Blackness Is The Fulcrum

I’m often asked why I’ve focused so much more on anti-black racism than on Asians over the years. Some suggest I suffer from internalized racism.

That might well be true since who doesn’t suffer from internalized racism?  I mean, even white people internalize racism. The difference is that white people’s internalized racism is against people of color, and it’s backed up by those who control societal institutions and capital.

But some folk have more on their minds.  They say that focusing on black and white reinforces a false racial binary that marginalizes the experiences of non-black people of color. No argument here. But I also think that trying to mix things up by putting non-black people of color in the middle is a problem because there’s no “middle.”

So there’s most of my answer. I’m sure I do suffer from internalized racism, but I don’t think that racism is defined only in terms of black and white. I also don’t think white supremacy is a simple vertical hierarchy with whites on top, black people on the bottom, and the rest of us in the middle.

So why do I expend so much effort on lifting up the oppression of black people? Because anti-black racism is the fulcrum of white supremacy.

A fulcrum is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the support about which a lever turns” or, alternatively, “one that supplies capability for action.” In other words, if you want to move something, you need a pry bar and some leverage, and what gives you leverage is the fulcrum – that thing you use so the pry bar works like a see-saw.

The racial arrangement in the U.S. is ever changing.  There is no “bottom.” Different groups have more ability to affect others at different times because our roles are not fixed.  But, while there’s no bottom, there is something like a binary in that white people exist on one side of these dynamics – the side with force and intention. The way they mostly assert that force and intention is through the fulcrum of anti-black racism.

Hang in there with me for a minute and consider this. Race slavery is the historical basis of our economy. Yes, there was/is a campaign of “Indian removal” in order to capture natural resources and that certainly is part of the story. But the structure of the economy is rooted in slavery.

Our Constitution was written by slave owners. They managed to muster some pretty nice language about equality, justice, and freedom for “men” because they considered Africans less than human. Our federal system is based on a compromise intended to accommodate slavery. Our concept of ownership rights, the structure of our federal elections system, the segregated state of our society, the glut of money in politics, our conservative political culture, our criminal codes and federal penitentiaries all evolved around or were/are facilitated by anti-black racism.

And this is not just about history.  Fear of black people drives our national politics, from the fight over Jim Crow in the 50s and 60s, to Willie Horton and the Chicago Welfare Queen in the 80s, and the War on Drugs, starting in 1982 right up to the present. Since 2001, the U.S. has spent about 1.3 trillion dollars on war. Since 1982 we’ve spent over 1 trillion dollars on the drug war.

About 82% of drug busts are for possession, while about 18% are for trafficking. Sound like an irrational way to wage a war on drugs? Not if it’s a war on black people.

According to Human Rights Watch, black males are incarcerated at a rate more than six times that of white males resulting in one in 10 black males aged 25-29 being held in prison or jail in 2009. The same report states:

blacks constitute 33.6 percent of drug arrests, 44 percent of persons convicted of drug felonies in state court, and 37 percent of people sent to state prison on drug charges, even though they constitute only 13 percent of the US population and blacks and whites engage in drug offenses at equivalent rates.

And why a war on people?  The war on drugs is the cornerstone of the “tough on crime” messaging campaign that is key to the Republican Southern Strategy. It suggests that extending civil rights to African Americans resulted in the crime wave of the 1970s (and not the baby boom as is suggested by sociologists) in order to drive white Southerners into the Republican Party.

And that “tough on crime” thing, that’s not just against black people.  It’s a propaganda war that is weakening civil rights and civil liberties for all of us.

There’s no hierarchy of oppressions where race is concerned, but anti-black racism is the fulcrum of white supremacy.

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By Scot Nakagawa

Scot Nakagawa is a political strategist and writer who has spent more than four decades exploring questions of structural racism, white supremacy, and social justice. Scot’s primary work has been in the fight against authoritarianism, white nationalism, and Christian nationalism. Currently, Scot is co-lead of the 22nd Century Initiative, a project to build the field of resistance to authoritarianism in the U.S.

Scot is a past Alston/Bannerman Fellow, an Open Society Foundations Fellow, and a recipient of the Association of Asian American Studies Community Leader Award. His writings have been included in Race, Gender, and Class in the United States: An Integrated Study, 9th Edition,  and Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence.

