White Supremacy Has Been Bolstered

And Not In The Way You Might Think

By Bryn Buchanan

The vigil at UVA after the events of this weekend should have been beautiful, touching; the community rallying together to reject white supremacy in their streets and on that campus.

But all I saw as I watched the solidarity action on the internet was a sea of (mostly) white people with fire, coming in the night, claiming space as if they own the place. And that scared the HELL out of me.

Now, although these images are composed in similar ways, they HAVE to be ideologically opposite, right? Not as much as we’d like to believe. In the wake of Charlottesville and the “Unite The Right” rally which has sparked all kinds of white outrage I’ve seen something insidious emerge from the depths of “good” white people’s psyche, as they’ve wrestled with the events of the past few days on social media and, even more personally exhausting, with and at me. This beast, which I’ll name “White Distancing,” has condemned “extremists,” “fascists,” and “white supremacy” as a whole while also trying to claim white goodness and outrage. Trumpeted from platforms and across the news, the perspective of the average white person has been outrage.

I am not here for it.

Just a few days after the “Unite The Right” rally my community had a gathering, a “Unity Rally” (again, we must take a moment to see the similarities and wonder about the appropriateness of the title in light of recent events). It featured the Mayor, the leader of an anti-hate group (note the title, it’s important later), and leaders like the chancellor of UC Davis. When activists in the community wanted to disrupt the event and draw attention to the Picnic Day 5 — young Black and Brown people who had been attacked by vigilante police and prosecuted by the local DA — others, again largely white people and their sympathizers, argued that this event was neither the time nor the place. Our white, male Mayor is sensitive.

If a rally, organized around combating white supremacy, is not the right time to confront white supremacy right here at home I don’t know when is.

So why has the silencing of Black and Brown bitterness, of our anger, and our tactics been so prevalent — our voices so rejected — in the wake of the “Unite The Right” rally? There are two main components to explaining this phenomenon:

  1. White Fragility

Most white people love to claim outrage at the latest events, without realizing that even if they are outraged their uncles and aunties are probably attendees and that their concern over “affirmative action keeping them from schools and jobs of their choice” lays the groundwork for white supremacy to operate in very, very mundane, institutional ways.

I’m unconcerned about your feelings. I’m interested in whether or not you can move past the outrage of the week to address the ways white supremacy happens *everyday* outside wearing polo shirts and swinging Nazi flags.

We know, you reject Nazis, but do you reject state sponsored Black genocide?

Racism was never just about feelings. In fact, as a scholar of race, the focus on feelings of prejudice is actually just a small part of the way racism and white supremacy operate today. The rejection of any kind of “racial prejudice” allows white people to disavow racism while still passively receiving it’s benefits and privileges. White outrage similarly centers feelings — as if Black people care about you feeling bad (we don’t). What we want is structural change and the addressing of racial practices in your everyday lives and institutions. Now is not the time to be dismayed; now is the time to put your nose to the grindstone and *work*.

  1. Tokenized Black Folks

The other danger is that white people are looking to individual Black folks to confirm or support their feelings. And some, for whatever reason (including the fact that white people often have structural power over Black folks sooo…you know people still gotta pay that rent) Black folks will and do sometimes support actions which do not challenge white supremacy.

But here’s the thing. Identity is not an inherent political frame. Being oppressed doesn’t mean you don’t buy into the system that oppresses you.

It’s not enough to be made vulnerable by various structures — that may give you experiences of oppression but doesn’t necessarily organize those experiences towards a historical and contemporary understanding of collective liberation. Being against hate (broadly) is not enough to build a cogent historical and liberatory framework.

Those experiences are a part, but not the whole, foundation for political and social action. When Black folks ask white people to deal collectively with white supremacy they are not asking white people to free individual Black people, or center individual voices, but *all* of us.

This means that having a Black person speak (cough, cough Gary May) at your event doesn’t mean it’s oriented towards Black liberation and it certainly doesn’t mean it’s challenging white supremacy.

So stop using us as weapons against your guilt and outrage.

