More than White Supremacy

by Stephanie Webb

Stephanie Webb

Talk about White supremacy has increased since the election of Barack Obama, not because his election was the first instance of racism, but because this was the first time a Black president had been “approved” by non-Black voters. Although many believed—wrongly—that a Black president could cure the ills of the United States and steer the country into a post-racial equilibrium, the non-White electorate warily observed the jubilation. Years before, Nelson Mandela had survived being an activist and being imprisoned, and became the first African president of South Africa. During his tenure, there was still such racism in South Africa that it was still the focus of films on racism. Both nations and others are settler colonies, but the mindset that created those cultures was international because the British had been to several other nations before deciding to settle and colonize. While White supremacy is a good beginning to unravel the foundations for countless atrocities, I would argue that there is an ideology more insidious than White supremacy dictating the pain of the United States called the “dominant narrative.”

The dominant narrative includes the combination of the worst parts of power and control without any of the responsibility or accountability to any socioecosystem. Moreover, it demands that people adhere to its dictates and alienate those of which it does not approve, forcing people to internalize abusive behavior. Economic downturns and environmental catastrophes are seen as little more than money-making opportunities, and the winners scoff at the losers’ attempts to enact consequences for maltreatment. Under this concept, everyone owes the dominant narrative the right to remain in place and has the responsibility to live up to its expectations, regardless of any of the circumstances. Those who have been accepted are not under any duress to understand that they are being dominated or oppressive, and those who have not been accepted are ostracized and ridiculed by the rest. Above all, the dominant narrative is never wrong, has no remorse, and makes no amends.

The accepted classes believe that the unacceptable are inherently worthless without the input of the dominant narrative, and the unaccepted masses endeavor to accomplish as much as possible under that mindset. Because of the internalization of abusive behavior, the unaccepted masses fail to comprehend that there is no amount of effort to gain acceptance if the dominant narrative rejects them. When considering change or justice, the dominant narrative’s agenda includes gaining as much attention as possible while fundamentally changing nothing. For the accepted, society should attain no growth because the dominant narrative sees no purpose in change or justice. Reasonably, the dominant narrative is not just White supremacy because White people are affected by a lack of acceptance into the dominant narrative; also, many White people are convinced that they are better than non-White people, but the dominant narrative includes many Black and brown people, who are under no illusion that they are White or seek to be White.

Adhering to the dominant narrative consists of three core components, the first of which is a lack of context.

In Texas, Lyndon Baines Johnson is revered as the hero of civil rights because he signed the Civil Rights Act and appointed a Black secretary of housing while demanding that federal housing be integrated. However, under his presidency, there were riots that raged from Watts to Detroit, prompting the creation of the Kerner Commission to investigate where the real problems lay, and he took great pride in seeking experts from what could be considered liberal and conservative viewpoints. Ironically, the Commission concluded that inequality and racism instigated the riots, and people were rightfully enraged, which is not surprising because this era was during the rise of urban renewal, which decimated many Black and brown neighborhoods. Because Johnson was so disgusted with the reality that the government’s actions were responsible for inciting the ire of so many, he refused to read or accept the Kerner Report once the Commission had finished its work. The context of his presidency makes it very clear why many would find him hateful, but the dominant narrative only sees the act he signed.

Secondly, the dominant narrative sees no cost in achieving its ends. For example, the technology sector— which is international—creates paywalls to progress and builds obsolescence into each of its magic gadgets. During the raging Amazonian fires, Elon Musk was attempting to secure deals to acquire materials from Brazil to make batteries for his cars, even though he already had plenty of unsold vehicles in a nation full of people unable to afford them. Apple and Samsung continue to “upgrade” their phones, but refuse to make it possible to for people to use their phones longer than 2-3 years, which means that people either have an excessive amount of money for an upgrade or they never stop paying for phones. Electronic waste has also dramatically increased over the past thirty years; essentially, the technology sector has mimicked the oil and gas industry by making a mess and refusing to participate in the cleanup process. Heaping landfills and broke clientele are no match for dispassionate robots, who add insult to injury by demanding people pay for subscriptions designed to automatically extract money every month for complete access to skills required in the job market.

Third, the dominant narrative requires that individuals sacrifice any notion of a conscience, because humble, accountable and community-oriented people are seen as weak. There is a common phrase among those who justify atrocities: “If you want to make an omelet, you’ve got to break a few eggs.” This trope alone indicates that harm is a reasonable barrier to success, and that one who succeeds justifies that harm without needing to face consequences. Film and books commonly lament the transformation of characters who were connected to a community that eventually destroy a community, and this plays out in real life by those who become acceptable to the dominant narrative. Brown v. Board of Education was decided in 1954, but Clarence Thomas—in a bid to maintain his power and relevance, i.e. dominance—chose to reconsider the case in 2003, and there is no guarantee that the ruling will remain in place. Black communities already suffer displacement through the urban renewal and gentrification processes, but reaffirming segregation was his priority, for which he has demonstrated no remorse or contrition. 

Ending White supremacy is an admirable goal towards a more sustainable socioecosystem, but the first step in destroying the dominant narrative is recognizing that everyone is allowed to be a full sovereign individual. People must recognize that no one has the responsibility to live up to any expectations, regardless of the origin of those expectations. For example, Blackness in the United States is both a construction from Whiteness and a self-identity that evolved in spite of oppression. No non-Black person has the right to define Blackness, and no Black person has the right to determine how that self-identity continues to evolve. Recognizing people as individuals does not validate the myth of a “rugged individual,” but acknowledges the necessity of seeing people as they see themselves, which is impossible to do on a large or grand scale. Communalism does not negate the individual, but rather sees the individual as part of the whole; what constitutes the whole would necessarily shrink to accommodate respect for all individuals. 

Imperialism has been validated through seeing people through a racial lens, which is why so many of the larger countries and settler colonies expanded; however, the world is not solely controlled by Eurocentric empires, especially in the case of China, Nigeria, and Brazil. Therefore, to end the dominant narrative, human beings are required to understand that they are not entitled to indefinitely gain resources. People smirk when others say that there should be no billionaires without considering what a billionaire is: someone who takes more resources than can be consumed within a human lifetime. The socioecosystem needs to affirm that no one deserves to gain so much that a lack is created for the majority of human beings. Relentless real estate acquisition, obsessive financial manipulation, and demonstrable cruelty are not leadership traits, and when the social contract allows such behavior to continue, the socioecosystem continues to deteriorate.

Finally, the dominant narrative cannot be stopped without a fundamental acknowledgment that dominance as existence is wrong. Humanity has generally shifted from the mindset that someone does get something out of connections, to someone must get something out of connections. If people cannot be engaged with others without exploitation, the human race will not survive, as is evident through the changing climate patterns and the degradation of natural resources. Despite this being an important lesson for the upper echelons, their inability to properly emote has narrowed their view to only how their dominance can increase, and how the working classes can be more exploited or destroyed, as is evident by the increase in racial and domestic violence. Cooling the ardor for possession and control will be difficult, and that is the most important lesson to gain during the global pandemic. 

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Copyright 2020 Cynthia Alease Smith, Ed.D.