The choices made by white men, who are prepared to abandon their humanity out of fear of black men and women, suggest the true horror of the lost status.
-Toni Morrison, in article “Making America White Again”
White supremacy, white nationalism and racism have metastasized to new levels in American society.
Hateful rhetoric, threats and hate-fueled gun violence is more common. And white supremacy is at the foundation of what we have witnessed in El Paso, Pittsburgh, New Zealand, Charleston, and Charlottesville.
White supremacy is the racist belief that white people are superior to other races and therefore should be dominant over them.
The birth of white supremacy and white nationalism predates the founding of America in our great city.
According to historians, “scientific racism” or “race biology” originated during the Age of the Enlightenment (an era from 1650s to 1780s) with the concepts of “monogenism” and “polygenism.”
Monogenism was a belief, first coined by Anglo-Irish chemist Robert Boyle, that argued that “all races, no matter how diverse, came from the same source, Adam and Eve.”
On the other hand, French historian Henri de Boulainvilliers believed in “polygenism,” that is the theory that “each race has a separate origin.”
Specifically, de Boulainvilliers believed that there were those who belonged to “aristocratic race” and those who belonged to the “general population race.”
In other words, there was a class who would always rule and dominate the world. There would be a class who would serve and be subordinate to the aristocratic ruling class.
Thomas Jefferson, a slave owner, founding father, and President of the United States, was also a founding father of racism and white supremacy in America.
Jefferson believed that African Americans were “inferior to the whites in the endowments of body and mind.”
In “Notes on the State of Virginia,” Jefferson described Black people as:
They seem to require less sleep. A black, after hard labor through the day, will be induced by the slightest amusements to sit up till midnight, or later, though knowing he must be out with the first dawn of the morning. They are at least as brave, and more adventuresome. But this may perhaps proceed from a want of forethought, which prevents their seeing a danger till it be present. When present, they do not go through it with more coolness or steadiness than the whites.
Jefferson further described Blacks’ faculties of memory, reason, and imagination as:
….they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous...I advance it therefore as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.
While Jefferson later reassessed his earlier thoughts of Blacks’ intelligence, after his encounter with the scientist and surveyor Benjamin Banneker who designed our nation’s capital of Washington, DC, the foundation for white supremacy and white nationalism had been established.
The aforementioned history is important because white supremacy and white nationalism greatly metastasized during the Reconstruction period, from 1863 to 1877.
While white supremacy and racism were well established in the American psyche prior to the Civil War, it was after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1865 that there was a dramatic increase in terrorist and white nationalist organizations.
It was during this period that several white nationalist groups became public and were founded: the Klu Klux Klan (1865), the Knights of White Camellia (1867), the White League (1874), and the Red Shirts (1875).
In order to maintain their dominant position politically and economically in American society, all four white supremacist groups used violence to intimidate African Americans.
Over the years, this intimidation has extended to other races and is in the midst of rebirth under President Donald J. Trump.
In her 2016 article “Making America White Again,” the late Toni Morrison addressed the resurgence of white supremacy and white nationalism:
Under slave laws, the necessity for color rankings was obvious, but in America today, post-civil-rights legislation, white people’s conviction of their natural superiority is being lost. Rapidly lost. There are “people of color” everywhere, threatening to erase this long-understood definition of America. And what then? Another black President? A predominantly black Senate? Three black Supreme Court Justices? The threat is frightening.
Morrison further argues in an interview with Charlie Rose that the rise of hate in America, and I would even argue globally, is really about white peoples’ fear of losing power and economic dominance in society.
During the interview with Rose, Morrison prophetically asked:
What are you [white people] without racism? Are you any good? Are you still strong? Are you still smart? You still like yourself?
In sum, Morrison makes an important point and questions whether, in the context of white supremacy, white people can only be tall if someone else is on his or her knees.
Morrison correctly concludes that if that is the only way these white people, or any group of people can feel special, then: “You have a very, very serious problem.”
Yes, America has a very serious problem. And until the foundation is addressed and rooted out, the ugly underbelly of America’s sin will continue to persist.
As always, keep the faith!