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The White Supremacist Effect: How Underprivileged Whites are Conditioned to Believe That They’re Superior to Blacks

white lynch mobsBy Shelby Jefferson

At the conclusion of the historic voting rights marches in Selma, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “How Long, Not Long” speech from the steps of the Alabama State Capitol. During the address, King analyzed the systemic origins of the racial divide existing between poor whites and Blacks in the American south.

“If it may be said of the slavery era that the white man took the world and gave the Negro Jesus, then it may be said of the Reconstruction era that the southern aristocracy took the world and gave the poor white man Jim Crow,” he declared. “And when his wrinkled stomach cried out for the food that his empty pockets could not provide, he ate Jim Crow, a psychological bird that told him that no matter how bad off he was, at least he was a white man, better than the Black man. And he ate Jim Crow. And when his undernourished children cried out for the necessities that his low wages could not provide, he showed them the Jim Crow signs on the buses and in the stores, on the streets and in the public buildings. And his children, too, learned to feed upon Jim Crow, their last outpost of psychological oblivion.”

These words, delivered in the midst of peaking racial violence and a massive quest towards desegregation, ring ever true today as Jim Crow’s descendants spring forward to carry on a haunting southern legacy. These words sustain in the wake of last week’s massacre at the historic Emanuel A.M.E Church, where a self-professed white supremacist gunned down nine Black parishioners as they attended a Bible study session in Charleston, S.C. These words linger as details emerge about the 21-year-old shooter, Dylann Roof, a racist zealot who harbored such intense hatred for African Americans that he commenced upon waging a “race war” against those who, in his words, “rape our women” and “take over our country.” For that, he told his victims, “you have to go.”

Anyone with an ounce of common sense will acknowledge that Roof’s deeply ingrained delusions, drenched in the falsehoods of white supremacy and an afflicted legacy of racial southern pride, fall within a wider historical context profoundly embedded within the fabric of the American social structure. The shooter’s very assertion that “our” white heteropatriarchal nation and its foundational principles stand breached by the prospect of African American progress, reflect age old ideologies surrounding the dynamics of race—in this case, most explicitly relating to the era following Emancipation and the epoch known as Jim Crow.

During Reconstruction, many poor whites, stifled by the residuals of a former plantation economy, found themselves excluded by wealthy elites also dwelling in the southern states. Intent on keeping Blacks at the bottom of the hierarchal ladder, while also ensuring that a clear separation existed between the lowest entities in the south, rich whites brainwashed their poor, uneducated, disenfranchised brethren into believing that they were naturally superior to even the most distinguished Black citizens. In return, these poor whites, convinced that a newly liberated people would steal their land, take their jobs and rape their women, launched a violent lynch fest across the southern terrain in an effort to stifle social, political and economic progress, while also protecting the sanctity of white womanhood presumably endangered by emancipated Black male bodies.

Continuing in this legacy throughout the 50s and 60s, their minions emerged from the back woods of the American south to resist desegregation, toting the Confederate flag as a badge of honor, forming White Citizens Councils and committing sadistic and often murderous acts of violence to neutralize the Civil Rights Movement. In the end, these predecessors laid the foundation for the advent of a new millennial terrorist like Dylann Roof, a feeble coward who feared that an evolving America would strip him of the only significant quality he possessed—the virtue of whiteness.

In a sense, these historical points placed against the backdrop of the Charleston shooting may perhaps bring into perspective a very American problem personified through a racist extremist like Dylann Roof. Primarily, while this gunman views himself as an intrinsically supreme being, one look at his unsophisticated, disheveled appearance suggests that in the presence of many modern elites, Roof would be diminished to the rankings of lower social status—very much like his predecessors.

Pair that with the fact that he’s a perpetually unemployed, ninth grade dropout with a criminal background that includes drug possession, and there you have it—an uneducated, unemployed, criminal drug addict who, along the way, was somehow conditioned to believe that he was superior to all African Americans, including a renowned United States Senator and eight other citizens who led productive lives geared towards bettering our society.

Furthermore, in that vein, by analyzing Roof’s deep-seated hatred, we must also acknowledge the fact that these influences aren’t solely rooted in the past.

We must also recognize the right wing media analysts who continuously propagate notions of a “browning” America and its subsequent threat to white culture, white history and white people. We must call out politicians, news anchors and everyday citizens who live in their privileged bubbles, ignoring the dark realities of racial strife still existing here in America because, as they always say , we now live in a “colorblind, post-racial” society. We must identify the dangers in denying the racial motives behind the Charleston attack, because as Conservative presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee recently stated, “God ended racism a long time ago.”

In the end, for anyone questioning the existence of modern American racism, the Charleston shooting should stand as the ultimate reflection of how bigotry and racial hatred remain profusely embedded in our nation’s DNA. There’s no denying that the indoctrination of white supremacy has endured well beyond Emancipation and Jim Crow. In fact, it persistently manifests itself as right wing pundits and politicians continue to plant, water and nurture seeds of hatred deeply internalized by those disillusioned by change in the age of Obama.