At the End of the Day

At the end of the day, white supremacy of the everyday sort hasn’t been challenged by all the posturing on Facebook or the signs declaring a fight against it. In fact, I’ve seen many white people use white outrage, and vigils, to bash direct action and critique *from Black people.* White supremacy is insidious because it is so woven into our societal and social fabric that even when people perform allyship that is all it is — performance. A number of other folks have spoken to how to channel outrage into something valuable (See “So You Want To Fight White Supremacy”). White people: check them out, check yourself, and next time you want to express your outrage do NOT come to me for a pat on the back.

Bryn Buchanan is a PhD student in the Sociology Department and an organizer of SWERV (Students and Workers Ending Racial Violence).

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

Related posts


  1. David Greenwald

    “I’m unconcerned about your feelings. I’m interested in whether or not you can move past the outrage of the week to address the ways white supremacy happens *everyday* outside wearing polo shirts and swinging Nazi flags.”

  2. Jerry Waszczuk


    I know what you are concerned about but nobody wants to answer mu question why the  National Socialists and the KKK which long time ago  was created and revitalized by Democrats still marching , causing trouble , swinging Nazi Flag . Why the legal in contrary to the  communist which were outlawed in 1954  and many of them were prosecuted as we both know .  I believe that you believe Nazis are nor dangerous than communists are .  I ma against Nazis and KKK but why they are legal in USA . This is a bottom line question which I am expecting the  you are able to answer a Political Scientist  and Jewish.  I think that you as  Jewish you have a big reason to be  very concern about Nazis and KKK and White Supremacists . Their message about Jews is clear . President Reagan in 1981 had no problem to outlaw  11000 workers  Air Traffic Control Union in 1981 but Nazis and KKK still around. I don’t get it . Every US  President is going to West Wall in Jerusalem to think about Extermination of Jews but Nazis and KKK still marching .

    [moderator] edited

      1. Karl liebhardt

        Perhaps the author could buttress this assertion re/ “state sponsored genocide,” if they truly believe it.  That’s about a strong a term as a person could use.

  3. Eric Gelber

    I’ve read this article twice and still can’t figure out what anyone can do to ever make this author happy.

    I don’t think the intent of the article was to inform you how to make the author happy. So, I’d say you missed the point. The point, I believe, is that rallies and other expressions of moral outrage at overt examples of racism and bigotry will not impact the subtle and, therefore, more pernicious systemic issues of institutional racism.

    The author emphasized, “What we want is structural change and the addressing of racial practices in your everyday lives and institutions.” Read the article cited by the author. I found it thought-provoking and informative. It may help you to figure out some things you can do.

    1. David Greenwald

      From the article quoted, “White supremacy is not just about the hateful actions of individuals or groups of individuals.  White supremacy is first and foremost a system. A system which puts the belief that white people are superior to other races into practice. It is this system that makes white supremacy as dangerous as it is, and it kills people much more violently and with more frequency than we’ve seen this past weekend in Virginia.”

      I think this is a point just about everyone misses when they focus on hateful individuals rather than the systemic approach.

      That said one problem I have with the author here is that they are too quick to turn on would be allies.

      1. Jerry Waszczuk


        I think you are missing the point not offering any thoughts how to fix the problem  with  KKK or marching Neo-Nazis . You just posting one article after another about and you had no any clue what should be done .

        1. David Greenwald

          First, I didn’t write this article, it was a guest submission

          Second, this is article really is arguing that the problem is not with the KKK or Neo-Nazis.  So I think a lot of people have missed this key point (not just you).

        2. Jerry Waszczuk

          David I did say you wrote this article but you  are selecting articles which fit your ideological desire . You are the motor on the DV  which is turning wheels and instigating trouble .  Nazis , Nazis ,Nazis , White Supremacy , White Supremacy , KKK , KKK , over  and over without disclosing how dangerous are these groups of radicals for you and for others and what kind solution you could offer to solve the problem . These radical groups are not new in America .


          1. David Greenwald

            The Vanguard has a policy of printing submitted pieces. The point of this piece, similar to one I wrote earlier this week is that it’s not enough to talk about Nazis, it’s easy to condemn that subgroup, the real test is whether you are willing to go after the underlying system of white supremacy. As Tia points out, there actually are a number of specific actions presented in the piece.

  4. Tia Will

    For those of you who are stating that the author did not include any specific actions that we could take, did you read the linked article in its entirety ?  It lists a number of specific actions from reaching out socially, to changes in the schools and in the work place.

