How White Supremacy Shows Up In New Age Spirituality
When most people hear the term, they think of neo nazis and KKK members. Certainly this sort of conscious bigotry is the most visible element of white supremacy, but white supremacist beliefs and ideologies are a broader culture, not just an overt hatred.
White supremacy: a political, economic and cultural system in which white people overwhelmingly control power and material resources, conscious and unconscious ideas of white superiority and entitlement are widespread, and relations of white dominance and non-white subordination are daily reenacted across a broad array of institutions and social settings.
By this definition, white supremacy is the reason structural racism exists and it serves to perpetuate implicit racial bias and is also itself perpetuated by implicit racial bias. It’s the subconscious beliefs that white people internalize from living in a world that was built by and for their own privilege from the moment Europeans set out to conquer the globe –– a world that none of us are immune from.
White supremacy begins with imperialism and colonialism, and their modern-day incarnation, capitalism.
Imperialism is formal or informal economic and political domination of one country over the other. Colonialism is where one country physically exerts complete control over another country. In a nutshell, colonialism can be thought of as the practice of domination and imperialism as an idea behind the practice.
It is through imperialism and colonialism that white people first came in contact with the spiritual practices of other cultures. Appropriation, fetishization, and exploitation of these practices begins here, and as white Euro-centric culture became the dominant global power, the way these cultural practices were perceived were viewed through the white cultural lens.
For example, the term “shaman” does not exist in any indigenous culture, and yet we have a myriad of white people claiming they are practicing an indigenous shamanic lineage. Shaman or medicine man/woman was a term created by white anthropologists who were observing indigenous cultural practices. In lumping a multitude of spiritual lineages under a single category, they created a racist stereotype that stripped the cultural significance from the practices and labeled indigenous cultures, and those of anyone who wasn’t of white European decent as savage.
Through imperialism and colonialism, the resources of non-European cultures were extracted for capital, and the cultural values of white European people were propagated across the globe and as such, viewed as “superior.” Those cultural values are centered around colonized Christianity and individualism, and these are the core tenets of white supremacist culture. If you come from a culture that was colonized by European Christians, it’s very likely that you have internalized these white supremacist values, too!
People in America often believe that white supremacy is a thing of the past, not realizing that America was officially a white supremacist nation up until the 1960s – just sixty years ago. The beliefs, attitudes, biases and and values that underpin an overtly white supremacist society don’t just disappear once the laws change.
One of the highest values of white supremacist culture, and perhaps the driving value behind imperialism and colonialism, is a need or desire for power, privilege, and wealth – even at the expense of other people. It has been ordained as a spiritual reward by Westernized Christianity and prosperity gospel: God rewards those who are “good” with wealth, power, and privilege, which implies that those who don’t have wealth, power, and privilege are not deserving in God’s eyes.
There are a number of excuses peddled to explain why, mainly that they just don’t work hard enough, and this completely ignores the ramifications of systemic inequality and racism which intentionally keep them from attaining wealth, power, and privilege. This justification through ignorance serves to reinforce the implicit bias that white people are more favorable in God’s eyes, and thus, superior… and results in people of color feeling unworthy.
In reality, everyone – every single human being – is inherently worthy of having their needs met, regardless of their interest in or capacity for “hustling” for it. Full stop.
The desire for power, privilege, and wealth is why European cultures invaded other non-Christian countries and stripped them of their resources. If they weren’t white Christians, they were heathens and didn’t deserve the spoils of the natural lands they inhabited. This was reason enough to colonize.
Today, wealth, power, and privilege is the primary motivation behind capitalism, and in a capitalist society, it’s considered the highest achievement: success, billionaire status, opulent wealth, and the fame and power that comes with it.
How does that desire for power, privilege, and wealth show up in spirituality, as well as the spiritual coaching industry?
“Wealth is your birthright!” (paired with background music repeating “Stop being poor.”)
“It’s okay to want everything you desire –– and you should have it.”
“The more I meet my luscious, dripping, devotional feminine… AKA the more my heart + my pussy open to the divine… the more my inner man protects + provides for her… by creating a fuck ton of money.”
^ Actual quotes from real (white) coaches on Instagram.
Except that you can’t “create” money. That’s the lie that manifestation coaches indoctrinate you with, which by the way, goes against a very foundational belief of New Age spirituality.
