WoW Pt. 2: Slave, Colony, Economy

To read the previous post: A World of White Pt. 1: The Tour

It might appear in Pt. 1: The Tour that I was too harsh on Percy. Even though I was critical of his actions, I think that some of that harshness is warranted. His actions caused us to feel discomfort. I would like to allocate grace, however, by arguing that even though Percy caused us to feel uncomfortable, Percy is also a victim of even greater social structures.

Throughout my very short time in Peru, I was able to observe the overwhelming imposition of white, western culture onto Peruvian cultures. Some aspects of Peruvian cultures weren’t celebrated as much because Western and American cultural elements were valued more. The most common example I observed was in the advertising. In Lima, you would turn a corner to find an American movie star or athlete endorsing a certain product. Peruvian movie stars weren’t featured as much because of the fame and popularity that Western movie stars had.

In trying to understand Percy’s actions and the reason why American movie stars are on Peruvian billboards, the answer appears to be quite simple. ‘Americans are wealthy and American culture is popular’ one might say. I would like to argue a different thesis, however, in that the answers to the questions about Percy and the billboards is found in a broader sociological analysis of global white and western supremacy. White and western supremacy is the idea that whiteness and western capitalism are ideologies (or simply put, value systems) that govern societies around the world. White supremacy is a value system that considers people with a light skin color to be dominant to those with darker skin color. When discussing western supremacy, the definition of white supremacy is built on in that white people who originate from western nation-states have more wealth and more influence over global societies in the political, militaristic and social spheres.

To have a better understanding of the definitions of western and white supremacy, there needs to be a historical analysis of how these social structures came about. First, from the mid-1500s- late 1800s, white supremacy was given birth through the era of slavery. In the age of slavery, European countries expanded their industrial economy by using slaves to work on plantations in Europe and in the New World in South and North America. At first, these European powers used indigenous people living in the America’s to work the plantations. When most of these indigenous Americans were killed due to European disease and genocidal actions, the Europeans turned to Africa. Certain powerful African individuals would have their fellow African neighbors captured to be sold to the Europeans. These captured Africans were then transported to the New World to work the European plantations. In the era of slavery, the social concept of “race” was established on a global scale in which the white Europeans were considered superior to people of darker skin colors. That consideration of European superiority was systematically implemented on a political, economic and social scale.

The second major event in history that further established white and western supremacy was colonialism. During the age of colonialism, in the 1700s-1900s, the white, western nation-states took political control of the majority of South American, African and some Asian land. The purpose of these states imposing colonial rule was to extract raw materials from the land so that the European and American industries could be supplied. In the process of extracting those raw materials, these colonial powers sought to evangelize their Christian faith and capitalistic political tradition. In that political and religious dissemination, indigenous cultural and ethnic traditions were completely disregarded. Moreover, these colonial powers upheld certain ideologies, such as the idea that those who adopted the Christian faith and those who had a lighter skin color were more superior than those who didn’t have those identities. This, of course, further developed global white supremacy and the destruction of indigenous cultures, which were occurrences introduced through slavery.

Global white supremacy that was established during the ages of slavery and colonialism persists today in globalized capitalism. Globalized capitalism or globalization occurs when western international corporations off shore their labor to poor people of color in other countries. They off shore their labor to other countries because the wage requirement is cheaper and the corporations don’t have to meet the working conditions standards that are provided for in the U.S. The common justification given for off shoring labor to poor non-western people is that it’s better for these people to work these labor jobs instead of whatever local job they had previously. Even though that might be true, these laborers are still not be treated as well as their American counterparts who are purchasing the products that these poor non-western people are producing. Furthermore, many of these international corporations are not properly caring for the land that their factories are built on in these other countries. Lastly, another way that globalized white supremacy is preserved is through using western military force. With the case of American corporations, the U.S. military has a presence in numerous countries to protect the international corporate interests.

White and western supremacy are ideologies that act as smog that permeate into every corner of this earth. They are universal ideologies because of hundreds of years of western expansion for the pursuit of economic gain. Although this part of WoW is quite extensive, understanding this history and sociological analysis is not just helpful for me in trying to understand mine and Cassie’s interaction with Percy. This type of analysis is helpful for others to know when observing every case of western/white privilege in non-western countries.

To read the final segment of “WoW,” please go to: WoW Pt. 3: Privilege

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