The White Man's Burden

Supremacism [suh-prem-uh-siz-uhm] is the belief that a particular race, species, ethnic group, religion, gender, sexual orientation, class, belief system or culture is superior to others and entitles those who identify with it to dominate, control or rule those who do not. Many anthropologists consider male supremacism, also known as ‘male dominance’ or ‘patriarchy,’ to exist in all cultures throughout human history. Under it special rights or status is granted to men, i.e. ‘male privilege.’

Such supremacy is enforced through a variety of cultural, political and interpersonal strategies. Others note that this often has been balanced by various forms of female authority. Since the 19th century there have been a number of feminist movements opposed to male supremacism and working for equal legal rights and protections for women in all cultural, political and interpersonal relations.

Centuries of European colonialism of the Americas, Africa, Australia, Oceania and Asia were justified by white supremacist attitudes. During the 19th century, the phrase ‘The White Man’s Burden’ was widely used to justify imperialist policy as a noble enterprise. Following the American Civil War, a secret society, the Ku Klux Klan, was formed in the South. Its purpose was to restore white supremacy after the Reconstruction period. They preached supremacy over all other races, as well as over Jews, Catholics, and other minorities. Cornel West writes that Black Muslim supremacy arose in America as a counter to white supremacism. Groups advocating some version of it include Nation of Islam, the New Black Panther Party, the Black Hebrew Israelites, and the Bobo Shanti section of the Rastafari movement.

During the early 20th century until the end of World War II, the propaganda of the Empire of Japan used the old concept of ‘hakko ichiu’ (literally ‘eight crown cords, one roof’ i.e. ‘all the world under one roof’) to support the idea that the Yamato (ancient Japanese people) was a superior race, destined to rule Asia and the Pacific. During the 1930s and 1940s, Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party preached the existence of an Aryan master race and attempted to establish through conquest such an empire throughout Europe. In Africa, black Southern Sudanese allege that they are subjected to a racist form of Arab supremacism, which they equate with the historic white supremacism of South African apartheid. The alleged genocide in the ongoing War in Darfur has been described as an example of Arab racism.

Some academics and writers have alleged Christian supremacism as a motivation for the Crusades to the ‘Holy Land,’ as well as for crusades against Muslims and pagans throughout Europe. The Atlantic slave trade has been attributed in part to it as well. Some academics and writers have alleged Muslim or Islamic supremacism. The Qur’an and other Islamic documents always speak of tolerant and protective beliefs which have been misused, misquoted and misinterpreted by supremacists and anti Islamic elements. Some academics and writers allege Jewish supremacism, often in relation to Israel and Zionism. Author Minna Rozen describes the 17th century Jews of Jerusalems’ view of themselves as an elite group among Jews as supremacism. Ilan Pappé writes that the ‘First Aliyah to Israel’ ‘established a society based on Jewish supremacy.’ The Anti-Defamation League condemns as ‘antisemitic’ writings about ‘Jewish Supremacism’ by authors David Duke and Kevin B. MacDonald.

Zoroastrianism, an early monotheistic faith that influenced Judaism, Christianity and Islam, was originated among a people who called themselves Aryans, including Persians. Friedrich Nietzsche’s writings like ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’ (another name for Zoroaster) were interpreted by Nazis as being a foundation for their ideas of the Aryan superman and white supremacism. Nazis also appropriated the symbol of the faravahar of Zoroastrianism (a winged disc).

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