White Women: The Clandestine Arm of White Supremacy
One of my most vivid memories takes me back to that beautiful corner office where I spent two hours with the new female CEO, sharing my perspective on how white supremacy was showing up in my treatment at the organization. She paused her passionate notetaking to gaze up at me and ask, “But isn’t it all because of the patriarchy?”
It was in that very moment I decided that I never wanted to hear another white woman mention the word “patriarchy” ever again. Even as she failed to empathize with me and my experience in the workplace, she suggested that the patriarchy was squarely to blame for the state of things, implicitly absolving herself, and the many other white women in positions of power at the organization, from any responsibility.
They seldom admit it, but white women have played and continue to play a major role in the perpetuation of white supremacy, in professional spaces as well as in wider society. While on a surface level this is understood and even acknowledged, there is a striking failure to practically address the reality of white female advantage in our initiatives to assist “marginalized” groups. If white women access the same level and type of support as racially oppressed people, does that reduce or amplify the prevalence of white supremacy?
For centuries, white women have been able to leverage their whiteness to exert power over the racialized “Other”. Now, in the age of mainstream social justice rhetoric, they are able to leverage their sex to attain benefits meant for “minorities”, thus accruing and consolidating even more power. The question is not whether white women reckon with their ability to embody both “victim” and “victor” on a personal or interpersonal level. It is a matter of whether society has already solidified their “oppressed” categorization, thus limiting the extent of true racial equity.
Although white women faced social and legal discrimination from white men, their whiteness and proximity to white men conferred a significant amount of power in racially stratified societies, which they used and abused in many ways. The study of “Maternal Colonialism” by Margaret D. Jacobs reveals that white women believed it to be their duty to “save” indigenous children, becoming active participants in their removal and indoctrination. She…