Disrupting White Supremacy: Global Histories and Local Struggles

What Happened. The Lies Told About It. Why It Matters Now.

White supremacy uses history to fuel its fictions. Its promulgators anchor their vision of a racist future in mythical depictions of the past. But the past is not the place that white supremacists imagine it to be. We must reclaim and retell the global history of race.

Today’s media narratives and public discourses often seem shocked by contemporary expressions of racism, xenophobia, and hatred—as though white supremacy’s violent present is somehow anomalous, rather than an enduring part of modernity’s core legacy. Yet the roots of white supremacy are deep and dreadful. The ideals we cherish, the words and material goods  we use, and the institutions we value are all historically tied to the oppression of non-white, non-Christian, non-European populations. But even most white nationalists cannot truly fathom the violent outcomes that attend the politicization of racial hatred.

We must fight back with knowledge. As historians we believe that careful collective reflection on the past is crucial for comprehending our present moment. This teach-in invites us all to critically reexamine what we know about white supremacy and how we know it.  We seek to provide historical context, not only to understand the ideological heritage of today’s opportunistic racist agitators, but more importantly to trace the origins and trajectories of white supremacy to better guide our struggle for true humanism. Understand and interrogating our racial past has never been more urgent than it is right now.

Contact um-disrupting@umich.edu for additional information and media inquiries.