Two recent occurrences and the reactions they provoked drew a bright line highlighting the difference between racism and white supremacy. The two are actually not the same because the concept of white supremacy in America, with all her sordid history, exists in cases where there is little or no racism.
The two examples are Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson’s insistence that his quarterback Cam Newton grows no facial hair and have no tattoos or piercings, and an ad by the lotion manufacturer Nivea suggesting a similar point of view.
First, let’s look at the Newton situation.
Richardson revealed that during an April 4 talk with Newton, the top pick in the 2011 NFL draft and a Black man, he mentioned liking Newton’s haircut — the young man was clean-shaven with a well groomed look throughout his time at Auburn University. Richardson told his quarterback he didn’t want him to change his look or get tattoos or body piercings.
After the Panthers drafted Newton later than month, the owner talked to Newton again, asking him did he do anything crazy, “Do I need to look for something?”
Is this racist? Not necessarily. But the white supremacy is implied.
The Panthers traded for tight end Jeremy Shockey, who is white and at times has worn shoulder length hair and whose arms are festooned with tattoos.
“I told Jeremy Shockey, ‘don’t change your personality,’” Richardson told the Charlotte Observer by way of explaining that he wasn’t imposing different standards on different players. “It’ll be good for the team. I could do without the tattoos, though.”
Here’s the problem. Newton is a grown man and can do what he pleases with his body as long as he produces on the field and refrains from illegal or unethical behavior off of it.
The Nivea ad, which appeared in Esquire magazine, showed a well-groomed, clean-shaven Black man wearing a conservative V-necked sweater, holding the head of an angry-looking Black man with an Afro, beard and mustache. It appears the “appropriate looking” guy is about to throw the head off a bridge.
The caption reads: “Re-civilize yourself. Look like you give a damn.”
Angry Blacks blew up the Internet and Nivea killed the ad and apologized on Facebook. Then news leaked out that a Black ad executive at Nivea was responsible for the spot and had also designed the same type of ad with a white man.
Again, racism isn’t the issue, white supremacy is.
Because of the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, lynching and economic and education disparities between the races that still exist to this day, it was inappropriate for Nivea to use that ad.
Until a mediocre white person and a mediocre Black person receive equal treatment, it doesn’t matter that the president of the United States and the attorney general are Black, or that Oprah and Bob Johnson are billionaires.
In 2011 in the U.S., psychologically…white is still right and Black can get back.