Definition: White Supremacy

Context: I’m trying to get reasonably clear definitions of all the terms I either use or have heard lately, so I’m going to start collecting definitions here. These definition posts will be edited as I learn or think more.

My working definition:

I don’t have one yet. 🙂 If you made me write out a working definition on the spot, I think I would say “the belief, and any actions and words and policies that come from that belief, that white people and their ideas and culture are better and more important than all others.” But I bet that’s super incomplete.

Definition from Brandi Miller:

In the introduction the episode “…From White Supremacy: What is White Theology? w/Scott Hall” on Brandi Miller’s “Reclaiming My Theology” podcast, she describes it:

White supremacy and the culture it creates is the idea that white people, and the ideas, thoughts, actions, and beliefs of white people, are superior to that of people of color.

White supremacy is white people saying, whether in word or deed, that the questions they ask, the things they are interested in, and the values that they center are the only ones that matter.

In theology, it means that white values, and views of God, are seen as truth or central, and that other people’s theologies are seen as optional or elective at best, and at worst they’re seen as heretical. It places whiteness as close to Godliness and at the center of the world.

White supremacy culture presupposes that white theology is a neutral and infallible lens with which to view the Scriptures. White supremacy in theology happens when you have the equation of highly contextualized theology–in this case, white theology–plus the power to enforce it personally, culturally, and systemically, particularly in our case in the church and in public life.

Later, she characterizes it such:

[White supremacy in theology] some times comes through the front door, with, you know, a swastika, a burning cross or whatever. But, more often than that, it’s people saying, whether in word or deed, that the questions they ask, the things they care about, the values that they hold, are the things that matter, are interesting, and that systems need to orient themselves around. That white supremacy elevates values like individualism, the right to comfort, defensiveness, competition, hierarchy, and says, “Oh, those aren’t just a part of white culture, they’re a part of theology, too.”

I expect to add later definitions here as I discover them. I know for sure I’ll discover more definitions both in the remainder of this podcast episode with Scott as I listen to it in fits and spurts, and also later as I dig into Cone and other authors talking about Black Liberation Theology.

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