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Why ‘White Genocide’ is Key to the Earth’s Survival: White Genocide From Baldwin to Ciccariello-Maher

White genocide would not only be good, it is necessary and even unavoidable; that is, if we are interested in the survival of the planet, humanity, and all life forms – though to be clear the phrase ‘white genocide’ is a bit of a misnomer.  Perhaps most accurate would be the concept of collective mass “white” ontological suicide or more simply put: the end of white supremacy. To clarify, a 140-character tweet cannot do justice to a necessary and timely analysis, so my intent is to do so here….  “White genocide” has little to do with violence or the physical death of actual living “white” people – or as renowned poet James Baldwin preferred to call them since 1979: “people who think they’re white” – but rather with the collective disinvestment amongst “people who think they’re white” from all forms of racial thinking and their own holding on to the benefits accrued directly and indirectly through a persistent global structure of white supremacy over the last 500 years.

In the 1984 essay, “On Being White,” James Baldwin also stated (as others before and after him have as well) that “no one was white before he/she came to America. It took generations, and a vast amount of coercion, before this became a white country.” That coercion was twofold: wreaked upon the bodies of indigenous inhabitants of these lands and the souls kidnapped, transported and enslaved through the Atlantic slave trade, on the one hand; but also through the legal and extralegal sanctioning and expectation that eastern and southern Europeans and Jews who were not initially decolonizingwesterrecognized as “white” also buy into violence against those seen as “non-white” as the price for entry into whiteness. W.E.B. DuBois would refer to this emergent “racial” solidarity between “white” workers and the elite slave owning class as the wages of whiteness, premised upon stoking the fears of “black” insurgency and a concomitant impending white genocide.  Throughout the rest of his life, Baldwin would insist on this line of analysis by consistently speaking about “people who think they’re white,” so as to point to the historical construction of said racial categories.

Enter a recent tweet by Drexel University professor George Ciccariello-Maher regarding his Christmas wish, and subsequent ones that pointed to “white genocide” as a “mythical figment of the ‘alt-right’ (a.k.a. white supremacist) imagination”. The first tweet garnered significant attention and even a national backlash amongst white supremacists who insisted that social media be a safe space to spew their racist garbage; a safe space free of the satirical mockery that the Ciccariello-Maher intended via the 140-character limit of twitter-landia…  The subsequent clarification using Haiti’s slave rebellion as an example was not enough to avoid condemnations from those, including his employer Drexel University, unfamiliar with the important genealogy and analysis that lies behind said phrase.

Through Baldwin, it becomes clear that the fiction here is not only the concept of “white genocide” (as a doomsday fantasy conspiracy of the alt-right grounded in contrived fear of a “black menace”) but moreover, the very construction of whiteness as a racial category, and other conceptions of race for that matter as biological fictions that have nevertheless had very real life and death social consequences in the forms of actual genocides against “non-white” peoples. For those of us who engage in the systematic study of the historical constructions of race for a living, who understand the role of racial fictions in shaping our society, and who draw from such history for the purposes of crafting cultural critique and social theory, the faux outrage of the alt-right is laughable at most, though itself also an illuminating example of the need for white genocide; that is, the end of investments in an imagined “white” identity and attendant white supremacy.

So how then are we to understand “white genocide” in the present? Is it the actual, physical killing of “white” people? If so, we must first define who are white people, and therein lies the erroneous foundational myth and premise of alt-right/white supremacists who maintain that there is a such a thing as a biological “white” race that is somehow at danger due to high rates of immigration to “white” countries, interracial marriage, and declining “white” birth rates.  The truth of the matter is that there is NO SUCH THING AS A WHITE RACE!!  The belief in such a biological fallacy, and the concomitant white supremacy as social/racial ideology is itself the problem that leads both to white supremacy as ideology and white genocide as conspiracy theory of the right. For there to be white genocide, there must be an actual white people.

It is Indigenous peoples of the territories now known as Africa and the Americas that experienced actual genocide at the hands of “people who think they’re white.” This is the case, as opposed to various diverse Euro-descended peoples who over time came to demarcate themselves as a collective white race through the actual genocide, colonization and enslavement of others.  That Jews, Italians, Irish and other South and Eastern European immigrants were not initially considered white is itself testament to the fiction of whiteness, for “whites” are the historical result of a political process and not an immutable fact of a biologically distinguishable genus/people. As Baldwin noted, “White men – from Norway, for example, where they are Norwegians – became white: by slaughtering the cattle, poisoning the wells, torching the houses, massacring Native Americans, raping Black Women.”  He further explained “this country is only white because it says it is” and during a 1979 speech in Berkeley, he elaborated, “insofar as you think you’re white, you’re irrelevant.”  That is to say that the very concept of whiteness was/is a “romance” that obfuscates reality and is the basis of all racial divides. To call for white genocide is to call for an end to white supremacy and the racial thinking that upholds it.

Baldwin would be explicit in stating that “whiteness” was a “state of mind”. It should thus be clear that, as with Baldwin, “when I say ‘white’ I’m not talking about the color of anybody’s skin. I’m not talking about race. It’s a curious country, a curious civilization, that thinks of it as race. I don’t believe any of that. White people are imagined. White people are white only because they want to be white.”  To call for white genocide is simply to call on the collective conscious of people to look at themselves in the mirror, for it is the racial thinking itself that makes “people who think they’re white” think that they are actually “white” and not the result of a history of violence through which they constructed themselves as white.

Lewis Gordon similarly reminds us that Richard Wright once hosted Jean-Paul Sartre in Harlem and in that visit Sartre remarked, “Richard, won’t you tell me about the Negro problem.”  Wright brilliantly responded that there was no Negro problem, but rather the problem was one of the White attitude towards Negroes. From this historic exchange Sartre would recognize that the problem in Europe during World War Two was not a “Jewish problem” but rather the problem of the Anti-Semites in their attitude towards the Jews and from said epiphany would go onto to write his 1946 book Anti-Semite and Jew. This same analysis equally tells us that the problem of the 21st Century is not that of anti-white sentiment, but rather the initial construction of self as White in relation to the so-called non-White that is now haunting “people who think they’re white.”

So while Christmas has come and gone, and I am tempted to say, ‘Well, we still have the Reyes Magos,’ instead the act of “white genocide” is not one that will come with any holiday, but rather one that must come from a collective mass ontological suicide amongst “people who think they’re white” who must actively divest themselves of all racial thinking…. Only this, perhaps utopian, reality – as opposed to the election of Barack Hussein Obama, which only led to the increase of unarmed Black men being killed by law enforcement officers – is something that must be actively fought for and arrived at by the conscious and willful acts of “people who think they’re white.”  Only then can we truly speak of a colorblind, post-racial society.  Until that time, the call for “white genocide” is not only justified, but rather an important call for a collective self-reflection on concepts of race that continue to demarcate and distinguish the value of life and death and access to justice.

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Roberto D. Hernández is an assistant professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies at San Diego State University. He is the program director for the Decolonizing Knowledge and Power summer school in Barcelona and recent co-editor of Decolonizing the Westernized University.  He can be reached at roberto (at) decolonialtranslation.com

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