***Today, I thought I’d take some time to educate the white floaters on WP who happen to get upset anytime a Black person dares share their negative experiences with the dominant white culture. I found this article which, in depth; highlights, validates, and provokes the reality that YES!—WHITE PEOPLE ARE RACISTS! And ALL benefit from the system of White Supremacy. Whether they want to believe that or not.
THE CULTURE OF WHITE SUPREMACY
by Sharon Martinas and the Challenging White Supremacy Workshop
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I. WHAT IS CULTURE?
A. A DEFINITIONCulture is a way of life. (Definition by People’s Institute of Survival and Beyond in New Orleans.) Culture is passed on from generation to generation through institutions, groups, interpersonal and individual behavior.
B. FUNCTIONS OF CULTUREFor institutions: Culture provides the matrix out of which institutions grow, and the “glue” which binds institutions together in systems. Culture also provides the legitimacy and justification for the perpetuation of institutions from one generation to the next. (Material provided by Diana Dunn of People’s Institute.)
For example, a local public school can survive as an individual institution because some parents choose to send their children to the school. The school exists within the system of public schools in a particular city because tax payers are willing to continue paying taxes to support that school. And the entire public school system in a country can exist from generation to generation only so long as sufficient adults in the population believe that sending their children to public school will be beneficial.
For groups and individuals: Culture provides a sense of identity — who you are—— and a sense of belonging——who you are with. It provides a sense of purpose——your reason for being in the world——and an orientation——your sense of where you are going in your life (broadly speaking).
C. CULTURE AS A PROCESSCulture is a set of rules for behavior. You cannot ‘see’ culture because you cannot see the rules; you can only see.. .the behaviors the rules produce…Cultural rules influence people to behave similarly, in ways which help them to understand each other… For example, cultural rules shape food preferences…The essence of culture is not these behaviors themselves, but the rules that produce the behaviors.
Culture is characteristic of groups. The rules of a culture are shared by the group, not invented by the individual; the rules of the group which are passed on from one generation to the form the core of the culture…
Culture is learned…What each person learns depends upon the cultural rules of the people who raise them…Because culture is learned, it is a mistake to assume a person’s culture by the way s/he looks…Culture can be well learned by some people in the group and less well learned by others…
“Cultures borrow and share rules.. .Cultural rules change over time, and sometimes when two groups have extensive contact with one another, they influence each other in some areas… (Excerpts taken from CULTURE AS A PROCESS by Carol Brunson Phillips; February 27, 1991. Thanks to lntisar Shareef for calling my attention to this material.)
II. WHAT IS WHITE CULTURE?
A. AN HISTORICAL DEFINITION OF “WHITE”The term white as applied to people was first used by slave-owning colonialists in 17th century Maryland and Virginia to describe poor indentured servants who came from Europe. Originally, these servants had been called “Englishmen,” “Irishmen” or “Christians,” but the colonial ruling class began to use the term “white” to distinguish European servants from African ones, who were often called “Negro,” which means “black” in Spanish.
The Virginia legislature made the term “white” a legal distinction in 1691, after a series of joint rebellions by European and African servants, culminating in Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676, nearly brought down the colonial ruling powers. (Information provided by People’s Institute.) In the slave codes of 1705, especially in the “Act concerning servants and slaves,”colonial rulers gave poor ‘whites’ certain legislated privileges, such as a small plot of land or “freedom dues” (wages) after completion of their term of servitude; the right to sue their masters in court; and exemption from public whipping for punishment! At the same time, the legislature wrote the laws which provided the institutionalized foundations for chattel slavery for Africans.
From that time on, throughout U.S. history, to be “white” has meant to have access to certain forms of preferential treatment, and exemption from racial oppression, solely on the basis of European ancestry and (allegedly) “white” skin. Thus, the concepts of “white people” and “white privilege” share the same historical and institutional roots. And both terms are artificial, historical constructions to serve political purposes: creating separations among oppressed peoples on the basis of skin color and ancestral origin so that they would not unite against a common oppressor.