In order for someone to have millions of dollars, someone else must have less. This means that wealth isn’t everyone’s birthright. It can’t be, because the more one person makes, the less another person in the system makes.
But can’t you just manifest it out of thin air?!?!?
The foundational belief of New Age spirituality that says “everything is energy” is based on the law of conservation of energy which states that energy cannot be created or destroyed – only converted from one form of energy to another. This means that a closed system always has the same amount of finite energy.
Our universe is a closed system. It has a finite amount of energy and that energy cannot be manifested out of thin air, it has to be converted from another source. So when you “manifest” money (read: take it from other people), you are depleting another energy source… usually that person’s bank account.
In the grand scheme of capitalism, where those at the top of the pyramid have the most money, power, and privilege, those lower on the pyramid fight against one another over the scraps while attempting to attain the same level of power, wealth, and privilege as their elite overlords.
“Lightworkers! There is nothing woke about being broke! If that triggers you, good! It’s time to get aligned to Source because money comes from SOURCE! Making money by helping the planet and doing God’s work is nothing to be ashamed about. There are horrible people on this planet making billions of dollars working for the darkness, so why do you think you’re not worthy of getting paid for your light?”
Another actual quote from a (white) coach on Instagram.
So why don’t you join in the fun? Of course, in a system built by those with the most power, wealth, and privilege to serve their own personal interests, no amount of participation in that system will ever make you equal –– unless you sell your soul to said darkness. But our internalized white supremacist ideology tells us that God rewards those who are “good” with wealth, power, and privilege, and we can just manifest it out of thin air, right? Consequences? What are those?
But doesn’t having more wealth and privilege mean you can help those without?
This is a really common justification that people have for the pursuit of wealth, power, and privilege. They tell themselves that their desires have a noble foundation. But the reality is that in a system like capitalism, making more money means other people have to make less money. So the very act of attempting to become wealthy requires us to harm others.
Additionally, research shows that the “trickle-down” effect is a myth:
A huge study of 20 years of global wealth demolishes the myth of ‘trickle-down’ and shows the rich are taking most of the gains for themselves
- It’s no secret there’s inequality across the economy, but a huge new report shows just how much.
- The 2022 World Inequality Report demolishes the myth that tax cuts for the rich will trickle down.
- The bottom half of the global population holds just 2% of all wealth, while the top 10% earns 76%.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that we shouldn’t make money. We have to participate in capitalism to survive. We don’t really have a choice about it, but we do have a choice to not take it to the extreme by idolizing the pursuit of wealth. We can be happy with having our needs met, instead of chasing desires. What you have to understand is that Americans have been intentionally conditioned by the people at the top of this hierarchy to chase your desires.
“We must shift America from a needs to a desires culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things even before the old have been entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality in America. Man’s desires must overshadow his needs.” –– Paul Mazur, Lehman Brother’s, Harvard Business Review (1927)
Taking the time to introspect about where those desires come from and what kind of trauma they may be attempting to compensate for is part of our own healing work, part of our own anti-racism work, and part of our own spiritual work. As the Buddha said, “Those who act with few desires are calm, without worry or fear” and “The end of desire is the end of sorrow.”
We end desire by having our needs for food, shelter, safety, and connection fully met on an individual level (Maslow’s hierarchy in action – yes, I understand there are issues with this when presented as a hierarchy, but it doesn’t change those basic needs). Nowhere does that require us to be a millionaire or to chase wealth, power, and privilege. Only when we collectively stop competing for wealth, power, and privilege will there be enough to go around for everyone to have their needs met. Competition over resources is an economic myth perpetuated by the influence of social Darwinism, which is yet another offshoot of colonialism and white supremacy.
It’s only true that we have enough resources to go around when we aren’t over-exploiting them, which capitalism currently is, and this is why we are experiencing climate change. Highly recommend this video to understand what this looks like:
Decolonize Yourself and Your Business
Racism is about more than just bigotry, and likewise, white supremacy is more than just hate. It’s a culture that we’ve all internalized to a certain degree (and there’s nothing to be ashamed of in that. It’s just a product of living in a world where white people are the dominant power).
It is something, however, that we can all take responsibility for self-reflecting on and unraveling within ourselves.
Some great questions to ask yourself:
How do I relate to the concept of wealth and how might that fuel my participation in perpetuating white supremacy?
Do I understand the connection between wealth, power and privilege?
Do I recognize the ways that glorifying wealth enables a culture where inequality exists?
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