White supremacy is the evil and destructive ideology of racial hierarchy with whiteness at the top and blackness at the bottom.
On white supremacy, Bryan Stevenson (from Just Mercy) wrote, “The great evil of American slavery wasn’t the involuntary servitude; it was the fiction that black people aren’t as good as white people, and aren’t the equals of white people, and are less evolved, less human, less capable, less worthy, less deserving than white people. That ideology of white supremacy was necessary to justify enslavement, and it is the legacy of slavery that we haven’t acknowledged.”
Stevenson’s quote tells us two things. One — the narrative of white supremacy enabled slavery, segregation, and etc. Two — even when racist policies changed for the better, the ideology of white supremacy was not addressed. Instead, it remained and adapted itself for the next era.
Today, white supremacy is both explicit and implicit. Explicit white supremacy happens when people practice racial prejudice, discrimination, and hostility. Racial slurs, racial stereotyping, racist jokes and comments are all examples of explicit white supremacy.
Implicit white supremacy is more subtle, but it still permeates American society. People commonly assume that the way white people typically live is the best way, or at least the “normal” way. For example, in the field of theology, you can study “Black theology” or “Latin theology,” while white theology is just “theology.” Even when there are no explicit racist intentions attached to the assumption of white normativity, it is still white supremacy. White supremacy is not reserved for extremists. It’s a mainstream ideology that people intentionally and unintentionally participate in.
The Capitol raid exhibited both explicit and implicit white supremacy. Explicit expressions included the waving of Confederate flags. A lynching noose was set up to invoke fear and intimidation. There’s a video of the MAGA-mob chanting, “I can’t breathe,” the final words of George Floyd, as they rallied. Explicit white supremacy was on full display throughout the breach.
White supremacy was implicitly communicated when police treated this white mob much less violently than Black Lives Matter demonstrators. Even more drastic is the difference between the treatment this mob received from police compared to Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor. This racial double standard is not random. It was the implication of white supremacy.
Not only was the police less violent at the Capitol raid, but they were intentionally understaffed. The logic behind understaffing this event in comparison to Washington DC’s BLM demonstration revealed the white supremacist narrative that black protestors are more violent than white ones. This event was riddled with implicit white supremacy.
Both explicit and implicit expressions of white supremacy are condemned by Christ. Christian doctrine teaches that people of all ethnicities and races are created equally in God’s image. The gospel is for all people, and thus all ethnicities and races. Revelation describes heaven as multiethnic and multiracial. Christ calls us to live by the ethic of “love thy neighbor,” and dismantling white supremacy is an expression of love to all minority neighbors.
Unfortunately, Christianity and white supremacy often go hand-in-hand. Explicit expressions of Christianity were in the midst of the Capitol raid filled with explicit expressions of white supremacy. The mob boasted signs that said, “Jesus 2020” and “Jesus Saves,” along with wooden crosses, amid Confederate flags and a lynching noose. Mob members spent time in prayer in preparation for the raid. A quick Google search will reveal that similar Christian signs and prayers accompanied Klu Klux Klan events during the Jim Crow era. Many American Christians have embraced the anti-Christlike ideology of white supremacy throughout our history.
This relationship between Christianity and white supremacy may be baffling to some. Other readers have already rolled their eyes, muttering, “Of course,” under their breath. Either way, it is certain that white Christianity in America has a white supremacy problem, and it must be dealt with.
Defensive responses from Christians saying, “I’m not racist!” are irrelevant. Regardless of how racist or not-racist a Christian person may be, they are still called to actively dismantle white supremacy for the sake of both our minority neighbors and Christ. Christianity is entangled in the mess of white supremacy, and it will take all of us to make a difference.
Christians: It is time to speak out against white supremacy in our churches and in public. Let’s not call it a social issue; let’s call it sin. The world already knows where we stand on so many topics. What if Christianity was famous for opposing white supremacy?
Hold yourselves and other believers accountable — especially when those believers are church leaders and elected officials. Confess when we had contributed to white supremacy, even when it was unintentional and implicit. Just as important is the sin of omission. Confess when we have encountered white supremacy and left it unaddressed.
Leaders from both sides of the aisle are saying, “Now is the time for healing.” What is neglected, however, is that healing is impossible without confession. James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to one another so that you may be healed.” Talk of unity and healing is sentimental but insufficient without public ownership of complicity in racism. Without the white church’s admittance of its failure to disciple well on race, white supremacy will remain and adapt, just as it did at the end of the slavery era when talk of emancipation adapted into segregation. White American Christianity is sick with white supremacy, and confession is our only path to healing.