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Image: Elvert Barnes

Reading List January 19, 2021

What White Supremacy Is and Isn’t

It’s what our country was founded on—and it will take more than Trump leaving the White House to dismantle it.

As pundits call for the attack on the Capitol to be labeled as “domestic terrorism,” there are a vocal minority campaigning for precisely the opposite. One such argument comes from Atiya Husain, whose essay on abolishing counterterrorism is being recirculated online. “We do not need the far right’s actions to be classified as terrorism, too,” she writes, “we need to void the category of terrorism completely. It cannot be salvaged because the very thing that gives it its meaning is its racial connotations.” A 2019 essay from Mark Tseng-Putterman offers another compelling case: writing in the wake of the El Paso shooting, Tseng-Putterman argued that “the label of terrorism fails to capture that recent white supremacist violence is not ideologically opposed to the U.S. nation-state. It is less a foreign ideological strain than it is a founding DNA.”

Indeed, several archival essays in today’s reading list echo this idea that the counterrevolution was long in the making, with Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz arguing that the origins of the United States are complicit with white nationalist ideology, and Stephen Kantrowitz exploring the central role of women in building the KKK. But while it may have a long history, careful attention must be paid to white supremacy’s current manifestation too—including its international scope. As Bernard E. Harcourt commented in our pages recently, “white supremacy may be nothing new, but Trump’s incitement of it is unprecedented.”

Oscar Howe Wounded Knee feature
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

The violent theft of land and capital is at the core of the U.S. experiment: the U.S. military got its start in the wars against Native Americans.

Johnson--Guns_feature
Walter Johnson

A childhood steeped in guns shows that toxic masculinity and racism are at the heart of U.S. gun culture.

racial fraud2
Luvell Anderson

The Krugs and Dolezals dominate the headlines, but they are distractions from the fraud that imperils us all: believing oneself to be white.

Robin D. G. Kelley

Surveying Trumpland with Cedric Robinson

GettyImages-1294927821
Bernard E. Harcourt

The Republican Party has become a white nationalist party. If old fashioned politics can’t change that, we must consider alternatives.

Kantrowitz on white supremacy_feature
Stephen Kantrowitz

“Very fine people”—fathers, husbands, and sons, as well as mothers, wives, and daughters—have always been central to the work of white supremacy.

Mark Tseng-Putterman

Contemporary gun violence is not so much terrorism as tradition. It is deeply intertwined with the white supremacist foundations of the United States.

Jefferson Cowie George Wallace University of Alabama freedom white
Jefferson Cowie

In a political season of dog whistles, we must be attentive to how talk of American freedom has long been connected to the presumed right of whites to dominate everyone else.

Marshall Steinbaum

The University of Virginia has long been a bastion of white supremacy and white supremacy–validating scholarship.

AMERICAN DHARMA - Errol
Errol Morris Deborah Chasman

Morris on his new film and what he thinks of the man who likened himself to Darth Vader and Satan.

Atiya Husain abolition terrorism counterterrorism
Atiya Husain

At a moment when the call to abolish police and prisons is louder than ever, we should also demand an end to counterterrorism, which functions largely to ensnare people of color.

Trump Farage
Camilla Schofield Jennifer Sutton Daniel Geary

The simultaneous success of Trump and Brexit was no coincidence: white supremacist politics are international in scope and often share entwined histories.

Jonathan Metzl White Anxiety
Jonathan M. Metzl

Trump is the latest in a long line of politicians who have leveraged the fear of white voters. A new path forward must address the structures and finances that propagate, sustain, and shamelessly benefit from it.

davisjackson2
Alberto Toscano

Radical Black thinkers have long argued that racial slavery created its own unique form of American fascism.

Metzl Dying of Whiteness
Jonathan M. Metzl

State policies shaped by white supremacy increase mortality rates in much the same way as other manmade health risks, such as pollution.

muhamadfinal
Khalil Gibran Muhammad

While the United States has expanded its borders of inclusion over time, the borders of whiteness have never fallen. Only a robust black public sphere can change that.

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