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The Brink

Reflections on The Racial Contract

Today marks the one-year anniversary of Charles Mills’ death. To commemorate his life and the 25th anniversary of his influential work, The Racial Contract, we invited scholars to respond to the question: How has The Racial Contract helped you think in new ways about the connections between religion, theology, and politics? Here are their reflections on Mills’ legacy in their own work and beyond.

Charles Mills said the quiet part out loud. Literally.

“White supremacy is the unnamed political system that has made the modern world what it is today.”

The year was 1997, and Mills set out to lay the record straight. And with an opening like this, it was clear: Mills was not interested in obliquely addressing the issue at hand.

Twenty-five years later—and on the anniversary of Mills’ passing—such a claim, as Mills himself noted, might not seem that outrageous. Perhaps this is the case because Mills had said it. Not alone, of course; Mills was part of a cadre of intellectuals in the mid- to late- 90s who was committed to laying bare the violence and continued presence of white supremacy. The statement’s waning “shock-value,” then, might be understood as a testament to Mills’ work.

But just because a statement—an argument—doesn’t shock as it once did doesn’t mean that it is any less powerful or precise. When a discipline by and large still fails to fully address the racialized and racist foundations of its history and development, saying the quiet part out loud becomes—and remains—necessary. It was in 1997, after all. And though we might quibble on what and whether “progress” has been made—in both the field of philosophy and our larger sociopolitical context—white supremacy is still foundational to the world. Breonna Taylor was killed in her sleep; George Floyd, on camera. Haiti remains a site of dispossession; and recently, a Black woman professor was publicly and widely maligned for speaking out about Queen Elizabeth II of England’s continued overseeing of the British colonial regime. Mills’ opening salvo may not shock many of us now. But it was part of a large community of Black scholars and scholars of color who refused to keep quiet about white supremacy – and in so doing, encouraged and empowered others to continue to do the same. The quiet part still needs to be said out loud.

Part of Mills’ insight in The Racial Contract, though, is that the quiet part isn’t quiet for those of us who suffer under the weight and violence of its quietude. The quiet part is only quiet for the “signatories and beneficiaries” of the Racial Contract. In fact, it is precisely the Racial Contract’s continued lack of acknowledgement that gives it sustaining power. Mills accurately describes this as an epistemological problem: whether deliberate or not, the Racial Contract—white supremacy—is sustained by epistemologies of “white misunderstanding, misrepresentation, evasion, and self-deception” (19). “These phenomena are in no way accidental,” Mills continued, “but prescribed by the terms of the Racial Contract, which requires a certain schedule of structured blindnesses and opacities in order to establish and maintain the white polity” (19). Along with others, Mills set out to say what has gone unspoken. He said what needed to be said. And as this collection of short essays attests, he has inspired multiple generations of thinkers to continue doing the same.

The Racial Contract has endured the test of time because the text is cogently argued, surprisingly interdisciplinary (I say “surprising” because philosophy is notoriously and infamously myopic and insular in its disciplinary and methodological configuration), and, for its time (and for ours, if we were to be honest), powerfully innovative. Deploying a broad-to-narrow structure, The Racial Contract begins by giving a broad overview of the Racial Contract before discussing its specific implications—for space and place, for notions of selfhood and embodiment—and then finally critiquing specific social contract philosophers. This approach suits the text well; by opening with an overview of the Racial Contract, Mills dispels any notions that this Contract is a mere variation on other social contract theories. No, Mills tells us; the Racial Contract is something different. While traditional social contract theory often amounts to little more than a thought experiment—Mills is clear that most contractarians (with the possible exception of Rawls) are speaking of ideal(ized) societies—the Racial Contract is something that can be tracked and traced in history. It is found in (and founded on) European declarations and distinctions, marked by the historical and contemporary commitments to colonialism, racial governance, and various policies that uphold white normativity – and therefore white supremacy. It is marked on and in nonwhite bodies and their movement through time and space; its effects are felt in housing policies and histories of colonialism; and yes, it finds its earliest expressions in the transition from religious forms of violence and exclusion to more “scientific” modalities of race and racism.

