The Affects of White Supremacy on Student Organizers of Color

Last year the Pilipino organization that I had been heavily involved in established a rules committee to oversee and analyze the constitution making sure that everything was up-to-date and inline with our goals and beliefs. Under the current version of the constitution, part of the purpose states, "The organization shall support ...the continued opposition to white supremacy, sexism, and other forms of bigotry." In the past couple of meetings, the current committee had discussed replacing "White Supremacy" with "racism" believing that the mentioning the former was racist to white people. Here is the e-mail I sent to them regarding this issue:

Dear Committee,

I'd been meaning to bring this up sometime at one of the meetings but considering that not everyone can make them, I thought it'd be best to post my opinion here for all to read as I think that this particular subject warrants serious discussion.

I'd been told by some members of the committee that the reason for the replacement of White Supremacy with racism is because "we don't want to sound racist" and "we don't want to point fingers at any one particular group of people." While I completely understand where this point of view is coming from, I vehemently disagree with it for it is grounded upon false assumptions, which suggest that 1) the mere mentioning of White Supremacy = racism; 2) racism is merely an interpersonal issue between individuals and therefore black/brown/yellow/white racism are just all the same; and 3) attacking white supremacy = attacking white people .

First, replacing White Supremacy with simply racism because one believes that that's somehow "reverse racism," which is just such a white reactionary concept meant to safeguard white privilege (I'll get into that in a second), abstracts racism from history. For hundreds of years, since the advent of imperialism and colonialism brought upon the rest of the world by Europeans, being white has afforded one with countless benefits. As anti-racist author and activist Tim Wise states in his essay WHITE PRIVILEGE: Swimming in Racial Preference :

Affirmative action for whites was embodied in the abolition of European indentured servitude, which left black (and occasionally indigenous) slaves as the only unfree labor in the colonies that would become the U.S.

Affirmative action for whites was the essence of the 1790 Naturalization Act, which allowed virtually any European immigrant to become a full citizen, even while blacks, Asians and American Indians could not.

Affirmative action for whites was the guiding principle of segregation, Asian exclusion laws, and the theft of half of Mexico for the fulfillment of Manifest Destiny.

In recent history, affirmative action for whites motivated racially restrictive housing policies that helped 15 million white families procure homes with FHA loans from the 1930s to the '60s, while people of color were mostly excluded from the same programs.

In other words, it is hardly an exaggeration to say that white America is the biggest collective recipient of racial preference in the history of the cosmos. It has skewed our laws, shaped our public policy and helped create the glaring inequalities with which we still live.

For Pilipino/as specifically, can we turn on the T.V. or watch a movie and see people like us portrayed in a variety of roles – assuming that we're even portrayed at all?

Can we work or go to school somewhere that practices Affirmative Action without people thinking that we got in just because of our race?

In a "normal" history class do people typically learn in depth about Pilipino/Pilipino Americans who have made this country or world what it is?

What particular group of people doesn't have to worry about any of these things?

Second, the problem of racism is a problem of power. If racism was merely an interpersonal issue between individuals rather than one that is systematic and institutional then racism wouldn't be a problem. It is the misunderstanding here that allows for people to think that even having an organization for Pilipino/as is racist – Why do you people need an organization for yourselves. All you're doing is causing more separatism. We're all equal.

Lastly, it is a gross misconception that attacking White Supremacy or even talking about it = attacking white people. This is not the case at all as it is an attack on a system and an ideology that benefits a particular group of people while keeping others down. It would be just as ridiculous to associate radical Islam with all Islamic peoples. This is the ideology working at its best when people of color think that the mere mention of it is somehow racist against whites.

You cannot truly grasp racism and how it operates without examining White Supremacy. White Supremacy, being the dominant ideology, is exactly why [Name of Pilipino organization], along with many of the other student organizations, and Ethnic Studies exist.

As people of color - as Pilipino/as - we have to be militant in our struggle against this type of thinking that plagues our community. It is a disease that serves to confuse us and to make us turn our backs on each other and other people of color. It wasn't until a couple of semesters ago (and by accident no less), that I learned about all of this and no doubt it will take a lifetime to undue all of the brainwashing that we've all endured. We owe it to oursevlves and to our community to educate one another and have dialogue (which I believe is severely lacking) about this issue. So let's read up and get everyone talking.

Below, I've provided some links and resources for further reading about this topic.

Take care, everyone and enjoy the rest of our winter break.

-- Carlo


by Robert Jenson

More thoughts on why system of white privilege is wrong
by Robert Jenson

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack
by Peggy McIntosh

Honky Wanna Cracker? A Look at the Myth of Reverse Racism
by Tim Wise

WHITE PRIVILEGE: Swimming in Racial Preference
by Tim Wise

Race: The Power of an Illusion


Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States

Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White