy everything. No good will come of letting Trump be our president ever again, and no good will come from White Supremacy.
How do we prevent our competitiveness from allowing us to cannibalize each other? That is why going to space might be our only hope. We can find new empires to inflict our flaws and human failings on. It could distract us for centuries to come. To get to space fast we will have to give up nation states for global cooperation. You can commerce laughing at the impossibility of this plan now, but it is hardly a laughing matter.
In case you like sources:
Crania America by Samuel George Morton, Philadelphia, 1839, article from University of Cambridge Research.
Also refer to a more recent writer who uses science to “prove” that Black folks are inferior – Charles A. Murray who works for the Conservative organization, American Enterprise Institute, part of the Koch web. His controversial book on the subject is called The Bell Curve.
The Southern Poverty Law Center goes over the coded language used by those who marched for “Unite the Right” in Charlottesville. “You will not replace us,” “Blood and soil,” “the South will rise again,”