Let’s Talk About White Supremacy by Grace Yia-Hei Kao


Sometimes I come across a resource that’s so fantastic that all I want to do is promote it.

This incredible graphic from the blog site Radical Discipleship recently made the rounds on my Facebook news feed.

 

 

Entitled “White Supremacy (Overt & Covert), the visual invites the reader to reflect on the many ways that we perpetuate white supremacist logic.

For instance, in one of the closed Facebook groups I shared it with–Progressive Asian American Christians–several members pondered aloud with lamentation how “police murdering POC” became “socially acceptable.”

The answer, of course is that such events are not (by the “unwoke”) framed in that way: under white supremacist logic, it’s not the police via institutionalized racism that is murdering people of color, it’s either “a few bad cops” who are OR the victims, for one reason or another, had it coming (e.g., they resisted arrest, had a long rap sheet). Either excuse, of course, totally sidesteps the fact that prominent human rights organizations such as Amnesty International have been criticizing the U.S. since 1999 for its problems with police brutality, particularly directed at racial and ethnic minorities, and all 50 states + the District of Columbia since 2015 for failing to meet international standards for the use of lethal force by law enforcement.

Two other things about this post merit comment. The first is that the graphic alone prompted me to find out more about who and what “Radical Discipleship” is about. From my understanding of their “about us” description, they value what I as a feminist Christian value: they want to live out the prophet Micah’s call to “act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God,” support “struggl[es] for church renewal and social change,” work for a world “defined by peace, justice, and dignity for every living being,” and embody all of that both collectively and concretely through practices that fall somewhere along the reformist/revolutionary spectrum.

A glance at their “categories” provides an even better glimpse of what they’re about. My faves include art as resistance; biography as theology; feminist/womanist/queer liberation and theology; race, identity and history; sabbath economics; subverting empire.

The second thing I noted was the range of comments the infographic generated (not on my closed FB group, but on its own page). At the time of this writing, Radical Discipleship’s post had garnered 36 comments, including this one that I could barely stomach [trigger warning: Nazi salute]:

We, the chosen few, live in the “Socially Unacceptable” portion of the pyramid. We exist to balance our society against radicals that would see the White Man ghettoed and subjugated. We are not the Social Justice Warriors that the internet wants or needs, but the Social Justice Warriors that the internet deserves. Heil mein Fuhrer.

I was aghast when I read that comment–and even more so when I noticed that the comment was signed (not anonymous, though I have not reproduced his first & last name here) and that Radical Discipleship had not blocked it.

That wasn’t the only problematic comment, but clearly the one most beyond the pale. Radical Discipleship’s response to it, however, was fantastic:

Truly an apocalyptic comment strand, “unveiling” an entire spectrum of white supremacy! This site continues to commit to hurrying and hobbling after Jesus, pledging allegiance to naming all forms of white supremacy as “unacceptable” and demonic. This requires, from each and all, confession–a practice opposed to justifying, rationalizing and glorifying what Dr. King called “the giant triplets of evil:” racism, militarism and materialism.

Much love, respect, and gratitude to all who continue to oppose white supremacy in its many forms!

*                *                *

Grace Yia-Hei Kao is Associate Professor of Ethics and Co-Director of the Center for Sexuality, Gender, and Religion at Claremont School of Theology. She is the author of Grounding Human Rights in a Pluralist World (Georgetown University Press, 2011) and co-editor, with Ilsup Ahn, of Asian American Christian Ethics (Baylor University Press, 2015). Learn more about her and her work on her personal website.

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Categories: Abuse of Power, Christianity, General, Race and Religion, Racism

Tags: , , ,

16 replies

  1. Great post. Thanks for sharing the graphic. I hope it is published as a poster and displayed in many public places.

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  2. That graphic is majorly scary! I’m old enough to remember when families (at least in the Midwest) took Sunday drives because there just wasn’t much else to do on a Sunday afternoon in the 1950s. I grew up in Ferguson, Missouri–yes, that Ferguson–a mile or so from where Michael Brown was killed. Back in the 50s, people would drive through the ghetto of Kinloch, which was located safely on the western side of the airport, thus safely away from the white people. I remember that my family took such a drive one Sunday……just to look at the “colored people” who lived in the ghetto. It was like going to the zoo. If that’s not white privilege, what is?? I remember that Sunday drive with enormous shame. I wish it was ancient history, but as the graphic shows us…..well, all too graphically, it’s modern history, too..

