Guest: What does it mean to be a white supremacist?

Guest: What does it mean to be a white supremacist?

Photo Credits: CAITLYN SAMPLEY / AGGIE

Defenses of Blue Lives Matter and Zionism showcase white supremacy on campus

In the past few days we’ve seen a shooting at a synagogue by a white man with direct connections to a mosque burning earlier this year. We’ve seen a school shooting at University of North Carolina, Charlotte — by yet another white man. We’ve seen the murder of four Sikh family members in Ohio, in what appears to be a racially and religiously motivated attack. Amidst all this terror, amidst the onslaught of white supremacist violence facing marginalized communities in the United States, we must each interrogate what white supremacy is and how it operates — not just in explosive moments of direct terrorism by white men, but in everyday actions.

What connects white supremacy, from the extreme to the casual, is the belief that whiteness is categorically superior. Whiteness is not an ethnicity in that it doesn’t constitute a shared set of symbols or cultural practices. Instead it is a category of racial difference — marking out certain populations as biologically different than others (contrary to current science). All of us, white or not, risk upholding this ideology by engaging in practices that benefit whiteness and shore up its privileges. While not every person can be racist, we can all participate in actions that defend and support white supremacy. This is important in our current moment, as so many of us turn to look at these egregious acts of violence and ask ourselves, “How did this happen?” Here, I’d like to turn to acts of white supremacy on our campus, because these larger events emerge from the very normal fabric in which we are already embedded.

Two specific instances of white supremacy have situated themselves on our campus as “marginalized voices”: the Blue Lives Matter movement (and policing generally) and Zionism. This “victimhood” frame is effective only as long as we ignore the power relations and history at work. As a scholar who focuses on white supremacist organizing in the United States, I’ll do my best to avoid anything too abstract, and use two recent opinion articles from The California Aggie to highlight how white supremacy and victimhood is functionally a part of both movements.

The first example of white supremacy at UC Davis is the Blue Lives Matter movement and its defendants on campus and in the ASUCD Senate room. Others, including myself, have already discussed the long history of racism associated with the Blue Lives Matter symbol. Columnist Nick Irvin and former ASUCD Senator Noah Pearl have both participated in defending police from critique, and Pearl has actively participated in attempting to get a resolution passed that uses the thin blue line imagery — the metaphor of a thin blue line between civilization and chaos.* The image of “chaos” is a common racial “dog whistle” for Black and Brown people attempting to live their lives in ways that are dignified and respected. Dog whistles signal race to those in the know, without bringing down direct stigma on those who use them. When people defend the police, you’ll often hear these dog whistles. The Black, immigrant, deviant body is and always has been made criminal through this reading — the chaos the police are supposed to protect good (read “White”) law-abiding citizens from. The defense of the police levied by Irvin and Pearl make them, at best, complicit in white supremacy. Pearl’s direct association and Irvin’s ideological connections with Michael Gofman, the former ASUCD president and Zionist who incited direct death and physical harassment of Black and Brown people on his presidential Facebook page on Jan. 11 by tacitly endorsing rampant anti-Blackness and transphobia, demonstrate that this is not simply accidental white supremacy, but part of a pattern of political behavior.

This brings us to another example of white supremacy on our campus, which emerges in the form of Zionism. Zionism, as a political ideology, advocates for the creation of a settler-colonial ethno-state in Israel. Conversely, anti-Zionism is a political position that decries those same political structures. It is not to be conflated with anti-Semitism, which is structural and interpersonal violence against Jewish people. Anti-Semitism is on the rise across the United States, and we’ve seen a number of incidents in Davis in just this past year.

In a recent opinion piece, Pearl argued that he could not be white supremacist or fascist because of his positionality as a Jewish American. He argues, with no evidence, that “the majority of Jews believe in Zionism”; statistics demonstrate this to be false. A 2013 Pew Research survey of American Jews indicates the community is quite divided on Israel’s place in their Jewish identity, and an overwhelming majority said criticism of Israel was a valid part of being Jewish. People like Rebecca Pierce (Jewish Voice for Peace organizer and speaker at Monday’s Anti-Zionism Week event) strongly condemn Zionism as a settler-colonial ideology. There is a long history of contention, pre-dating the creation of the state of Israel, between various Jewish religious and intellectual leaders on the ethics, necessity and morality of creating such a state. Pearl does a disservice to both religious and intellectual voices by erasing their contributions.

