The purpose of this piece is to provide some basic examples of how this oppressive system institutionalizes itself. And, the examples provided here are things all of us see and experience daily.
As previously mentioned, one example is how most defenders of capitalism/white supremacy will tell you that this is the land of opportunity for anyone who believes correctly in the God of white supremacy and the institutions that uphold this system. The contradiction is even while telling you this with a straight face, those same people would never agree to change places with the experiences of colonized people. Take for instance the situation that occurred in a small Midwest U.S. community a few short years ago. A school board there decided that they wanted to honor the humanist works of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by renaming the town’s high school after Dr. King (the school was named after some colonizing Indigenous people murderer). The townspeople, citing concerns for the impact on their children’s future, came out by the mass to oppose the name change. The reasons they stated in front of the board meeting was that they were (of course) not racist at all. Instead, their point was they had concerns about how colleges and universities would view their children because schools named after Dr. King typically exist in the inner cities. And, due to this reality, these people expressed publicly with straight faces that they didn’t want their children stereotyped and stigmatized as inferior students due to this. The stark paradox here is that these European (white) parents, many of whom would instantly deny that white supremacy is an obstacle for colonized peoples, failed to see the obvious disconnect. The concerns they have for their youth are the concerns African and Indigenous communities are faced with every day of our existence. As amazing as it is, these people would deny the challenges we face from systemic white supremacy while at the same time using our arguments against white supremacy to justify raising hell against perceived challenges they may or may not encounter.
Another basic example is the often heard statement from many Europeans that being white offers them absolutely no advantages over anyone else in this society. These people are always so quick to point to houseless Europeans and other white people who suffer under capitalism as evidence of this claim. Meanwhile, there are few Africans who have not experienced a European houseless person who confronts them on the street in hostile ways, immediately invoking the n word in these encounters. This happened to me just the other day (its happened numerous times over the years). In the most recent instance, a European person walked by while I was talking to another African. This person stopped, turned around towards me, and shouted “shut up n _ _ _ _ r!” There was no question this person was in dire straights so there was absolutely no reason for me to respond or take offense. That person didn’t know me from Eve or Adam so their outburst had absolutely nothing to do with me. Their outrage is without question a reflection of their anger at the oppression they face from the capitalist system. Of course, they lack the ability to express that anger to the perpetuators of the oppression so instead, they take it out on whomever they perceive they can talk to that way. That last part is significant because this person, based on several of the behaviors they exhibited, was clearly suffering from some form of mental illness. Despite suffering from this as well as being impoverished and existing on the streets, this person still has enough of a comprehensive understanding of the hierarchy of white supremacy that they knew they could attempt to pull the only weapon available to them in their current reality – white supremacy – to attempt to level an insult towards me. Of course, the insult doesn’t stick with me because I’m a proud African. And, being such permits me to grow in love and respect for myself and my people which consequently builds love and respect for all of humanity. Yet, we still must not miss the fact that even those struggling to grasp reality with nothing to cling to still understand that they have white supremacy to attempt to elevate themselves over us.
The above example of the houseless person has been experienced by millions of Africans so its not a one off. What it does show us is that everyone in this society has been programmed with the belief that European people are superior and that all of us walk around everyday with that understanding and the subsequent life practices that affirm that understanding.
Neither of these examples are things that we ever talk about. None of these things are issues we are even consciously aware of. And, that’s the strength of white supremacy. It can and does operate systemically every day, all day, among us, in ways we activate in remote control fashion, unaware that we are even doing it for the most part. The same applies for patriarchal and homophobic practices. And, this is what makes calling out these dysfunctional behaviors so difficult because most people are not the slightest bit aware of what they do everyday to manifest these behaviors and perpetuate these systems of oppression. Not only that, but most people aware of these practices find it difficult to articulate how the behaviors are manifested because of the stealthy way these practices are institutionalized.
Probably the largest obstacle in creating greater consciousness around this is due to the fact most people here see the world through a bourgeoisie individualist perspective. What capitalism has done is make intellectualism a negative concept. Under this backward environment, most people see individual subjective opinions as more valid and valuable than concerted research and analysis of problems and solutions. As a result, people are used to evaluating phenomenon based on primarily an emotionally driven basis and not scientific and historical analysis. Built within this reality is the elevation of individualist perspectives over collective and historical interpretations. For example, I recently wrote an article about this confusion surrounding the petti bourgeoisie political actions of entertainer Ice Cube. Someone, a misinformed African, criticized the article without – clearly – reading it. To illustrate the boldness of this bourgeoisie reality, he didn’t even pretend to read it. Instead, he defended himself saying he didn’t need to read something to understand it. Then he went into a tirade about how smart he is and how he understands things most people don’t – a classic example of bourgeoisie individualism. This is the type of confusion that comes to dominate when idealism is permitted to overshadow serious study and analysis. The solution – yes you guessed it – is as many of us as possible, articulating in an organized fashion, that intellectualism, specifically that which is tied to the liberation of the masses of people on earth – is not only positive, but is the sole purpose of information. That we are collective beings and information is the property of the masses of humanity, not individuals. And, all of this is for the collective progress of humanity, not individual financial profit. This is the approach that will be required to lift the invisible shield protecting white supremacy, patriarchy, homophobia, and all the anti-human tactics of this backward capitalist system. Those of us serious about engaging this fight towards victory have no choice except to accept this reality, join organizations, and get as many people as possible to participate in revolutionary and organized political education processes within our organizations. It is becoming painfully obvious that anyone who isn’t doing this work is wittingly or unwittingly contributing to the further survival of all systems of oppression that continue to wreck havoc on all of humanity.