Archive for January 2019

“Western Civilization” means Classics…and White Supremacy

Earlier this month Iowa congressional representative Steve King, known for his xenophobiasupport for white supremacy, and long history of promoting racist politics, was quoted by The New York Times asking “white nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” No one has defended King for asking this about “white nationalist” or “white supremacist,” but Texas congressional representative Louie Gohmert said that it’s “a fair question” to ask “when did Western civilization become a negative?” and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott said “I am unsure who is offended by the term ‘Western civilization’ on its own.” If Scott were to look into it, he would find many different people, including classical scholars arguing that “Western civilization” is coded language for white supremacy, even in response to King’s latest remarks. But it’s important to keep reiterating the case. Just this month a member of the professional association for classical scholars prefaced a racist attack on a scholar of color by insisting on the need for classical scholars to protect Western civilization. And we need to reiterate not only that “Western civilization” refers to a racist ideology, but that those who use it as King does are referring to Greco-Roman antiquity.

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