(For more on the historical origins of the terms ‘white’ and ‘white privilege:’ (1) Theodore William Allen, Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery: The Invention of the White Race. 1975 pamphlet. (2) Theodore Allen, “Introduction,” The Invention of the White Race: Racial Oppression and Social Control. Vol. 1. London: Verso Books, 1994. (3) A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., In The Matter of Color: Race & the American Legal Process: The Colonial Period. Oxford University Press, 1980, especially pages 53—57.. (4) Lerone Bennett, Jr. “The Road Not Taken,” in The Shaping of Black America. Chicago, 1975.)
B. A DEFINITION OF WHITE SUPREMACY White supremacy is an historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations and peoples of color by white peoples and nations of the European continent; for the purpose of establishing, maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power and privilege. (Definition by Mickey Ellinger and Sharon Martinas)
C. A DEFINITION OF WHITE CULTURE White culture is an artificial, historically constructed culture which expresses, justifies and binds together the United States white supremacy system. It is the cultural matrix and glue which binds together white—controlled institutions into systems; and white—controlled systems into the global white supremacy system. Since World War II, the white culture of the United States has been the center of the global white culture.
D. WHITE CULTURE IS A DOMINANT CULTURE White culture is not the only culture in the current territory of the United States. There are numerous others: many kinds of indigenous, African-American and African-Caribbean, Chicano and Latino with regional variations, a multiplicity of Asian cultures, indigenous Hawaiian, many Arabic cultures, and expressions of many European peoples.
But white culture is the dominant culture. What are some of the characteristics of this dominant culture?
In thinking about these characteristics, please recall Dr. Wade Nobles’ definition of power: “Power is the ability to define reality and to convince other people that it is their definition.” (See “Definitions,” Political Perspectives. Exer. Manual.)
1. It defines who you are, and who “others” are in relation to you. For example, a white culture term for ‘people of color’ is ‘non-white,’ i.e., non-people.
2. It shapes your attitudes, thinking, behavior and values. For example, a white woman shrinks in fear when passing an African American man on the street; yet the great’ danger to white women comes from white men in the home.
3. It consciously and unconsciously suppresses and oppresses other cultures. For example, slave owners consciously suppressed African spirituality and taught Africans Christianity to make them ‘docile.’ Or, employers fire workers for speaking Spanish in a restaurant, but promote workers who speak French.
4. It consciously and unconsciously appropriates aspects of oppressed cultures. For example: every form of African American music: gospel, blues, Iazz, rhythm and blues, and rap, has been copied by white musicians with no credit given to the creative sources of the music. Or, white New Agers become instant healers, charging hefty fees, by appropriating ancient indigenous healing practices.
5. It is normative: the standard for judging values and behavior.
6. It is assumed, unquestioned, not on the agenda: the ways things are.
7. It is hidden — not at all obvious to the dominating or oppressing practitioners, but often painfully, obvious to peoples whose cultures have been suppressed, oppressed or appropriated.
E. WHITE CULTURE IS A DEADLY BREW White culture in the United States is complex. Because white supremacy is fundamental to the existence of this country, white supremacist culture is intertwined with other major cultural manifestations that make up the fabric of the U.S: the greed, competition and individualism of capitalism; male supremacist fear and hatred of the power of women; historical Christianity’s hatred and fear of sexuality, and its compulsion to divide humankind into the “saved” and the “damned;” and militarism’s glorification of war and conquest as proofs of manhood and nationhood that has roots in European culture going back thousands of years. White culture is a melting pot of greed, guys, guns and god. It is a deadly brew.
(For a comprehensive critique of European culture, see Marimba Ani, Yurugu: An African—Centered Critique of European Cultural Thought and Behavior. New Jersey: Africa World Press, 1994.)
