The White/Western Hegemony
“White supremacy is not merely the work of hotheaded demagogues, or a matter of false consciousness, but a force so fundamental to America that it is difficult to imagine the country without it.” – Ta-Nehisi Coates, We Were Eight Years in Power.
As I mentioned in Part I, the West’s hegemony did not come without blood. The story goes that the West claimed their hegemony through superior intellect, fair trade, strategic prowess, and creative industrialization that all manifested to make the West the “natural” hegemon. However, their conquests and dominations are tinged with red. Nevertheless, the West’s actions were still regarded as legitimate with the usual argument that the West was the only one bold enough to do what was needed to claim power.
In my experience, it’s actually quite easy for the average white liberal and moderate to accept the fact that the West achieved their hegemony through acts of violence. Often the West’s actions are downplayed or deemphasized as “just history” without fully taking into account how the effects of atrocities like slavery still deeply impact Black folks today. Nevertheless, the usual white liberal and moderate can accept the unsightly aspects of how the West gained their power.
What is often protested is the idea that the West’s hegemony is intricately linked to white supremacy. Furthermore, that the justification for the West to maintain their hegemony is often to uphold a global white supremacy.
What you must understand is that white supremacy is not just a bigoted thought process seen in groups like the KKK or in the blatantly violent acts of genocide and slavery. It is not simply hatred or a “purity” rhetoric that extremists spout. No, white supremacy is a political system. It is a system designed like any other political system, to structure power, socioeconomic status, and the differential distribution of materials, rights, and duties.
The Western hegemony is a system of global white supremacy. Western hegemony grants Europe with the power to be “the continent that dominates the world; locally, within Europe and the other continents.” Western hegemony “designates Europeans as the privileged race.” This means that they dominate the distribution of resources as the economic leaders. They assumed the position of the global policeman with the right to use their military force on any country who threatens their hegemony. Their hegemony meant all the European conquests, colonization, and interventions, and dominations in Asia, Africa, and the Pacific were all justified.
They justified their colonization and rule over places like Asia, Africa, the Pacific, and South and Central America with the idea that the only people who were fully and truly human were white Europeans. Kant, one of the central figures in modern philosophy said, “the Black person, for example, can accordingly be denied full humanity since full and ‘true’ humanity accrues only to the white European.” This stems from European Enlightenment humanism where it was concluded that “European humanism meant that only Europeans were human.” This dehumanized all peoples who were not white Europeans.
The spaces of the world that were decidedly racially not white and Western were codified with moral qualities so that non-Europeans spaces like indigenous land, Pacific islands, and the African continent were in “need for Europeanization if moral redemption is to be possible.” Charles W. Mills from the Racial Contract wrote that “the basic legitimation of conquest over native peoples is the conviction of [white European’s] superiority, not merely [their] mechanical, economic, and military superiority, but [their] moral superiority.” This means that a large reason why the West justifies their hegemony is not just because they have the industry, economic prowess, or the best military force but because white Westerners are the only ones moral enough to rule the world.
Most importantly, Western hegemony relied on an “epistemology of ignorance” where white people would, in general, be unable to perceive their system as one of white supremacy. Western hegemony created the “casually assumed… uncontroversial validity of a hierarchy of ‘higher’ and ‘lower,’ ‘master’ and ‘subject’ races.” In other words, people have accepted the hierarchy of whites are “superior” and people of color as “inferior” because it is seen as “just the way the world works” in the Western hegemony. Because it is seen as “just the way the world works,” rather than an intentional structuring of the world, white Westerners often accept their hegemony and global white supremacy as the natural order of the world.
Thus, Western hegemony created a blatantly “racially hierarchical” modern world that was “globally dominated by Europeans” but carefully protected by an epistemological invisibility cloak.
To maintain the Western hegemony means to maintain white supremacy. Often, the greatest threats to the West’s hegemony come from non-Western non-white countries rising to power. When this happens, not only is the West’s political power threatened, but their global white supremacy is threatened. So, when the West fights back, they often enact the oldest tool in their playbook: racism.