Instead of drawing from preconceived notions of race to do its work, Mills tells us that “the Racial Contract ‘constructs’ race”; it develops the categorical and hierarchical schemas that solidify and congeal power in the hands of a (white) polity. The Racial Contract, then, is a backdoor deal, a handshake agreement, between European ethnicities who, as Nell Painter once told us, became “white” so that they might consolidate and wield global power. Nonwhite people were left out of this deal – in fact, the deal requires their exclusion, demands their near-absolute obeisance, and relegates them to the realm of the “wild,” the “no place,” where the protections of society cannot and will not be extended.

If we follow Mills’s line of argumentation, then, we find a stunning reversal; instead of the Racial Contract showing itself as a variation on an earlier theme, it turns out that the Racial Contract subtends social contract theory. Hobbes, Locke, Kant, Rousseau, and others are only able to think in ideas because they draw from the unspoken power of the Racial Contract to develop their own theories about the “state of nature” and the benefits of governance. It makes sense, then, why state-sanctioned antiblack violence runs rampant in the U.S. and Canada, or why the world is made to stand still at the death of a colonialist monarch whose actions continued the British dispossession of Africa. This was all part of the deal. It was all part of the agreement. It might have been done through backchannels, and without the consent of many; but, as I’ve already mentioned, that is the source of its power.

No wonder Mills had to say the quiet part out loud.

One of the most intriguing parts of Mills’ text is its discussion of religion. In the first chapter (aptly entitled “Overview”), Mills tracks the religious antecedents of the Racial Contract. “Initially the intellectual framework [preceding the Racial Contract] was theological one,” Mills wrote (21-22). The Doctrine of Discovery and the framing of Africans as heathens and savages are just two examples of the various theological justifications for imperialist and colonialist violence: “A Eurocentrically normed conception of rationality [became] coextensive with acceptance of the Christian message,” Mills wrote, which meant that “rejection was proof of bestial irrationality” (22). But eventually, this would have to be done away with: “‘Race’ gradually became the formal marker of… differentiated status, replacing the religious divide (whose disadvantage, after all, was that it could always be overcome through conversion)” (23). Per Mills, “race” (more or less) replaced, or at least supplanted, “religion” as the marker upon which difference—and therefore power—could be wielded and deployed.

While this insight is important—and has found its expression in a host of other thinkers (Alex Weheliye’s Habeas Viscus and, well, a lot of Sylvia Wynter’s work come to mind) – it also opens discussion and inquiry: has religion left center stage in discussions of race and power? The question seems simple—and so is its answer—but there are avenues of inquiry that Mills’ work opens. Perhaps the better question, then, is this: how does The Racial Contract speak to religion and power?

The short essays in this collection attest to the ways Mills’ work might (or might not) be deployed in relation to religion. And not just Christian religion, either: in Mills’ work, the question of religion opens a question about secularism – and therefore takes us beyond the violent imperialist missiology of “Christian Europe.” In short, we can see the Racial Contract playing out in different contexts and in different ways – in Judaism, in Islam, and across the globe. Yasmeen Abu-Laban and Abigail Bakan explore, for example, the Israel-Palestine conflict as a racial one; they develop what they call an “Israel/Palestine racial contract” that “renders Palestinians as non-white, stateless, and victims of repression, all while denying that racism has anything to do with these outcomes.” Uzma Jamil attends to how the Racial Contract can be applied to Muslims across the globe: “[the Racial Contract] facilitates thinking about Muslims as racialized, religious minorities beyond the particularity of a national western context,” she writes. And Asaf Angermann wonders how might a “non-American queer Jew now living in the US” might wrestle with the aporia of being a beneficiary of the Racial Contract even if one has not signed it. Questions of inclusion, of religious-difference-turned-racial-difference abound. These thinkers push us to reframe and rethink Mills’s contributions, drawing our attention to the ways that the Racial Contract might show itself in unsuspected and surprising ways.

