“Humanity is but a single brotherhood: so, make peace with your brethren” (1).
In Islam, every man, woman, and child are equal. God will judge and treat us all not by the way we look, but by what is in our hearts. Unfortunately, our society today acts in completely opposite ways to this. If more people were to hear these words and act accordingly, we would have less strife in this world, something definitely needed today.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator, with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (2).
When these words were written in the United States Declaration of Independence, did the authors and our forefathers believe this to include whites only, or for all of humankind who would come to America? We cannot answer this question; however, as centuries have gone by, most Americans believe this to be true for all races, not just whites. Yet with all the turmoil in America today, racism is more rampant, and white supremacy has begun to be more widespread, second only to the time of slavery.
What is white supremacy?
By definition, it is an organization that holds an adamant viewpoint that white people are superior to any other kind of race, including Africans, Native Americans, Asians, Latinos, Middle Easterners, etc. White supremacists believe the Caucasian race is far superior to all other races and, therefore, seek to either separate the races in the United States and most European countries, or eradi-cate all other races on Earth. Because of this ideology, they also believe that they should have the ability to dominate them and that only they should be able to live in white-only communities with no other race to be found. These “communities” include entire nations of purely Caucasians and no other race (3).
However, there are major differences between racism and white supremacy.
What is racism?
Racism is prejudice, discrimination, and antagonism directed against a person or people of the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized (4).
Although both racism and white supremacy refer to almost identical issues, it is important to know the difference. Racism is more a matter of prejudice, while white supremacy defines a power relationship. Racists do not like non-white people and will discriminate against them, but do not necessarily believe that only white people should have any or all freedoms. Racists judge non-white people harshly and treat them as such. White Supremacists believe all non-Caucasians do not deserve any freedom and disbelieve in their mere existence. They also belong to organizations whose goals are to control and hold power over them and even go as far as to try to eradicate their lives from our world.
Although white supremacy dates back to the 15th Century in Europe, let us focus on America, from its past to its current state. This has happened all throughout history in many different places to many different races, starting from European countries, however, it was largely directed towards black people, and America made the biggest impact with white supremacy from slavery to segregation and now to the present day.
In America, white supremacy began as early as the discovery of the nation. Every nation has a story or myth of how it was created. The story of settling and finding of the United States begins with Christopher Columbus ìdiscoveringî it, then its continued occupancy by brave Pilgrims to become independent from Englandís rule to westward expansion until it becomes an enormous, rich, and free country today (5).
Yet, most of this is a myth.
Columbus did not discover America, nor did he even land on any part of America. Yes, pilgrims did come here, fought difficulties, and made sacrifices to make America a new free country for others, yet it took centuries for any recognition or acknowledgment of Native Americans who were already settled here. This was when white supremacy began here. The treatment, abuse, and slaughtering of Native Americans is historical proof that white people felt superior to them and believed that their mere existence was such a hindrance on their lives that they tried to eradicate as many of them as possible and/or never recognized them not just as true founders and inhabitants of this new land, but as a race or people at all (6).
Many centuries later, Africans were kidnapped from their homeland. In America, they were subjugated, enslaved, tortured, abused, and sold to rich white people as if they were property. The United States could not have developed economically as a nation without enslaved African labor. Since this was a time of most ÿnancial gain from agriculture and some industrial work, there were not enough white people willing or able to do this type of work. They could not have used Native Americans, indigenous people, to do the work due to their population becoming insufficient. This is why and how they began the slave trade from Africa. White supremacists seem to have forgotten that it was the African slaves who made the growth and expansion of America possible.
At the time of slavery, white supremacy was politically supported. Even when the Constitution was decreed, there were still some signs of white supremacy. Article I, states that slaves are three-fifths of a person, and Article IV says that slaves must return runaway slaves (7).
When slavery was abolished, many people, mostly from Southern states, perpetuated the ideology of white supremacy. They created hate organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and many other neo-Nazi organizations that heavily supported white supremacy. Actually, these are just sub-sections of white supremacy. This was the era of segregation. These organizations, under the umbrella of white supremacy, still existed after the end of slavery and continued to treat black people in the same despica-ble manner. The only difference was that black people could not become slaves. Even with the end of slavery, segregation was allowed and highly encouraged. In addition, if a black person was murdered by a white person, most likely, there would be no repercussions at all.
As stated before, white supremacy also a˛ected all other races outside of Caucasians. The fear experi-enced by immigrants that now live here has had a long history in the United States. This all helped white supremacy as a whole. One example among many is when it fueled the nativist political party and the racist rules of the 1924 Immigration Act. This act prevented immigration from Asia, and this remained in effect until 1965. This shows how other races also faced this problem of the white race having power over them. In other countries, white supremacy groups emerged everywhere, such as the National Front in France, The Republicans (Die Republikaner) in Germany, and the Freedom Party of Austria (Frei-heitliche Partwi Osterreichs) and the Alliance for the Future of Austria (Bundnis Zukunft Osterreich) (8).
The Black Lives Matter movement has also spurred the creation of more white supremacy groups today. On July 23, 2019, Christopher A. Wray, the head of the FBI said that they made around one hundred domestic terrorism arrests since October 1, 2018, all having to do with white supremacy. Racism and white supremacy came back into the limelight in the past several years, especially with the high number of black people being unjustiÿably killed by the police. The latest death of a black man named George Floyd sparked a large debate once again since he was brutally murdered by police officers, while begging for his life as he could not breathe, surrounded by many witnesses and being videotaped. This video caused utter outrage within society everywhere. Many white corrupt police officers who commit these heinous crimes on black people are never disciplined for their actions, nor are they charged with a crime. During slavery and segregation, black people had no voices at all. Black people may not be as overtly oppressed today as back then, they still are treated unequally and can ÿnally try to make their voices heard, not just in America, but all over the world (9).
The big question is does white supremacy still exist today?
The answer is yes. Sadly, in America, the government and mainly its President have not only shown their own feelings of supremacy over black people, they also encourage others to not feel ashamed to act, say, and feel the same way. Instead of moving the country ahead by not repeating its unfortunate past, the President has been unabashedly open with his own racist and supremacy tendencies. White supremacists and our political leaders need to understand that their actions inflame each situation beyond repair. When people hold hatred in their hearts for anyone who is not white, it is unfortunately not an “easy fix.” The challenge is to expose those that have these ideologies and demonstrate to them how fundamentally they are cruel to their fellow human beings, and their actions are actual betrayals of the ideals on which the United States was founded and for which Americans have fought and died.
If they can learn the ideals of Islam, they can see that God says we are all equal and one. He will treat us the exact same, no matter what our color, race, ethnicity, or nationality are. The Prophet Muhammad (sa) said:
“O mankind! Your Lord is one, and your father is one. You are all descended from Adam, and Adam was created from Earth. He is most honored among you in the sight of God, who is most High. No Arab is superi-or to a non-Arab, no colored person to a white person, or a white person to a colored person, except in piety” (10).
This article appeared in the Fall 2020 print issue.
1. The Holy Qur’an (49:10)
2. “The Declaration of Independence.” https://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/
3. Newkirk, Vann. “The Language of White Supremacy”, The Atlantic, October 6, 2017.
4. Oxford Dictionary, Definition of Racism and White Supremacy
5. Martinez, Elizabeth. What is White Supremacy? February 1998, pgs. 14-18.
6. Martinez, Elizabeth. What is White Supremacy? February 1998, pgs. 14-18.
10. Musnad Ahmad, Hadith No: 22978
Last modified: December 2021