Even maligning white people and culture is white supremacy

Correct me if I'm wrong, I don't see people here talking about a very important kind of white supremacy.

I do see people discussing discrimination, prejudice, bias, and structural forms of racism, discrimination, and privilege, and their histories, as well as overt and coded white supremacy.

But I don't see people discussing a third kind of white supremacy. I'm not sure what name to give it. Maybe you can help me. I would call it "bourgeois" white supremacy, because it's rooted in the errors of the Enlightenment.

This is the white supremacy that basically views white traditions as "objective," "emancipated," or "self-evident." Or it views white traditions as "a Leading." In reality, white traditions are not universally valid. They are expressions of a particular tradition and culture: white culture.

White people are not objectively more beautiful, white social customs are not universally valid, white traditions are not The Truth.

Duh. Right?

Except there's a catch. The catch is that it is possible to profoundly criticize white culture and people from a perspective of bourgeois white supremacy; it is possible to confess all of our prejudice and racial sins in a way that is profoundly white supremacist. It is possible to call white people and culture the lowest of the low, the scum of the earth, in a way that claims white culture is The Truth.


In order to criticize something we need criteria. Where do those criteria come from? When those of us who are steeped in white culture criticize white culture, we are doing so using criteria that come from white culture.

In other words, there is circular reasoning here.

Any attempt by white culture to deny the circular reasoning, even by criticizing whiteness as if from an abstract, "objective observer," like an omniscient narrator, is an act of bourgeois white supremacy. It would be viewing white traditions and culture (and "criteria") as True, or self-evident.

If the circle is denied, the **very act** of criticizing white people claims that those (white) criteria are the Supreme, the Ultimate, the Good, the Beautiful, and the True. The act of criticism using white criteria is the act of white supremacy.

Even the words I'm writing come out of white traditions--this is not an alien language, it's white English. There is nothing to be ashamed of in that, and it is inescapable for some. Every act of culture--language, art, philosophy--comes from somewhere. My words come from white culture--a culture that is not Supreme.

From the way I'm understanding things these days, to overcome bourgeois white supremacy, we must admit our circular reasoning. There is nothing to be ashamed of in using white criteria to criticize white culture. But affirming the circular reasoning destroys the claim to Supremacy.

At the end of the day, the kinds of white supremacy as seen in white privilege, discrimination, structural racism, and the KKK--these all fail to live up to the ideals of white traditions and culture.

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Comment by Darrin S. on 7th mo. 19, 2016 at 7:17pm

Your point of view on those other myths is understandable considering a middle-class point of view, but that is quite condescending. Especially since the myths that underlie Quakerism are hardly a whole lot more sophisticated.

Comment by Forrest Curo on 7th mo. 19, 2016 at 8:58pm

Well, try another assumption... Those are not "myths"; they are 'ideologies' -- that is, tendiciously erroneous narratives which happen to reassure people about disproporionately benefitting from the present state of the world (while it lasts.)

A "myth" (by my use of the word) would be a story like 'Adam & Eve & That Bad Fruit', ie one that says something true & meaningful about the typical human condition.

Comment by Darrin S. on 7th mo. 19, 2016 at 9:27pm

Yes, I have already tried that assumption--that is already the reigning dogma on the left. Thanks. If you'd like to try a less condescending assumption, try exactly what you're saying: that white supremacy is a secular myth in precisely the meaning you're suggesting, and that's what makes it so powerful and so dangerous.

Comment by Darrin S. on 7th mo. 19, 2016 at 11:38pm

The other advantage to this perspective is that it is much less classist.

Comment by Darrin S. on 7th mo. 20, 2016 at 12:36am

^^Kirby, I don't mean to be rude or disrespectful, and I know everyone here has a lot to teach me or else I wouldn't bother.

When I talk about 19th century liberalism, I'm just trying to be specific about highly ambiguous words. When I talk about many people talking about white supremacy being inseparable from white culture, I am referring to the conventional wisdom down at the Quakers talking about race facebook group, among other places in the activist circles I'm part of. I hope you don't mind that I'm trying to communicate the consensus I see to you.

And I know I'm being a bit caustic in my remarks and I'm planning to tone that back. Please do forgive me. But also, we white people need to be suspicious of our own ways of thinking about race. What might seem self-evident and helpful to us often isn't. But also, we can afford to deceive ourselves--we can afford to be airy, imprecise, and weave much wishful thinking into our lives. We will never pay a price. But people of color often do not have this luxury. If I am hard on you and hard on myself it's because our society is hard on many people and it is way too easy to engage in fantasy.

