The Superiority Of White Americans Through The History Of America
White supremacy, what do we mean when we talk about white supremacy well according to The Merriam-Webster dictionary “a person who believes that the white race is inherently superior to other races and that white person should have control over people of other races.” In recent years it’s been a hot topic of discussion in all sources of media and news due to political debates, the rise of white nationalist domestic acts of terror, public and social media presence. To honestly understand though we need to go through the history of America in the making to understand why it negatively impacts society on a whole. Throughout this paper, you will see how white supremacy uses religious, biological, cultural racism. Two key components that spread the philosophy the strongest were religion and economics, which starts with the founding of America, with the introduction of slavery and genocidal acts of the Native American tribes and culture in America. The European exploration and with it the slave trade introduce us to the ideology of white supremacy. Europeans thought whites were superior because of God-given rights and decrees in the bible due in part to the holy wars or Crusades, along with their way of conducting business. Europeans colonized territories in the New World to be known as America, but not without resistance they sought to spread their secular and religious views and destroy the cultures that opposed it. Early European settlers still strong with ideology from crusades saw a new prophecy from god to spread the religion of Christianity in the 2nd coming of Christ during their explorations. While also improving their economic status of country and self with trade initially with Native American Indians, strive arises in form of forced religious ideologies of Christianity, the introduction of new diseases such as smallpox, and encroachment over land. Early America European settlers are seen creating a divide starting with religion to separate themselves as superior. Leading up to what we know as the “Trail of Tears” which lead to the decimation of Native tribes and population considered many to be genocide. While the European colonizers began to set up colonies the rampant use of slaves and slavery was on the rise. A vast amount of labor was needed to create and sustain plantations that required intensive labor to grow, harvest, and process prized tropical crops. Western Africa (part of which became known as ‘the Slave Coast’), Angola and nearby Kingdoms and later Central Africa, became the source for enslaved people to meet the demand for labour. This labour would be used for the production of cotton, sugar, tobacco, molasses, and rum.
Sometime in the late 1650s, European colonizers abandoned religious superiority for the race due to clause “they relied for justification upon the Mediterranean tradition that persons of a different religion, or persons captured in war, could be enslaved for life. But hidden in this idea of slavery was the notion that persons who converted to Christianity should receive their freedom”. This new distinction of made color a key factor to superiority, one was now bound to their physical appearance and no longer spiritual beliefs. What was once a Caste system of Plantation Owners, skilled white workers, Indentured servants of all origins turned into Owners, white workers, and slaves by race. No longer would they get the option “matter what their origin, could hope to obtain their own land and the personal independence that goes with private property”. To further economic gain and social status laws were being encoded with race. Laws such as Virginia Law 1662 “decreed that the status of the child followed the status of the mother, which meant that enslaved women gave birth to generations of children of African descent who were now seen as commodities.” Race was now an official status of hierarchy, non-whites were sub-human and property only. “Black people in America were being enslaved for life, while the protections of whiteness were formalized.” The right of blacks and non-whites were being stripped and advantages were specific to whites only. Further restrictions are seen in with the Negro Act after “The Stono Rebellion”, “which criminalized assembly, education and moving broad among the enslaved. White supremacy continued to flourish through after the abolishment of slavery, post-slavery they develop more institutionalized rule with the use of rules such as the “Jim Crow Law” state and local laws that enforced racial segregation in the Southern United States that allowed continued exploitation and abuse of civil rights of people of color and non-whites “Rise and Fall of Jim Crow: Segregation in the U.S. Government (1913). Along with the Wagner Act or National Labor Relations Act of 1935 that granted union members higher wages, improved benefits, job security, and working conditions, it allowed unions to discriminate against workers of color in manufacturing and excluded domestic and agriculture workers from act that were majority African American and The New Deal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, that introduced 40 hour work weeks, banning of child labor, and federal minimum wage and overtime, that benefitted majority-white works while exempt It. Although the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in 1865 white employers found a use of breaking labor contracts to force freed or blacks’ workers into slavery, and the 14th amendment guaranteed African American citizenship rights and promised that the federal government would enforce. Institutional hierarchy also further employed the use of societal race division using economic warfare using discriminatory employment practices along with segregation by occupation, which led to work and pay wage gaps. While policies and actions get made to create equality such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, charged with enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against job applicants and employees based on race, color, religion, sex, nationality, age, disability. Institutions also protect the interest of white supremacy by adding provisions and underfunding such as ‘Lawmakers have also limited the scope of anti-discrimination enforcement by establishing a minimum employee threshold for covered companies. For instance, only companies with 15 or more employees are covered by the EEOC’s racial discrimination laws’ and ‘Congress has refused to significantly increase the agency’s inflation-adjusted budget over this period and has reduced the number of employees charged with carrying out the agency’s mission’. During this period of pre- and post-slavery certain white supremacist groups were formed with the most prominent being the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazi, and Skinheads.