While Mills’ insights have been deployed in contexts beyond the West and beyond Christianity, his work nevertheless provides the possibility of critiquing Christianity—or more specifically, some of the theological logics of Christianity—in the West. Mark Christian Thompson, for example, claims that “the racial contract… would first require a racial theology” that underscores how “non-whites lack the qualities necessary for social equality with whites because they stand deficient before both the law and God.” In another vein, Anya Topolski laments that Mills didn’t go far enough in his criticism of Christianity and its logics, expressing her frustration that “religion/Christianity was almost absent” beyond the first chapter. This absence, however, prompts critical thinking for Topolski, as she resolves to “further investigate the role of Christianity in establishing the racial contract of white supremacy.” And Holly Randell-Moon attunes our attention to the way that Mills’ work (with an assist from Aileen Moreton-Robinson) opens the possibility of developing a “secular contract” that shows “how legal and political characterizations of the law as secular work to disavow the state’s racialized foundations in colonial violence.” The Racial Contract opens the door for questioning, critique, and inquiry, calling our attention to the ways that race inf(l)ects various religious (and secular) formations.

And what of antiblackness? The Racial Contract underlines a white/nonwhite binary, but, according to Tommy Lynch and Christophe Ringer, there is still something to be said about antiblackness as such. Lynch finds Mills’ “stark political realism” to be “most enduring,” as it drives us to conclude that “the world really is anti-black.” The ontological declaration turns into a theodicean one, as Lynch demonstrates that this contract presupposes that “white suffering is undeserved, the benefits of whiteness are justly won, and any questioning of those benefits is an injustice.” And for his part, Ringer underscores how Mills’ work operates as a “complement to Orlando Patterson’s idea of social death and Ruth Wilson Gilmore’s account of racism as producing premature death.” “The racial contract is also a death contract,” Ringer writes; speaking of the contract in this way underscores the antiblack sacrificial logic at the heart of white supremacy.

Each of these contributions are testaments to the enduring power of Mills’ work. Each of these pieces, in their own way, speak truth to power, calling our attention to the ways that white supremacy is constitutive of the social worlds we inhabit. And more to our point here, each of these thinkers develop, critique, and/or explore the religious dimensions, lacunae, and aporias made possible by Mills’ work, showing us things that we might not have seen in our own reading.

I, for one, am grateful for these reflections. They shape my thinking in surprising and unexpected ways. Which is to say, I’m grateful for Mills’ profound book. By saying the quiet part out loud, Mills did not only encourage others to do the same; he pushed us to find other quiet parts, other unspoken agreements, that need elucidating.

Biko Mandela Gray
Assistant Professor of Religion
Syracuse University

In 2007 we presented our first paper together on Israel/Palestine at the annual conference of the Canadian Political Science Association. The panel was part of a day-long workshop addressing the contribution and impact of Charles Mills’ 1997 book, The Racial Contract. Our paper, later published, adapted the racial contract concept to consider the Israel/Palestine reality, an approach that inspired our years-long collaboration. For us, the workshop seemed a natural fit for what we were doing as political scientists with roots in the Palestinian (Abu-Laban) and Jewish (Bakan) experiences. This is because our shared goal was to challenge the dominant framings of politics in the region permeating scholarship and popular culture, especially in Western liberal democratic contexts. In contrast to these framings, we did not view Israel/Palestine as a zone of “conflict” of two equal sides, or a dispute rooted in religion, culture, or nationalism. In undertaking an exploration that challenged the traditional framings of Israel/Palestine we found it immensely helpful to be able to extend the pathbreaking work of the late philosopher who centered race and racism in liberal democratic thought and politics.

Mills’ work gave considered attention to how an absenting of race from common analyses and understandings stems from an “epistemology of ignorance” that is actively sustained (Mills 18). As such, while Mills avers “race is the unnamed system that has made the modern world what it is today” (1), those holding power typically do not see or understand the system they created. Indeed, as Mills’ conceptualization makes clear, even in “post-racial” liberal polities like the United States, a metaphorical and unstated “racial contact” works to ensure profound racialized inequality.

In the context of a dearth of scholarship that has made use of race in relation to Israel/Palestine, our application and extension of Mills’ framework to a different part of the world has been aimed at explicating what we forward as a particular “Israel/Palestine racial contract,” which works to render Palestinians as non-white, stateless, and victims of repression, all while denying that racism has anything to do with these outcomes.