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    • Barbara – thanks for reading and sharing your (painful) memory of your former Sunday activities in the (still segregated) 50s. I remember with shame how as a young girl I didn’t just “not challenge racist jokes” (under the “covert white supermacy/socially acceptable”) but joined in the laughter at one in particular that was told at the expense of African Americans.

      Thankfully the first step in doing better is to know better. Blessings to you and all that you do!

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    • My parents took me on drives like this as well, in Rockford, Illinois. To make sure we all felt blessed and grateful for what we had in comparison to those less fortunate. I never felt blessed or fortunate. I always felt horribly ashamed to be in that car driving past the people who were looking at us from their porches and front yards, who all knew exactly what the purpose of that drive was. I knew back then it was wrong, but couldn’t put my finger on why or how it was wrong. The white privilege and overt/subversive racism has deep roots. I’ve uprooted and moved to California to escape a lot of it, but still struggle to put words and meaning to what we do to grow our family in the right direction with social responsibility and teaching. A stark difference from what I still see and hear when I go home to visit. Thanks for this post, Grace.

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      • Wow, Tria – what a story, thanks for sharing. It just goes to show how we as parents have a considerable amount of power to shape our kids’ experiences of race and racism. I’m glad to hear that you are actively struggling to think through how to parent (on these issues) in these times — so am I!

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  3. Love the graphic! And very well written.

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  4. Thanks for the graphic. It graphically depicts (pun intended) how white supremacy has gone mostly underground. Personally, I think it’s better there — then POC don’t have to deal as much with the overt crap, which is scary — but, of course, the pyramid also shows how much work we still have to do.

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    • Nancy – thanks so much for reading and responding. You are right that POC today don’t have to deal with overt white supremacy crap as we did before because things like swastikas and using the n-word have become socially unacceptable. While of course you are entitled to your opinion, I’m not sure, however, if on balance I think the situation (of white supremacy going underground) is “better” — to use one example, de jure housing discrimination on the basis of race is no longer permitted, but what about its de facto existence? We can for sure agree on your last point – that we have MUCH work left to do!

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      • I agree with you that covert racism can have devastating effects. But I guess I think that society becoming anti-racist is a process. Perhaps an example — this one with respect to sexism, not racism –will help explain my opinion.

        In the early 1990s I taught the introductory class on Women’s Studies in the summer session. 3 football players enrolled, because — I assume — their advisor thought it would be an “easy A.” They came in clueless, and, in fact, the one jokester, after watching a misogynist video by Alice Cooper, said “I don’t know what you [the rest of the class] are talking about. That’s not sexist; that’s sexual!” I wouldn’t have had to teach my class that day. He taught it for me. Every woman there either started to talk, raised her hand, or looked like she was upset.

        At the end of the summer session this same student was involved in a “playlet” that pretended to be a TV show with ads, etc. It was very funny and highlighted the sexism on TV. I don’t think this guy became a feminist by the end of those short weeks. But he knew what not to say. To me, this meant that he had learned what sexism was and even if he didn’t completely agree with it, he had taken the first step. I think our society is taking those first steps as well, and actually, since Ferguson, even more. It will take a while, much longer than we here at FAR would like, but I think we’re moving in the right direction.

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      • Nancy – that’s an awesome story about your class and yes, it does sound like that the student was transformed by being there. I DO agree with you that rejecting/renouncing white supremacy and becoming anti-racist is a process, one that involves lots of knowledge of history and critical self-examination.

        Are we move in the right direction (as per your last statement)? I take hope in Dr. King’s saying that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. As I observe things, however, we seem to make progress in some areas and then egress (e.g., the women’s movement in the 70s being followed by the powerful rise of the religious right and Reagonomics in the 80s, the election of the nation’s first black president followed by a backlash of “make America great again.”) My hope, which I see you share, is that we continue to make progress nonetheless.

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  5. I’m happy to treat individuals as they treat me..

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  6. Thank you for your article Grace…. and the graphics…
    It really brings the topic into the reality of NOW… blessings….

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