Workshop Wednesday: Pillars of White Supremacy

Like the Dis/Ableism 101 visual tool, the Pillars of White Supremacy is an anti-racism 101 visual tool for sighted folks that goes well with the Oppression Triangle tool. The purpose of this poster/handout is to introduce folks to the different forms of racism in North American society, and it is based on the work of Andrea Smith and Harsha Walia. It’s extremely helpful for when different racialized people work together in coalition-building, as it delineates the specific ways we’re differently impacted by white supremacy, but can also support how we can organize together and work on our own internalized racism. Check out my article “More Than Minorities” on working with Indigenous folks and/or Black folks as a person of colour that is not oppressed by Anti-Blackness and/or Settler Colonialism. Please also check out the original article by Andrea Smith called “Heteropatriarchy and the Three Pillars of White Supremacy: Rethinking Women of Color Organizing“. If you can, pick up Harsha Walia’s book on Undoing Border Imperialism, though here’s an article with an interview and description of some of the concepts.

Activity Ideas

  • Divide the group into the following categories of interest: accomplices/allies, direct action, policy, and programming. These categories are fluid– if there is no one interested in policy, for example, then that doesn’t have to be a group. If a group is interested in something not listed, like, for example, transformative justice or healing justice, then they can create a group for that. These are all types of anti-oppression/liberation strategies, which will be explained further in future posts.
  • Ask each group to choose one of the forms of racism to work with and narrow it down to one of the levels of oppression, if possible. They can also choose an example of oppression that is part of several forms of oppression, such as how police/border agent brutality and profiling impacts Indigenous folks, Black folks, migrants, and people of colour visibly coded as “Muslim” (even if they are Hindu, Sikh, etc.).
  • Each group can come up with a way to use their anti-oppression/liberation strategy with the example of a racist oppression they chose. For example, the direct action group can explain or act out how they could stage a protest at an immigration detention centre. Another example could be the accomplices/allies group creating a poster that explains other costumes to use instead of racist ones. A final example could be a non-profit organization writing an anti-racism policy that explicitly ensures that a certain percentage of their budget is used for anti-racism training and the benefit of racialized folks within and being served by their organization, with a communications plan that makes these policies transparent to the public.
  • Have the groups present to each other and debrief about the process of anti-oppressive collective planning. Did they ensure that racialized folks in the groups lead? Did they ensure that consultation and leadership of racialized folks was at the forefront of any of their strategies, even if there were no racialized folks in their group?

Poster Description

The poster is white with mostly dark grey font. At the top of the poster is written ““. The title of the poster is “PILLARS OF WHITE SUPREMACY: A.K.A. how racism works in the West”. The poster is credited as “BASED ON THE WORK OF ANDREA SMITH & HARSHA WALIA”. After the title, there are five columns and six rows.

The first row in the first column has the words: “Academic Term”.  The second row in the first column reads: “Target”. The third row in the first column reads: “The oppressive “logic” used to justify violence, exclusion, exploitation, and negative messaging”. The fourth row in the first column reads: “Example(s) of Institutional Level of Oppression”. The fifth row in the first column reads: “Example(s) of Cultural Level of Oppression”. The sixth and final row in the first column reads: “Example(s) of Individual Level of Oppression”.

The second column is headed by the term “Settler Colonialism”. The target is “Indigenous/Native Peoples”. The logic is “Genocide and forced assimilation of a people to steal their land to make wealth for Whites”. The institutional example is “The “Indian” Act in Canada and other similar legislation.” The cultural example is “ Cultural stereotypes turned into home-made costumes”. The individual example is “The word “savage” used as slang”.

The third column is headed by the term “Anti-Blackness”. The target is “Black Peoples”. The logic is “Forcing with threat of death people to become property or slave labour to make wealth for Whites”. The institutional example is “Police brutality and profiling.” The cultural example is “Appropriation of language and art forms”. The individual example is “ The N-word slur”.

The fourth column is headed by the term “Orientalism”. The target is “People of Colour considered of the “East” / “Orient””. The logic is “Making war to generate more wealth for Whites through military business and taking resources”. The institutional examples are “Canadian security certificates; Japanese internment camps.” The cultural example is “Stereotype profiling of bearded brown men as “terrorists””. The individual example is “”Yellow” fever and Asian fetishization”.

The fifth column is headed by the term “Border Imperialism”. The target is “Migrants or undocumented peoples”. The logic is “Making borders around stolen land to force people into slave labour and/or make war on them to generate wealth for Whites”. The institutional example is “Indefinite and inhumane immigration detention.” The cultural example is “Framing people as inherently “illegal””. The individual example is “Mocking non-white accents”.

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