    I was favorably impressed with most of the article. I do take exception to one point.

    as if Black people care about you feeling bad (we don’t)”

    I see this as a shame. It is exactly this lack of caring for how another individual or group feels that allowed whites to initiate and maintain slavery, Jim Crow and all of the other inequalities both individual and systemic which have created the disparities that we see today. When we do not care about how “the other” feels, it is easy to dehumanize them and to justify the separation that is created. No one is immune to this process of dehumanization which fuels tribalism and disdain for the other. Humans tend to treat and be treated better by those whom we truly care about. Surely part of the disassembly of systemic inequities must be based upon caring about experiences, opportunities, and yes, feelings.

    1. Howard P

      Yes, Tia, read it ~ 5 times…

      The author is ‘privileged’ … in a PhD program… obviously ‘oppressed’…

      No one is immune to this process of dehumanization which fuels tribalism and disdain for the other.

      That would include yourself, right?

      I have another view… I don’t dehumanize… I do question views expressed by humans… if they are not substantiated by facts,  and are inconsistent with my independent judgement.  The article is a rant, with kernels of truth.  A dangerous mix…


  5. Jim Hoch


    The author is not going to like the coming decades where continuing immigration will dramatically increase the percentage of Asians and Hispanics while leaving the African-American and Caucasian population ever-smaller in percentage terms.

    From PEW “By 2055, the U.S. will not have a single racial or ethnic majority. Much of this change has been (and will be) driven by immigration. Nearly 59 million immigrants have arrived in the U.S. in the past 50 years, mostly from Latin America and Asia. Today, a near-record 14% of the country’s population is foreign born compared with just 5% in 1965. Over the next five decades, the majority of U.S. population growth is projected to be linked to new Asian and Hispanic immigration. ”

    None of these groups have shown themselves to be interested in the advancement of African-Americans, or for that matter, the transgendered.

    1. David Greenwald

      Knowing the author, I’m not convinced that’s a huge problem for them. I would say they would take exception to use the word choice “transgendered” as though the term were a verb rather than “transgender”

      1. Jim Hoch

        “trans” means across so “transgendered” would indicate someone who has moved from one gender to another while “transgender” would indicate someone who has always been across genders. I’m not sure which is more accurate in this case. And it would seem that “transgender” would also be”cisgendered” as if you are across genders at birth than your current gender also matches your birth gender so you are both “trans” and “cis”.

  6. Claire Benoit

    An associate I admire commented that ALL historical monuments of white people represent white supremacy and that they should ALL be taken down. I thought about that, and he’s actually right about all of them representing some aspect of white supremacy… how could they not? White supremacy is a part of our history…

    Then the golden response to him was; “No different than Taliban and Isis…”


    “White privilege” exists… I think MORE education is needed about history just to make interracial compassion and self-awareness more organic between white and black Americans… with more compassion and awareness I believe constructive criticism and support will replace a lot of prejudices and judgment. And the hate that’s used as a tool by media and politicians will be more difficult to harvest.

    THAT said; at some point you have to recognize that this world has a lot of inequities. Some worth fighting and others necessary to accept as part of LIFE. I’ve met some very privileged white people who had greater insecurities and anxieties than me. Ive met some whose parents paid their education and all their adult expenses and yet their achievements were less than my own lackluster list… and I am black and come from some pretty hard knocks. There’s balance in everything if you are willing to look for it. (I struggle with this daily as a human being myself. But it’s a necessary truth).

    Its also wise to accept that most people are self interested. Most people empathize with those they identify with. When you accept this you can start working within the context of REALITY. Instead of obsessing over how Jane and John might FEEL about you, you can communicate effectively with them to achieve whatever benefits you most.

    Most non-black people are not going to be especially motivated to vigilantly protest an issue that is promoted as exclusive to blacks anymore than most blacks will go out of their way to fight causes exclusive to Asians. You can bring up the ancestral connections all you want but this is unrealistic at best. People don’t want to pay the debts of a dead parent; who feels liable for the debt of an unconfirmed distant ancestor from 200 years ago? Exactly. Be Realistic.

