By Mark Naison (August 12, 2019)
When I think of the ideology of white supremacy–which has affected everything in US History from immigration policy, to citizenship, access to voting rights, marriage laws, the ability to play in professional sports leagues, and much much more– what makes the largest impression, in the context of the El Paso shooting, is how it provided justification for mass murder.
In addition to legitimizing the more than 3,000 lynchings of blacks in the US between 1890 and 1910, white supremacist ideology led to three documented racial pogroms in the early 20th Century ,the Slocum Massacre in East Texas in 1910 ; the Elaine Massacre in Eastern Arkansas in 1919; and the Tulsa Riot of 1921 which destroyed the wealthiest Black community in the US – known as Black Wall Street- and killed over 200 people and left thousands homeless. In each instance, it was the threat of Black economic success which drove whites to slaughter their black neighbors-, either black farmers accumulating property and controlling the marketing of their crops, or blacks owning large homes and prosperous businesses.
The basic tenet of White Supremacy, as translated into popular ideology was that black self-assertion and economic independence threatened all white people. This is what Ida B. Wells argued when explaining the prevalence of lynching; it lay behind every racial pogrom in 20th Century United States.
If you want to find analogues for that in the present, think about sources of the huge popular resentment of the Obama presidency among blue collar and middle class whites which Trump tapped into in his use of birther ideology to pave the way for his presidential campaign. In short, the ideology of white supremacy has always lay behind instances of white terrorism and still does today