The correct answer, of course, is “a colonial empire.”
Christian hegemony is still so powerful in the west now that no one can even see it. So, after a man opened fire in a mosque in New Zealand, killing 49 people, we hear much talk about “white supremacy,” in part because the shooter himself used that language.
What we do not hear is much recognition that “white supremacy” is a distinctively Christian concept, one Christians created as they colonized the entire world, often finding people who had noticeably darker skin than their own and developing a ridiculous story about white people as saviors (just like Christ!) that still operates fulsomely to this day.
Too many people still automatically think, for no discernible reason, that Christians are moral people whom they can expect to act in admirable ways.
The problem is not “white supremacy.” The problem is “Christian supremacy.”
Perhaps the most impressive thing about hegemonic ideologies is their capacity to disguise their own violence. The good Christians who invaded “the Americas” told themselves that the Natives would benefit from the “saving knowledge” (!) of Christ, never mind that none of the Natives knew anything about Christianity or had any interest in it before Christians showed up. Such is the arrogance of Christians that they believe their religion is superior to all others and do not hesitate to impose it on anyone who lacks the ability to resist.
So most Native Americans became Christians out of necessity. They died in huge numbers from diseases the Christians brought with them that the Natives lacked immunity to, and the Christians were happy to kill others more deliberately as they saw fit.
Similarly, the Africans whom Christians imported in large numbers came from cultures that had their own traditions, many of them possibly predating Christianity, but the Africans, who only came to “the Americas” as slaves, also became Christian out of necessity.
The Christians who set this system up seized on their pale skin as an indication that they were “white” and the slaves, especially the Africans, were “black” and, because the Christians were in charge, the terminology stuck, no matter how inaccurate it may be.
The Christians did their best to silence Native and African voices and stories, substituting the tale of Christian salvation for any real, lived stories of the people whom the Christians oppressed. This went on for hundreds of years. Only in the second half of the twentieth century, after the British empire finally collapsed, did Native, African, and African diasporic stories start to get a hearing of their own.
Starting before Christians began to colonize the world, they had existing fights going on with Muslims and Jews, the two other Abrahamic religions, all of which have their origins in the same rough geographical area and very old cultural traditions before expanding in various directions.
There really is no discernible difference between “white supremacy” and “Christian supremacy.” The core concept in “white supremacy” is “race,” or the idea that humans are somehow importantly different because of skin color, when the only real differences from skin color among humans are those that cultures, originally Christian, choose to impose. Physiologists, geneticists, and anthropologists can find no empirical basis for distinguishing among humans on the basis of skin color beyond the entirely superficial difference in skin color itself.
Christians are not fond of letting science get in the way of their ideology. Since they have centuries of persecuting Jews and fighting with Muslims under their belts, they would much rather assimilate Jews and Muslims into their newfound racial taxonomy than just give up persecuting and fighting. So Hitler relied on the supposed racial differences of Jews to justify, in his mind, anyway, the idea of eliminating Jews from Europe, if not the world, entirely.
And now, even after the Holocaust and the moral revulsion the concept engenders among all thinking people, its tropes are still widely available for application when “white supremacists”/”Christian supremacists” want to pick on Muslims. “Christian supremacists” are usually not ones for subtle distinctions among the victims of their violence. In the United States, hate crimes against both Jews and Muslims have risen since Trump became president. The shooter in New Zealand praised Trump as a “symbol of white supremacy” and drew inspiration for his attack from the United States.
This whole system only exists because of Christian colonialism. New Zealand and the United States only exist as political entities because Christians showed up and colonized them. Trump’s nationalism, “white nationalism” in the United States that inspired the shooter in New Zealand, is Christian nationalism.
Trump, as we know, was the candidate of Christians in the United States. Christians in every group, except African Americans and Hispanic Catholics, voted over 55 percent for Trump, which suggests that the people who adopted Christianity out of necessity still bring a different perspective to it than the people who created it.
And that’s a good thing. We don’t know if there will be much left of Christianity if we eliminate the “white supremacy” part, but we could try to find out.
Or we could just abandon Christianity.