White supremacy is not a new concept when it comes to the United States.
It is commonly known that many Founding Fathers were slave owners. These men bought and sold black people to build structures, tend to crops and be servants. Despite writing about how all men are created equal, black and native people were considered subservient and beneath white men.
The U.S. was founded by white men who brutally beat and sometimes murdered people they kept as slaves. Out of the first 12 presidents, only two never owned slaves.
In fact, two of the most known and talked about presidents, Jefferson and Jackson, owned multitudes of slaves that were mistreated and abused. According to the Washington Post, Jackson produced an ad offering extra money per lashings on returned slaves, highlighting his cruel and violent treatment of them.
Despite outright criticism of the slave trade, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and others actively participated in the enslavement of people and very reluctantly, if at all, freed their slaves. This beginning set the tone of racial relations in the U.S.
Over the years, the divide between racial groups deepened, even after strides forward. When slavery was outlawed, the southern states seceded in order to continue the oppression and systematic enslavement of those they deemed inferior. When black people became more outspoken and involved in society, laws were passed to exclude and imprison them.
During the Jim Crow era, several racist groups started to show themselves, such as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and the United Daughters of the Confederacy. These groups sought to actively murder and intimidate black people, respectively. The United Daughters of the Confederacy would buy Confederate monuments for smaller towns as a way of intimidating black people from participating in society and government institutions.
This happened again in the Civil Rights era. More statues were erected, and the government actively tried to silence black protesters. Marches, sit ins and peaceful demonstrations were met with violence from white communities and the police. When the Black Panther party bought guns for self protection, the president and the government cracked down on gun-control laws. They also illegally surveilled leaders of black rights groups, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a group known for fighting against prejudice and bigotry, created a map of all Confederate monuments. The map shows a spike between the 1890s and 1920s and another during the 1950s and ’60s, discrediting the idea that these were erected for historical value.
White supremacists’ actions are not limited to black people, though. Native Americans have had their land, rights and lives taken from them. Latino and Hispanic people are highly incarcerated for minor crimes. Synagogues and Jewish businesses have been vandalized and destroyed. Non-white and non-Christian people are threatened and attacked by not only individuals but also the institutions those individuals created and thrive in.
White people have benefited from white supremacy for so long that most do not see how modern-day Nazis function. To white people, it’s a question of freedom of speech and preserving history. They don’t understand the “alt-right” neo-Nazis are actively calling for the genocide and extermination of non-white people, and their preservation of history is a thinly-veiled attempt at keeping racist effigies around to continue the intimidation and silencing of other racial groups.
By saying both sides are equally wrong or that people fighting against the rise of fascism are terrorists, the fascists can keep doing what they’re doing.
The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) spoke out against statements made by the president in response to Charlottesville. Committee chairperson Anastasia Crickley stated in an interview with Al Jazeera that she was horrified at the display of slurs, chants and salutes that are “promoting white supremacy and inciting racial discrimination and hatred.”
This reinstates the idea that without a 100-percent condemnation, the white supremacists are growing stronger.
To reiterate, white supremacy is not a new idea; it’s just in new packaging. Since the country’s inception, citizens have been fighting against white supremacists. Our history has been erased and whitewashed to the point where people don’t remember how racist and genocidal the founders were. They don’t remember how white people from all socioeconomic groups perpetuated the stereotypes and systematic injustices against non-white people.
White supremacy is not on the rise. It has always been here. The only difference now is the method of recruitment and action we are witnesses to.