Liberal White Supremacy

How Progressives Silence Racial and Class Oppression

Liberal White Supremacy

How Progressives Silence Racial and Class Oppression

How liberal ideology undermines genuine antiracist change

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In Liberal White Supremacy, Angie Beeman argues that white supremacy is maintained not only by right-wing conservatives or stereotypically uneducated working-class racial bigots but also by progressives who operate from a liberal ideology of color-blindness, racism-evasiveness, and class elitism. This distinction provides insight on divisions among progressives at the local level, in community organizations, and at the national level, in the Democratic Party. By distinguishing between liberal and radical approaches to racism, class oppression, capitalism, and social movement tactics, Beeman shows how progressives continue to be limited by liberal ideology and perpetuate rather than dismantle white supremacy, all while claiming to be antiracist.

She conceptualizes this self-serving process as "liberal white supremacy," the tendency for liberal European Americans to constantly place themselves in the superior moral position in a way that reinforces inequality. Beeman advances what she calls action-oriented and racism-centered intersectional approaches as alternatives to progressive organizational strategies that either downplay racism in favor of a class-centered approach or take a talk-centered approach to racism without developing explicit actions to challenge it.

A penetrating look at divergent approaches to progressive change, liberal and radical, in our systemically racist society. With innovative insight, Angie Beeman problematizes white virtuousness and superiority framing that undermines liberal and radical organization. Moving beyond that framing, she argues, effective progressive organization must feature both classism-centered and racism-centered approaches. In this view we must move beyond talk-centered, social-justice liberalism to more confrontational approaches to dismantling systemic racism.

—Joe R. Feagin, author of The White Racial Frame: Centuries of Racial Framing and Counter-Framing

With theoretical lucidity, empirical rigor, passion, and elegance, Angie Beeman argues in this book that 'liberal white supremacy' is a powerful political structure that defends the current race and class order. She documents through case studies how liberals and 'it's all about class'-type radicals generate a politics and a praxis that ultimately keep the system in place. But Beeman is not a pessimist as she also articulates the possibilities for a deep radicalism that challenges the powerful and their institutions. Bravo for a job well done!

—Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, author of Racism without Racists: Colorblind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America

This powerfully written, unforgettable prescription for genuine ally-ship is without question essential reading for all who favor action-oriented methods and racism-centered intersectional approaches over racism-evasiveness and liberal colorblindness. Liberal White Supremacy will become, like Ibram X. Kendi's How to Be an Antiracist and Robin DiAngelo's White Fragility, a standard for masterfully interpreting white supremacy. Beeman's scathing critique of conflict-averse liberals captures the dynamic interplay of two parallel but contradictory approaches to social change-that is, one bound to stifle dissent and the other destined to confront.

—Evelyn M. Simien, author of Historic Firsts: How Symbolic Empowerment Changes U.S. Politics

Beeman's Liberal White Supremacy will capture you from the acknowledgments to the very last page. It is a masterful book filled with sharp and layered analyses and incisive commentary on national, local, institutional, and interpersonal-level race politics. Merging historical analyses and two compelling case studies, Beeman boldly and convincingly argues that decentering class in race politics is bound to erase the experiences and resistance of economically marginalized Black and brown people. Liberal White Supremacy is a major and innovative contribution to the urgent call to expose the limits of progressive race politics and its alignment with liberal ideology.

—Ranita Ray, author of The Making of a Teenage Service Class

About the Author/Editor

ANGIE BEEMAN is associate professor in the Marxe School of Public and International Affairs and serves on the board of the Black Studies Colloquium at Baruch College (CUNY). She is also a director of the Global Listening Centre's Academic Board.