Scot's political essays, briefings, and other educational media can be found at his newsletter, We Fight the Right at He is a sought after public speaker and educator who provides consultation on campaign and communications strategy, and fundraising.

50 replies on “Blackness Is The Fulcrum”

Loved this! I’ve seen it reposted in different places. Would like to cite this. Could you give me a heads up on the best citation to use?

Thanks! Hmmm…citation. I guess you could cite the my name at Race Files, which is a project of ChangeLab, if that’s what you mean. If you had something else in mind, let me know.

Hi Scot, because I posted the article, a radio program in NYC would like to interview you. Yay! Could you please reach out to them? They want to talk to you at 2 pm, for between 5 and 7 mins. Follow the producer on Twitter. Her username is @ljoywilliams. If you don’t tweet, you could also send me your email address and I could send it to her.

“Fulcrum” is exactly the right word. So much in American politics hinges on the use of implicit racism–and sexism–to uphold the promise of a white male power structure, to oppress not only people of color but also whites with strong racist inclinations. Appealing to and strengthening their racism has worked to keep Southern whites in line. Their lust for power, even just the idea of power, keeps them voting against their own economic self-interest.

There are some important implications in all of this that need to be untangled. Somehow we need to use this understanding practically, to figure out how to counter appeals to racism, sexism, and the lust for fictional power, to aggregate ourselves along new lines to begin to aspire toward seeking the well-being of all.

Good morning Scot. I love your brain even when it is not in complete sync with mine. Using structural images, I think it important to recognize that had there been no slaughter of the Native People, there would have been no land upon which to rest this economic fulcrum. The land was the base upon which the US built the racist structures that grew the US economy. The US governments have encouraged us to ignore genocide as the means by which the land was acquired upon which to “grow” cotton, rice, cane and slaves. In a contemporary view of racial politics, blackness may be a fulcrum upon which white supremacy leverages its power. However, this image leaves me with no room for a structural image representing male supremacy, or describing the dynamic between my group(s) and others. Perhaps the image of the Octopus ride at a carnival captures some of what I am talking about. Revolving and rotating at the same time, the seats are also attached to a larger frame (white supremacy?) that lifts and lowers them as it spins them. This image is limited in that it lacks the capacity to help me see the dynamics of my experience of how those elements interact for me as a black person and a woman person.

Scott-Thanks for being so On Point. Racism has to be dealt with, and dealt with Right Now. This Country has had that Sore on it’s face for Centuries and it continues to puss out and scab back up from the continued picking at it instead of treating it. I too would like to Re-Post and hope you don’t mind. Keep Up The Fight Brother.

I like your analogy but I think slave labor is more appropriately analogous to the legs of this country: without the labor of African slaves, Chinese immigrants and Latino workers from the past, black bodies currently in prison, “third world” slave labor and undocumented workers today, the economy would literally collapse in paralyzing insurrection. I truly believe the crux of Scott’s argument and how racially segregated slavery was so paramount to not only the immensity of white power but also as the model to stratify class labor by race thus subjugating other races to the horrors or white supremacy.

Kathleen, I love your analysis as a sister African American woman. Scot, your piece is very close to being on point, but all economic analyses begin with the inputs – in this case stolen Indian land and stolen African labor. They go together and serve as the fulcrum of white supremacy as practiced in the Americas and the Caribbean.

Thanks, Jenice. I love that people talk back to me! I’m learning and as I do I’ll sure speak up. Reading In the Spirit of Crazy Horse and re-reading From a Native Daughter about Hawaii and the experience of my own community. In the middle of Coolies and Cane as well for a second time.

I still tend to think in terms of anti-black racism being the fulcrum because I think whiteness is, if you will, the lever, mainly in terms of ideology. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t significant additional inputs, but I think in terms of where we are now with the prison build up and find myself forced to ask the question, which side of the color line am I on. That’s why I put the post out there. I’m sure it’s not perfect, but I wanted to generate this kind of dialogue so thanks for your words!

This is one of the most brilliant pieces I have seen in a long time. Absolutely, every word.

