A Brief History of White Supremacy Culture in the U.S.

  • White Europeans arrive on what is to become North America.
  • They bring with them a particular way of being in the world, and a particular belief that their way is ‘best’ and therefore worthy of being imposed on other peoples.
  • They begin to methodically construct a ‘culture’ of dominance, competition, and superiority—to the favor of white male land-takers/land-owners.
  • And all kinds of influence and privilege are constructed into this culture that allow the white male landowners to create laws, adjudicate laws, establish policies and practices, make decisions, block access, etc., to ensure they continue to be the ones that are in control.
  • And all kinds of horrible things happen to the peoples they dominate.
  • And 400 years later, that culture continues to operate— albeit often in more subtle ways than historically.
  • We were all raised with that culture already in place, and internalized it as we grew up and learned about the world. It permeates every person, institution, and system in the United States.
  • And every form of oppression is built on that culture—that collective way of being together—even those that are not about race.
  • Defensiveness, right to comfort, fear of open conflict, either-or thinking, progress = bigger-faster-more, a sense of urgency, paternalism, perfectionism, quantity over quality, individualism, a belief in objectivity.

Recognize any of these in yourself?  Or in our church?  Let’s talk about it.

—Carolyn Heineman

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