PROF JENKINS: Leftists are wrong. Western culture is not white supremacy.
Western culture, though imperfect, has produced a wealth of great ideas: that all people are created equal, that we are endowed by our Creator with natural rights, that truth exists and is discoverable.
Rob Jenkins is a Higher Education Fellow with Campus Reform and a tenured associate professor of English at Georgia State University - Perimeter College. In a career spanning more than three decades at five different institutions, he has served as a head men’s basketball coach, an athletic director, a department chair, and an academic dean, as well as a faculty member. Jenkins’ opinions are his own and do not represent those of his employer.
For decades, leftists have described anyone and anything they don’t like as “racist.” But maybe they’ve cried wolf a little too often; the word seems to be losing its pejorative power. More and more, people are coming to understand that if everything is racist, nothing is racist.
Clearly, the Left needs a new insult.
Enter “white supremacy,” which ratchets up the abuse by a) falsely attributing racist attitudes solely to white people and b) implying that white people don’t just hate everyone else, they think they’re somehow superior.
Nevertheless, “White supremacy” has now become the Left’s go-to boogeyman, responsible for all the nation’s ills—our “most dangerous terror threat,” as President Biden recently told graduates at Howard University.
Such over-the-top rhetoric is common in academia. Campus Reform reported last November on a Penn State professor who blamed “white supremacy” for alleged workplace discrimination against people with disabilities.
In fact, according to the CDC, whites are only slightly less likely to have a disability than blacks and more likely than Hispanics or Asians.
Then there was the professor from the University of Illinois Chicago who earlier this year insisted that scholars “have perpetuated white supremacy….[by] extract[ing] the knowledge, the expertise, the wisdom from racially and ethnically minoritized communities.” For “extract,” read “steal.”
Unfortunately for leftists, actual white supremacists are pretty scarce on the ground. According to the Heartland Institute’s Julie Kelly, FBI data simply “does not support [the] accusation” that “white supremacy” or “white nationalism” is a widespread problem.
Leftists try to get around this inconvenient truth by simply declaring Western culture itself “white supremacist.” That characterization is false.
What we call “Western culture” is essentially the marriage of Judeo-Christian morality with classical (that is, Greek and Roman) intellectualism. It privileges reason over emotion and the individual over the state. Its central tenet is that, through their own efforts, people can rise above their circumstances.
Western culture, though imperfect, has produced a wealth of great ideas: that all people are created equal, that we are endowed by our Creator with natural rights, that truth exists and is discoverable, that we must love our neighbors as ourselves.
It has birthed the technological advances that have made modern life so relatively carefree and comfortable--such that, in the West, our “poor” now live better and longer than royalty of times past.
It has also given us much beauty, in the form of art, music, literature, and architecture, as well as an appreciation for the even greater beauties of nature. For these reasons, Western culture represents the crowning achievement of human civilization.
Yet we are told that Western culture is racist because Western nations once practiced slavery. What that indictment ignores is that virtually every culture practiced slavery, including in Africa and North America long before Europeans showed up. For most of human history, slavery was the status quo.
It was the West that put an end to the abominable practice, which is ultimately incompatible with our core belief in the worth of the individual. It took us a few hundred years to get there, but get there we did—precisely because of our cultural heritage, not in spite of it.
Nor has Western culture ever been tied exclusively to “whiteness.” Its roots can be traced back to North Africa and the great library at Alexandria, as well as to the Middle East and the Mediterranean. It has also absorbed and incorporated, over the centuries, the best other cultures have to offer.
In its current incarnation, Western culture is expressly not racist because it is not limited to any particular race. It’s not just for white people or those whose ancestors were European. In fact, it’s not exclusive at all. Far from it. All are invited to participate—and many do, from all around the world.
In short, this is the culture to which all of us as Americans—black, white, Asian, Hispanic, whatever—owe our freedom, our prosperity, our very way of life. To claim it is somehow “racist” or “white supremacist” is an insult not just to white people but to all who embrace it.
Editorials and op-eds reflect the opinion of the authors and not necessarily that of Campus Reform or the Leadership Institute.