Scot, I loved the piece. Do you do radio interviews? I co-host a program on BTR dedicated exclusively to white supremacy/racism. If you’re interested, I’d like to arrange a time over email to speak with you.

Scot, I loved the piece. I co-host a radio program on BTR focused exclusively on white supremacy/racism…and I agree, although we need to stop thinking of racism in “black and white” and start thinking of it as “white over non-white”, we definitely should acknowledge (in general) that darker people have it worse. If you would like to discuss these issues in an interview format, reply to this comment and we can find a way to exchange emails.

Sure, I’d like to discuss this with you. Thanks for the offer.

Thank you for writing this. Others have said the same things, but perhaps someone non-black saying it will get through to more people. This country was a very racist place only a few decades ago. Some of the perpetrators of that racism are still in power today. So for people to pretend that everything is colorblind and postracial because it’s 2012 is to ignore the realities of history and economics.

If you want to raise your blood pressure a little bit, research Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood and their efforts to abort black babies. It’s a womb to the tomb effort against black people. I’m a Christian and I’m black. My faith in Jesus Christ is critical. To paraphrase the President, we all need to do some soul searching when it comes to dealing with prejudice towards other people.

Our concept of ownership rights, the structure of our federal elections system, the segregated state of our society, the glut of money in politics, our conservative political culture, our criminal codes and federal penitentiaries all evolved around or were/are facilitated by anti-black racism.

Well,sure, every aspect of our society “evolved around” — i.e., in the presence of — anti-black racism, and around every other form of racism, not to mention sexism. (I don’t know about you, but when I read a Constitution granting rights only to “men,” racism is not my first thought). Those oppressions have always been present and have always shaped society. The only argument you make that really purports to distinguish anti-black racism is that “the structure of the economy is rooted in slavery.” You don’t say what you mean by that, though. By economic “structure,” are you referring to capitalism? Because capitalism existed long before anti-black racism or the Atlantic slave trade, and it thrived in countries that did not rely on slavery even when the US did. If your point simply is that slavery served as a key engine of economic growth for the United States in the 1700s-1800s, that’s true, but it was also an economic liability — in fact, one main argument advanced by abolitionists was that slavery impeded urbanization and industrialization and had negative labor market effects. Without slavery, industrialization could not have been financed as rapidly and trade relationships would have built more slowly, but in the end the industrial revolution would have come to America just as it came to Britain and other countries that lacked a slave labor force. The main sector to benefit from slavery was agriculture, which today is a withered anachronism sustained by government subsidies anyways.

Absolutely nothing in this article convinces me that anti-black racism is any more important than any other form of discrimination.

Are you seriously going to block this comment? There is nothing remotely offensive about it. Because it is a feminist comment (and because your OP is sexist), you also seem sexist.

Sorry, I don’t know what you’re referring to. What comment?

Okay, found it. Sorry. I get a lot of stuff from white supremacists and trash them because while I know that sort of controversy is supposed to be “good” for my blog, I don’t want to generate traffic to those sites. I think your comment probably was in the middle of an email line up including a few of those. Of course your comment is perfectly legit and should be part of the conversation, which is what my incomplete and imperfect post was meant to generate. My goal with each post is to be brief which, sadly, means that I’m not going to be able to express every related idea in each one. I’m also a flawed and imperfect person, so my posts are going to reflect that, too. I am trying my best, but my best is not going to be enough. Instead, I’m hoping that this blog helps me along a process – opens a dialogue about the kinds of ideas you express. Sorry I made the mistake of trashing yours. Again, I have my flaws, including that I’m still learning the technical aspects of this blogging thing.

@pt- America was fuelled by anti-blackness because it was literally built by unpaid black people who were, and continue in some areas to be systematically maligned and dehumanised to justify their mistreatment.
To suggest otherwise or attempt to turn this into a philosophical discussion about how the country MIGHT have been built had there been no slave labour is just avoiding the fact that there WAS, in prisons there still IS, and it benefits many other ethnic groups to varying degrees at the expense of black people.
To me, the genocide of Native Americans is the basis on which the entire machinery, fulcrum and all lies. Without the theft of that land, America as it is would never have existed.
Lastly to call a comment that denies how anti-blackness has shaped America feminism is acceptable only to someone who does not consider black women to be a group worthy of representation by feminists.
Yes women were not represented in the constitution but white women COULD and did own black women, abuse them and participate n their rape and murder on many occasions.
While white women suffered gender based discrimination their acknowledgement as legal persons gave them protection that black women did not have and to this day white American women, although still discriminated against, are still the best paid and most protected from crime of any women in America.
Anti-black racism stems from a system that did not legally consider black people to be HUMAN, to suggest it was the same as every other form of discrimination is mind boggling.