When we presented that first paper in 2007, we were unsure sure how Charles Mills would react. There are challenges that come with doing work on Israel/Palestine that, in our experience, are quite unlike other world regions. And Mills did not explicitly consider Israel/Palestine as a case study in his writing. But when Charles, serving as discussant, offered encouraging comments and support, and much enthusiasm for the applicability of the racial contract framework, his early nod urged us forward. We have been continuously grateful for the inspiring theoretical contribution charted by Charles Mills in his pathbreaking work, and in his generous intellectual spirit.

Yasmeen Abu-Laban
Professor of Political Science
Canada Research Chair in the Politics of Citizenship and Human Rights
University of Alberta

Abigail B. Bakan
Department of Social Justice Education
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
University of Toronto

Charles Mills’ work, and specifically The Racial Contract, has changed the discourse about knowledge production in my field, for which I am immensely grateful. This was the first (and for some the only) book that analytic political philosophers read on race, and it created the space—albeit small—that philosophers need to think about race and racism as a foundational issue, especially in political philosophy. When I first read this book, and specifically the historical account in the overview, it spurred my imagination to further explore the intertwinement between white supremacy and Christianity to think about race and religion, especially in a European context in relation to antisemitism and islamophobia. That being said, I was frustrated that religion/Christianity was almost absent in the rest of the book. While this might be partially because the book is US-focused (which is a position Mills illuminates in one of his last public speaking events – The 2020 Tanner Lectures on Human Values), I see it as a symptom of a larger erasure of the entanglements of race and religion which are enabled by the discourse of secularism, which for Mills is intimately connected to liberalism. This is also evident from his lecture he gave in 1994, a few years before The Racial Contract was published, entitled “Dark Ontologies: Blacks, Jews, and White Supremacy.” Thus, while Mills created space in my field and inspired me to explore what I call race-religion constellations, he did not see the continued importance of Christianity and secularism for white supremacy today because of his attachment to the conjoined twins of secularism and liberalism. Nonetheless, I will continue to read and teach this book and to push myself, and others, to further investigate the role of Christianity in establishing the racial contract of white supremacy and erasing its foundational role via the discourse of secularism.

Dr. Anya Topolski
Associate Professor Ethics and Political Philosophy
Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen

There are many conceptual innovations in Charles Mills’ work that should inform contemporary work on the relationship between theology, religion and politics: his critique of ideal theory in general and Rawlsian liberalism in particular are challenges to any political theology (in every sense of that phrase) that does not question the liberal political tradition; his work on white ignorance provides crucial insight into how whiteness continues to structure hegemonic forms of knowledge; and his reading of the history of political philosophy in The Racial Contract shows that racism is not accidental to Western political thought (and the idea of the “West” itself).

Among these contributions, it is his stark political realism that I find most enduring. Mills insists on the ability to speak of reality and facts – we can say that the world really is anti-black. While I do not share his conviction that liberalism can be reconfigured into a “Black Radical” form, his argument for this approach is rooted in an evaluation of white self-interest. White people have a motivated ignorance that cannot be disrupted with arguments and information alone. There is an often-subtle acknowledgment of the affective dimensions of white supremacy in his work. At the end of an interview with the New Left Review (collected in Black Rights/White Wrongs), he admits that the material benefits of racialized capitalism overwhelm moral appeals, even when these benefits are hoped for rather than enjoyed in the present. He argues that there is still hope in identifying the long-term benefits of disrupting racialized capitalism – benefits that accrue to working class whites as well as black people. I draw a more pessimistic conclusion from his argument. Whiteness is dependent on the cultivation of a vision of a sovereign self, possessing agency and rooted in perverse theodicy. This theodicy holds that white suffering is undeserved, the benefits of whiteness are justly won, and any questioning of those benefits is an injustice. This epistemic and affective vision of the self is not a dimension of whiteness, but whiteness itself. Mills’ great contribution is to give us tools to identify and dismantle that self.

