Nobody likes the Ku Klux Klan. Maybe that’s why Anonymous decided to expose public figures active in it.
But the biggest factor keeping white supremacy firmly in place is not even on Anonymous’s radar. It’s ordinary, everyday white people.
White anti-racist activist and author Tim Wise has suggested that the form of racism most commonly encountered in the United States today is an insidious, hard-to-spot variety he calls “Racism 2.0.”
Unlike the blatant “Racism 1.0” of the Jim Crow era, Racism 2.0 tries to pretend it isn’t racist. Sometimes it even fools itself. A study published in 2011 found that white respondents believed anti-white bias was more prevalent than bias against black people.
But it isn’t white people who were the targets of the Charleston shootings in June of this year — the deadliest hate crime in South Carolina’s history, according to the Post and Courier.
In school, when we are taught about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement, the struggle for racial justice in this country is presented as complete. Black people and other people of color fought for and won their rights against those mean, racist white people of the past, and now everything is OK.
But everything is not OK, and the fight for racial justice is not over.
Police killings of unarmed black civilians, attacks on black school children such as the one caught on video in South Carolina and the recent death threats against black students at the University of Missouri show that racism is still thriving in our country.
In the midst of all this racism, where are the racists?
No one wants to be called a racist or to think of themselves as such. But Americans’ fear of being considered racist is, paradoxically, preventing us from achieving the goal of racial justice.
Though the vast majority of white people don’t consciously harbor racist attitudes, the Implicit Association Test developed by Project Implicit (take it online at https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/iatdetails.html) shows that white people in every U.S. state demonstrate what is known as unconscious or implicit racial bias.
In other words, we might be racist without even being consciously aware of it.
However, the absolute horror of being called racist prevents most of us from examining our own biases, which is the only way to change or eliminate them.
This is perhaps why white people often stridently deny the very existence of white supremacy, anti-black bias and the continued existence of structural racism.
Our refusal to acknowledge our role in white supremacy is what prevents us from dismantling it.
All white people in the U.S. participate in white supremacy, even if just as beneficiaries of white privilege.
Think of white privilege as automatic deposits into your bank account — money you never worked for, earned or asked for. White people can’t just make these deposits stop, but we can choose how to use that money—either to benefit ourselves or to help others.
When people of color speak about the racism they experience, they are too often dismissed by white people. White people should never try to speak for people of color, but we do have a moral responsibility to speak out against racism. White supremacy is not people of color’s problem to solve because they didn’t start it. It’s up to white people to fix it.