Can White Supremacy Be Taken Down?

01/19/2017 10:34 am ET Updated Feb 02, 2017

As the country moves closer to the incoming president, many people, disturbed over the rhetoric spewed during the campaign, are worried that white supremacy is getting a second wind. White supremacists have been angry for some time; historian Rick Perlstein says that America is “fractured,” a process that if not begun by Richard Nixon, was certainly helped along. Rev. William Barber II, the leader of the Moral Monday movement, says that this country is in the midst of a “Third Reconstruction,” a time where, in response to the gains made not just by black people but by women, members of the LGBTQ community, Hispanics and Muslims …there is a backlash, or, as Van Jones says, a “whitelash.”

At the heart of all the rancor we saw during the campaign is the “angry white man,” some would say, but they are not all of those who are disturbed. Plenty of white, educated women voted for the new president, citing their desire for change. The deep dislike many have for Hillary Clinton played a major part in her defeat, and there was a fair amount of sexism as well. Some men just did not and do not believe that a woman has the strength to lead the free world.

But white supremacy underlies so much of what happened in this country and what happens in this country generally. Many white people voted for President Obama, but an estimated 57 percent did not. They were appalled that a black man would be in the White House; they believed and still believe that black people are inferior to whites, and that black people are the bad seeds of not only America but of the world, and those beliefs drive much of what happens here.

Too many people expected that the election of Barack Obama would solve America’s race problem, but it only made things worse – not, as some white people are saying, because everything he did was racist. There is no way that is true…but because his election tapped into the deep-seated racial hatred that is part of America’s core.

People who were at rallies after President Obama was elected – I mean, white people who were there – report that the protest of his presidency was because of his race. The signs, the rhetoric, people say who were at early Tea Party rallies – pointed to and supported the racial hatred that white supremacy has incubated since Africans were brought to this country.

I mentioned to a friend of mine that it felt like white supremacy, with the election of this president, is getting a second wind. There is no need to hide racial animosity; there is no need to be “polite” to people who are different; there is no need to be “politically correct” when dealing with non-white people, not with this administration. Fractured America is trying to walk again in its fractured state, and it is having a profound effect.

But my friend stopped me and said, “No. What we’re seeing is the death spasms of white supremacy. White supremacy is going down.”

He was a white man. He is an educated white man, and yet what he said sounded preposterous to me. As I mused over what he said, however, I wondered, can white supremacy be taken down? And if it were to be taken down, what would take its place?

A certitude about life is that oppression of one people over another exists. It has always existed and always will. The capacity of humans to marginalize, demonized, objectify and criminalize others is a part of life, the presence of God notwithstanding. God, it seems, yearns for the beloved community, but not even God can make people embrace and practice a love that is inclusive of all people. There is racism, yes, but there is imperialism which demonizes and objectifies people as one nation works to gain control over another. There is sexism – everywhere. The “isms” are as much a part of life as is the air we breathe.

White supremacy and its child racism have been a part of life for so long, stemming, some say, from the rise of the Roman Empire, which taught people – including Christians – how to dominate over others and exclude people from power and position. White supremacy is one of the world’s oldest cancers, and it has never been treated. It has spread so thoroughly that the world’s people, not just America’s people – are affected.

Can such an expansive, metastatic disease be stopped? Can it continue to grow, unabated, killing the spirits of people who are not white as it goes along? Are we seeing death spasms of white supremacy, or are we seeing a disease in remission?

Power is seductive; white supremacy has had power for a long, long time and is not about to give it up. So, is what we are seeing a reason for hope that white supremacy is on its way out or hope that white supremacy is making a comeback (not that it ever left.)

And if white supremacy is now fighting for its survival, if it is on its way to being diminished…what will replace it? Something just as toxic will take its place – because humans seem intent on oppressing each other. So, if it’s not white people oppressing people of color, if white supremacy dies out, is taken down, will a “colored” race gain control and do to the world what white supremacy has been doing for eons?

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