Challengers to the Western Hegemony Must Go
Just as with white supremacy, racism is a system that manifests itself in policy, acts, and strategies. This racism is focused on maintaining the Western hegemony – white supremacy. While racism is often thought of as hate speech such as racial slurs and blatantly discriminatory violent acts, racism is also the policies and acts that are enforced to maintain the West’s hegemony or white supremacy.
Japanese Internment – World War II
“I’m for catching every Japanese in America, Alaska, and Hawaii now and putting them in concentration camps… Damn them! Let’s get rid of them!” – Democratic Congressman John E. Rankin [MS] of the House of Representatives
The United States officially declared their entry into World War II after the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941. It wasn’t because of an inhumane attack on Pearl Harbor that led the US to enter the war though. In fact, “records show that a White House conference two weeks before Pearl Harbor anticipated a war and discussed how it should be justified.” Pearl Harbor was simply the perfect immoral act to justify the US entering the war.
During the war, Japan had started to take over China and Southeast Asia where tin, rubber, and oil were crucial exports. This was reducing the US markets and their power within their Pacific Empire. Ergo, the US initiated an embargo on iron and oil in the summer of 1941 to send a message to Japan to back off. This embargo was “widely recognized in Washington as carrying grave risks of war.” With the initiation of the embargo, Japan retaliated with Pearl Harbor, an event the US had anticipated because of their initial measure on oil and iron.
Howard Zinn from A People’s History of the United States points out that:
…it was not the humane concern for Japan’s bombing of civilians that led to Roosevelt’s outraged call for war – Japan’s attack on China in 1937, her bombing of civilians at Nanking, had not provoked the United States to war. It was the Japanese attack on a link in the American Pacific Empire that did it.
The US entering the war was not out of humanitarian concerns as they would have intervened when Japan attacked China, but because their hegemony was being threatened.
With Pearl Harbor came a flood of racism against Japanese people and Japanese Americans. The media started using “yellow” to refer to Japanese people. Scholar Anthony V. Navarro records the rhetoric that was used during this time:
They were the “yellow peril,” and “yellow monkeys.” Even Time magazine in a report on Pearl Harbor used the phrase, “the yellow bastards!” The New York Times contributed with their own anti-Japanese rhetoric explaining how the Japanese “have kept their savage tradition ‘unbroken through ages eternal,’ from the fabulous age of their savage gods to the present day.
LIFE Magazine ran an article on how to tell Chinese people and “Japs” apart. The article relied on false stereotypes about the features of Japanese and Chinese people. It called out “Japs” as the enemy alien and likened them to aborigines which were not just anti-Japanese but anti-Indigenous. Jap Hunting Licenses also started circulating throughout the US. These were unofficial licenses that “declared it ‘open season’ on hunting the Japanese in the United States and abroad.”
Then, on February 19th, 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt did one of the most fascist acts of recent US history. He signed Executive Order 9066 which gave the army the right to “without warrants or indictments or hearings, to arrest every Japanese American on the West Coast – 110,000 men, women, and children – to take them from their homes, transport them to camps far into the interior, and keep them there under prison conditions.” It forced a hundred thousand families to be forcibly relocated, lose their possessions including any land they owned, and be separated from their communities and homes.
It wasn’t just Japanese Americans that were sent to the internment camps. The US “also coordinated with 13 other governments to round up Japanese throughout Latin America, essentially kidnapping them and detaining them in a country where they never set foot.” Yes, that’s right. The US detained people, who were not American citizens and had no association with the US or the war, as essentially prisoners in US internment camps. This was because the US was reportedly worried about a Japanese attack on the Panama Canal and used these Latin-Japanese people as collateral hostages in negotiations with Japan.
Not only that, when the war ended, the US declared all the Latin-Japanese detainees as “illegal aliens” because they didn’t enter the country with proper documentation. Again, I must stress they were forcibly taken from their country by the US as essentially hostages for political negotiations. Adding to that, Latin-Japanese detainees are denied the $20,000 in compensation that the Civil Liberties Act granted all Japanese-American internees. The law cited that the compensation was only for “people who were US citizens or permanent residents when they were interned.”
