African afro-diaspora American slavery black hair chattel slavery Colombia Culture enslaved people Fashion hair Haiti Haitian haitian revolution Harriet Tubman healing Hoodoo indigneous Magick marie laveau race racism rootwork slave trade slavery underground railroad vodou voodoo white supremacist white supremacy

Our Cultures Have Always Been A Weapon Against White Supremacy

Our Cultures Have Always Been A Weapon Against White Supremacy art by Dania alexis

It’s clear that the cultures of Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples are extremely vital due to how a lot white individuals worry them.

All through historical past, cultural traditions have been used to mobilize teams of Black and Brown individuals collectively towards a standard menace—white supremacy. Individuals of colour have survived centuries of countless white violence and, at many turns, have used the facility and reverence for our many cultures as a way to struggle again.

It’s essential that we protect our cultural roots as a lot as we will, particularly in these occasions when white supremacy and nationalism are so blatantly on show. White supremacists and nationalists have traditionally used the idea of “tradition wars” to demonize individuals of shade and paint themselves as victims, often of some type of the white genocide mythos. Racists and xenophobes yelling at individuals of shade for not talking English, even threatening to name ICE, is likely one of the many hills they select to die on. Their worry of different cultures—languages, traditions, religions, ethnicities, ideologies—is clear of their actions, on each small and enormous scales.

In the course of the build-up to the 2016 presidential election, Nationwide Assessment’s Reihan Salam described tradition wars because the “battle over the way forward for American nationwide id within the face of speedy and accelerating demographic change.” Tradition wars are, kind of, a seemingly infinite rivalry over who can and who can’t be thought-about a “True American,” with white, cis straight, conservative, Christians being those with probably the most potential to put declare to this title and, subsequently, additionally those with the power to find out who else has entry to rights in America.

“In virtually each case, these tradition wars have been conservative tasks, instigated and waged by individuals anxious concerning the lack of previous orders and the emergence of latest ones. Their nervousness finds expression first as a grievance a few specific coverage, and second as a broader lament about how far the nation has fallen from its founding glory and the way desperately we have to restore no matter is passing away.”

—Stephen Prothero, Washington Submit

It’s clear that the cultures of Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples are extremely vital due to how a lot white individuals worry them. Subsequently, we can’t overlook how our ancestors have used their numerous cultures as weapons towards white supremacy, as instruments to work in the direction of their very own liberation, and as mechanisms to manage of their positions as marginalized peoples.

We can’t overlook how the various youngsters of the African Diaspora have used cultural traditions to fight and subvert white supremacist violences as they waded within the devastation of the Transatlantic Slave Commerce. Bois Caïman is the place the seed that may develop into the 18th century Haitian Revolution and slave rebellion was planted. At this website, the organized resistance started to take type when a standard Vodou ceremony was carried out. Vodou is a faith and philosophy with deep cultural roots and vital which means that was birthed in Haiti (as soon as referred to as Saint-Domingue) when an amalgam of spiritual beliefs have been carried to the island with the ships harboring individuals stolen from Africa. Throughout this time, Haiti was beneath French colonial rule. The island was wealthy in sugar, espresso, and indigo, which the enslaved have been pressured to reap and keep. Their revolution was a struggle towards the tough labor, in addition to the dehumanization and incremental genocide by the hands of the French colonists.


The integral use of Vodou on this profitable rebellion little question contributed to and continues to affect white perceptions of Vodou/Voodoo. It, together with different spiritual traditions with roots in Africa, has been demonized all through the centuries. The spiritual apply was blamed for the homicide and cannibalization of a kid in 1864 and the Miami “tub salts zombie” assault in 2012. It has even been referred to as a ‘‘blood pact with Devil’’ and cited as the reason for the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

Vodou ultimately discovered its approach to the Bayous of Louisiana and made itself a house in New Orleans, the place the notorious Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau wielded her energy to assist free slaves and protest capital punishment, amongst different issues. Additional north, Harriet Tubman was recognized to make use of Hoodoo, conjure, and root work as she traversed the Underground Railroad repeatedly. Oftentimes, she would use songs as a option to talk with enslaved individuals. These songs, spirituals like Swing Low, Candy Chariot and Wade within the Water, served as codes containing instructions and alerts that led to their profitable escape. Communal singing was a practice introduced over from Africa and continued on the plantation, offering each a rhythm for the repetitive labor they carried out and an avenue of escape from their harsh actuality.