As a Black British person living in the USA, I must say that whilst there is strong institutionalized racism in the USA but the most individualized racism I have encountered have been from Hispanics and Asians. I’ve also been to China and they’re extremely racist people towards Blacks. They would sooner embrace whites than embrace Blacks any day. I’ve also heard of stories of the horrible ways that Chinese business people in Africa treat Africans in their own countries.

What part of the US are you living? I heard about the treatment of blacks in China, I stories of people being hit, spat on, etc.

Although I applaud your entire article you said it all in these two sentences…”So why do I expend so much effort on lifting up the oppression of black people? Because anti-black racism is the fulcrum of white supremacy.”

Dude, I’ve never heard of you until 20 min ago, May 15, 12. You speak with brevity, clarity, and depth of purpose! Keep up the good work.

Thank you Scot. You have articulated this for our generation. Joel A. Rogers could not have said it better.

It’s feels strange to say this, but in spite of the apparent racism in this society, I still believe in the idea of America.


Your efforts are very much appreciated by me, if that means anything. However, you do know that there will be a tendency by many to romanticize what you say and what you are doing. Unfortunately, it is a truism that we have gotten to the point where doing what is “right” is the counter-story. And, for some, doing what is right becomes very opportunistic and self-serving. That is not to question your motives but don’t be surprised if you become a fetish because the “Asian” guy is taking an interest in anti-Black racism. In other words, your interest in combating anti-Black racism could engender more racism against you.

Also, it would have been great to hear how you are combating anti-Black racism within various Asian communities and groups that you come in contact with. Perhaps, the next step in your journey would take on that challenge. That would help rectify Black folks being portrayed as the “other” in your post.

To put it bluntly, we are still counting the degree of blacksness/ brownness of a persons skin as the first standard measurement for being deserving of human respect and honor. That is why whiter skin remains the lever by which society moves. The question to be answered is, how can we all free ourselves from from the mechanics of this so that we can all collectively exercise our power to effect good for all mankind instead.

Brilliant. Thanks for this. I couldn’t have put it better. Would love to stay in dialogue with you and hear your ideas!

A friend just forwarded this post to me and asked me what I thought. I guess it makes sense to share my response with all of you in the web-world instead of keeping it a private discussion. It is a bit different in tone than other comments, but I hope you find it is helpful criticism. Here is what I wrote:

I liked the blog post and the comments.

But I am not so sure that the blog really provides proof that “anti-black racism is the fulcrum of white supremacy.” Some folks have commented here about how the historical inputs to white supremacy were land stolen from indigenous folks (native americans) and labor stolen from african slaves. I agree with these folks — there are multiple foundations to white supremacy (or white privilege). Does anti-blackness play a particularly large role? Yes. But saying that it is *the* fulcrum seems a bit of an overstatement. It also seems to play into an “oppression olympics” game that might be counterproductive to fighting oppression and power in all of its problematic forms. The last line of the blog tries to say that the oppression olympics game is not being played, but contradicts itself by implying that anti-black racism is the winner (or fulcrum):

“There’s no hierarchy of oppressions where race is concerned, but anti-black racism is the fulcrum of white supremacy.”


Probably one of the events that set the foundation to what is now known as White Supremacy is Christianity. All for the sake of their ‘god’ had them killing and conquering left right and center, in reality though they just wanted total control. Bring that mentality to the New World and build the country based upon this concept of total control, the most likely outcome will be White Supremacy, as they already believe they are what their god wanted, and anything else is by their set definitions, lower than they (whites) are. The use of the term White was an easy way to create the club to help reinforce that their kind was wanted and naturally any skin not like theirs was less than and not equal. Hence ‘race’ was created, and the Africans brought during that time were the perfect victims to perpetuate ‘otherness’. This mentality, White Supremacy, was used to create the system that is known as America.

