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White supremacism is the racist belief, or promotion of the belief, that white people are superior to people of other racial backgrounds and that therefore whites should politically, economically and socially dominate non-whites. The term is also typically used to describe a political ideology that perpetuates and maintains the social, political, historical and/or industrial dominance of whites (as evidenced by historical and contemporary sociopolitical structures like the Atlantic Slave Trade, colonization of the Global South, Jim Crow laws in the United States, and miscegenation laws in settler colonies and former settler colonies like the United States, South Africa, Australia, and Madagascar, for example). Different forms of white supremacism put forth different conceptions of who is considered white, and different white supremacists identify various racial and cultural groups as their primary enemy.
White supremacy has ideological foundations that at least date back to 17th-century scientific racism, the predominant paradigm of human variation that helped shape international and intra-national relations from the latter part of the Age of Enlightenment (in European history) through the late 20th century (marked by the end of Apartheid in South Africa in 1994, one of the last explicitly White supremacist sociopolitical structures to exist).
White supremacy was dominant in the United States before the American Civil War and for decades after Reconstruction. In large areas of the United States, this included the holding of non-whites (specifically African Americans) in chattel slavery. The outbreak of the Civil War saw the desire to uphold white supremacy cited as a cause for state secession and the formation of the Confederate States of America.
In some parts of the United States, many people who were considered non-white were disenfranchised, barred from government office, and prevented from holding most government jobs well into the second half of the 20th century. Many U.S. states banned interracial marriage through anti-miscegenation laws until 1967, when these laws were declared unconstitutional. Additionally, white leaders often viewed Native Americans as obstacles to economic and political progress with respect to the natives' claims to land and rights.
Nazism promoted the idea of a superior Aryan race in Germany during the early 20th century. Notions of white supremacy and Aryan racial superiority combined in the 19th century, with white supremacists maintaining that white people were members of an Aryan "master race" which is superior to other races, and particularly the Jews described as the "Semitic race", Slavs and Gypsies, which they associated with "cultural sterility". Arthur de Gobineau, a French racial theorist and aristocrat, blamed the fall of the ancient régime in France on racial degeneracy caused by racial intermixing, which he argued destroyed the purity of the Aryan race. Gobineau's theories, which attracted a strong following in Germany, emphasized the existence of an irreconcilable polarity between Aryan and Jewish cultures.
In order to preserve the Aryan race, the Nazis introduced in 1935 the Nuremberg racial laws which forbade sexual relations and marriages between Aryans and non-Aryans.
According to the annual report of Germany's interior intelligence service (Verfassungsschutz) for 2012, at the time there were 26,000 right-wing extremists living in Germany, including 6000 neo-Nazis.
The term white supremacy is used in academic studies of racial power to denote a system of structural or societal racism which privileges white people over others, regardless of the presence or absence of racial hatred. Legal scholar Frances Lee Ansley explains this definition as follows:
This and similar definitions are adopted or proposed by Charles Mills, bell hooks, David Gillborn, and Neely Fuller Jr. Some anti-racist educators, such as Betita Martinez and the Challenging White Supremacy workshop, also use the term in this way. The term expresses historic continuities between a pre-Civil Rights era of open white supremacism and the current racial power structure of the United States. It also expresses the visceral impact of structural racism through "provocative and brutal" language that characterizes racism as "nefarious, global, systemic, and constant." Academic users of the term sometimes prefer it to racism because it allows for a disconnection between racist feelings and white racial advantage or privilege.
Supporters of Nordicism consider the Nordic peoples to be a superior race considering all non-Nordic people, in particular Jews, Gypsies, Arabs, black people, brown people, East Asian people, Malay race people, and mixed-race people to be inferior to the master race. By the early-19th century white supremacy was attached to emerging theories of racial hierarchy. The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer attributed civilisational primacy to the White race:
The highest civilization and culture, apart from the ancient Hindus and Egyptians, are found exclusively among the white races; and even with many dark peoples, the ruling caste or race is fairer in colour than the rest and has, therefore, evidently immigrated, for example, the Brahmans, the Incas, and the rulers of the South Sea Islands. All this is due to the fact that necessity is the mother of invention because those tribes that emigrated early to the north, and there gradually became white, had to develop all their intellectual powers and invent and perfect all the arts in their struggle with need, want and misery, which in their many forms were brought about by the climate.
