Why are some White people so upset about losing Aunt Jemima?
Please note: I’m White. While I’m glad you’re reading this, make sure you’re reading Black voices. If you decide to skip this and do that instead, wonderful. Some suggestions: Ijeoma Oluo, Ibram X. Kendi, Matthew Kay, Carol Anderson, bell hooks, Patrisse Khan-Cullors, Angie Thomas, and on and on.
It’s frustrating that we use “White Supremacy” to refer to something that’s so easy to marginalize and demonize. Because White Supremacy, the real thing, is so much broader and insidious than that.
When we (White people) think “White Supremacy”, we’ve been trained to think of goons in hoods lynching Black men and setting buildings on fire. The stuff of D. W. Griffith’s fantasies. The extremism of Jim Crow laws, where White people didn’t have to drink the same water or see Black folks on buses.
The modern version is Nazi Youth with gelled haircuts and khakis carrying Tiki torches and chanting “You will not replace us!” before plowing their minivans through crowds of protesters.
But White Supremacy is an entire system.
It’s a system of police that are trained to be polite to White people and treat Black people as violent criminals by default. A judicial system that thinks White rapists deserve a second chance but it’s okay if a Black man selling loose cigarettes is executed on the street.
It’s a system of education that tells Black children that their loud joy is disruptive, that their natural hair is forbidden, and that their clothing is provocative or shameful. That teaches Black children about the successes of White people, and when Black people are mentioned, it’s in the context of suffering and overcoming.
It’s a system of employment that puts Chad Wilson’s resume on top and DeShawn Wilkens’s resume on bottom, that tokenizes Black bodies through quotas but never seems to result in proper pay or promotions.
It’s a system of real estate where, okay, it’s illegal and all, but somehow Black folks still struggle to be shown houses in “those” communities, no matter how big a down payment they have in the bank.
It’s a health system that trains doctors and nurses to believe that Black folks are immune to pain and that they can wait just a few more minutes while the White people get treated. But turns to those Black folks like moths to a flame when it’s time to test medication.
It’s a system of entertainment where, despite all the gains, a White Savior movie (Viggo Mortenson, Nominee, Best Actor; Mahershala Ali, Winner, Best SUPPORTING Actor) still wins Best Picture. In “Hidden Figures”, a historical work, there was no single White person to put on the top as the hero, so we just made one up.
And there’s White Supremacy in its politest form: No matter what, White people still have to be at the top. We’ll buy Black voices, but even on ANTI-RACISM, we put Robin DiAngelo, a White person, at the top.
This is White Supremacy: Okay, so maybe Black lives matter, but WHITE lives matter more.
So when two, maybe three, major food producers make a decision to retire their culturally offensive brands, it means that White people are being taken out of the discussion, and we can’t have that.
It’s not that we’re racist or anything (yes, it is, but)…
And what bothers the White people most isn’t that the brands are being retired. Honestly, do people really care that much? It’s that we weren’t asked. It wasn’t based on what we wanted.
It’s bad enough that someone else’s opinion mattered more than ours. But: Someone else’s opinion is all that mattered.
“YOU WILL NOT REPLACE US!”
It’s right there in the chant. That’s what the core fear is: That White people will stop mattering. We’re so afraid of being irrelevant… not just losing power, but being irrelevant… that we’re willing to look like utter jackholes over syrup.
White Supremacy (the cultural machine, not the Griffithesque monster) is about making sure the White people stay on the top.
And if we lose our syrup, whatever will we have left?