Colonialism is Not the Same Thing as White Supremacy

Chris Trotter on his blog Bowalley Road has pointed out how we are seeing more and more the term ‘white supremacist’ being used as a synonym for ‘racist’ in the mainstream media despite the two terms having very different meanings.

The current misuse of the term “white supremacy” is highly dangerous politically. By singling out this particular form of racism and misapplying it to famous figures from the past, as well as to people living in the present, the users of the term risk not only its rapid devaluation, but also the angry retaliation of those who feel both themselves and their beliefs to have been wrongly and unfairly condemned.

Chris Trotter

People are feeling angry and rightly so. Simply standing up for free speech makes people a target for accusations of white supremacy and racism these days. It is completely understandable that people resent being falsely accused and labelled.

A Maori man and Joseph Banks exchange a crayfish for a piece of cloth. 1769

Most concerning is the media’s use of the term White supremacist and White supremacy to describe the ideas of colonialists and colonialism as if the two are interchangeable.

This false characterisation of New Zealand history is even popping up now in political cartoons like this one published by the Dominion Post.

Cartoon credit Dominion Post. White man stealing Maori baby

[…] the number of New Zealanders subscribing to the beliefs journalists now describe as “white supremacist” is by no means a small one. Indeed, it is likely that a majority of older Pakeha New Zealanders still adhere, either wholly or in part, to the notion that the achievements of western civilisation – of white people – far outstrip those of any other. They may be careful about who they share these ideas with, but they hold them nonetheless.

Thinking that Western civilisation is superior to other civilisations is not white supremacy. It is inside Western civilisations that people of all religions, races and both sexes have the most rights and the best standards of living. People from not so civilised cultures flock to Western countries for that very reason.

Western countries look after the poor better and have better health care, cleaner environments etc. It is not a racist statement to say that Western civilisation and culture are vastly superior to other civilisations in key areas. Yes, these civilisations were founded by people with white skin, but why should we be ashamed to state that fact?

[…] The use of the term “white supremacy”, however, should properly be restricted to the specific political actors and the particular historical context from which it emerged.

[…] These regimes were built on the bedrock requirement that whites must in all conceivable circumstances: economic, social, cultural, legal and political; be placed ahead of and above blacks. The poorest and most ill-educated white farmer had to be able to count himself better off, both subjectively and objectively, than his black neighbours. White supremacy wasn’t just a matter of personal racial animus, it described a comprehensive and internally coherent system of race-based rule. A “white supremacist”, accordingly, is a person who not only subscribes to the principles underpinning the infamous “Jim Crow” system, but also – like the contemporary Ku Klux Klan – strives for its return.[…]

It is important to acknowledge that a political entity driven by the principles of genuine white supremacy will be very different from one in which the official goal is racial assimilation, as was formerly the case in New Zealand.

[…] Simple racial chauvinism is very different from the conscious creation of a race-based economic and political system. If, however, the media persists in lumping together every Pakeha who takes pride in the achievements of western civilisation with avowed Nazis, like Philip Arps, or genocidal eco-fascists, like the Christchurch shooter, then not only will the charge lose all its definitional and moral force, but, sooner or later, those so lumped will come to the conclusion that they might as well be hung for sheep as lambs.

Those on the Left who are promoting the use of this term, presumably as a way of shaming Pakeha New Zealanders into acknowledging and renouncing their “white privilege”, may soon come to regret driving their boots so forcefully into such a large pack of sleeping dogs […]