In a Google search for news of the horrific shooting that took place yesterday in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the Muslim identity of the three victims is named many times, but the whiteness of the murderer is apparently not headline news.
It should be.
Whiteness must be made visible, and white people must be the ones to make it so. We have to learn the history – the real history, not the fictitious narrative – of whiteness: imperialism, colonialism, genocide, scientific and commodity racism, domination, assimilation. Anti-blackness is white supremacy. Islamantagonism is white supremacy. Each manifestation of this ideology is its own twisted system requiring specific address, but we have to stop placing the entire focus on the oppressed and start naming the oppressor. Yes, three Muslim students were killed. But this is only half the story, and it is framed in a way that erases the perpetrator. A white man killed three Muslim students. White supremacist thought manifested in an act of white power.
The Chapel Hill Police have a vested interest, conscious or not, to maintain the illusion that white supremacy no longer exists, and their story of a dispute over a parking space fits that narrative. I have heard white people hope aloud that this crime wasn’t racially motivated, a hope invested in keeping whiteness invisible. Of course this crime was racially motivated. It was motivated by white supremacy.
We have to acknowledge the reality that led a white man to execute three Muslim individuals, but white people don’t want to do the work of deconstructing a historical fiction of liberty and entrepreneurship that paints us as heroes. That story is comfortable for us, for obvious reasons. We like to leave out white supremacy entirely, but that was a foundational principle in the creation of the United States, and it has survived in silence and secret thanks to our unwillingness to name it as we benefit from the privilege it grants us.
In a town that claims to cherish diversity and liberal thinking, protests recently around the many memorials to white supremacists on the UNC campus, most notably Saunders Hall named for a former Grand Dragon of the KKK, have been met with indifference from administration. The murderous intent of whiteness is benign to white people who fancy themselves progressive, tolerant, loving, post-racial. Thus, when a white man murders a black man, his whiteness is not up for discussion. When a white man murders a Muslim, his whiteness isn’t an issue. No, instead the identities of the victims are the focus, and this only reinforces white supremacy.
Every time a white person engages in a terrorist act, an excuse is made. The rhetoric favors them. They are troubled or “mentally ill” (ableism is always a convenient crutch to support white supremacy), and we all see it time and again – loners. They do not speak for the white race, because there is no white race. This is the problem. This has been the problem.
The story may be framed in ways that tempt you to believe that the murderer’s motivations were not deeply rooted in white supremacy. He might not even see that himself. But we must see it. We must name it. We must stop wishing that this horrifying reality is non-existent. We must stop looking for a way to sweep it under the rug. We must expose the brutal reality of whiteness.