III. SHININ’ THE LITE ON WHITE
In this section, I will try to highlight some of the ways in which white culture manifests itself in our daily lives. As you read this, please remember that this is a very tentative beginning of a new effort by many white activists in the U.S. to explore the meanings of white culture. Most analysis on white culture has been done by activists and scholars of color. Their work has inspired me to begin to do my own homework.
A. THE CULTURE OF RACIAL OPPRESSION: (CULTURAL RACISM)1. White culture perpetuates the ideology that people of color are morally and mentally inferior to white people. Throughout the history of the United States, white culture has characterized people of color as ‘‘savage, ‘‘ignorant,’’ ‘‘depraved,’’ ‘‘bestial,’’ “lazy,” “dirty,” “illegal” and “criminal.”
This ideology continues unabated today. For example, white students and white workers assume that the only reason a person of color gets into college or into a good job is because of affirmative action: that is, the people of color could not have competed with the white person were the playing field “level.” In these examples, the white people cannot imagine that the people of color might be equally or more qualified than the whites for the positions they achieved.
2. White culture stereotypes figures and behaviors of peoples of color. A common method is to take some cultural attribute forced on people of color by conquest and continuing racial oppression, and making that attribute into a symbol of the whole people. For example, the film Ethnic Notions by Marvin Riggs delineates a history of white stereotypes of African Americans in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Stereotypes such as the “minstrel,” the “mammy,” “coon” illustrate forms of assumed behavior that is carried into contemporary stereotypes of African Americans embodied in terms like “criminal,” “gang member” and “welfare mother.” Forms change; meanings stay on.
3. By defining reality as white, and convincing peoples of color that white reality is their reality, white culture actively promotes internalized racism and inter-racial tensions among peoples of color.
Internalized racism disempowers a person and a people. Inter-racial hostility prevents different peoples of color from uniting for their common purposes and against their common oppressors.
In this way, white culture expresses a successful white ruling class strategy of “divide and conquer.” Imprisoning a person’s mind is more thorough and long-lasting than imprisoning her body.
4. White culture labels the cultures of the Americas, Africa, Asia and the Arab world as inferior to cultures that have evolved in Europe. Furthermore, white culture actively promotes the historical lie that the culture that evolved in ancient Greece was the “fountainhead of western civilization.”
In fact, most of the great Greek scholars and poets went to Kemet (the name for ancient Egypt), which was an African culture and civilization, to study for years before they returned to create their own forms of wisdom. And the “renaissance” of Europe did not begin in Italy, as our textbooks say, but in Spain and Portugal which, under the African and Arabic Moorish Empire of the 8th through the 15th centuries, preserved and recreated the wisdom of the ancient world, and developed the technology which allowed the Spanish and Portuguese to embark on their voyages of exploration and conquest of lands outside Europe.
Today, there is a white cultural war against African-centred research and scholarship. White academics call this scholarship ‘self serving.’ Yet few white culturalists would call traditional historical and anthropological research, “White Studies.”
5. White culture suppresses and oppresses the cultures of peoples of color as part of an ongoing system of conquest, colonialism and racial/national oppression.
For example, the movement, now a law in many states, of “English Only” is a specific form of cultural conquest of peoples from Mexico, Central and South America and Puerto Rico, which has its historical origin in the U.S.’s 1848 war against Mexico; and the 1898 invasion of Puerto Rico. “English Only” is cultural colonialism: the peoples of colonized nations are forced to speak the language of the conqueror.
6. White culture appropriates elements of the cultures of people of color in order to mask the underlying power relationships of dominant to dominated cultures.
For example: Rhythm and Blues is an African American musical creation, but one of its most famous exponents was Elvis Presley, a white working class man from the south. Many rhythm and blues artists die impoverished. Elvis is worshipped like a god.
B. THE CULTURE OF WHITE PRIVILEGE White privilege is the other side of the coin of racial oppression. Therefore, it should not be surprising to see that the culture of white privilege is a mirror image of the culture of racial oppression.