These groups spread white supremacy through actions of violence, demonstrations, and hate speech. The first group Ku Klux Klan consisted of 3 iterations with a slightly different ideology with the main goal being white supremacy. The first Ku Klux Klan originated in Pulaski, Tennessee on December 24, 1865, by 6 former officers of the Confederate army mainly as a fraternal social group, turned white supremacists during the Reconstruction period of America. Their main objective was promoting resistance and white supremacy, with the use of violence and threats they targeted political blacks, white sympathizers in the south who disagreed with white supremacy, and white northern leaders who fought for equal rights and the abolition of slavery. This first iteration faded with the passing of the Ku Klux Klan Act in 1871 that made most crimes committed by KKK federal offenses which would get repealed due to the “Harris v. United States” which deemed it unconstitutional, later reenacted again and the Jim Crow laws that allowed the partial continuation of white dominance through the exploitation of civil rights of colored people in the south. The effects of 1st iteration were felt through the use of violence and intimidation ‘in which hooded vigilantes used lynching’s, whippings, and torture to intimidate recently freed slaves and their white allies – played a crucial role in the disenfranchisement of African Americans at the end of the Civil War in the 1860s and 1870s and laid a foundation for the rise of Jim Crow segregation in the 1890s and 1900s.’ The 2nd iteration of the KKK The Washington State Klan founded in 1915 would gain waves in the 1920s. This iteration of KKK focused on anti-immigration, anti-Catholic, anti-radical, and 100 percent Americanism. They focused mainly on protestant whites, they still opposed Jews, blacks, now Catholics, and Eastern European immigrants. The 2nd iteration is the most successful of the 3 variants reaching up to 4-5m peek membership during the 1920s. Revival is due to the film ‘Birth of a Nation.’ ‘Members embraced Protestant Christianity and a crusade to save America from domestic as well as foreign threats.” Religion and race now combining to push the agenda of the superiority of white Americans. The 3rd and final iteration would be known as the most dangerous radicalized of the three, they opposed civil rights movements and desegregation. They made up of old chapters and sects of KKK “a mainly Southern organization that rose in the decades after World War II to murder and terrorize people in African-American communities, particularly civil rights movement activists.” While the KKK was becoming established hate groups that spread white supremacy in America, so was the Nazi Party in Germany, that spread the same ideology of white dominance with a focus on Jewish persecution. “To protect the supposed purity and strength of the Aryan race, the Nazis sought to exterminate Jews, Romani, Poles, and most other Slavs, along with the physically and mentally handicapped. They disenfranchised and segregated homosexuals, Africans, Jehovah’s Witnesses and political opponents” Simone Gigliotti, Berel Lang (2005) It is possible to see now how America history founded white supremacy due in part to the exploitation and economic gains from using people of non-white descent. Systematic control of white dominance exists in every level of control from the state, federal, judicial, education, and work. To take control from white-dominant ideology you must reform the system, with laws such as the 13th and 14th amendment with granted civil rights to people of color, informational education via school, internet, and media on atrocities of unfair race advantages that disadvantage other groups, along with economic equality for non-whites to live with as much agency as the white dominant rulers of America.
Like many reactions set off by a cause, I will be detailing the psychological factors that support and maintain White supremacy in America. One would be the use of religion, maintaining societal structures, fear of competition, and economic viability. Each of these plays in the role of people fostering white supremacy ideology and continued marginalizing of non- white groups. So what does it mean, “Arie Kruglanski, a social psychologist at the University of Maryland, said people become white nationalists for three reasons: a desire to feel significant, attribution of their lack of personal success to another group, and a sense of belonging among other white nationalists.” We can see these three reasons play a role in each category for causation. Religion has always been closely linked with societies, used as a tool to justify actions, and purpose to account for their misdeeds against people of different races and cultures. Throughout this paper, we see Crusades, slavery, and the Holocaust as periods used for religious agenda. Research has shown the damage religion can cause a “considerable number of historians and theologians concluded religion should contrarily be considered as a catalyst for anti-Semitism, racism, etc.. Religion primarily used by white supremacists to show superiority over other races is a common tactic used to maintain control within society. Fear of competition and maintaining society’s hierarchy play a role in keeping racist values within institutions. A noticeable feature of the political discourse accompanying the recent rise of nationalism in white-majority countries is that native whites are faring worse in their societies than other ethnic groups. Speaks to white majority recent claims of mistreatment or inequality that minorities don’t face on a level like them. Two examples noted by Molly Ball (2016), cite trump supporters from her interviews” “they, the others, enjoy privileges, resources, and status to which we are denied access.” and a Washington Post/ABC News poll showed that a majority of Trump supporters thought that “Whites losing out because of preferences for blacks and Hispanics” illustrating a new issue of white discrimination over minorities. Here we see examples of trying to maintain status quo and strip privileges afforded to minorities in their eyes that are basic rights but also to strengthen their position of perceived weakness. We see the use of exclusion and alienation of a group to strengthen the philosophy of white supremacy to restore “their” power dynamic of privilege’s gained through the exploitation of non-white groups. Finally, economic viability, deriving misappropriate advantage in wealth due to institutionalized powers on state, judicial, and federal.
Many minorities specifically African Americans today remain in communities with the lowest prospects for upward mobility, this was not accidental as stated: “it reflects both the intended and unintended consequences of U.S. policies that have shaped where people live and the opportunities people have in those communities”. America’s foundation of slavery and subsequent policies within the reconstruction period such as Jim crow laws paved the way for racial inequality in wealth. In the essay Hardy (2019) highlights policies during the emancipation and following Jim crow law restraints, ‘The Great Migration’ and rising segregation, along with education, criminal justice, and welfare programs. These policies restricted non-white lives and create economic advantages felt still today on minority communities. The article highlights how government institutions need to reform habits in policy for the inclusion of all demographics without bias, ‘array of historical and contemporary government decisions and policies have historically harmed black and other non-white Americans; such actions promote racial and place-based inequality.’ To challenge white supremacy, we combat the rise of white supremacy rebranded in the form of white nationalism in America. It starts with addressing the issue at hand white nationalism is a product of racism and the systems that promote and instill these ideologies on state, federal, local levels. Reforming the policies that create these inequalities amongst disenfranchised groups that promote racial advantages. Education of American history as it truly happened, many U.S historical events are left out of historical and educational textbooks due to atrocities committed during their time. The lack of information could highlight and show issues with the foundation of America they would have not known resulting in lessening likelihood one of to take up white nationalist ideology.
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