I have struggled with what to say about the current state of affairs. I did not want to repeat the usual calls for equity and justice. Their echo in history is all too familiar. Furthermore, our commitment to such ideals is clear in our Equity Imperative strategic plan. But it’s crucial at this point that we join demands for assaults on black men, black people, people of color, and the poor to end. Therefore, this letter is not about the better world we seek to build, but about the primary obstacle to its achievement. Truth and justice will never be America’s way as long as it is committed to the system of white supremacy.
The roots of white supremacy are the power of wealth, the advantages of whiteness, and the oppression of blacks and other people of color. Violence in poor and working-poor communities, whether it’s white-on-white, white-on-black, or people-of-color-on-others, is allowed, and in some ways even encouraged by wealthy whites, as long as that violence does not threaten their privileges. America will summon its military to protect the supremacy of the “rights” those people enjoy.
Today’s unrest has been cast as a protest against racial injustice, as if injustice can be segmented. Racial injustice is a servant of economic injustice. In America, the latter could not exist without the nation being conditioned to obsess over the former. Scientists tell us that race is not a biological reality, but an illusion. Societies invented so-called racial identities long ago as tools of manipulation and vehicles by which to profit. As such, racial fear and hatred are learned vices.
While many protesters insist that black lives must matter, the only way we can achieve that result is by breaking the cycles of white supremacy. Doing so will be no small task, because white supremacy perpetuates itself in all aspects of America’s social formation. It resists attacks, pretends to decry injustice, and insincerely promises to do better. It often seems unconquerable.
But if the experiment we call America is to succeed, the cycles must be broken. White people must stop being surprised by the injustices that have been in plain view for over 400 years. Stop saying “something needs to be done.” We have heard that before. Do something!
Start with the truth. Say that white supremacy in all its manifestations is the problem. Say that white supremacy is evil, a sin against the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God, and that it is bad for America. It’s not enough to talk about “equity” and “merit,” because they are incapable of coexisting with white supremacy. Finally, stop hiding behind market theory and “capitalism,” and the presumption that they operate independent of race, and call it what it is: greed. Greed concentrates white wealth while limiting opportunities not only for black and brown people, but for most whites as well. Close the wealth gap by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, and the economy will take care of itself.
White supremacy cannot have its cake and eat it too. America’s success requires a better business model, one that allows human potential to flourish whatever its color or class. Such work requires an institution that grows from the seeds you are planting. Therefore, the University of the District of Columbia is establishing the Institute for the Study and Elimination of White Supremacy in America.
All people — scholars, activists, citizens — who believe in the idea of America — that all people are created equal and endowed with rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — are welcome to join this enterprise.
The days of simply commiserating over the condition of poor, black, and brown Americans is over. It is time to rethink our future. It is finally time for one nation, under God, indivisible, to be born!
Ronald Mason, Jr.