    Police brutality/misconduct is an issue for all Americans. Our legal system fails people of all colors. Our employment system, medical system, and educational system leaves muc to be desired for a lot of people; not just blacks. How about the privileged white kid who gets all the medical attention he/she needs only to be overly medicated and turned into an addict at 12? Your dark side isn’t the only one.

    When we stop racializong serious issues, we will see greater progress. EVEN IF you can find statistics that show some aspects being a disproportionately black issue; in order to be EFFECTIVE – give your cause the name that you want others to call it by. This is the art of persuasion. If I want apathetic people to see black issues as a human issue; I’m going to avoid the middle step. CALL it a human issue!  The problem at the root of many left movements is a preoccupation with changing people’s sentiments and opinions. Why?! What a waste of time. Make the racial aspects of these matters distantly secondary; such that few will know unless they are consciously bigoted (most aren’t) and go out of their way to discover this…

    Be realistic and focus on the tangibles. Whenever possible avoid unnecessary arguments. These are basic sales skills lol.

    I don’t believe these things aren’t obvious to most reasonably intelligent people. Which is why I hold to the belief that the exploitation and instigation of these racial tensions is THE bigger issue. Because that is a matter of people continuing to be manipulated and exploited by a system that’s oppressing ALL of us.

    If you really want change, focus on the aspect of every issue in relation to children. Children are the root of every solution to every problem of mankind.

    1. Jerry Waszczuk

      I don’t believe these things aren’t obvious to most reasonably intelligent people. Which is why I hold to the belief that the exploitation and instigation of these racial tensions is THE bigger issue. Because that is a matter of people continuing to be manipulated and exploited by a system that’s oppressing ALL of us.


      Excellent thoughts and  the whole your post is excellent . I love it . You should post it as a  separate article . Congrats.


  7. Claire Benoit

    The key to black people (or anyone for this matter) feeling less insulted by prejudices (because this is clearly an issue for many; not just systemic inequities) – is to fully love and appreciate who you are. This is harder than people pretend it is.

    when this happens (I’m still working and waiting on this myself) you’ll see more differences than disparities.

    Youll truly see someone’s personal contempt of you as THEIR loss and be above the insult. You should be able to look at a monument erected in honor of their supremacy with pride because you know they are not superior to you. And you don’t need a statue to prove or disprove it.

    A toilet is a monument for what ifs worth. Things only have the value you give them. Any negative meanings associated with the monuments “black activists” have lobbied to have taken down were empowered the moment it was accepted that they had the power to oppress black people. This movement made old concrete statues significant symbols of oppression.

    if time heals; their meaning could be very different today were people willing to accept that. Be willing to heal. Be willing to accept that times have changed even as you work to change them more.

  8. Jerry Waszczuk

    A toilet is a monument for what ifs worth. Things only have the value you give them. Any negative meanings associated with the monuments “black activists” have lobbied to have taken down were empowered the moment it was accepted that they had the power to oppress black people. This movement made old concrete statues significant symbols of oppression.


    By reading your post the Marcus Garvey’s life crossed my mind . His  struggle for black people rights 100 years ago and his way  to coexist with white folks  and KKK  was viewed  by many as a  collaboration with KKK.  His  statement:

    I regard the Klan, the Anglo-Saxon clubs and White American societies, as far as the Negro is concerned, as better friends of the race than all other groups of hypocritical whites put together. I like honesty and fair play. You may call me a Klansman if you will, but, potentially, every white man is a Klansman as far as the Negro in competition with whites socially, economically and politically is concerned, and there is no use lying.

    and his political activities cost him  5 years sentence in federal prison.  When his trial ended in 1923 Marcus Garvey lamed Jewish Federal Judge and Jewish Jurors for miscarriage of  justice . In 1928 In 1928, Garvey told a journalist:

    “When they wanted to get me they had a Jewish judge try me, and a Jewish prosecutor. I would have been freed but two Jews on the jury held out against me ten hours and succeeded in convicting me, whereupon the Jewish judge gave me the maximum penalty

    The President Obama  declined to pardon Garvey in 2011, writing that its policy is not to consider requests for posthumous pardons.

    The Marcus Garvey’s activities and conviction remind me political activities and conviction of the  former most notable California  Democratic Senator Leland Yee who was framed by the Napolitano order to protect Dianne Feinstein’s  husband Richard Blum and few others  from the  prosecution due to their white collar criminal activities . Yee was   thrown into federal prison at age of 68  for five with help of Darrel Steinberg and Jerry Brown.