Now I know this entire series has been biased writing as these issues are far too personal to me for me to write neutrally about them. But I have to completely break my formality and say this was disgusting. The internment camps were already atrocious, but forcibly detaining Latin-Japanese people who had no association to the US is the cherry on top of these human rights violations.
“Was [the Japanese Internment] a ‘mistake’ – or was it an action to be expected from a nation with a long history of racism and which was fighting a war, not to end racism, but to retain the fundamental elements of the American system?” – Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States.
Islamophobia – The War on Terror
“You know, one of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror.” – George W. Bush, interview with CBS News’ Katie Couric, September 6, 2006.
It’s an event that has been ingrained in my life since I can remember. I don’t know a pre-9/11 world. I associate September 11th with the devasting collapse of the Twin Towers, the thousands of lives lost, the rise in patriotism that is heavily linked to militarization, and the consequent demonization of innocent Muslims and people who look like supposed “terrorists.”
This event was similar to Pearl Harbor in that it evoked an immediate call-to-war by Bush. However, 9/11 was not an isolated incident but the climax from an accumulation of the conflicts that the US itself had been committing in the Middle East. Nevertheless, the US used 9/11 to up the ante on their conflicts in the Middle East and heavily began a campaign of dehumanizing Middle Eastern and South Asian people.
In 2002, the National Security Strategy (the one that China believed was directed at them) warned of future attacks by Saddam Hussein. Chomsky called the Strategy the “September 2002 propaganda campaign” because the future attacks by Hussein that they were warning of had already been dismissed by UN inspectors. He said the supposed Iraqi threats that the Strategy warned of were not legitimate and that these claims “should be viewed as transparent attempts to scare Americans into supporting a war.”
Indeed, fear was one of the main driving tactics to garner support for the war and for the human rights violations that the US would do. Chomsky writes that fear was used throughout the Reagan and Bush years to conjure up “one devil after another to frighten the populace into obedience.” In the Reagan years, it was the war on drugs that disproportionately impacted Black communities. In the Bush years until now, it was the war on terror that targeted anyone who looked like they could be a “terrorist.”
Fear, and specifically manufactured fear, “provided enough of a popular base for the invasion of Iraq, instituting the new norm of aggressive war at will, and afforded the administration enough of a hold on political power so that it could proceed with a harsh and unpopular domestic agenda.”
“We are benefiting from one thing, and that is the attacks on the twin towers and the Pentagon and the American struggle in Iraq. These events swung American public opinion in our favor.” – Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel
The Patriot Act: Normalized Xenophobia
On October 26, 2001, Congress passed the USA Patriot Act. This act “gave the Department of Justice the power to detain noncitizens simply on suspicion, without charges, without the procedural rights provided in the Constitution.” This meant that “the Secretary of State could designate any group as ‘terrorist,’ and any person who was a member of or raised funds for such an organization could be arrested and held until deported.”
The Patriot Act not only opened up the government to racially profile and unlawfully detain so-deemed “suspected terrorists,” but also made it easier for the government to access private citizen’s emails, bank records, phone calls, and internet histories. However, Bush White House spokesman Trent Duffy stated that the “Real Americans” shouldn’t worry because only the “very bad people who have a history of blowing up commuter trains, weddings and churches” were being monitored. This was largely understood to mean Muslim people who were seen as terrorists.
Chomsky added to this saying that with the Patriot Act, the White House granted itself the right to imprison “suspected terrorists” without charge or access to lawyers until they deemed the war on terror was over. In other words, “indefinitely.”
An addition to the Patriot Act, a draft bill called The Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003 leaked on February 7, 2003. This document was kept confidential from the public and Congress with the only House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Vice President Cheney getting copies of the bill.
The Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003 was a piece of legislation that would have granted the state the “authority to rescind citizenship on the charge of providing ‘material support’ to an organization on the attorney general’s blacklist even if the accused [had] no idea that the organization [had] been blacklisted.” This means someone could unknowingly give money to a charity that was connected to a terrorist organization and could have their citizenship revoked. The people whose citizenship that would be rescinded would have been deported. Understand that this bill wasn’t targeting white American citizens, so they weren’t the ones largely at risk with this provision. The bill would make it easier to violate the civil rights of deemed “suspected terrorists” and that’s who this bill was largely targeting. On this provision to the bill, Jack Balkin, a professor at Yale Law School commented that:
“There is no civil right – not even the precious right of citizenship – that this administration will not abuse to secure ever greater control over American life.”
This act would have also granted the FBI immunity when they conducted searches and surveilled people without obtaining a court order. It would have granted the attorney general the ability to deport any foreign national even if they were a legal resident of the US without any crime or proof necessary. It would have denied bail for people accused of terrorism. Keyword: accused, not proven guilty. The bill would have also created a DNA database of all terrorist suspects. Again, “suspect” is the keyword and not convicted of terrorism. Furthermore, it would have required that any person in custody for suspected terrorism would have to “give DNA samples as a condition of their release.” This is just a sample of the provisions in the draft bill.
In a letter to Congress, organizations like the ACLU, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, and the Center for Constitutional Rights denounced the draft bill. They stated that the bill “would severely dilute, if not undermine, many basic constitutional rights, as well as disturb our unique system of checks and balances.”
The Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003 was never brought to Congress. A number of people, including congresspeople, were speculating that “the government was waiting until a new terrorist act or war fever before formally introducing [the] bill.” However, the provision that gave the FBI the power to subpoena business documents without court warrants was tacked onto the Senate’s Intelligence Spending Bill and passed by Congress.
The Patriot Act was a move to normalize xenophobia by justifying their actions by saying they were fighting “terrorism” and “suspected terrorists.” The Domestic Security Enhancement Act showed just how many civil rights for so-called “suspected terrorists” the US was willing to violate in order to continue with their agenda.
This “war on terror” subjected thousands of brown-skinned Muslim-appearing people to racial profiling and dehumanization on a governmental level. This along with the Islamophobic anti-terror rhetoric subjected a whole population of people of color to hate crimes that were justified with the government’s own language about fighting terror and terrorists.
And Islamophobia, of course, didn’t stop when Bush left office.
Racism drives support for war
Both the World War II and the War on Terror utilized racism and demonization of a population of people to justify the government’s war acts. The government denied this though and claimed that “perpetuating racial hierarchies ha[d] nothing to do with their hawkish views.”
However, the Nation conducted a study with Data for Progress that showed that an “acceptance of racism [was] often the most powerful predictor of foreign-policy attitudes.” Specifically, that people who thought racism was more acceptable were more likely to support invading Iran.
This study used an acceptance-of-racism scale which measured how much the respondent agreed with statements like “white people in the United States have certain advantages.” For example, respondents who agreed that “white people in the United States have certain advantages” would score lower on the “acceptance-of-racism” scale.
While they found that race and gender were factors that influenced a respondent’s foreign-policy attitudes, a respondent’s acceptance of racism was the “most powerful predictor of foreign-policy attitudes.” They reported that in their study, of the respondents who “believed the word ‘violent’ describe[d] Muslims ‘extremely well,’ forty-six percent of those respondents also supported bombing Iran. From this data, respondents who had racial animosity towards Muslim people were more likely to support violent military actions in the Middle East or the war on terror. On the opposite side, of those who thought violent didn’t describe Muslims at all, forty-four percent of them opposed bombing Iran.
They also asked participants to “place their feelings towards Muslims” on a scale of 0 to 100 with 0 as the coldest and 100 as the warmest. Approximately thirty percent of those who had the coldest feelings towards Muslims supported bombing Iran. Compare that to the ten percent for the respondents who held the warmest feelings for Muslims. They concluded that “individuals with cold feelings [were] more likely to support invading Iran and less likely to support diplomacy.”
