The term “white supremacy” has resurfaced in our national conversations over the past few years. For many, what comes to mind when they hear the term are black and white images of Klu Kux Klan members in the Jim Crow era South or more recently, torch and Confederate flag bearing men descending upon the University of Virginia campus in the summer of 2017. In heated debates, the term white supremacist is hurled as an insult or at least, as a provocation.
In his book How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi clarifies that the term “racist” is not an insult nor is it a slur. Rather, he writes, “it is descriptive, and the only way to undo racism is to constantly identify and describe it – and then dismantle it.” The same can be said for the term “white supremacist”: it is not an insult nor a slur, it is descriptive. In his article in The Atlantic, Vann R. Newkirk II argues for a return to the narrow and specific definition of white supremacy as developed by critical race theorists in the past 30 years. So, what does white supremacy really mean?
According to critical race theorist Frances Lee Ansley:
“By ‘white supremacy’ I do not mean to allude only to the self-conscious racism of white supremacist hate groups. I refer instead to a political, economic and cultural system in which whites overwhelmingly control power and material resources, conscious and unconscious ideas of white superiority and entitlement are widespread, and relations of white dominance and non-white subordination are daily reenacted across a broad array of institutions and social settings.”
In other words, white supremacy is the idea that Whites are superior to non-Whites. That idea has shaped and is sustained by our culture and institutions. White privilege is a daily manifestation of the white supremist ideology. When we know how to define white supremacy, we can identify, describe, and then dismantle it.
Discernment Series: Racial Justice offers an opportunity for education and theological reflection to discern ways we can work for racial justice in our daily lives through the framework of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Twice a week, starting the week of the Baptism of the Lord and ending in Pentecost, participants will receive a newsletter. The first will define terms necessary to engage in dialogues about racial equity and offer insight and examples of how racism is present in individual, structural, and cultural ways. The second newsletter will contain meditations and prayer reflections to open our hearts to see the world as God sees and call us to live out the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Discernment Series: Racial Justice is for those who are ready and willing to engage in discerning how one can work for racial justice through faith and reason.
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