Hence, in my interpretation, the author attributes the fulcrum of White Supremacy to Blackness. I very much agree with his opinion. What you did not take into consideration is the rooted network of White Supremacy and the system of mechanisms in place to keep that system alive. In America, it IS RACIALLY BASED. It is encoded into the architecture of the American system. Anyone who arrives or is born there is necessarily going to encounter it, whether they want to or not.

Its not about Blacks only, its about the concept of white vs Other, aka white supremacy. The whites also have their own whiteness hierarchy, the whitest of the whites have managed to assimilate the lesser others that pass as whites, strip them of their voice and identity, and program them into an amplification tool to help perpetuate their paradigm of white supremacy.

You mention classicism and other isms as other forms of oppressions that America perpetuates, and that racism is only one that is wrong with America (my interpretation). Why can’t ageism or feminism be the fulcrum of white supremacy? Because ageism does not create a great enough exclusionary rift that race provides; humans rely HEAVILY on their sense of sight for data; we are visually oriented.

This is where you confuse discrimination and prejudice with racism, which is INCORRECT. Hence your confusion and fallacy of naming the oppression olympics, which are symptoms of a system that privilege some individuals over others. If you look at the patterns that have been documented, it becomes quite clear that ‘othering’ is white supremacy’s main GO-TO mechanism of reinforcement.

The thing you may not have been taught or have been misinformed during your schooling is something called SLAVERY. Maybe you heard it as an urban legend, whispered here and there in a post racial society. This is where we get to the meat and bones of White Supremacy. Because the architectural system of America involved the ownership of other people, laws and other clarifications on how ownership occurs to prevent confusion to those who owned other humans, needed to be encoded into that architecture. This encoding racism into the laws that governed the American System, is why Blackness is the Fulcrum of white supremacy. Over 400 years of the law perpetuating the concept of white being superior to Colour. Even if whites felt any other way, they couldn’t do anything because it was the LAW! And if they’re on cloud 9 living the life, why the hell would they give a damn if it does not affect them? The white’s concept of human morality has been perverted by god’s morals. This is the Golden Age, if you will, of White Supremacy, where you can do whatever you damn well please. If you felt like taking your anxiety and anger out because your friends made fun of your poor clothes, you can take out your anger and frustration by lynching a Black. Its almost like retail therapy. Both are valid, in the Golden Age of white supremacy anyway. This is why Blackness is the fulcrum of white supremacy and not sexism. The law didn’t allow you to get away with inhumane acts to white women.

Fast forward to 2013, laws have been recoded onto other forms of racial oppression against Others (euphemisms and being ‘politically correct’), but it is based upon Blackness. That is the precedent, the white supremist almanac if you will, of what you can do and what you can’t.

The thing that resonates with me from this article, is that the author, Scot, is able to understand this concept and is going to the SOURCE of white supremacy in America, putting aside his Asian background in order to understand the origins of the racially encoded system. Be sure though, that when I say ‘put aside’ I do not mean that he becomes Black.

This is where Solidarity between Victims of white supremacy comes into play. As a Chinese American I can only speak of my experiences growing up. I cannot even speak for all Chinese because my type of Chinese is a minority within the Asian American movement, Hakka from Vietnam toe of Chinese. However, given my previous argument of racial system America, I become the spokesperson, the representative of ‘Asians’ when nobody else is around. This would be the case if I were in a crowd of all ‘insert one race here’. Asian in America’s sense, is not truly representative of the English word, Asia. Asia encompasses a whole bunch of ‘races and ethnicities’, not including Persians Uygers and everyone else who has origins in Asia Minor and Major, though white supremists would have you believe that ‘Asians’ would only be East Asian mainly through propaganda via radio, television, and in this day and age, twitter.

Back to the subject of personal experience and representation, how I intersect with the concept of ‘Blackness is the Fulcrum of white supremacy’, I was BORN in the States. That means I’m automatically entered into the game, whether i like it or not, I had no choice. But I’m here and I have to deal with it.

