Hi, I’m Storey and I’m a white guy.
Admitting you have a problem is the first step, right? Not being in denial that your behavior, your personhood, is contributing to the problems and detriment of those around you. Making a full accounting and taking responsibility for how your very existence detracts from that of those around you.
White Supremacy and America’s Legacy
by: Storey Clayton
Of course, I’m not just a white guy. I’m an American white guy. And while other countries may have periodic flare-ups of white supremacy, America is all about it. I mean all about it. Yes, it’s an obvious problem, carrying a literal torch and making literal Nazi salutes, in the deplorable actions that happened in Charlottesville over the weekend. But it’s an equally insidious problem in Iraq and Afghanistan, in Yemen in Somalia, in every nation on the planet where non-white lives are worse off because white Americans are trying to take everything for themselves. This country is constantly fighting several wars for white supremacy every day, made all the more awful for leveraging primarily Black and Brown bodies in order to wage them. And I think acknowledging and understanding that reality will help us not only truly dissuade and deter the bigots flaunting their hate in Virginia, but also enable us all to see ourselves a bit more as we are seen worldwide and understand the true depth of the white supremacy problem we face in this country.
America’s legacy of white supremacy is unfettered, horrifying, and relentless. The nation was founded on the notion of Manifest Destiny, the idea that white Europeans deserved dominion over stolen land the size no country had ever seen, from sea to shining sea, by divine right. Whites were God’s chosen people, gifted a land that already belonged to someone else to divide, capture, and carve up as they saw fit. These whites already owned other humans as chattel slaves, committing genocide on one race while whipping another into submission. Has there ever been a country who from its founding breath was so ruthlessly dedicated to the notion of racial superiority? Has there ever been a nation who more effectively and unfetteredly embraced bigotry to the benefit of exactly one kind of person and the destruction of all others? Even if other nations come close (it’s hard to imagine), surely none of them pulled this stunt with such utter hypocrisy, openly touting words like freedom and equality as alleged cornerstones while abusing any possible interpretation of said words with every deed. The lack of self-awareness incumbent in the so-called American ideal is breathtaking.
Wars with Mexico and Spain were fought later, fed by racial hatred and fueled by white supremacy as the destiny of the most bigoted race spread its greedy tentacles across the continent and beyond. Local populations in Hawaii, Cuba, and the Philippines were subverted as though they didn’t exist. Territories were gobbled and exploited with the rapacious hunger of racism, needing to dominate, quell, and own. And I’m sure you all want to pat America on the back for fighting Nazis, but this had nothing to do with the motives for World War II. It was racism against the Japanese, fueled by the fear of Pearl Harbor, that cemented America’s commitment to this war. Racial epithets and vitriol fueled the entire war that we now whitewash as being mostly about stopping genocide. A war we entered for pure self-interest and kept alive through the ongoing degradation of other peoples, not their ideologies or practices.
Since WWII, of course, there has been no equivocation about why we fight. We fight with no regard for other races, on their soil, killing their leaders and civilians as we see fit, bombing villages to save them, hitting hospitals and weddings, utterly indifferent to the lives of anyone not white, on our side or theirs. After counting bodies backfired in Vietnam, we decided to make a policy of not even dignifying other nations’ lives with a number, attempting to will them out of existence after ending their actual lives. Whatever light hypocritical story we like to tell ourselves about how much we’re trying to help the oppressed people of X nation or Y country, it’s almost immediately exposed as a sham as we pillage the nation through exploitation and then abandon its people as soon as we can declare some sort of victory.
Think Iraq wasn’t a war of white supremacy? Imagine North Korea invading the US to overthrow Donald Trump, claiming he’d been behind someone else’s terrorist attack in Pyongyang. Then with Trump toppled and squirreled away, the North Koreans install a puppet government that’s comparably corrupt, forbid anyone who’d ever served in government from doing so again, then start losing territory to an alt-right insurgency that makes Trump look like Bernie Sanders. After years of endless bombing and death, they declare victory and leave, installing thousands of North Korean contractors to exploit every natural resource outside of alt-right control. Then the alt-right takes about a third of the country, starts instituting its policies wholesale, and starts conquering the rest of the territory. And the justification given by North Korea? North Korea is the savior. They know best what’s best for everyone. After all, they have the power to do what they want without being stopped.
Folks, it’s white supremacy. It’s white supremacy that allows you to think you know better for a country than they do and it’s your right to kill everyone who disagrees until they stop fighting back. It’s white supremacy that allows you to think you can set up the system by which the whole world will operate, all the standards and values, give yourself a 200-year head-start, and then call it “free” to have everyone “compete” on this severely tilted playing field. To say that if someone moves from one kind of poverty to another but climbs a rung in this broken game, that’s laudable progress that justifies the whole system while they continue so far ahead in wealth and success that they will never be caught. White supremacy is America’s primary export, its image for the world, its obsessive religious devotion, its mission statement. And, of course, it’s got to stop.
I condemn white supremacy, at home and abroad. It doesn’t do much for me to say it, but it’s an important step. And I acknowledge that I unwittingly and unwillingly contribute to the system in all kinds of ways. By being white, by using my privilege, by contributing to America, by not spending all of my time and energy resisting and trying to change it. I need to do more. We all do. But especially me. It’s important to say and embrace and try to act on.
But it is not enough to just look at the angry white men with torches in Charlottesville and call that out and stop there. (It’s important to start there, but not stop there.) It’s not enough to just look at the innocent Blacks being gunned down for breathing all over this nation by law enforcement, vigilantes, and other racists, call that out, and stop there. (It’s important to do this too, but not stop there.) It’s not enough to just look at the plight of Native Americans as they fight for what little rights they can on the remains of their concentration camps, call that out, and stop there. (It’s important, but not all.) It’s not enough to support immigrants, Latinos, Muslims, and every racial group who faces discrimination here. (Important, not enough.) What happens in our borders is important and is something we have a little more control over than outside of them. But what happens beyond our borders is far more destructive and deadly and is going on every single day. The longer our American war machine attempts to dominate the rest of the world through military force, the more power and backing white supremacy gets in not just the US, but the globe.
I don’t think we have to throw out America wholesale as a concept, write up a new country with a new flag and new names for everything. I am sympathetic to that perspective, I probably lean toward it at times, but I don’t think it’s necessary. But it is necessary, if we’re going to keep our concept of America, to be fully honest about what America is and symbolizes and what its history means to the world. We are not great, we have never been great, and we have a whole lot of work to do to try to be good. America is not a beacon of freedom reaching out to the arms of the world’s oppressed. It is a beacon of blinding white light, trying to drown out anything with color, whitewashing it in a bath of exploitation, destruction, and greed. Anything that America has done to benefit non-white people is coincidence, happenstance, a happy accident, not representative of America’s true goals or values.
We can change that, yes. We are probably closer to the discussions necessary to start changing that than we’ve ever been in history. But it starts with acknowledgment. Admitting you have a problem is the first step. Admitting you are a problem is the real first step.
I am sorry I haven’t done more to fight this. I will try to do better.