What is the Opposite of White Supremacy?

What is the Opposite of White Supremacy?

Can you imagine a world without it?

I woke up yesterday hoping the murder of ten people in Buffalo had been just a bad dream. It wasn’t. The heartache and anger I’d escaped when I went to sleep returned with a vengeance. But I had a morning meeting, and there wasn’t time to sit with those feelings. I had only a few minutes while I ate a quick breakfast to scroll through the stories posted by Medium writers I follow. This one, written by Rebecca Stevens A., stayed with me: “In Buffalo, White Supremacy Ended Black Lives Yet Again”

During the half-hour drive to my meeting, I thought about what would be required to rid our world of the blight of white supremacy. What would counteract it? If you want to banish darkness, you use its opposite. You find a source of light. If you want to be rid of noise, you find a way to create its opposite, silence.

But what is the opposite of white supremacy? Is it Black supremacy? Or white inferiority?

When I got home from my meeting, I went to Word Hippo, my favorite writer’s tool. I picked out five definitions of supremacy, then looked at the antonyms for each. Many words showed up repeatedly, so I’m listing here only those unique to a particular definition.

1. Supremacy: the state or condition of being superior to all others in authority, power, or status. Antonyms: inferiority, subordination, subservience, weakness, powerlessness, impotence, surrender, submission, incapacity, subjugation, vulnerability, frailty, failure.
2. Supremacy: A position of superiority or dominance. Antonyms: servility, servitude, enslavement, bondage, slavery.
3. Supremacy: the state or fact of having the power or authority to effect change. Antonyms: helplessness, hopelessness, incapacitation, incompetence, uselessness, infirmity, deficiency, lack of influence.
4. Supremacy: the quality of having a high personal standing or status. Antonyms: insignificance, irrelevance, worthlessness, lowliness, disrespect, obscurity.
5. Supremacy: an extended period of success. Antonyms: downfall, collapse, decline, descent, crash, demise, deterioration, comedown, degeneration.

Demise. Powerlessness. Subjugation. These are the things white supremacists are afraid of. Over the decades that I’ve been engaged in racial justice and healing work, I’ve had many occasions to ask white people (who would never think of themselves as racists) what they’re afraid of. They told me without blinking an eye. They’re afraid that if Black people gain enough power, they will do to us what we’ve done to them. This is what we’re up against.

Our culture embraces, and often demands, dichotomous thinking. It’s either one extreme or the other. If we’re not on top, that must mean that someone else is on top and we’re on the bottom.

If we don’t have white supremacy, then we necessarily have Black domination and white hopelessness, weakness, subjugation. I believe it’s this fear that drives people to unspeakable acts of racial violence.

But what if the opposite of white supremacy is justice? Or the recognition of our oneness as human beings?

. . .

My meeting yesterday was the first gathering of the newly-elected Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Douglas County, Georgia. We were three Black men, one Black woman, three white women, and one white man. Some of us were meeting for the first time.

Most of us are elders. We are artists, writers, and musicians. We are handymen, small-business owners, teachers, trainers, a cloud architect, a senior programmer, and a real estate agent. Some of us are unemployed, self-employed, under-employed, or retired.

This young administrative body is tasked with guiding the affairs of the Bahá’ís in our county, just outside Atlanta. In the future, these Assemblies will be called Local Houses of Justice. When our members gather with other Bahá’ís in our area, usually Black women are in the majority.

There was so much love in that living room yesterday, so much honesty and vulnerability and power. My painful feelings didn’t go away; they were embraced, shared, and focused.

Our little group is going to face challenges as we work together to bring healing to our communities. We don’t have all the answers and we are far from being perfect. But we are guided by our unshakable belief in the oneness of humankind, and that gives us an advantage.

White supremacy is a belief — an emotional commitment to a lie, an idea that has been encoded into our institutions and imprinted on our collective psyche. What would it look like if it were replaced by a belief in the oneness of humankind? What would it look like if all our institutions were built on a foundation of justice?

Do you believe it’s possible? If you don’t, you won’t be able to sustain the effort required to do the work.

Can you envision it? If you can’t see it, then you can’t help create it.

Beliefs can’t do their work without agents. On Saturday we saw, once again, a human being acting as an agent of white supremacy. His actions were powered by hate and fear.

Let us respond by rising up as agents of justice, powered by the recognition of our oneness.

2 Comments
  • Bill Wood
    Posted at 11:23h, 01 August Reply

    This is an insightful discussion to have. I’ve often heard that the opposite of love isn’t hate, it is apathy. Hate is the other side of the coin of love. It is still a strong emotion. Apathy is the lack of emotion. It seems that it depends on what it is you are measuring and how you measure it that determines the opposite. It seems to me that white supremacy and the opposites of both of those two words are two sides of the same coin of injustice, and the opposite of them is justice, as you point out. Thanks for the prompt to think more deeply about the solution to the hatred and fear we see every day in the news.

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