Me and White Supremacy

by Layla F. Saad

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Part 2: Week 1 Summary

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Last Updated on August 7, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 806

Week one of White Supremacy and Me, titled “The Basics,” tackles the issues of white privilege, white fragility, tone policing, white silence, white superiority, and white exceptionalism.

Day one focuses on white privilege, which Saad defines using Peggy McIntosh’s definition from her 1988 work White Privilege and Male Privilege:

I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was “meant” to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, assurances, tools, maps, guides, codebooks, passports, visas, clothes, compass, emergency gear, and blank checks.

Saad asserts that white privilege stems from white supremacy itself. She then cites the 2003 Human Genome Project, which found that physical appearance has actually little to do with genetic make-up. While it has been shown that race is a social construct, this fact does not erase that white supremacy has very real and damaging consequences for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). Saad connects this idea to the phenomenon of white people claiming that white privilege no longer exists, even while BIPOC constantly struggle with its effects.

Day two focuses on white fragility, a term coined by American author and educator Robin DiAngelo that refers to “a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves.”

Saad shares her experience with publishing the blog post “I Need to Talk to Spiritual White Women about White Supremacy” in 2017. The astonishing amount of backlash Saad received from the post opened her eyes to how most white people often overreact or lash out when confronted about white supremacy. Saad puts forward two factors which contribute to white fragility: 1) the lack of exposure to conversations about racism, and 2) the lack of understanding of what white supremacy actually is. She then gives common examples of white fragility, such as choosing to simply fall silent or “check out” when confronted about racism, calling the authorities for unwarranted reasons, and deleting or denying one’s discriminatory posts. For those holding white privilege, it is important to recognize and overcome white fragility so they do not—intentionally or unintentionally—harm or silence BIPOC.

Day three focuses on tone policing, which Saad defines as a tactic wherein those with privilege silence or shut down BIPOC by overlooking the content of their message and instead attacking the tone in which it was delivered. Saad maintains that it is common for white people to police what they perceive as the aggression of BIPOC during conversations about race. Often, BIPOC are asked to cater to the white gaze by remaining calm, soothing, or eloquent when talking about their struggles with racism. Tone-policing, therefore, is merely an extension of racism and white supremacy.

Day four focuses on white silence, which Saad sees as complicity in white supremacy through inaction and passivity. She then shares her past experience of feeling betrayed by a certain white woman she had been close friends with for years. During the backlash from the publication of Saad’s 2017 blog post “I Need to Talk to Spiritual White Women about White Supremacy,” this friend expressed no support or sympathy and simply fell silent. Saad maintains that white silence is violence, as it perpetuates a broken system. It is important, therefore, to always speak up and side with the victim in matters of racial injustice.

Day five focuses on white superiority, which Saad defines as the belief that white people (or people with white-passing skin) are inherently superior to other races and therefore...

(This entire section contains 806 words.)

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deserve to dominate them. She cites extreme examples of white superiority, such as neo-Nazis, the KKK, and right-wing nationalists. White superiority, however, also manifests in subtler forms, such as the automatic association of intelligence, sophistication, and virtue with white skin. While thoughts and beliefs of white superiority are often unconscious, it is important to check one’s self and work towards correcting such a harmful ideology.

Day six focuses on white exceptionalism, which Saad defines as white people’s belief that they are not racist and are therefore exempt from the obligation of doing anti-racism work. Saad observes that it is not right-wing nationalists or proud white supremacists who commonly hold this view but, rather, liberal or progressive individuals. She references Martin Luther King’s idea of the “white moderate,” who continues to cause harm (intentional or unintentional) because of their refusal to widen or deepen their shallow understanding of white supremacy and how it affects BIPOC.

Finally, day seven is a day of reflection and review of the issues tackled from days one through six. Readers are asked only one thing: that they take note of the realizations they have had regarding their complicity with white supremacy since they started to work on Me and White Supremacy.


Part 1 Summary


Part 2: Week 2 Summary