I have to admit, when I hear the term “white supremacy” it triggers a bit of reactive heat within me, even though I know there is systemic racial disparity in housing, education, and job advancement, to name a few. I know these conditions harken back to the law and how policy has been written and implemented. But the term “white supremacy” is just so blunt and direct, it feels aggressive; an affront to a certain white sensibility that prefers euphemisms that couch and deflect, always hiding within the restrained language of the indirect.

Opinion columnist Charles Blow draws our attention to some of these ambiguous, often used phrases such as “Race Relations,” “Racial Tension,” and “Racial Unity.” He notes that “America loves to frame our attention around unity rather than equality. “These phrases,” he says, “suggest a false premise; that white people and non-whites are operating from equal positions of power in this society and are simply not getting along or agreeing on issues.” He argues that “it is a linguistic sidestep” that camouflages and subverts “the true issue,” which is “anti-black and anti-other white supremacy.”

Naming the problem so directly is not appreciated. “Calling a thing a thing” up-ends a carefully groomed white narrative that is ever reluctant to acknowledge its place in the foundational racial story of our country. We contrive to make it nearly impossible to initiate or receive commentary about race. It turns out that the best time for such an exchange is never, thank you very much. We are defensive and insist on being accorded the privilage to remain secure in our zone of comfort at all times. When someone has the audacity to breach that boundary, we get reactive and ugly pretty fast. Our distaste for any level of discomfort outweighs our willingness to engage, listen, or to learn. Apparently, it feels too risky; some would say, unbearable. Yet, considering the oppressive conditions our dominant group have sponsored and endorsed over the centuries, that unwillingness to experience even a modicum of “discomfort” is a paltry excuse for turning away and shutting down.

We are keen to associate the term white supremacy solely with the likes of the KKK or white nationalists, in order to immunize the rest of us from the uncomfortable and revealing appropriateness of that moniker. White supremacy is really the nation’s norm. It is the air we breathe, and the America we love.

George Mason, Nobleboro