White Supremacism. Arab Supremacism. Colonialism.

The ruins of an Ezidi temple in Shingal (Sinjar) in Iraq, destroyed by local militias of the Islamic State. Similar to some White supremacists in the United States who continue to bulldoze priceless Indigenous heritage sites in this day and age, some Arab supremacists in Iraq also continue to flatten priceless Ezidi and other non-Arab heritage sites. Photo by the author.

This post is part of a series on the global reach of White supremacism and Arab supremacism.

First of all, supremacism is supremacism.

Supremacism is the belief that some people are superior to others.

Describing the details of Arab supremacism, White supremacism, Han supremacism, or any other kind is essentially nothing more than hyphenation on the central framework, which is supremacism.

In other words, all forms of supremacism are fundamentally the same. Under the disguises of local trends and norms, the same power dynamic unfolds: when the People’s Republic of China gathers millions of Uyghur people into internment camps for forced assimilation; when the United States government disproportionately gathers millions of Black people into privately run prisons for crimes that White people are actually more likely to commit; and when the Iraqi government builds massive, deadly detention centers for Kurds — these events clearly share similarities, and in fact are very much alike.

From Charlottesville to Raqqa and beyond, human rights generally converge on similar issues and similar solutions; and it seems that anti-human rights also have a set of issues and “solutions” which they converge on as well, regardless of where around the world they are being developed.

Apparently, supremacism originates in the deepest, most templated and ancestral folds of the human brain, because the creation of an enemy looks more or less identical anywhere around the world, in the same way that confronting an enemy, or fleeing an enemy — “fright or flight” — also looks, for the most part, the same anywhere around the world.

However, this is supremacism’s greatest weakness, and our strongest tool in creating more just and equal societies: supremacism is horrible at staying hidden, once we train our minds to detect its universal patterns and characteristics. 

Above, a nail salon on Melrose Avenue receives appropriate redress after being damaged by unknown people during marches for Black Lives Matter. Meanwhile, Breonna Taylor and other unarmed Black civilians still, to this day, have not received appropriate redress after being murdered. White supremacists made the “false negative” argument that mass incarceration and terrorism against Black people was less of a problem, or was maybe even an appropriate response, when considering unrelated damages to nail salons, shoe stores, and other offices during Black Lives Matter marches. Photo by the author.

Disclaimer about prejudiced analyses of supremacism

However, there are two types of error that can happen when studying supremacism: the false positive and the false negative, as in statistical analysis. Oftentimes, they both are happening simultaneously.

On the one hand, a false positive is when someone prejudicially vilifies or singles out a community. For example, in the United States, we see that White supremacy often vilifies Arab societies to the point of hate speech, and without any self-examination. That is immoral. It is anti-Arab and Islamophobic prejudice, plain and simple. Meanwhile, in the Arabsphere, we see that Arab supremacists create false positives by vilifying non-Arab societies, especially the State of Israel, to the point of totally demonic claims that Israel is inextricable from the blood of Arab children. That conflates the very different power dynamics (and scales of magnitude) between conflict and annihilation, or ricochets and crosshairs, or hate crimes and war crimes.

On the other hand, a false negative is when someone prejudicially deflects from one type of supremacism. For example, in the White-majority countries, we see dishonest claims that White supremacism is simply not a major issue any more, or that it was no longer a major problem but that Black Lives Matter made it an issue. In the Arab-majority countries, we see claims that non-Arabs live in full equality, or that there was perfect equality until the State of Israel somehow managed to destroy that, everywhere, in every Arab country, with no participation by Arab supremacism. 

In Los Angeles, marching and riding in support of Black Lives Matter. Photo by the author.

White supremacism and Arab supremacism are globally dominant, yet are just a starting point

Yes, there is Han supremacism over indigenous non-Han communities in China. Also, indeed, there has been Japanese supremacism over indigenous non-Japanese communities in Japan. So why, in this series, am I not devoting as much attention to these specific topics?

Furthermore, Arab supremacism and White supremacism are extremely closely related to Islamic supremacism and Christian supremacism. So why am I not dividing my word count equally to those phenomena?

And also, what about other types of hatred which are so deeply embedded around the world that it seems almost every society has their own bespoke spin on them? There is, of course, anti-blackness, anti-Jewishness/anti-semitism, and anti-poverty — as well as another, fourth type of hatred which is found more than any other kind on earth: misogyny.

This series focuses — and rightfully so — on White supremacism and Arab supremacism because these two ideologies collectively dominate almost the entirety of North America, Europe, North Africa, and West Asia.

Furthermore, this series hopefully serves as a starting point to analyze other expressions of supremacism, too. This series is an invitation to learn more, not a setting of boundaries.

