“If you make a man feel that he is inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself.” ~ Carter Godwin Woodson, The Mis-Education of the Negro
Let me say up front that this only marginally about Candace Owens (Farmer). In case you aren’t familiar with Owens, she is a former anti-conservative, turned conservative and enjoys “approved-Negro” status among Trump supporters. In her latest self-proclaimed rant, she seems to mis-read an entire world erupting in protest after the government-sanctioned death of George Floyd, to declare him a “violent criminal” who should not be depicted as a martyr or a hero by the media. Her words have earned her the wrath of her many detractors who consistently deride her as, among other things, an attention seeker, a self-hating troll, a white supremacist or an apologist for white supremacy.
I don’t know that anyone has depicted Floyd as anything other than someone who did not deserve to die in the manner and for the reason he died. He wasn’t a martyr in that he did not choose to die; in fact he begged for his life and was met with indifference.
I also don’t know that Owens is an adherent of white supremacy which is defined as “the belief that white people are superior to those of all other races, especially the black race, and should therefore dominate society.” I don’t know how she feels about herself or about being a black women in this country.
I do know she is not the only descendant of the enslaved, brought to this country in chains, who seems aligned with the dominant culture beliefs of this country, namely white supremacy. That shouldn’t be surprising; white supremacy permeates ALL U.S. systems and ALL U.S. citizens have been indoctrinated through those systems and socialization to believe in the superiority of white people and the inferiority of non white people, especially black people.
The United States’ education system, in particular, continues to perpetuate a whitewashed version of our history that elevates whites as heroic, while ignoring the violence of whites toward non whites. As noted teacher, lecturer, and diversity trainer Jane Elliott says, “If you participated in the U. S. education system and don’t believe in white supremacy, you weren’t paying attention.”
The lessons learned in the education system are reinforced by the housing system which has historically made homeownership more difficult and less beneficial for blacks people; by employment and healthcare systems that have kept many black people underemployed and unhealthy; and by a “justice” system that has criminalized black and brown skin.
The resulting disparities are misrepresented as evidence supporting white supremacy instead of what they really are — the consequences of systems intent on maintaining the status quo.
Even when black people overcome systemic oppression, according to Robin DiAngelo author of White Fragility, their success only reinforces America’s belief in the myths of individualism (which says that we are each unique and stand apart from others), and meritocracy (anyone can succeed if he or she works hard) and “obscures the reality of ongoing institutional white control.”
Candace Owens may really believe what she says or she may be taking advantage of an opportunity to boost her profile and conservative bonafides. I’m not going to expend any additional energy her or anyone else stuck on dominant culture beliefs about superiority of inferiority. Instead, I’m going to focus my energy on encouraging those who have felt or feel inferior or superior to recognize that the systems intent on generating those feelings and outcomes prevent the U.S. from achieving its ideal and educate themselves accordingly.
As the U.S. demographics shift and the majority white population declines, change is inevitable. That change is already reflected in the youngest generations; the huge protests we’ve seen in this country are less about one person and reflect the dissatisfaction many, especially the increasingly diverse Generations Y and Z, feel with the status quo. And we will either be a country led by a minority or we can create a country where all are seen equally and treated equitably.
Renita Alexander, Leadership Unlocked