The International Ambassador for the Black Lives Matter Network is urging allies of the movement to “stop saying ‘white privilege’ and start saying ‘white supremacy.’” Janaya Khan, co-founder of Black Lives Matter-Toronto, released a video last week explaining the semantic differences between the two phrases and the need for the change.
“Popular social justice discourse has used ‘white privilege’ to describe the benefits that come with whiteness,” Khan elaborated in the video. “The problem with describing white privilege is that it looks at the individual as opposed to the system itself.”
Khan, who now resides in California, points out that there are many white people in the United States whose personal circumstances might dispel the notion of a privileged life. However, collectively, she says Caucasians have always had a systemic advantage because the country was built on the concept of ‘white supremacy,’ which Khan defines in the video as “the inherent belief that white people are superior to all other racialized groups and should, therefore, dominate society.” According to Khan, that idea is reinforced every day in America through institutional racism built into the educational system, mainstream media, and employment opportunities available to black and brown people.
“Despite the fact that there are all of these determinates of white supremacy, we still struggle to actually name the system itself. We can’t be more afraid of naming white supremacy than of white supremacy. White privilege is only half of the conversation.”
Khan — a transgender immigrant who was born and raised in Canada — has been actively organizing in the United States since she married Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter, last year. On Inauguration Day, Khan helped orchestrate a demonstration in Washington D.C. where Black Lives Matter activists blocked an entrance to the main ceremony for several hours. Khan used a megaphone to speak out against the transfer of power to Donald J. Trump, where she “appealed to feminists, socialists, communists and other groups,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Since then, Khan has been a featured speaker at several colleges throughout the country discussing social transformation. But after white nationalists gathered at the University of Virginia’s campus in Charlottesville last month, images of a torchlight procession and a Dodge Challenger plowing into a crowd provided activists like Khan an opportunity to make ‘white supremacy’ part of the national conversation.
On August 19 — a week after the violent clashes that left one woman dead — Khan represented Black Lives Matter at a demonstration in Boston, Mass., which attracted an estimated 40,000 attendees. She lashed out against the Trump administration’s response to the Charlottesville tragedy, saying “failure to condemn white supremacy means that they’re condoning it.”
Khan and her wife were part of a private get-together in Los Angeles earlier this year which featured Dr. Angela Davis — best known for her 1960s radicalism associated with the Black Panther Party. As The Daily Wire exclusively reported in May, Davis discussed the importance of changing vocabularies in pursuit of abolishing systems of oppression, such as policing, prisons, and capitalism. Coincidentally, Khan’s call to “start saying white supremacy” targets those same systems named by Davis — deemed by most Black Lives Matter leaders to be part of America’s inherently racist institutions that must be discredited, undermined, and dismantled.
Khan concludes the video by saying, “We must stop white supremacists, but we also must fight the system that produces them.”
Follow Jeffrey Cawood on Twitter @Near_Chaos.