Recently, Yusra Khogali, the leader of the Toronto branch of Black Lives Matter, has come under scrutiny for her declaration that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is a “white
supremacist terrorist”. This statement has ruffled some feathers. The response has ranged from vitriol to outright confusion, because how could someone with hair as luscious as Trudeau’s be a white supremacist? Just as opinions regarding people of colour are informed by their caricatures on media, so too is their conception of white supremacy.
It is not the duty of the marginalized to devote their time to explaining how racism works to us white folks, rather, this is a conversation that we need to have within our own communities. The way that white supremacy is conceptualized is in the framework of tribes, where we look at Ku Klux Clan members as backwards racist people that only exist on the fringes of societies. This validates modern people, and allows us to say “that’s not us, we interact with people of colour on a day to day basis. We aren’t racist”.
We then pat ourselves on the backs, and move on with a greater sense of self. However, the idea of white supremacy is not a set of beliefs held by the cavemen of our time, but rather a set of practices that are practiced at an institutional level. Scholars much smarter than myself, like Sharon Martinas, have broken down white supremacy as such: “White supremacy is a historically based institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations and peoples of color by White peoples and nations of the European continent; for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power, and privilege.”
By delegating white supremacy to the fringes of white society, we are able to absolve the practice of white supremacy from the mainstream in our government and our everyday lives. Now you may be reading this and think “well, you’re wrong because I’m poor; if this was true, then I would be living the high life.”
To begin with, it sucks that you or people that you love and happen to be white are not secure and safe. However, your socioeconomic status doesn’t disprove white supremacy. A major policy of the institution of white supremacy is the dividing and conquering of whites to ensure it’s own survival. There were poor white people during slavery, and these poor whites were offered marginal jobs and weapons to dominate slaves, or were tasked with defending colonies from Indigenous raiding parties who were undergoing genocide.
This practice continues today with the election of Trump. Capitalism and white supremacy go hand in hand in creating a class of poor white people that will act in defense of the structures that marginalize them. You are told that you are poor and marginalized because of marginalized people of colour by the people that make you poor and marginalized.
Maybe this is too political. Consider sports, and in particular the National Football League.
The binary in adjectives applied to white and black wide receivers is irresponsibly blunt when the New England Patriots play. Julian Edelman, a wide receiver for the New England Patriots is always described as a “hard worker” or my personal favorite a “route runner”.
The phrase route runner is a loaded term because it implies that the athlete in question may not be the most physically gifted, but they study playbooks and use their brain to overcome opponents that are faster than themselves. It’s the allegory of the American dream in which hard work is rewarded with success. However the phrase route runner is only bequeathed to white athletes. Meanwhile black wide receivers are lauded for their “raw athleticism” or are described as “beasts” in the “slot”, “perimeter”, or “end-zone”.
This is because in the context of the National Football League, black wide receivers do not own this “work ethic” or “intangibles” that their white counterparts do. Julian Edelman was actually the fastest athlete at the NFL scouting combine, but this isn’t mentioned because it challenges the narrative that describes white athletes as “cerebral”. Even in an apolitical a realm as sports, the structure of white supremacy informs us of how we see race. White success is explained by ingenuity and intelligence, while blackness explained purely in terms of the physical.
White supremacy is not just shaved heads, hoods, and the shooting of unarmed people of color without consequence. It’s a set of practices that began with genocide of the indigenous and the enslavement of Africans, and continues with the election Donald Trump and minorities using a white voice to get a job. Yusra Khogali called out Trudeau for being a part of this white supremacy, and now white liberal minded folks are calling for her to be removed from her post.
Perhaps we whites should figure out what she is accusing our Prime Minister of before we start a mob to silence her.