reflections on de-racialization in the 'three pillars'
March 29, 2015
so…. based on soemthing i did yesterday, i have occassion to revisit andrea smith’s ‘three pillars of white supremacy’ and thinking more about the limitations of how she describes the three logics/pillars.1
it occurred to me yesterday during an activity based on the three pillars framework that it very much de-racializes the Indigenous ppls of the americas and the ppl subsumed by Orientalism.
but for each pillar it removes one of key motivations of white supremacy: people.
what i mean by this is that by characterizing settler colonialism/Indigeneity as being about ‘land’ it ellides the very real role that biological/historical racism played in colonialism and white supremacy. yes. white ppl wanted land. but BUT. the Indigenous ppls of america were also targetted because they were Red. because they were thought to comprise and collectively embody a specific racial identity.
so too with the Orient. it isn’t just that Oriental ppls have been threats to white empires and that this threat is used as a justification for constant and ongoing wars, but that colonization (but also the warfare) is because white ppl targeted Orientals because we (or at least some of us) were Yellow.
In her analysis only Black ppl significantly retain this classic/historical racial identity imposed on them by white supremacy. this is a testiment to the specificity of anti-Blackness, because Black people can only ever be Black and nothing else.
and as much as the more modern notion of indigeneity is useful in a global sense, it still strikes me as bizarre to see the ways that many Indigenous ppls in the americas have disavowed and subsumed their racialization as people in order to only talk about land… which, fine of course, this isn’t my discourse and they can frame it however they’d like.
my problem is more when they apply this same logic, that of subsumming racialization for some other symbolic/conceptual notion (war, labour2) as if it makes real conceptual sense for white supremacy to not be about oppressing, subjugating, and killing racialized people.
of course, timing does matter with this since the rise of scientific racism is at least a 100 years after the beginning of colonialism and global white supremacy. in one respect ‘racism’/white supremacy as a specific explanatory and framework arose as a way to justify colonial projects already underway. but the formalization and systemization / codification of white supremacy as scientific racism also makes it clear that these racialized ideas have always been a part of colonialism.
i guess what i’m really asking for, from people who theorize and think about this sort of thing, is to not forget that white supremacy is always and has always been about relationships between peoples. it is not the only thing that it is about, but it is a non-trivial part and ought not to be minimized in these theories, especially since these racial logics STILL influence modern relationsips between ppls.