They stated that their purpose of the study was to “understand how Islamophobia and racism fuel support for such intervention.” Of which, their study showed that there is a strong correlation to the racial sentiments for those associated with “enemy” countries and support for the corresponding war.
They ended with a note that Trump continually has spouted racist rhetoric about immigrants from Latin America and Mexico, and rhetoric about Muslim people which they believe are clear pronouncements of his “investment in white supremacy.” A white supremacy that they believed he was using to draw support for Trump’s imperial wars.
I switched up the parts a little because I realized I had much more to say on this content and I could write a whole book about the next section. Much of the information in this part and previous parts have been background information, but I think it’s crucial to understand that the Western hegemony is so closely linked to white supremacy. And therefore, much of the terrible acts the West has done to maintain their hegemony has happened to people of color and will continue to happen to people of color as the West’s hegemony is threatened by non-Western countries.
The next section will be dedicated to racism Chinese people have faced and continue to face. It will draw on history, on current day events, and my own experiences.
Part IV will be released on Friday, December 28th, 2018.
 Charles W. Mills, The Racial Contract, (Ithaca: Cornell University, 1997), 3.
 Ibid., 33.
 Ibid., 71.
 Ibid., 27.
 Ibid., 46.
 Ibid., 25.
 Ibid., 27.
 Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States, (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1980), 410-411.
 Ibid., 410.
 Anthony V. Navarro, “A Critical Comparison Between Japanese and American Propaganda during World War II,” Michigan State University. Michigan State University, https://msu.edu/~navarro6/srop.html, accessed Dec 25, 2018.
 Henry Luce, “How to tell Japs from the Chinese,” Life. Chicago: Time Inc, 11(25): 81–82, https://books.google.com/books?id=Y04EAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PA11&dq=life+magazine+back+issues+Dec+22+1941&pg=PA81&hl=en#v=onepage&q&f=false, accessed Dec 25, 2018.
 Jeremy Boggs, Open Season, Mar 6, 2004, https://web.archive.org/web/20110928210613/http://clioweb.org/openseason/index.html, accessed Dec 25, 2018.
 Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States, 416.
 Casey Tolan, “Japanese-Peruvian WWII internees seek justice before human rights panel,” The Mercury News. Bay Area News Group, Mar 16, 2017, https://www.mercurynews.com/2017/03/16/japanese-peruvian-internees-seek-justice/, accessed Dec 25, 2018.
 Noam Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival, 19.
 Ibid., 18.
 Ibid., 115.
 Ibid., 121.
 Ibid., 680.
 “Surveillance under the Patriot Act,” ACLU. ACLU, https://www.aclu.org/issues/national-security/privacy-and-surveillance/surveillance-under-patriot-act, accessed Dec 25, 2018.
 Noam Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival, 26.
 “Profile: Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003 (Patriot Act II),” History Commons, http://www.historycommons.org/entity.jsp?entity=domestic_security_enhancement_act_of_2003, accessed Dec 25,2018.
 Noam Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival, 27.
 Electronic Frontier Foundation, “EFF Analysis of ‘Patriot II,’” https://web.archive.org/web/20080116033319/http://w2.eff.org/Censorship/Terrorism_militias/patriot-act-II-analysis.php, accessed Dec 25, 2018.
 Coalition of organizations from the Center for Democracy and Technology, “March 17, 2003 letter in opposition to DSEA,” Mar 17, 2003, https://www.cdt.org/files/security/patriot2/030317coalition.pdf, accessed Dec 25,, 2018.
 “Profile: Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003 (Patriot Act II),” History Commons, http://www.historycommons.org/entity.jsp?entity=domestic_security_enhancement_act_of_2003, accessed Dec 25,2018.
 Sean McElwee and Jon Green, “How Racism Could Drive Support for War With Iran,” The Nation. The Nation, Apr 6, 2018, https://www.thenation.com/article/how-racism-could-drive-support-for-war-with-iran/, accessed Dec 25, 2018.