1. White culture perpetuates the ideology that white people are morally and intellectually superior to people of color. For example, many suburban white women and men think they get into college because they are “more intelligent” than Chicanos, Native Americans or African Americans; when, in fact, they get into college because their high schools prepare them more effectively for college boards than do most high schools in urban areas.
2. White culture stereotypes figures and behavior of white people. A common method is to take some cultural attribute which is the result of hundreds of years of institutionalized white privilege in the United States, and projecting this attribute as solely the result of the person’s individual, heroic efforts.
For example, the son or daughter of a European immigrant is portrayed as having risen to wealth and power from initial poverty solely as a result of moral fortitude and hard work. But, in fact, European immigrants historically have both worked hard and received privileges from the U.S. government that people of color (whether they were immigrants, indigenous or kidnaped) have been historically denied at different times.
European immigrants (differentially for men and women) had the right to become citizens, the right to own land, the right to bring and to live with a family, the right to travel in search of work, the right to vote, the right to practice their own language and religion without interference, the right to organize mutual self—help societies and small businesses without being broken up by white mobs, the right to a public school education, the right to bring suit and testify in court, and the right to hold public office.
3. By defining reality as white, and convincing white people that it is their reality, the culture of white supremacy is portrayed as universal, applying to all humankind.
For example, a “History of Western Civilization” begins with Greece, then moves to Rome, then Europe, ending with the United States. But this is a course on Europe, (which is fine provided the course begins with the contributions of Kemet to Greece), but it is not a course on “western civilization.” Another example: ABC network tells its reporter covering the elections in South Africa to put an “Americans in South Africa” spin on the story, otherwise U.S. readers will not be interested in the story!
Or, white feminists create brilliant analyses of patriarchy coming from their European cultural experience, and then try to generalize this analysis to the relationships between men and women whose ancestral cultures originate in Africa, the Americas, Asia or Arabic world. And, we call the white women’s movement, “the women’s movement.”
4. White culture provides a normative standard of behavior for one living in a system of white privilege.
These norms are usually manifested in the arrogance of white entitlement – an assumption of how a white person expects to be treated in the world.
Some examples: Getting angry when we have to wait in a line too long; speaking with authority, as if we are sure of correctness; talking as long as we wish, often interrupting others; getting outraged when our First Amendment rights to peacefully gather and protest are violated by police (when police violate similar rights by people of color every night, just for gathering in a group). Note: white feminists often call these forms of behavior ‘white male arrogance,’ but I believe it’s a feature of white culture which white women, now that we have more ‘equality’ with white men, practice often.
5. White culture creates white bonding, that is, the cross class allegiance and sense of commonality that non—ruling class oppressed white men and women have with the white ruling class, on the basis of “white skin” and European ancestry.
White bonding covers up the class exploitation of poor, working and middle class whites by the ruling class, by deflecting the problems of oppressed whites from the ruling class to people of color. White bonding prevents white women from using the potential power of their vote as women because they usually support the interests of middle class and rich white men more than the interests of men and women of color.
White bonding is at the core of the Christian right’s ‘family values’ ideology. It evokes an image of a white nuclear family in a 1950’s suburb: a suburb that practiced legal residential apartheid. White bonding is the cultural basis of racist jokes and language; it assumes of the white listener, “You know who I mean.”
White bonding is at the core of the attacks on multi—culturalism. It assumes that the only culture that should be taught in schools is white culture. White bonding calls the U.S. “America,” a term which properly applies to all the nation—states on this continent.
White bonding is one of the bases of the current anti—immigrant racism sweeping California. The bonding is a reaction to the terror that most white people feel at the prospect that the majority of California residents will soon be people of color. I doubt that anti—immigrant ideologists would be using the phrase, “drowning in a sea of immigrants” if the immigrants were coming from Canada.
In my opinion, white bonding is the most significant cultural barrier preventing oppressed whites from challenging the interrelated systems of oppression in the U.S.
This is just part of it–it’s very lengthy. To read the full article, click on link: http://whgbetc.com/mind/culture-white-sup.html