After falling down a very depressing rabbit hole on Twitter the other day, I found myself scrolling through the bewildering profile of a self-proclaimed nationalist and white supremacist. What was perhaps most disturbing on this profile was not her many tweets regarding the “importance of physically separating different races,” the baseless claims of varying IQ of different races, or the constant, repetitive, fear-mongering claims that ‘whites’ (such a specific term, right?) somehow need to be frightened for their survival. All of those things were dizzyingly creepy and upsetting, but what disturbed me the most was how many thousands and thousands of followers this woman had. It was a lot. I am not going to name names or link back, because, ew, I refuse to give any profile like that a signal boost, but you’ll be able to find one like it very easily. Because, unfortunately, she’s not the only one. There are a lot of gross profiles like this. As much as we try to ignore it, white supremacy is still very much alive and kicking in our country.
When I first started to realize this, it blew my mind. How is this possible? How could so many people believe these outrageous and hateful lies? It’s not just people who grow up with it. White supremacists actively recruit members -- but how are they managing that? How do they connect with and convince anyone of such terrifying, extremist views?
Then I realized: Like any outrageous lie, they start with a tiny, seemingly harmless lie. That’s kind of how the devil works, in my experience: Start with a tiny lie and grow slowly, methodically, insidiously from there. Eating one greasy chip won’t hurt you, but once you start, it’s a lot easier to keep going and eat the whole bag. And the ‘harmless’ lie, the first greasy chip that the devil so carefully sells us, is this: “White” is a race.
Harmless, right? Easily arguable and defensible. If “white” is a race, that means “white culture” is a thing...and if white culture is a thing, it can’t be inherently bad, right? Because I’m white, and I’m not bad just because I’m white. No, you aren’t. So, if “white culture” is a thing, and it’s a good thing, and I’m white, then I should be able to take pride in “white culture.” Because we all need to find our own identities; why shouldn’t I take pride in my race, the color of my skin?
Do you see how many truth things snuck into that line of thought? You aren’t bad just because you’re white. You do have a right to find your own identity. You do have a right to take pride in your race. Problem is, white isn’t a race. It’s just a shade. Those truths are thrown in to make it easier for you to swallow that pill of a lie.
I think Walter Mosley explained it best in this article: “The white race is a fiction created by aggressive colonization and slavery. In the colonies destined to become the United States, the European colonists found themselves pitted against the indigenous (red) people while enslaving Africans (blacks). In between these two colors, the white race was born, creating an antithetical identity that distinguished the supposed rightful owners from the slaves and (so-called) primitives. White was not a racial identifier in ancient Europe. In Britain alone, there was a plethora of races: Celts, Anglo-Saxons, Norse, Scots, Druids, and subgroups such as the Picts. There were as many races as there were languages in old Europe, but when colonization began, they founded an illusory identity where Christian men of European descent were called white regardless of their coloring, features or culture. Florid-faced, pale-skinned, olive-hued, and pink people of every size and build were called white people, and they still cling to that identity today.”
Notice how the white ‘race’ formed because of how we pushed everyone else out? We defined ourselves by being not those lesser-than humans. Which is still the connotation today, if you claim pride in a ‘white race.’ Please don't do that, because there is no white race. It's not a thing. You are allowed to love your race and your heritage; but ‘white’ is neither of those things. Are you Irish, or German, or French? You can take pride in those things and connect to those cultures.
But wait! You might say. If ‘white culture’ can’t be a thing, how come there’s Black culture, huh? No fair! Ah, yes. A very popular argument. First, take a moment to consider: What is your heritage, if you’re white? I’m Scottish and Ruthenian (which was in eastern Europe). What about you? Isn’t it great how we can trace our heritage back that far? Isn’t it awesome how you might even be able to go back to the exact family member who came over on the Mayflower (or some other ship), and we have documentation about where they came from and what country they grew up in and who in that country they’re related to? Gosh, how neat, why don’t Black people just do tha--
Black culture is a response to being pushed out and belittled by the mainstream culture, plus being extremely limited in resources to trace their heritage back to a specific country -- you know, because of that whole Trans-Atlantic slave trade thing. ‘White’ people started a club and didn’t let anyone else in; you might even call that club “The United States of America,” since we didn’t really let people of color have a lot of say in forming our government. Even today mainstream media and culture is, by default, filled with mostly white people. It’s an exclusive club defined by that exclusion. So yeah, of course the people we’re excluding are going to develop their own club; what do you expect them to do, wait on the lawn?
You might be a white American, which comes with a lot of privilege and a lot of responsibility, but it does not define your race. It only defines your color. You think you have more shared experiences and culture with fellow white people, but that’s nonsense; you very well could have more in common with someone who’s Black based on your hometown, religion, interests, and a plethora of other aspects that make up our identity -- of which race is only one. And you simply can’t figure that out based on color alone. Genetic studies show that the DNA between any two humans differs less than 0.1% anyway; how we look is simply not enough to define our ethnicity.
“White” is not a race. This a lie rooted in division and hate; a lie carefully crafted and distributed by the devil (and white supremacists). Once you believe this smaller lie, it becomes a lot easier to feed you bigger ones, to fear-monger, to whip up your ‘righteous indignation’ and convince you that your race is at risk, and is probably better, and should be even more separated from the other races; it becomes easier and easier to eventually convince you that you can and should take action to protect your ‘race.’
And be sure of this: action is being taken regularly. As the FBI investigation earlier this year revealed, white supremacist groups are actively (and successfully) infiltrating local police. The KKK worked to help elect a President (whether or not you like the guy, the KKK supported him). And domestic terrorism by white supremacists is a growing threat: according to the US Extremist Crime Database (which Politifact explains pretty well here) 74% of all attacks by violent extremists since 2001 have been by ‘far-right’ folks, which is where white supremacy falls. Seventy-four percent!! Only 26% of the attacks were perpetrated by radical Islamic extremists. And yet we seem a heckuva a lot more focused on the ‘Islamic threat’ than we do on the domestic, white supremacist threat. It’s almost like we have people in leadership who are sympathetic to the white supremacist cause. Weird, huh?
(As a side note, I have to add, it always baffles me that so many white supremacists claim to be Christian while so vehemently disparaging Jewish people, and those of middle eastern descent. Um, what? Are they aware that Jesus was a middle-eastern Jew?)
Anyway, the next time you’re tempted to believe that ‘white’ is a race, remember: you already have a heritage, and it’s not defined by your color.
The next time you’re tempted to believe that ‘white’ is a race, remember: If you can’t define your ‘race’ without inherently excluding people of other colors, that’s a problem.
The next time you’re tempted to believe that ‘white’ is a race, remember: that’s just the starter lie.
Don’t swallow it.