Located in the center of Shingal (Sinjar), a grand church was left as a ruin. Similar to how Christian religious precedents were misused by White supremacists for Black slavery, Islamic religious precedents were misused by Arab supremacists to annihilate non-Arab identities. However, experiences of Assyrians, Armenians, Ezidis, Kurds, and Jews under trans-national, colonial Arab supremacism have been marginalized in analyses of prejudice. Photo by the author.

The colonial expansion of Arab supremacism and White supremacism

When we look at the map of the world, we see that Arab supremacism and White supremacism control a plurality of the earth’s landmass. Because of this, we should seek to understand these two movements, and we should begin by understanding how they came to share this dominant status.

Obviously, this dominance did not arise naturally. Arabs are no more indigenous to North Africa than Whites are indigenous to North America. In both cases, dominance arose through aggressive colonial expansions that share striking similarities.

How else did the British Virgin Islands and the Arab Comoros Islands come to exist, when they are thousands upon thousands of kilometers away from Anglo and Arab mainlands, respectively? The answer is obvious: colonialism.

Parallels in the colonial phases of Arab supremacism and White supremacism. Chart by the author.

Of course, there have been other forms of colonialism besides just Arab colonialism and White colonialism. However, when Northern America (8 million km²), Europe (10 million km²), Australia (7 million km²), North Africa (7 million km²), and much of West Asia (6 million km²) are combined — we see that the landmasses where Arab supremacism and White supremacism dominate, including the areas from which they first originated, altogether add up to about a fifth of the entire world. 

To many people, counting up land mass seems like plainly stating the obvious. However, it must be articulated because that assumption of obviousness — the status quo, the invisible power — fundamentally enables supremacism.

And the land totals above do not even include all of North America, nor any of South America, where White supremacism gives privilege to European-descended, lighter-skinned Latin Americans, and ostracizes Indigenousness in every possible form. Nor do the totals include Islamic but non-Arab countries where Islamic supremacism operates through similarly cultural and religious manners, but less racially.

Indigenous Americans rally in support for Black Lives Matter and for Indigenous rights. Photo by the author.

The balkanization of Arab supremacism and White supremacism

It seems neutral and matter-of-fact to point out that there are dozens of White-majority and Arab-majority states that are geographically very far from the White mainlands and Arab mainlands.

However, at the same time, we oftentimes fail to see them as united blocs of White supremacism and Arab supremacism. The supremacist power dynamics that dominate life from Alabama and Adelaide to Algiers and Aden become hidden in plain sight, especially because of countless Arab-on-Arab wars and White-on-White wars.

However, we must not lose sight of the forest for the trees.

“Family-friendly” wall artwork at an Islamic State recruitment center in Shingal (Sinjar). The fact that there is no singular White or Arab state, does not mean that White supremacism and Arab supremacism do not exist: it means they are trans-national, as the Islamic State showed when it melted state boundaries, and as White supremacists show when they celebrate Nazism, which was originally anti-American, as part of their American outlook. Photo by the author.

Ironically, in World War II, there were White Americans battling “Aryan” Germans — yet their thoughts on intermarriage and desegregation, among other topics on race relations, were at that time more similar than dissimilar. The lynching of a Black child named Emmett Till for supposedly flirting with a White girl occurred ten years — almost to the day — after the conclusion of World War II.

And also, in the Arabsphere, we see conflict between Arab groups and Arab countries, yet the typical Iraqi and the typical Kuwaiti will generally share almost identical views regarding the non-Arabs in their midst. For example, most will detest the possibility that their daughters would marry non-Arabs, especially non-Arabs who are not Muslim. It is not just a “practical obstacle” like finding a Priest refusing to marry a Catholic husband and Protestant wife, or a “sensitive issue” like a Rabbi ruling that a Jewish father does not have a Jewish child because of how the mother converted to Judaism. For my Arab friends in relationships with Christians, Ezidis, and Jews, the issue they face is so much worse in scale that it can only be compared with White supremacism: some my friends live in daily fear that, like Emmett Till, their partners will be killed for “mixing” and that they will be killed for “dishonor” — and that it would not just be a personal crime, but a systemic one, too, where society and the justice system would cooperate with their murderers.

Yes, not all Arab and White families are this way about intermarriage, but many have been and still are, and we must ask: why have any felt this way at all about this, as well as about many other similar issues of segregation and stratification?

And if we want to truly form an understanding, we must also ask: why do institutions seem to bend in favor of these particular attitudes?

The answer is simple: supremacism is not just an individual phenomenon; it is also a systemic phenomenon.

About the Author
Levi Clancy lives in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan Region in Iraq, and is the founder of Foundation of Ours, which supports Jewish expression in the Kurdistan Region, and provides platforms for reconciliation and coexistence between all communities. He was born in Venice, California and moved to the KRI in 2014, after which he became involved in cultural, social, and religious affairs in addition to his work as a software developer, photographer, and videographer.
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