But how does Zionism tie into white supremacy? Pearl, and other Zionists like Gofman, fail to address that whiteness affects Ashkenazim (Jewish people of European descent) and shapes their participation in white supremacist projects. The state of Israel is virulently anti-Black. Miri Regev, a member of the Israeli Parliament, has called Sudanese refugees a “cancer on the body of Israel.” It has sterilized and limited the birth rates of Ethiopian Jews without their consent or knowledge. In just the past few months, there have been uprisings from Ethiopian Jews protesting the police violence they experience at the hands of a Jewish state that prioritizes people who are closer to the white, idealized citizen of Israel. Additionally, far-right supporters of Israel — including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — have repeatedly aligned themselves with white supremacists. Zionism bridges the distance between white supremacy here and abroad.

Blue Lives Matter supporters and Zionists both use their manufactured status as “others” on campus in order to claim that they are ostracized and silenced. But the fact is that white supremacy, wherever it is found, must be ostracized. It is our duty to stigmatize it — to rid ourselves, as Michel Foucault says, of the fascism in ourselves and others. Fighting the white supremacy of white mass shooters demands nothing less. Let’s leave the use of “victimhood” to sad little white men and set about creating a world in which white supremacy is impossible to imagine. Let’s make a world that’s strong enough to survive the death knells of nationalism, patriarchy and white supremacy.

Written by: Blu Buchanan

The writer is a Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology at UC Davis, studying white gay men’s participation in conservative social movements. As a Black trans scholar and activist on campus, they primarily work with labor and anti-racist organizations to build community capacity, a strong understand history and an intersectional approach to mutual liberation.

*Editor’s note: At the Jan. 24 Senate meeting where SR#8 was discussed, Senator Noah Pearl voted to divide the house on removing lines from the resolution and votes yes to remove them. He also voted to divide the house on the final vote and abstained during the final vote on the resolution. The official minutes from that Senate meeting can be found here.

17 Comments on this Post

  1. Ron Fox

    “It’s funny that you mention anti-intellectualism, given that it is a plank of the far-right,”

    Anti-intellectualism is not a “plank of the far-right”, nor is it a position of conservatism in general. What conservatism in general holds is that academia, as evidenced by both the essay above and the fact that the person who holds such views is a Ph.D. candidate, is no longer a place that honors intellectualism.

  2. Killer Marmot

    This isn’t about “the far right”, nor are conservatives generally part of the far right. You’re entire reply is a straw man intended to divert the conversation.

  3. Stephen Wade

    This is not the learned, rational musings of a scholar, but rather an irrational sermon from an evangelist for a leftist political religion.

  4. Stephen Wade

    When did untreated mental illness become a legitimate basis for a college department, let alone a candidate for a PhD?

  5. mehboring

    You are anti-white. Congrats!

    One has to wonder, though, given you are anti-white and clearly espouse and believe in victimary politics of the far-left, which are rough equivalent of supremacist movements of the far-right, why in the world would other racism, supremacy, etc, bother you?

    The answer – per usual – lies in your allegiance with designed victim groups; thus, double standards aren’t important. However, it does erase your -ism concerns, given you’re a borderline supremacist. Sorry.

    P.S. Move to Wakanda.

  6. Great editorial. Keep it up.

  7. Professor Jeffrey Pearl

    A completely inaccurate, slanderous attack on others voicing their opinion. Your misrepresentation of facts, twisting of truths related to Israel, Jews and Zionists is completely false. Full of unfounded lies, based on other far-left blood libel spewing rhetoric as your source of information is not journalism nor proper. I doubt you have any real factual information regarding Israel and its treatment of all of its citizens, Sephardic, Ashkenazi, or from Africa. Forced sterilization? do you actually believe the garbage you are stating or just trying to be an alarmist as you have little basis to really support your hatred and anger. FYI- Anti-Zionism is Antisemitism, and the vast majority of Jews support the state of Israel. As a democratic people we may disagree about the policies and actions at time, but that is not the same as not believing in the right to a Jewish homeland which has been there for thousands of years. Noah Pearl is about as far from a white supremacist as you are. An American Jew with Native American and Latin lineage who has spoken out and fought for the rights of all people. You are entitled to your opinion but not to spew lies and slander someone of strong moral character like Noah Pearl. The problem with the far-left is that if one does not fully agree with everything they say or believe then you are vilified and must be a racist etc.It is all black and white to you, no grey. That is not democracy.

