Opinion: White Supremacy is not White Supremacy — It's 'Toxicity'

Editor's note: This is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect Her Campus UFL or Her Campus as a whole. Her Campus UFL denounces all hate speech and hateful messages spread by speakers such as Richard Spencer, who is speaking at the University of Florida today (Thursday, October 19). Her Campus UFL encourages students to be safe, smart, aware and kind on this day.

We live in harrowing times. A group of people within our society have a superiority complex believing that their melanin-lacking skin color is far better than any person of color. They believe that anyone different are mongrels and deserve to be treated like trash. I am referring to white supremacists.

Racism is nothing new — but our society has become more cognizant of these issues due to Charlottesville. On August 11 and 12, a “Unite the Right” rally was held in Charlottesville, VA, and one woman, Heather Heyer, died. Christopher Cantwell, one of the prominent figures in this rally, says that her death was justified.  White supremacists behind this rally feel empowered, emboldened and entitled by the so-called “progress” made in Charlottesville. Feeling motivated and powerful when white supremacists already occupy dominant roles in our society only perpetuates the monolithic narrative of being white, cisgender and straight equates to being a true “American.” This event has shaken the nation and the world and has presented new challenges for universities.

Regardless of the semantics attached to whether or not it was "right" of the UF administration to allow Spencer to speak on our campus, Spencer is coming, thus bringing with him an entourage looking reincarnate the second coming of Charlottesville with much laxer gun laws in Florida (i.e. Stand your ground). As an individual of many intersecting marginalized identities, I am living in fear of what may happen.

By giving in to the hate group's demands, we are giving them the motivation to exist. I believe we must resist them and make them feel powerless, weak and feeble, like the disease that they are. However, that cannot be achieved if they are called supremacists. That’s why I think white supremacy should be renamed as “toxic whiteness." 

By removing the supremacy from their name, we are removing an element of power that they feel. Supremacy implies power over another, which they believe they have power over people of color, however this is not the case. Ideally, all people on this planet are meant to feel equal. However, toxic whites are acting like poison and making people feel lesser than they are. Having toxic in their name implies that supremacy is poisonous. I will note though that I am not saying all whites are bad, just these that are currently described as supremacists. Additionally, toxic does not need to be only used for bad whites, it can also be used to describe any member of a group that are ruining the image of the group as a whole. 

To rid our society of this poison, we must fight to reach an antidote. There are protests, demonstrations, signing petitions, etc. My personal preference is to use my words and my knowledge, because the pen is mightier than the sword, and knowledge is power. We must put in our efforts to protect our rights and gain rights in order to achieve equality. Any amount of effort is welcome in our fight, we just need to be persistent and consistent. However, an important skill to have in all of this is how to prepare for toxic whiteness or hate speech of any kind — so that you can be properly equipped to fight and be resilient.

How to prepare to fight toxicity

Personally, I have not done much outside of a keyboard to fight against white supremacy because I have horrible anxiety.

Having my own personal battles with anxiety, I have been limited in my acts of activism with my acts mainly revolving the power of the keyboard. With that being said, I asked a UF student activist for her perspective. Her name is Claudia Villanueva, a senior majoring in sustainability and the built environment. She gave the following methods to fight this discrimination through her experience in protests and demonstrations:

1. Prepare to hear and experience the worst

Facing a toxic group, whether it be at a demonstration or in everyday life, will bring out the worse emotions in people. They will spew rhetoric that is literally calling for the inequality of people you associate with every day. Their actions will make you fear for safety and make you unable to function. No matter what, you must persevere. By not backing down, you will have the upper hand when fighting and will come out on top in the end. But nonetheless, be safe. Safety is of the utmost importance.

2. Listen to those that have experience fighting these issues

These people know how to protect their people and know what works in these activities. But most importantly, they know how to do it safely, and safety is of the utmost importance. Additionally, many people have dedicated their lives to fight these issues and they know what to do. Listen to them.

3. Protect the marginalized and make their voices the center of attention, but also be willing to share their voices if they cannot do so themselves

If you are not a part of a marginalized group, protect those who are marginalized. They don’t have the same protections as someone who is a cisgender heterosexual male. Use your privilege to fight and protect them. Also, if they cannot speak out due to safety concerns, speak for them. Make sure that their message is heard, and it will make a world of difference.

4. Stay together and protect your peers, because strength is in numbers

An unorganized group is one that will fail. Organization will bring people together and become a greater force against toxic whites. A cohesive group will also be able to protect each other better against anything that could happen.

5. Make white supremacists afraid of sharing their opinions

Make the toxic group fear their opinions. This will truly show them that it is wrong to say one race is superior over others. Make them experience the fear that marginalized groups have to face every day just by being alive.

I also asked Jessica Terkovich, a sophomore criminology major who has participated in peaceful protests in the past, on what she thought. Here are the tips she presented:

6. Challenge yourself, and use your privilege for good if you have any

If you believe you have privilege of some sort, use your power to fight for equality. Amplify the voices of the marginalized communities. Speaking over a community is not the same as speaking on behalf of a community.

7. Only do what you are comfortable with

Everything you do in this fight will be challenge by choice. If you are not comfortable doing something, please don’t do it. 

Silence is complacency.