Comment by Forrest Curo on 7th mo. 20, 2016 at 12:50am

It would work better if you explained the rules of your game a little more clearly.

#1) I think I've got already:

What a word means is "whatever you want to mean by it."

#2) is similar:

What someone else means is "whatever you happen to imagine they mean.

but I really don't understand what you think you're winning. I think you score points whenever you can  classify something anyone else says as _really_ meaning somthing wrong, bad, or stupid in some way? --Is that how it works?

What if we're just trying to understand and be understood? Then you're bound to win every time; but the game seems pointless to me.

Comment by Forrest Curo on 7th mo. 20, 2016 at 1:03am

There was this game we used to play late at night at Yearly Meeting...

1) Nobody would tell you what the rules were, except

2) If you broke one, anyone who knew the rule could give you another card from the deck.

3) The object was to get rid of cards ala Uno.

4) If you won a hand you could add a new rule for the duration of the game.

The game was called "Mao" for some reason.

Comment by Darrin S. on 7th mo. 20, 2016 at 1:32am

You exaggerate. You're right that I think the general dogmas about race on the left right now, even among Quaker circles, are self-serving, and do more to conceal white supremacy than combat it. Even those calling us all to give $1000 a year for these causes and put our boots on the ground for BLM etc., haven't got a clue. Don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with dogmas--those are inevitable and quite helpful. I am simply saying they are wrong.

I am a socialist in the sense that I believe the working class have the clearest perspective on modern society. I am suspicious of condescending middle-class attitudes toward the working class, such as that contemporary, dangerous, and explosive expressions of white supremacy can be so easily and condescendingly be reduced to ideology (there are certainly elements of that, but no ideology can exist without underlying myths...), as if the working class were so easily duped. As a socialist, my assumption is that the middle class is so easily duped.

And you're right that I am shifting language because the middle class language is full of distortions, particularly equating white supremacy with white superiority, that serve to scapegoat others (esp. the working class), blind us to our middle-class assimilatory and fantastical attitudes and assumptions. So yes, like all dialogue it takes time and language is helpful and a barrier of course.

I'm familiar with the attitudes you're bringing up and I'm counterposing the criterion of classism--by which I mean the assumption that we in the middle class know better than the working class--which I think is wrong. I still see you failing the criterion of classism in your thinking. I am trying to shift the conversation to one that doesn't have classism as its operating assumption, which is so common on the left.

We agree that the notion of white *superiority* is an ideology...

Comment by Darrin S. on 7th mo. 20, 2016 at 1:44am

^^Keith, I know that that statement about myths and symbols wouldn't resonate with many Quakers but then again, many Quakers could not distinguish a symbol from a slap in the face, and not because anybody is stupid but because our wider culture is so technical, practical, and literal, and works so hard to sweep its myths under the rug through constant "debunking," that whether that statement resonates with Quakers is hardly a measure of its truth in my view. Quakers have been relatively anti-theological from the beginning, for many good reasons, but it really shows.

In any case, to say a religion is founded on myths and symbols doesn't mean everyone resonates with them in the same way personally, or necessarily at all. If that were true, churches and synagogues etc. would be very small indeed. My aunt is a member of a Presbyterian church just because my grandmother is--she couldn't have any less interest in Christianity--and good for her. For some members of many religious groups, the founding symbols have little to no resonance and they are part of the community just because they like the people. To say that Quakers are in any way unique in this would be quite a conceit. In any case, all I'm saying is that the community is bound together by them, they become a common language. With that preface, we can agree that the "inner light" is not literal language, nor is this image of being led by Spirit a technical description of phenomena, right? Pretty sure linguistic analysis 101 would identify those as symbols but let me know if I'm off my rocker here. Don't even get me started on Quaker myths--they're great myths but our relationship to them leaves much to be desired.

Comment by Forrest Curo on 7th mo. 20, 2016 at 10:09am

Verily, it is written: "If you let me write the law, I can convict you of anything." [Maybe it's only written here, but it's true enough.]

Black people in the US are more shamefully treated than most other people, most of the time, in a country that abounds with intractable injustices. We in other categories get some temporary relative advantage from that; but that's not why we're willing to live with the situation. We live with Things-As-It-Is because Donald and Hillary aren't asking us what we want, and would only find ways to block that if we told them.

Playing "Purer Than Thou" doesn't change that a bit. I was once pushed (playfully) down Euclid Avenue in Berkeley by the head of the University's 'Progressive Labor' organization, a sort of birthright socialist who was actually a pretty good human being. I didn't want to play Maoist Charades with him, though, nor convert to the terminology of whatever ingroup you're in-with.

There are more categories in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in your politics.


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