I admit that I was very uncritical about my place in American society, a Chinese American. What does that even mean? Whites don’t run into this issue of ‘extra cultural baggage’ because the ethnic whites have given up their culture (Irish, German, Scottish, etc) and replaced with a general term ‘white’ in order to receive some meager privileges and be included in the economy portion of the white supremacy club. When you become assimilated, like the victims of The Borg, you become part of the Collective, simply put, a drone that perpetuates the system of the Borg.

People of Colour are more difficult to assimilate because they have (or used to have) an inherent resistance, which was their identity and roots, an operating system of how to live, so called cultural baggage. Whites, in order to try and assimilate us, will bring out all the kind of isms and exclusionary devices they’ve created and stolen through their journey to get to the top. Shame is an excellent tool, it undermines one’s existing system and opens itself to viral messages and programming. Effemination of Asian Males in American society is an example. They create an environment where we are viewed as not men but boys. This is simply a tool for white supremacy to stay on top, and have the other races unite and perpetuate a false stereotype.

The other races, if not secure with their identity and roots, will latch onto things that they deem safe, and by safe I mean thoughts and actions deemed appropriate by the whites, like the dance of Tango. If everyone is supposed to feel that Asians are boys, you better hold the same belief otherwise you will not fit in. For white supremacy against Mexicans, a popular one I grew up with is that they are lazy. I am supposed to now hold the belief that all Mexicans are lazy. If I didn’t know any better and not critical, then yes, I would take the negative programming that they are lazy and begin to discriminate and be prejudiced. I apologize in advance for pointing this stereotype out, but I use it as an example of how wrong stereotypes are and how this negative programming can help perpetuate white supremacy and racism.

Black Skin, White Mask. Blackface, yellowface, brownface, all are tools used to amplify white supremacy. When you partake in it, uncritically you might think its funny because white people laugh, and in order to feel safe and have a sense of comradary and inclusion, you do things that will get you accepted into the in crowd. Maybe your parents did it, and if they do it, so can I mentality forms, or maybe you don?t know any better and inherit their unhealthy boundaries. Up until you cannot support yourself that argument is valid. But once you are able to make decisions on your own and take control of your life, its up to you to challenge learned behaviours and habits, such as Antiblackness, or what I like to refer to as ‘PoC white liberal mentality’, in which uncritical and unawakened PoC think they are so post racial and not capable of perpetuating racism, and when you call them out, they put on White Mask and say your being too sensitive, but the insideousness of this is that they truly believe they are granted some kind of amnesty just because they aren’t the dominant oppressive race. It doesn’t matter, you might as well be white when you’re doing this kinda shit.

TO Scot: thank you for posting your thoughts and feelings on white supremacy. I hope you don’t mind but I have reblogged your post vertabim here:
And this response to the post will be blogged as well.


There’s much I like about this, and…
Whenever there’s a ‘but’ between oppressions, we get into oppression Olympics. You write:

“Yes, there was/is a campaign of “Indian removal” in order to capture natural resources and that certainly is part of the story. But the structure of the economy is rooted in slavery.”

Indians _were_ some of the ‘captured natural resources’, were also slaves, and conditions on many reservations are atrocious. In addition, many believe there are no Native people left in many tribes (rarely the case), and invisibility is certainly part of the ‘fulcrum’

I don’t disagree with you and appreciate the comment. If you search the site for Not Vanishing and Not Vanquished, you will find a couple of posts that I wrote a while ago. Would love to get your take as I’m always trying to figure out how best to address issues.

I’m mostly Asian. The highest income earning group in the US is Asian men, then Asian women, then white men… anti-Asian racism is casting a white guy as Goku and coming up with schemes to keep Asians from being overrepresented in the Ivy leagues schools. There is endless subtle interpersonal unpleasantness too. But black people are actually dying from racism. I’ve seen it with black friends, totally innocent people that cops suddenly feel the need to follow or stare down, or random people accusing them of things. It’s a whole other league of evil. I think it may be like the Roma in Eastern Europe (or Native Americans in many areas of North America) where a whole culture developed to mistreat them when the world was openly racist. The west has very little apparatus for mistreating Asians, there is less to do, and less need to do it.

Trafficking creates more revenue for the government, which is why the percentage of busts are significantly lower, concerning drug traffic.

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