Artwork work by Dania Alexis

In Colombia, the place Africans have been transported by Spanish colonizers within the 16th century, the enslaved have been additionally in a position to make use of items of the tradition introduced from their homeland to work in the direction of Black liberation, like mapping out escape routes with braided hair, weaving collectively freedom via inventive expression. Totally different braiding types and patterns have been used to suggest once they needed to flee and which roads have been protected to take. Oftentimes, issues like gold and seeds have been woven into the patterns in order that they might carry these small valuables with them to freedom.

Braided hair has an extended historical past and cultural significance in Africa, and people who have been stolen have been capable of deliver this with them and use it as a device towards white supremacy. Even now, we have now to struggle for our proper to put on them and different conventional Black hairstyles. These types are deemed “unprofessional” and out of order within the office, and referred to as a gown code violation in faculties. Individuals have been wrongfully terminated and youngsters have been unfairly suspended due to these anti-Black doctrines. South African schoolgirls have been pressured to steer an rebel in 2016 to have the ability to put on their pure hair to high school, and that is solely a small a part of the lasting injury from South African apartheid. All of this takes place even whereas Black hairstyles are regularly appropriated by white individuals and attributed to their creativity and elegance, quite than their thievery. Each cultural genocide and cultural appropriation are instruments of white supremacy.

Cultural genocide has typically been strategic and systematic, present alongside of systemic oppressions. Each a symptom and a weapon of white colonization, cultural genocide is deployed as a method to strip id away from individuals of shade and convey us completely underneath white colonial governance.


The truth that the US eliminated Indigenous youngsters from place of birth and positioned them into assimilation encampments within the 19th century shouldn’t be widespread information, however it must be. When they’re talked about, they’re sometimes known as “boarding faculties,” quite than the prisons of racial containment that they really have been. In these “faculties,” native youngsters have been forbidden from utilizing their very own names, talking of their native tongue, sporting their garments, or working towards their religions, and suffered extreme punishments in the event that they ever slipped up. Their native names have been changed with Anglo-American ones and their lengthy hair, which bears unimaginable significance in Native American tradition, was reduce from their heads.

The US tried to destroy each hint of the Native People whose land that they had stolen. Since that they had did not homicide all of them or breed them out of existence, the white colonizers  as an alternative prohibited them from working towards their lifestyle in an try and erase them totally. This endeavor in the direction of complete annihilation via assimilation was additionally a option to de-weaponize them and their energy. Wiping away all indigenous tradition and assimilating all indigenous individuals into the colonizer’s tradition would imply that the reality of historical past might be ignored, and the colonizers might relaxation straightforward with the arrogance that these that they had wronged wouldn’t keep in mind and by no means stand up towards them.

They failed. Nonetheless, the Indigenous individuals of this land live beneath the oppressive rule of white colonialism, as we witnessed at Standing Rock and as evidenced by the truth that Native People are killed by police on the highest charges within the nation. Even the violent colonization of Native American land and the genocide of its indigenous individuals has been brazenly celebrated by the very best workplace within the land.

Cultural genocide might not look like as sinister as orchestrating the fabric dying of a whole individuals. It manifests in methods that’s typically so delicate that you simply’d hardly even realize it’s there for those who aren’t on the lookout for it, however it’s completely probably the most insidious elements of white colonialism. Within the U.S., the desecration and destruction of the cultures of Black, Brown, and Indigenous individuals have been integral to sustaining an oppressive system of institutional racism, particularly via the enslavement of African individuals and the removing of Indigenous individuals from their lands.

Don’t assume for a second that cultural genocide is a factor of the previous. It’s occurring even now, and it occurs proper alongside the appropriation of our cultures. We can’t overlook how white colonialist violence tried to stamp out those that got here earlier than us, and the way they discovered methods to protect items of id and tradition for us. We can’t overlook how our ancestors fought to defend their proper to life, and the way they used their cultural traditions of their battle. And we have to be simply as courageous within the face of the “tradition wars” that white supremacists and nationalists proceed to wage towards us. Our tradition continues to be a weapon.

– With contributions by Monica Cadena

Artwork work by Dania Alexis


This text was made potential because of our patron Rahim Ladha, whose help on Patreon helps be sure that we will pay one author each month!


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