Search

The Confounding Language of White Supremacy -- a Deep Dive into the Mediocrity of Meritocracy

Updated: Apr 17


Recently, Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic candidate for the 2020 presidential election, tweeted a statement he called his "Biden Family Code." In it, he said,


"My mom used to always tell me, 'Joey, no one is better than you. Everyone is your equal and everyone is equal to you'."

He concluded by saying he was working on creating a similar code for his campaign moving forward. This essay is not an indictment of the Bidens nor is it in any way to be construed as anything but an exercise in the truly confounding language of White Supremacy and how it shapes the lives of millions of people in America, including the lives of liberally thinking people such as the Bidens.


This essay is a deep dive into the subtlety of White Supremacy using common words and expressions as opposed to the more overt expressions; the ones that are missed entirely or serve to confound and cloud perceptions of people, both white and Black. Hopefully it will give a clear understanding of how it operates every day, and in ways not usually considered. Some will come away with a greater comprehension of the of the context and connotations inherent within the language of white supremacy and its confounding way of making the nonsensical appear to make sense. Others will think I am simply splitting hairs. Still others may think I am completely misconstruing what the Biden Matriarch was trying to teach a young Joe and “reading things into what she is saying.” I can assure you that I will be using the exact wording and only inserting the verb, “are,” which is used as “second person singular present and first, second, third person plural present of the word, ‘be” for context where necessary.


It is important to read and then utilize the 3 Cs of navigating the language of White Supremacy and Racism for this essay. If you haven't read that essay, I would recommend you do so before continuing to read this one.


If caught and tangled by the tentacles of White Supremacy and its confusing but effective way of unconsciously embedding feigned superiority in white people, or in the case of nonwhite people, embedding inferiority, these words and their contexts will resonate as making perfect sense, because of the familiar words that are used, such as, "better," "everyone" and "equal." These are the words which reverberate through the conscious mind as being good. These words also work in conjunction with the term, “Meritocracy,” and "merit," or as Merriam Webster defines as “a system in which the talented are chosen and moved ahead on the basis of their achievement.” Also inherent in these words are the concepts of “Exceptionalism,” meaning “the condition of being different from the norm,” and “Competition,” meaning, “a contest between rivals.”


In a white supremacist context, these three words take on a much deeper meaning where the competition is between Black and White, and the exceptionalism is part of whiteness as "superior." White Supremacy, however, cannot exist without a mechanism in place to ensure its sustenance, which is the System of Racism, that places barriers to competition, exceptionalism and merit, allowing the exceptionalism to remain only for people who identify as white.

In order to critically think about what the Biden Code represents when looking through the lens of white supremacy, it is important to critically think about each of the statements that make up the Code and to break them down both literally and figuratively. Not viewing these statements through the lens of White Supremacy and how it operates unconsciously will make this entire exercise meaningless, therefore, if unwilling to put on the lenses and dig deeper, don't bother to go any further in this essay, because you will NOT see anything. If you are ready for a deep dive, then up first, the statement:

“Joey, no one is better than you.”

Read that again.

"Joey, no one is better than you."

If needed, read it a third time.


What does this statement say to young Joe? What does it mean? What is she saying?


Now, if you are placing the other two statements BEFORE THIS FIRST ONE, you most likely think she is saying, "Joey, you are no better than anyone else." If that is what you think, then think again. THAT IS NOT WHAT SHE SAID. You must read and understand the first statement first. She is saying,

"no one is better than YOU” are

(the "are" is inserted only to connote a state of being)


…and this statement is what echoed through the subconscious and into the unconscious mind for young Joe; words that would dictate his entire life up to and including his bid for the highest office in the land. It would be foolish to think it didn't, given the fact of his ascension and potential for the presidency of the United States.


However, when reading the rest of the statements, the realization of the impossibility inherent in them in relation to the first statement made by the Biden Matriarch should be clear.

"Everyone is your equal," and "Everyone is equal to you."

When breaking the Biden Code apart by each statement in the order in which they are written, it makes absolutely no sense and is utterly confusing, unless you actually take the time to read through each of the statements for their own context and then critically dissect the language used in them as well. The words, "your" and "you" in relation to the word, "equal," are very important here.


