“I am a white supremacist” is a phrase you have probably never heard uttered by anyone, and chances are you never will. But why? Radical leftists obsessively throw the label at large swaths of the population who don’t subscribe to the ideology. Most people shrug it off as some leftist slur and some vague reference to Nazis and racists, but the term has a real history and meaning. Whether you are on the left or the right, you need to understand the truth about white supremacy.
The terms “racism” and “white supremacy” are surprisingly young in the English language. “White” was first used in the racial sense from about 1600, and “white supremacy” was first attested from 1868.
The Discovery of Race
Left-leaning historians will tell you that the notion of race only exists among whites and that dividing the world into races is a uniquely white ideology. The truth is that the concept of race is intimately connected to global exploration. Before people discovered all the corners of the earth, they only met folk who looked like themselves, and, in most cases, they used a tribal framework to understand the world. That is, when they met someone different from themselves, they did not refer to them in racial terms but their tribal or national affiliation.
It was only when people of different races met and interacted that racial concepts evolved. One of the first major intersections was the Middle East, where people of the Levant met people from Sub-Saharan Africa. The result was a racial consciousness and the development of slavery, which has dominated this region for thousands of years. Islam picked up many of these cultural elements and shows racial awareness far earlier than Europe.
Europe started its world exploration and colonization with Christopher Columbus in 1492. Shortly after, the concept of race emerged as an abstraction of the experiences of world travel. Thus, the idea of race is not unique to Europe, but is the natural progression of discovering the racial makeup of the world. Once you have many examples of different people, you start seeing a pattern of color and use it as a rough measure for dividing the world. All traveling civilizations have done the same.
When Europeans first went to Africa, they were exposed to the flourishing slave culture in the region and partially adopted it. The success of Europe during this time and the observation that people across the world differed immensely in cultural achievements led to the smug concept of superiority and inferiority of races. Again, every traveling civilization has developed similar ideas.
Travel, not Race
An honest assessment of the European development of racial concepts and ranking based on cultural achievements does not end with the conclusion that this was a uniquely European trait, but rather the inevitable result of human nature in concert with globalization.
To accurately judge western civilization – or any other – requires a comparative approach. World discovery is a singularity, an anomaly in any culture. It usually only happens once, and it involves trial, error, and learning. Various Europeans did make mistakes and were lured by short-term gains into morally dubious behavior, but how do they stack up in comparison to others?
Christian European nations, the British in particular, decided that slavery was an intolerable evil that needed to not only be purged from their own regions, but also from the rest of the world. As part of this process, the Christians noted that all people are created equal in the eyes of God and that there could be no room for a racial hierarchy.
This stands in contrast to most cultures, civilizations, and tribes around the world that think in starkly tribal and racial terms – and demonstrate a preference for domination and annihilation.
Indeed, Mahatma Gandhi decided to become a pacifist precisely because he knew his adversary was the Christian British. Had he tried this tactic against any other colonial power, he and his supporters would have been killed and publicly displayed to install fear in the people to be subjugated.
The culture of racial superiority used to excuse slavery was a short-lived trauma that was amputated from the West.
Thus, compared to the rest of the world, Europeans have tackled their discovery of other races quite well.
As long as the uniquely Christian concept of universal humanity dominates our culture – and it still does – the idea of white supremacy is fundamentally alien to most people of the West. The left has adopted the strange perspective that slavery and racial superiority was a uniquely white vice when the opposite is the case. The culture of racial superiority used to excuse slavery was a short-lived trauma that was amputated from the West. The memory of mainstream white supremacy lives on like a phantom limb: Leftists feel it even though it is largely no longer present.
Instead, they confuse the desire to remain a sovereign nation governed by Western values with the urge to subjugate other races. The phantom limb of white supremacy that plagues the left can only be healed by reaching back into the past, fully understanding it, and unclenching the painful memory by reassessing it in a mature and measured manner.