What Is White Supremacy?
Supremacy refers to a belief system that categorises humans into groups according to a constructed characteristic and then allocates more value to people according to which group it deems them to belong to.
We can see this at work in thin supremacy. It’s a mind set that separates people into the groups Fat and Thin and then accords value to thin people.
White supremacy separates people into white and non-white and values whiteness. A word on language, ‘non-white’ makes whiteness a default, so it makes sense to use terms like Black or BIPOC as descriptors when possible.
White supremacy is an over-arching supremacist mind-set. In others words, undoing white supremacy would undo all other axes of oppression. Occasionally it is useful to name these other axis, as in thin and straight supremacy, while not losing touch with the over-arching choreography of white supremacy as the deepest root of the problem.
Activists Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun listed the hallmarks of white supremacy. I found this hugely helpful for naming what was going on at a deep level that got in the way of right relationship and liberation. It has been especially useful for identifying issues when there’s no overt signs of oppression.
- Were there any surprises?
- Any aha moments?
- Is there anything that doesn’t add up for you?
- Would you add anything to the list?
We’ll discuss this list of hallmarks in the zoom session.
The ubiquity, and hazardous impact, of white supremacist thinking (WST) means that in order to effectively promote health-justice we need to learn to recognise WST.
I have found a useful question to be ‘how does this embed, support, undo, replace, embolden, or trouble white supremacy?’
And more simply “what’s left here if we remove white supremacy?”
People working in the public health system, clinical care and therapy services are enjoined to deliver evidence-based practice.
Using the Hallmarks list, have a think about how the drive for evidence-based practice might embed, support, undo, replace, embolden, or trouble white supremacy? We’ll discuss this in the zoom session.
Responding to White Supremacy As A Public Health Issue
Can you list some (say 1-5) specific actions you could take to undo white supremacy and generate change in your own practice, your knowledge community, or your workplace?
This could mean directly addressing racism andor working to replace the deep roots of white supremacy named in the Hallmarks.
These ideas from public health officials might be helpful:
An Open Letter advocating for an anti-racist public health response to demonstrations against systemic injustice occurring during the COVID-19 pandemic
Seven things organisations should be doing to combat racism.
It would be great to discuss these in the zoom.
Responding As Racialized Bodies
This activity builds on earlier activities where I encouraged you to sit with body responses. It connects to The Politics of Trauma book too.
My Grandmother’s Hands is a book by Resmaa Menakem. His thesis is that racism live in the body, and lives differently in Black and white bodied people and in law enforcers. It’s an excellent step by step outline for change that starts with our bodies.
What do you think of this as a route to improve health justice and change the public health system where you are?
Experimenting with (Re)Connection
What staple food/s do you eat?
Do you know if these are native or imported? How does the food you eat differ from original? Are there any rituals or celebrations connected with the foods?
Creating a Sense of Spaciousness
There’s no level of acceptance, comfort, or understanding you ‘should’ be at with any of this.
That’s not the same as absolving ourselves of accountability: it’s about removing judgement.
Dropping the ‘should’ and blame frees us to examine our position. We are more able to become aware of any unconscious thoughts or habits that diverge from our values. Non-judgement promotes accountability and enables change.
What’s important is that you can be present with ideas and feelings.
If you can get some downtime (see helpful cat image) or time in the wild that’s great.
See you soon ~