    In October 2016 I wrote  to Senator Dianne Feinstein

    Maybe at the end of your career, you should do something good and merciful by asking your Democratic President to pardon Leland Yee before President Obama will leave his office. I think it would be the best thing you have ever done in your life if you make this happen, and it will allow Senator Leland Yee to join his family, especially his ill wife, who needs a lot of care. I believe that President Obama will listen you and sign the executive order to release Senator Yee from Fort Worth Federal Correctional Institution. Senator Leland Yee is a political prisoner and his unlawful incarceration is not the way to cover up  the white collar  crimes some of listed regents including and not limited to Richard Blum listed   in my specific  September 25, 2015 inquiries I sent to you.


  9. Claire Benoit

    Hi Jerry, forgive the delayed acknowledgment. I’ve heard of Marcus Garvey of course, but know little of him other than his name. This is interrsting history, thank you for the lead!

    i agree with him, from what you’ve shared.

    Have you ever noticed the people most eager to call out white privilege are the ones with the lions share of it? It’s even funnier when they profit from their “activism”.

    I love the truth and awareness but there always seems to be quite a lot of hypocrisy in it… There’s institutionalized racism of course. Black poverty is a serious problem with roots in our history. But the way to solve black poverty is not to nurture it.

    I always feel like the liberal view is feed them because they cannot feed themselves. And the opposite extreme on the conservative spectrum is – “make them find their own damn food!”

    Both are idiotic but the “liberal” view feels more racist and insulting to me even if blindly well intentioned. The latter is just calloused and insensitive – perhaps because of more conscious racism – but they tend to stumble into more effective solutions.

    Ive had the misfortune/privilege (depending on how you look at it) of some close dealings with klansmen, white supremacists, nazi sympathizers… for the most part – they were less condescending and more capable of broadening their views than the most self-righteous liberals I’ve known. Many of whom almost seem proud of their white privilege and gloat in denouncing it by… exaggerating it’s relevance(?) and insulting whites from humbler lesser priveleged backgrounds….😅🤔

    It’s interesting to see how some liberals (not all of course) squirm if an underprivileged person acknowledges that they value who they are above whatever white privilege can make of someone else. Does that make sense? It often seems to me there is a desire for blacks to agree that we are somehow less than and in need rather than great.

  10. Claire Benoit

    *great in our own right.

    How about, I don’t want your white privilege even if it could Ben mine? I like being deep in my capacity to suffer and heal and dare the impossible?

    I like being a survivor of a most cruel history. I love the music that came from the AMERICAN experience of africans. African music is entirely different and comparably awful imho.

    I think black people need to stop letting liberal white media and politicians dictate to them how they perceive themselves and their history.

    Some things need to be fought for – sure. But attacking dislike, free speech – who has time for this stuff? Tearing down monuments because we’re supposed to feel oppressed by concrete statues of dead men is ludicrous. Erect monuments that commemorate the survivors side. Complete the story

    Let people miss out on who you are until they overcome their hatred/blindness

  11. Claire Benoit

    Let them do it on their own.

    feed the minds of children with MORE history,  not less.

    Protect the safety of schools. Kids should be able to learn without distraction. Protect the freedom of religion. Parents should be able to impart their values and faith to their children.

    It takes all kinds.

    There seems to be a lot of crossover in violating rights of one group and hypervigilantly protecting the feelings of others… this just makes for a lot of confusion, wasted energies, resentments, unrealistic expectations, and ultimately division.

    i wouldn’t want to share a table with anyone that requires me to filter my words and lie about my feelings. That’s what’s happening. And this, I believe, stops people from thinking. Because it’s almost like american culture is telling us what feelings are right and which are wrong…

    wheres the diversity in that? How boring is a world where the ONLY differences are things superficial and unchangeable – like skin color?

    is this what we want?!

    I think it’s better to focus on understanding differences so we can better co-exist. But I don’t have to eat what everyone is serving. It’s wrong to force-feed values this way. That’s what’s happening more with liberals than conservatives by a long stretch.

    I do hope one day we lose those titles and people are freer just to have their views rather than wholly aligning with these rigid agendas.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for