    • Moon Pie

      Anti-Zionism is definitively *not* anti-Semitism. Trying to conflate the two is presumptuous in that it supposes all Jews are in favor of Zionism – which is certainly not the case. And Zionists cannot claim to speak for Jews, though some are arrogant enough to think they can. Furthermore, conflating the two is fundamentally no different than a “slanderous attack on others voicing their opinion” and asserts that “if one does not fully agree with everything they say or believe then you are vilified and must be a racist ”

      Don’t fight hateful, anti-intellectual fire with hateful, anti-intellectual fire.

  8. Gourley

    It took this person 8 paragraphs of mental gymnastics to try to explain away the fact that Jews are one of the most historically as well as presently oppressed and harassed people in the world, all because that fact is inconsistent with their worldview.

    There comes a point where you should give facts priority over ideology in affecting your worldview. This is probably one of those points.

    • Moon Pie

      It is the Procrustean bed at work. Jews are a striking example of how the childishly simplistic whites vs. nonwhites narrative fails in reality; but instead of revising the narrative, the author tries to revise reality instead. It is both intellectually bankrupt and ethically dubious.

  9. GERRY FELDMAN

    This essay is silly stuff: You don’t know beans!
    Zionism is simply the understanding that unless Jews live in Israel they will be subject to death from anti-semites like yourself, eg as occurred in Germany during the Nazi period when helpless Jews were exterminated by their government and neighbors. United Nations agreed with this concept in 1948 and granted Israel its existence as a nation-state. Like any other nation (including yours), Israel has been trying to survive and flourish ever since.

    Why don’t you go pick on someone who deserves your opprobrium like Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, etc.?

    • The entire concept of zionism sounds quite racist. Are you sure you’re not the one writing silly stuff?

      • Absurdistan

        There’s nothing racist about Zionism. Those obsessed with the existence of Israel are usually impotent morons without any semblance of a life.

    • GERRY FELDMAN

      Anon, No it’s racist to encourage French to live in France, British to live in Britain (didn’t they displace the indigenous Celts), Spanish to live in Spain (didn’t they displace the indigenous Basques), etc. but not to encourage Jews to live in their homeland in Israel. Treating one nationality inferior to all others is inconsistent and biased. Could even be considered racist.

  10. Moon Pie

    If I had to write a parody of the anti-intellectual far-left grievance studies variety, relying on all of the absurd and untenable group-based over-generalizations and unfalsifiable social “theory” (if it ain’t falsifiable, it ain’t theory; it is sub-scientific) emanating from fields where patent nonsense is published and even awarded (see: the Sokal Squared hoax), complete with lazy appeals to authority figures like Foucault, it would read like this.

    Of course, this isn’t a parody. At least, not an intentional one. (I do confess to finding some amusement in unintentional self-parody.)

    And keep in mind, this is the same lunatic that had to make sure the conversation was focused on them when Natalie Corona was killed. Such narcissism and absence of empathy places the author squarely out of position to be giving any lecture on morality or ethics. This author has zero credibility.

    • @Moon Pie
      It’s funny that you mention anti-intellectualism, given that it is a plank of the far-right, which is why slashing education funding and restricting access to education are common conservative positions.The author of the blog never made the conversation about him when Natalie Corona was killed, rather the people doing the “Blue Lives Matter” thing made it about anti-black racism when they started saying it. “Blue Lives Matter” was originally coined in bad faith, by the far-right, as a counter-protest to “Black Lives Matter” and as a way to diminish and delegitimize the efforts of civil rights activists. You can support the police and mourn the community’s loss without having to use phrases that originally came from bigots trying to be clever. Policing is a statistically very safe occupation, and the people who harm the police always go to jail. The same cannot be said for the black people who are often treated as if their lives do no matter.

      As far as I’m concerned, your comment is a psuedo-intellectual whine that says nothing of value besides an ad-hominem here and there.

      • Moon Pie

        “It’s funny that you mention anti-intellectualism, given that it is a plank of the far-right”

        What a charming red herring. Yes, anti-intellectualism is a plank of the far-right. No one here disputes that. Problem is, it’s also a plank of the far-left. Look no further than the Green New Deal, or this article, or the abysmally low quality of grievance studies, or your reply.

        “The author of the blog never made the conversation about him when Natalie Corona was killed, rather the people doing the “Blue Lives Matter” thing made it about anti-black racism when they started saying it.”

        There were no black people involved in the Natalia Corona case. Trying to force a narrative onto a situation to which it does not apply and using it as a vehicle for attention and sanctimony is something “sad little” narcissists do.

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