The eugenicist Madison Grant argued that the Nordic race had been responsible for most of humanity's great achievements, and that admixture was "race suicide". In Grant's 1916 book, The Passing of the Great Race, Europeans who are not of Germanic origin, but have Nordic characteristics such as blonde/red hair and blue/green/gray eyes, were considered to be a Nordic admixture and suitable for Aryanization.
In the United States, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) is the group most associated with the white supremacist movement. Many white supremacist groups are based on the concept of preserving genetic purity, and they do not focus solely on discrimination by skin color. The KKK's reasons for supporting racial segregation are not primarily based on religious ideals, but some Klan groups are openly Protestant. The KKK and other white supremacist groups like Aryan Nations, The Order and the White Patriot Party are considered Anti-Semitic.
Nazi Germany promulgated white supremacy in the belief that the Aryan race was the master race. It was combined with a eugenics programme that aimed for racial hygiene by using compulsory sterilizations and extermination of the Untermenschen (or "sub-humans"), which eventually culminated in the Holocaust.
Christian Identity is another movement closely tied to white supremacy. Some white supremacists identify themselves as Odinists, although many Odinists reject white supremacy. Some white supremacist groups, such as the South African Boeremag, conflate elements of Christianity and Odinism. The World Church of the Creator (now called the Creativity Movement) is atheistic and it denounces the Christian religion and other theistic religions. Aside from this, its ideology is similar to many Christian Identity groups, in their belief that there is a Jewish conspiracy in control of governments, the banking industry and the media. Matthew F. Hale, founder of the World Church of the Creator has published articles stating that all races other than white are "mud races," which the religion teaches.
The white supremacist ideology has become associated with a racist faction of the skinhead subculture, despite the fact that when the skinhead culture first developed in the United Kingdom in the late 1960s, it was heavily influenced by black fashions and music, especially Jamaican reggae and ska, and African American soul music By the 1980s, a sizable and vocal white power skinhead faction had formed.
White supremacist recruitment activities are conducted primarily at a grassroots level and on the Internet. Widespread access to the Internet has led to a dramatic increase in white supremacist websites. The Internet provides a venue to openly express white supremacist ideas at little social cost, because people who post the information are able to remain anonymous.
In February 1962 George Lincoln Rockwell, the leader of the American Nazi Party, spoke at a Nation of Islam rally in Chicago, where he was applauded by Elijah Muhammed as he pronounced: "I am proud to stand here before black men. I believe Elijah Muhammed is the Adolf Hitler of the black man!" Rockwell had attended, but did not speak at, an earlier NOI rally in June 1961 in Washington, D.C. and even once donated $20 to the NOI. In 1965, after breaking with the Nation of Islam and denouncing its separatist doctrine, Malcolm X told his followers that the Nation of Islam under Elijah Muhammad had made secret agreements with the American Nazi Party and the Ku Klux Klan.
Rockwell and other white supremacists (e.g. Willis Carto) also supported less well-known black supremacist groups, such as Hassan Jeru-Ahmed's Blackman's Army of Liberation, in reference to which Rockwell told Los Angeles Times reporter Michael Drosnin in 1967 that "Any Negro wants to go back to Africa, I'll carry him piggy-back."
More recently, Tom Metzger, erstwhile Ku Klux Klan leader from California, spoke at an NOI rally in Los Angeles in September 1985 and donated $100 to the group. In October of that same year a collection of over 200 prominent white supremacists met at former Klan leader Robert E. Miles's farm to discuss an alliance with Louis Farrakhan, head of the NOI. In attendance were Edward Reed Fields of the National States' Rights Party, Richard Girnt Butler of Aryan Nations, Don Black, Roy Frankhouser, and Metzger, who said that "America is like a rotting carcass. The Jews are living off the carcass like the parasites they are. Farrakhan understands this."
Although white racist activists must adopt a political identity of whiteness, the flimsy definition of whiteness in modern culture poses special challenges for them. In both mainstream and white supremacist discourse, to be white is to be distinct from those marked as non-white, yet the placement of the distinguishing line has varied significantly in different times and places.
For instance, Ben Klassen, founder of the atheistic World Church of the Creator and the author of The White Man's Bible, discusses Christianity extensively in his writings and denounces religion that has brought untold horror into the world and divided the white race.
A competing atheistic or panthestic white racist movement also appeared, which included the Church of the Creator/ Creativity (Gardell 2003: 129–134).