Below is the third document for the #CallThemIn project. This document is most useful for communities in and around DC. However, many of the pillars would work in any urban setting. Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you would help editing this document to work for you community.
After reading this document with your group, discuss the following questions.
- How does White Supremacy show up in our community?
- Which pillar of White Supremacy do you see most clearly?
- Which pillar of White Supremacy is the most invisible or hard to picture?
- Which pillar of White Supremacy can I committee to deconstructing?
5 pillars of Anti-Black White Supremacy In DC
The basic premise of the these five pillars is that the current state of White Supremacy shows how the current hegemonic order separates people into racial groups whose arbitrarily defined traits are re-characterized to represent specific threats to the status quo. Therefore, specific systems of oppression are created to address those threats. Overtime, those systems of oppression are perfected on specific populations and eventually used to undermine resistance among other populations.
For example the “war on [or of] terror” tactics perfected in the government’s harassment of Muslim and Arab populations that are now being used to disrupt BLM protests have their roots in fighting radical European immigrants in the 30’s and Black freedom fighters in the 60’s and 70’s. Likewise, DC’s own police department is heavily influenced by the Israeli Defense Force’s genocidal land grab in the Gaza strip. Similarly the current education system that now allows private corporations to profit off the achievement gap and use overly authoritian discipline systems to condition Black children to follow inconsistent and extra-judicial white authority figures has its origins in both the “Indian schools” of the 1800’s and the early modern education system used to assimilate the children of European immigrants into the labor force.
Below are the five pillars of Anti-Black White Supremacy in DC we have identified. These pillars are heavily informed by Andrea Smith’s Hetero-Patriarchy and Three Pillars of White Supremacy. They also reflect the ways in which other forms of racial oppression [Settler Genocide and Orientalism] have been repurposed to support the control of Black communities.
The five pillars of White Supremacy in DC we have identified are Inner City Settler-Colonialism, Plantation Politics, Cultural Appropriation, Economic Disenfranchisement, and Psychological Warfare. The names of these pillars are not important nor should they be seen as completely divisible structures with separate logics unto themselves. Rather they should be seen as interwoven tendencies that are in constant dialogue with the local material context.
The first pillar is Inner City Settler Colonialism: Areas of urban decay are simultaneously seen as vacant land ripe with opportunities to be exploited by capitalists and dangerous “uncivilized” areas that need to be tamed. This cry for taming or civilization is then used as justification for violence against the native population, now Black Americans instead of indigenous peoples and enforced by police instead of the cavalry.
The second pillar is Plantation Politics: Nearly every power hierarchy in DC gets lighter and more masculine as you climb the ranks. From the political [ANC’s, the Council and Congress] or our Unions and Federal government agencies; the DC power structure resembles an old southern plantation. Low level and front line staff in government, non-profits and unions are generally women of color who are overwhelming Black, overworked and underpaid. They are often directly managed by Black men or white women who themselves are managed by white women or men. Even Black elected leadership from Marion Barry to Muriel Bowser were elected by a coalition of either white liberals or light skinned Black elites but always bankrolled by white male developers.
The next pillar of white supremacy is Cultural Appropriation. Cultural appropriation is when elements of an oppressed people’s culture are mocked or repurposed by the dominant group’s culture. It revolves around the issue of ownership. White people listening to Chuck Berry is cultural sharing. Saying that Elvis invented Rock and Roll and leaving Black rock and roll founders to poverty is cultural appropriation. In DC we see this as developers highlight and commodify token aspects of a neighborhood’s Black history in order to make is seem more authentic and therefore valuable to white renters. Examples of this are Eatonville’s use of Harlem Renaissance imagery or the numerous Marvin Gaye themed establishments on U Street.
The fourth pillar of white supremacy is Economic Disenfranchisement. It includes regulating large portions of Black people in DC into low paying service sector jobs that experience wage theft, unstable and insufficient hours and are demeaning. Similarly, it encompasses the often gendered economic exploitation found in unpaid labor such as emotional labor, childrearing and supporting elders and differently abled family members. It also includes attacks on public sector unions which, in DC and cities across America, are no less than an attack on the Black middle class along with issues like redlining and housing discrimination.
The last pillar of white supremacy in DC is Psychological Warfare. Police Brutality induced trauma is used to frighten Black residents into political apathy and make them feel unwelcomed in newly gentrifying areas. Systems like the prison industrial complex and zero-tolerance authoritarian charter schools condition Black people to accept white leadership and internalize messages of failure. This in turn empowers the respectability politics that limit Black leadership and reinforce a multi-tiered class system within the job market as speech and dress become conflated with professionalism and white assimilation becomes a job pre-requisite.
Psychological Warfare also includes the various ways that trauma exasperates other social problems and forms of oppression. This encompasses beauty standards that normalize and privilege whiteness while further stigmatizing Black women. It also entails how poverty and insecurity incentivizes people to assert various privileged identities to get ahead thereby re-ingraining things like patriarchy, trans* phobia, classism, xenophobia and homophobia.