The White Supremacy Within


On Sunday, after the wake of the horrific display, violence, and terrorism of white supremacy in Charlottesville, the Collective Against White Supremacy in Ann Arbor released a statement that I’d like to share here as well. It is a reminder that white supremacy pervades through much of our collective American life. And it is important to remember that it is internalized within us. Anti-racist work is a lifetime effort of internal reflection and external action.

Statement from CAWS

Yesterday, hundreds of white supremacists gathered in Charlottesville wielding torches and nazi salutes and at the end of the day, one of their members drove his car into the crowd of Black Lives Matter activists and antifa, injuring many and killing a young member of the IWW, Heather Heyer. Today, folks across the United States and the world are saying “This is Not Us” and declaring the events Un-American.

We, the Collective Against White Supremacy (CAWS), a predominantly white group, denounce all forms of white supremacy and refute any claim that white supremacy is “not us.” We denounce not just the proud declarations of white superiority and dominance represented in Charlottesville yesterday, but the entire spectrum and multitude of white supremacy, from systematic oppression of Black folks through law and order, to classrooms that teach alternative histories in which Black folks and Native folks are only oppressed and never their own liberators, to white families sitting at dinner tables letting “casually racist” speech slide. We say that what happened in Charlottesville IS US. The foundations of social life and civil society in this country are racist. We, white organizers and white community members, contain multitudes of implicit and explicit racism through every day of our lives because it is how we were taught, how we were raised–it is in our good intentions, our yard signs, and our anti-racist rallies. To deny this is to challenge only the racism that is not within ourselves, allowing our own complicity to continue.

In Ann Arbor, white supremacy is the Alt-Right and Identity Evropa flyering on U-M’s campus. It is also Ann Arbor Police Department’s murder of Aura Rosser, a Black woman in crisis. White supremacy exists in historical gentrification all but demolishing the Black community in Ann arbor; in affordable housing budgets dependent on approval of funding of profitable downtown development projects; in the surveillance of housing insecure folks throughout public spaces in the city; and in the destruction of tent communities. White supremacy exists in the construction of pipelines over local lands and lakes, and in Ann Arbor activism declaring this “our land,” erasing Michigan’s Native populations, among the largest in the United States, and a long history of genocide and dispossession. White supremacy is in Ann Arbor City Council not approving a Citizens Oversight Board for Ann Arbor Police Department, it is in I.C.E. eating breakfast and then raiding Sava’s restaurant this spring, in I.C.E deporting Lourdes Salazar and Jose Luis Sanchez-Ronquillo this month, and I.C.E. consistently harassing mobile home communities. White supremacy is in U-M students of color being called racist for asking for a space to organize against white supremacy without being silenced by white people White supremacy is in the daily criminalization and targeting of youth of color by the police, then in inhumane sentencing and incarceration in our Juvenile Youth Center and Adult County Jail.

This is white supremacy under the guise of a wealthy white liberalism. This is white supremacy in our white people’s name. White supremacy lives within us, in our internalized racial superiority that manifests in the maintenance of a white supremacist system.

Let us be reminded of a long history of Black struggle with these words by Martin Luther King, Jr. from Birmingham, “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” (Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963.)

We do not call for unity as that is asking for the status quo — we call for agitation and justice. This looks like:
— active life-long engagement from our fellow white folks committing to a LIFE of anti-racism.
— reparations (i.e. donate to Black-led organizations like BLM, to start)
— breaking white silence – talk to your white family and friends today, right now.
— educating yourself – sign up for an Undoing Racism workshop or organize a local reading group alongside folks who have been doing anti-racist work
— joining and/or showing solidarity with anti-fascist and anti-racist actions employing a variety of tactics aimed at dismantling white supremacy

What happened in Charlottesville is also “us,” in the sense that though we may have a lifetime of work to do to change the ecology of white supremacy in our social lives and our institutions, there will always be folks who stand in solidarity against the KKK, nazis, and the murder of Black and brown people in the name of law and order. Like the people of Charlottesville who faced armed white supremacists of many uniforms, who were doused with chemical weapons, struck with blunt objects, and charged with vehicles–we will look white supremacy in the eye, stand our ground, and state without hesitation that This is Us and we will root it out of ourselves with every ethical tactic that leads toward liberation.

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