During the 19th Century, the British Empire expanded to become the largest empire in history by colonizing India, China and much of Africa. Who was the executive authority of the empire during this period of colonial expansion? Queen Victoria, one of the most powerful people to have ever lived, and a white, Anglo-Saxon woman.
We often hear a narrative that imperialism, colonization, even slavery and racial discrimination are intertwined with “the patriarchy” or “white male power”. However, this reductionist association can be quite harmful for a number of reasons.
For one, it downplays the role of race in the analysis of historical and contemporary oppression. More importantly, though, it leaves out the very real role white women have played in racial oppression and their subsequent privilege, leading to what has become near impunity for white women to discriminate against minorities in modern society.
White Women’s Past Investment in Colonialism
In general, the process of colonization allowed European powers to extract wealth from other peoples, whom the Europeans considered less civilized, or more in their terms, un-Christian. For example, in the case of the British colonization of India, it’s estimated that from 1765-1938, the empire transferred some $45 trillion from India to Britain, mostly through taxation.
Less conspicuously, colonial powers used currency manipulation to wreck local economies while transferring the capital stock back to Europe. For instance, when Europe colonized Africa, many African economies used glass beads as currency. Thanks to better industrial infrastructure, Europe could easily mass produce these glass beads, allowing them to buy products from Africa while destroying the value of the local currency. The local Africans could now not afford their own products. The capital all went to Europe.
Now, it would be unfair to generalize this insidious process to all Europeans. The average European worker, man or woman, probably had little say in what was going on and probably didn’t even know about it.
However, a similar generalization about “patriarchy” is equally false. Indeed, consider that Christopher Columbus’s first voyage to the Americas, the initiation of European colonialism, was funded by Queen Isabella of Castile who would then receive 90% of the profits from the venture.
As you can see, many powerful European women were involved in the direct transfer of wealth from the colonies to Europe. Many more poor European men had little do with that process. For the most part, the entire population of Western Europe benefited, men and women alike.
Patriarchy Theory Lets White Women Get Away With Discrimination
Because women have benefited from the historical racial hierarchy, they have a clear motivation to maintain it. And indeed, it’s easier for them to maintain it because of the feminist narrative that racial oppression is part of the “patriarchy” — essentially an alleged cause that is inherently driven by men. Since much of modern society accepts this theory, discrimination by women flies under the radar.
It’s very well documented the role white women played in the oppression of African Americans in the Jim Crow South. From falsely accusing black men of rape to advocating for continued school segregation in the name of their children, white women have long fought to maintain the racial hierarchy.
Little has changed. Thanks to the feminist narrative that portrays women as eternal victims, white women have been able to make outrageous claims that their “safety” is threatened by innocent minority men. Amy Cooper, infamously known as the Central Park Karen, is just one example of incidents reported across the country that feature racism at the hands of white women.
We have to dismiss this bizarre intersectionality point system and simply state things as they are. White women have such privilege that they can call on police and other social resources whenever they want for “protection” against the nonexistent boogeyman of minority violence against them.
Patriarchy Theory Gives White Women Oppressive Power
Perhaps more significantly, this social pass provided to white women thanks to their disingenuous “patriarchy” mythology has allowed white women to assume positions of power over minorities and allowed them to maintain policies of systemic racism and oppression that benefits them.
Just consider Hillary Clinton who was lauded by feminists around the country who hoped she would be the first female President. But Clinton has a long history of legislation and advocacy that hurts the black community.
Besides supporting the 1994 Crime Bill that was signed into law by her husband President Bill Clinton and led to the mass incarceration of black men, Clinton, who once implied young black men are “superpredators,” has also supported the original and renewed Violence Against Women Act. This bill has provided funding and government programs for female victims of domestic violence while leaving out male victims. This one-sided government welfare program leads to more black men, many of whom were victims themselves, on the streets and separated from their children.
The myth of patriarchy is nothing but a way for white women to maintain a narrative of victimhood and thereby get away with racism with impunity. We cannot make real progress towards racial justice and equality until we replace it with a more evidence-based and realistic theory around gender and race.