What this Biden Code did was literally place Biden at the center of the universe, at the head of what represented “equality," at first, and at least in their family, where everyone was equal to him, and that he should expect himself to be that representation of "equality" throughout his life. It may sound like a laudable focus for a child, but what that statement represented was an unconscious privilege of whiteness where no non-white person lives or can express by virtue of the ideology of White Supremacy, which says white is best and Black is worst, and of living within the System of Racism, that ensures the ideology is sustained. This statement, however benign on its surface, is a dichotomy where he is at once better than everyone else, and where his family then places him as the standard to which equality should therefore be perceived.


But how can being better than everyone else, because no one is better than him, create that equivalence in his life concerning the equality of all, when at the same time, while everyone is supposed to be equal to him, he grew up and learned those two subsequent statements couldn’t be further from the truth? It's like being told "everyone is equal to you" while unconsciously living with the thought of no one being better than you, and then going out into the world and finding out the equality part wasn't even true -- but by then it really didn't matter anyway, since the no one is better than you part was already ingrained and made you what you are today. Imagine wrestling with the dichotomy imposed by those statements growing up. Imagine not wrestling with anything like those statements at all because none of it mattered in a world where it was either consciously, subconsciously, or unconsciously understood that being white in America and the world was being best.


There is no doubt that his mother was unaware of the potential effects of her statements, and as my colleague and friend, Fannie LeFlore remarked about people with their brains on autopilot, it is evident that years of unconscious belief in their own sense of exceptionalism and unearned merit, coupled with the desire to appear unbiased, created the dichotomy from the statements, "Joey, no one is better than you. Everyone is your equal and everyone is equal to you," that formed his beliefs and became the Biden Code.


Biden's mother was quite frankly and virtually measuring her son's superiority over others by the unconscious, mixed messages sent to her son early on. She was placing Joe at the top of the "equal ladder" and rather than everyone in the world being equal to each other, these people were only equal by virtue of Joe's supposed superiority, since everyone eventually were subliminally measured by their equalness to him. Confusing to a fault to be sure. In essence, Joe was placed at the head of the table of "all things being equal" by his mother without having any earned reason for being placed there except his family's privilege in doing so. But who was Joe to be the one by which all others were determined equal -- or equal to Joe? It wasn't because he was exceptional, or he necessarily garnered merit, except by his parents at that point along the way and by that point. What subliminal messages were being sent to ol' Joe? And why, by pointing out the Biden Code, is this essay an exercise in understanding the language of white supremacy and nothing more.


Because those statements and others like them mask themselves inside of the myth of Meritocracy for white people who want to either consciously or subconsciously deny or dismiss the System of Racism as being the singular reason for Joe’s or any white person's ability to be lovingly placed by his white family into the position of superiority within this insidious reality, while at the same time, providing sufficient cover through the use of the good words, “equal,” and “everyone.” Think of it as the Lincoln approach as opposed to the Robert E. Lee approach.


Therefore, even with his purported modest Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Wilmington, Delaware roots[1], he got his American Dream, became the youngest senator in the United States in 1973, and is now poised for the White House.


And of course, it was all due to merit, and his exceptionalism, not his whiteness that set him on his path; not the unconscious nature of being "better than everyone," nor the System of Racism that may have inevitably and eventually helped to land him on his runway to being “Best.” Indeed, it was the American Way that set his course, and the unconscious, loving words his mother gave him that became the Biden Code.

In this way, many white people can point to their own mediocrity in the form of Meritocracy and discount or outright deny that the existence of the System of Racism was the only mechanism through which the dichotomy within the statements, "no one is better than you, everyone is your equal, and "everyone is equal to you" can ever make sense.


And they can only make sense when you are white and a “regular Joe" in America.







[1] For more information, read, "Father's Tough Life, An Inspiration for Biden,"

For general inquiries, or to find out how to become a contributor, please get in touch

  • White Facebook Icon
  • White Twitter Icon
  • White YouTube Icon

Join the community and stay up to date

Copyright 2020 Cynthia Alease Smith, Ed.D.