Recent discourse amongst activists of the social justice and civil rights movements of the United States has led to the wide-spread colloquial usage of the term “White Man”, and subsequent ideas of “White” culture, ideology, and privilege. Hand in hand with this discourse is the outrage of certain individuals, namely of the alt-right factions, such as Sargon of Akkad. These protests, especially within European based activists such as Akkad, detest the breadth that the term “White Man” suggests, and seem to deem it oversimplified terminology that doesn’t apply to any one group of people, and further, denounce it as brainless mongering of an idea people do not understand, yet continuously perpetuate.
The problem, though, is that “White Man”, and note here the capitalization of the phrase and that I refer to its original usage by American activists, doesn’t and shouldn’t apply to European politics, social movements, or civil issues, a concept which sounds ridiculously counter-intuitive. “White Man” is the White Man of the United States, and those who speak of the “White Man” and his world, speak against the white man of the United States, not of Europe.
Racially divided populations are a part of the very fabric of the United States: it is a country that was built, literally, on the backs of a subjugated peoples. African-Americans were torn from their homes, and shipped to the United States, and forced to work, to build up a country from its very roots, yet were awarded no recognition, no civility, no basic human rights. The act of slavery, as it existed in the United States, was a slavery that helped to build a country that actively worked against those who had helped to build it. A country formed from the mesh of subjugation and slavery, literally split in two from conception into white and black. And at the head of this conception, the “White Man” was in control: they formed the country, and they formed it for themselves, and for future generations of white men who would spawn from there. There was no consideration for the people they subjugated, or attempted to control (this subjugation was, of course, a product of its time in many ways, and didn’t exclusively affect the lives of African Americans- but for the sake of a dichotomous argument here, I am arguing that subjugation of the “Black Man” by the “White Man” is an integral part of the foundation and conception of the United States and its culture, politics, and legal systems).
The problems that POC and immigrants face in Europe are simply put, different, to those faced by African Americans in the United States. Europe is European and has always been European. The European values and culture are integral to the structure of European countries. The United States was never “American” in the sense that it was integrally white, or European: the continent was home to the indigenous peoples until it was taken away from them by white, European settlers, and then harvested using the force of imported African slaves. The history of Europe may be stained by centuries of colonization and subjugation, but never was that subjugation implemented in on the European continent in the way that American slavery was; it took place on different continents, countries across the world, on islands thousands of miles from the mainland. The problem that Europe faces then, is the immigration of these previously subjugated and colonized peoples into European countries now, a conscious decision of migrants to come into countries and attempt to seek benefit in European countries- while the struggles of these immigrants are no less intense as those of the POC in the United States, the culture of Europe was not built to benefit the “White Man”, because all of Europe was the “White Man” (again, here I disregard for the sake of simplicity the subjugation of women, disabled peoples, queer populations, etc.). The active subjugation that was integrally built into the foundation of the United States was never in the same implemented into the structure of European countries. The white man of Europe is not one singular “White Man”, but the European man. But the United States is the homeland, (in the same way that it is now home to the American “white” population) to the “African-American” population. They have been, and are, a fundamental part of the history and culture of the nation.
This then, is the integral difference between the “White Man”, the term activists of the United States have coined to delineate all that is fundamentally “White” and exclusionary about the construction of America’s society, legal systems, social system, and general national conscience, despite the integral presence and influence of African-Americans. The “White Man” refers to the conscious denial of the existence of the African American human being in the construction of the American legal, social, and justice systems, and the continued effects of that oppression that live on in the United States today. The white man of Europe is not the same, and this is the issue with appropriation of American civil rights, and social justice terms, to apply to European countries and societies; they simply do not fit, because the culture, history, and indeed, reality, of the two civilizations is so differing and diverse.
Whether this form of discourse, when it invites the criticisms of commentators such as Sargon of Akkad, is the most effective way of conveying the agenda of social and civil activists of the United States, I am not sure. However, what is clear is that the perceived ambiguity of the term “White Man” seems to invite the kind of desperate aggressions of people unwilling to deal with the genuine, and pressing issues that are being put forth.