For Dr. Richard M. Cooper, white supremacy remains a constant in America.
“It is omnipresent. White supremacy exists in the institutional structures and the social systems of the United States. It has since and even before the birth of the United States,” stated Dr. Cooper, the co-coordinator of African American Studies and faculty in the Social Work department at Widener University.
Cooper counted among several scholars to share his thoughts with the Black Press on the rise of white supremacy in America.
“Counting incidences of overt racist behavior is not the only method of quantifying and analyzing the hundreds of years old structures that continue to produce acts of overt white supremacy in America,” he said.
The consequences of overt racism experienced by Black and brown people often remain unidentified and under-examined by the so-called mainstream systems, he noted further.
“But like the [four] seasons, racism does not have to be quantified by whites to exist and ultimately to kill and harm Blacks,” Cooper said. “White racism is simply an aspect of an American cycle of hatred. White supremacy is an actual system of oppression that presently cannot be killed in this country in the 21st century. The late sociologist Dr. W.E.B Du Bois defined it as the color line in the 20th century. That was over 100 years ago in 1881.”
Cooper remarked that the recently ascribed national victory expressed in the form of the conviction of former police officer Derek Chauvin for killing George Floyd has been mistakenly touted as evidence of more significant moral change in America.
He said some present it as evidence of systemic change in the misguided policing of Black people.
“In my experience, one limited verdict is simply inaccurate and at best a platitude in a racist swamp of needed reform throughout the criminal justice system in America,” Cooper said.
He said much of this perspective remains documented in the 2010 bestseller, “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander, who illuminates an historical and ongoing system of oppression by design.
This system of oppression also is captured in Dr. Molefe Asante’s, book 2003, “Erasing Racism: The Survival of the American Nation,” Dr. Cooper noted.
“There are far too many historical examples of white supremacy as a constant to try to capture it thematically here. In reality, even when the 1954 Supreme Court case referred to as Brown vs. the Board of Education was won, that did not dismantle systematic nationwide segregation in schools which still exists throughout the country today,” he said.
“The key difference is the word legalized. Legalized segregation is seemingly not allowed. Segregation still exists today,” he said.
Segregated schools originally counted as an outgrowth of the systematic hatred of enslaved and other non-white people to continue their disenfranchisement, he noted further.
While often cloaked in the language of educational disparity, white racism serves as the building block of these educational structures historically and at present Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s 1933 “The Miseducation of the Negro” provides similar insights.
“And Jonathan Kozol, 1991 in his book ‘Savage Inequalities,’ simply illuminates this thesis and adds more contemporary socio-economic data,” Cooper said.
“The often-automatic white racist response, ‘All Lives Matter’ to the Black Lives Matter movement, and to its founders, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Collins and Opal Tomeli, underscore my point. It is not a rise per se but simply a constant manifestation of white supremacy,” Cooper stated.
“There is an unwillingness for many whites to consider Black humanity even when the loss of life via chokeholds is being squeezed out of Black and brown people. Simply stated, retorts by whites to ‘I can’t breathe’ makes my point even better.”
Cooper noted the actions of the NBA and NFL, offering that a few years ago, racism existed in both leagues’ hierarchy. He noted the work of Colin Kaepernick and periods where the NFL and other sports leagues forbid Black participation.
“Again, I am not presenting an argument that addresses the rise of white supremacy; I pose it as a constant,” he said.
“White structures often define and validate reality for everyone. So, if white structures do not validate a phenomenon, it does not matter and does not get adopted into the lexicon of reality. It simply speaks to where power is located and who holds it still: Whites in America.”
During the 2016 presidential election, the rise of populism and voters of certain demographic archetypes voting for Donald Trump called “basket of deplorables” by Hillary Clinton was simply either latent or “non-galvanized” racist voters, Cooper recalled.
But given the moniker Clinton used and the political backlash she received, she had to retract her remarks, he said.
“In hindsight years later, when the Capitol was stormed, it appears Hillary Clinton may have accurately identified a variant form of racist populism. The problem is it took years to confirm Clinton’s observations,” Cooper said. “I suggest using terms of latency, awareness and even hybrid forms of white supremacy to illuminate its constant existence. And then to consider addressing the changing aspects or strains of it that continue and will continue to plague this society.”