Ultimately, the all-American tale of Dylann Roof indisputably validates that racism and white supremacy are very much alive in 2015—whether our “colorblind” society chooses to accept it or not.

Shelby Jefferson is a blossoming journalist, and currently works as a staff reporter for a Michigan based community newspaper. As a radical intellectual, writer, poet and pop culture junkie, she frequently uses her articles to analyze and present a broad spectrum of themes including race and representation in television/music/film/media, contemporary arts and culture, race and gender identity in sports and social justice issues in the United States. She can be reached at [email protected]

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19 thoughts on “The White Supremacist Effect: How Underprivileged Whites are Conditioned to Believe That They’re Superior to Blacks

  1. He was a State of South Carolina Senator not a United States Senator.

  2. yeah, and so what! That's not the point!

  3. Joel made a point for accuracy, I assume because the actual life of the senator/pastor matters. It would matter to the family, friends, co-workers, constituents and people who loved him that he was a senator for the State of South Carolina, specifically. Because he was an individual with a specific life and specific circle of people. Why react like its an offense to clarify who the man actually was, so we can honor and mourn the actual person? Its not an offense to say he was not a US Senator, he was a state senator for South Carolina. It would be different if Joel had said he was "just a senator for some state"which is not what he said.

  4. Well, I made it through the first three paragraphs before the bullshit stacked too high. If you want me to read the rest, you have to give me a cookie.

  5. Bill Nyberg says:

    People fear nothing more than change The.diminishing White majority is frightened that the "Coloreds" will transform the power structure, most specifically the political supremacy of the white power elite. This change is going to happen and "traditional" Amerika will fight this in ANY way.

  6. Quality education for all youth is one of the methods to help eradicate foolish notions of fear, superiority and separation. Better to build pride, motivation, cooperation, understanding and the ability to succeed. Good article. Thank you.

  7. "If you can convince the lowest white man that he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll even empty his pockets for you." –Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964.

  8. A great insightful article.

  9. @David A. Carlson, you should have kept reading. You might have learned something new about this country from another perspective, which hadn't been whitewashed. IJS until we are able to talk to one another we will never understand one another. So being closed minded does not help you or us over the long term.

  10. MarkyMark NdaHouse I guess it's difficult for me, a white person (as well as Hispanic and Native American) to read another "Why White People Are Racist" article.

  11. Donna Thorne says:

    The writer of this article is more racist than the most "conditioned privileged/underprivileged white" person in the history if white people. #Tired of the victim roles spewed by the likes of Al Sharpton & his minions.

  12. You're the biggest racist. Do not twist the TRUTH around. You know that what she said is true. Blacks are the minoroty and whites are still the majority. Only the DOMINANT race cn be racist. Blacks aren't racist for fighting back. Before you call me a "wannabe" for sticking up for blacks. You need to read about my people, the Sicilians, who have African blood in our DNA. Get educated!

  13. Tony Triche says:

    The fact you're a LCSW scares the shit out of me. What type of mental pollution are you putting in your client's heads??

  14. During the passage to Amerikkka, black people were used as bed warmers. Raped by the captain and the crew. 460 years of pure hell. You fathers worked black people till their flesh fell off their bones. You may say, I didn't do that. That was done by my ancestors. You benefitted from free employment. Reparations of land and loans to start our own nation would be away to help build up a people you tore down. All black people should rid themselves of the slave owners last name. And for those who want complete separation, a good send off to another country. Many black people want to leave. Mexicans are leaving in droves.

  15. N Cory Gable says:

    So when young black men father multiple illegitimate kids with multiple women with no means of supporting them and murder one another at epidemic rates , thats my fault ? Sorry but I feel no responsibility and carry not one shred of guilt. Start behaving and then maybe we can all move forward.

  16. N Cory Gable says:

    try only having children with one person and not expecting the government to provide your housing food and medical care and maybe somebody will listen. Oh and stop murdering each other too. Ok thanks a bunch honey, Merry Kwaanza or whatever

  17. N Cory Gable says:

    David A. Carlson Nah, this one about covered all the usual bases. Dont waste any more time on this drivel.

  18. As so many comments illustrate, the author and so many people of color have to endure metaracism. The metaracist comments charging reverse racism (ex. "The writer of this article is more racist than the most "conditioned privileged/underprivileged white" person in the history of white people") and stereotypical demonizing (ex. "young black men father multiple illegitimate kids with multiple women with no means of supporting them and murder one another at epidemic rates") are, in themselves, means of denial and disconfirmation. One can read and understand this in the book Metaracism: Explaining the Persistance of Racial Inequality by Carter A. Wilson. The authors of these attacks feebly attempt to rationalize the status quo of white supremacy by ignoring structural racism and villifying cultural stereotypes in coded language.

  19. Excellent analysis of the non-wealthy rightwingwhites who comprise the base of the Republican Party and Trumpf's most r a b i d followers.

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