Tommy Lynch
University of Chichester

Charles W. Mills’ The Racial Contract (1997) has been indispensable to my work. In the book, Mills identifies a racial contract that stipulates political, moral, and social solidarity among Western powers, to the exclusion of non-white peoples. Insofar as the secular, social contract elaborates a theological (af)filiation among European political communities, the racial contract that subtends and legitimates it would first require a racial theology. Political theology thus articulates a sacramental agreement that, secularized, determines the racial contract’s legitimacy in the modern age. Therefore, the sovereign principle governing the racial contract’s terms insists that non-whites lack the qualities necessary for social equality with whites because they stand deficient both before the law and God. In this sense, Saint Paul’s universalism is as much a description of racial theology as Carl Schmitt’s state of exception. And when thought of in relation to political theology, much of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s philosophy can be understood as vitiating the racial contract Mills’ work details. In fact, a diversity of thinkers—from Angela Y. Davis, James H. Cone, and James Baldwin, to Martin Delany, David Walker, and Jupiter Hammon—can be included in a radical tradition defined by Black antagonism to the political theology validating racial contracts.

Mark Christian Thompson
Krieger-Eisenhower Professor, English
Johns Hopkins University

Inclusion Under Duress, or: On the Perils of Nonvoluntary Consent

In the analysis of the commodity structure in Capital, Marx makes the startling assertion that the production of value in capitalist social process, which ultimately invades all aspects of social and individual life, “goes on behind the backs of the producers.” Those most directly and personally impacted by this process are excluded both from determining its course and from gaining insight into its workings. Ever since reading this statement, I couldn’t help but think about and question such mechanisms of systemic exclusion from both power and knowledge, wondering if those of us who are socially, politically, religiously, racially, or sexually marginalized may still gain insight into this exclusion, and what such insight might be. Unmasking and debunking these mechanisms was probably also initially the main goal of Frankfurt School Critical Theory that I’ve always found so compelling. But Charles Mills has added an even more unsettling twist to that exclusionary experience, arguing that the Racial Contract is not a contract to which nonwhites could ever have been a consenting party, but rather that it is a “contract between those categorized as white over the nonwhites,” that is, behind the backs, in the most extreme sense, of those excluded from its signing ceremony, which has never taken place. Mills explains the Contract as a “consent to white supremacy,” to the belief in the moral superiority of white Europeans. He describes the Racial Contract not as limited to the US but as a global phenomenon. Yet to this non-American queer Jew, whose ancestors have been annihilated for their “racial impurity,” this “consent”—with its inevitable implications—has become much more tangible since I’ve been living in the US. How could I have ever consented to white supremacy? Has my unchosen ethnic or religious identity granted me unrequested access to such benefits?

The power of Mills’ argument lies in its aporetic structure: there is no way out. Inclusion is a double-edged sword. “All whites are beneficiaries of the Contract, though some whites are not signatories to it,” he asserts. The Contract, then, was also signed behind the backs of some of those included in it. Yet how can one continue to benefit from a Contract that is anchored in white supremacy and its “values” of—racist, xenophobic, antisemitic, homophobic—moral superiority? But also, how is it possible to steer clear of benefitting from it – materially, symbolically, or otherwise? James Baldwin’s allegations of Jewish alignment with white supremacy are well-known. But what is the alternative? Since the Racial Contract is a deal made “behind the backs” of those involved, with implications for their life and death, exposing it also reveals the internal tensions between marginalized (and less marginalized) minorities. Can one be forced to be included? To benefit from the oppression of others? To enjoy the privileges of being considered white (even though one isn’t, or might have never considered oneself white prior to coming to these parts)? These questions, central to historical debates about Jews and race and Black-Jewish relations, are similarly troubling to other refugees, migrants, and expats today – for example, Muslim and Eastern European refugees or LGBT persons who have faced violence and death in their homelands and suddenly find themselves beneficiaries of the Racial Contract they have never signed but that they are, as immigrants, nonimmigrants, or asylum seekers, also unable to withdraw from. Or are they? How can one resist inclusion under duress? Has the Racial Contract acquired the all-consuming transcendental qualities of capitalism and religion? Or has it, like capitalism, always been a religion?

Asaf Angermann
University of Louisville

The Racial Contract has remained a generative text in thinking about the entanglements of religion, politics, and the persistence of anti-Blackness. More importantly, it was influential in convincing me of the value of political philosophy in the pursuit of social justice. I’ll briefly mention two areas where this text has been helpful. The first is Mills’ claim that the racial contract produces its own epistemological ignorance. Mills provides a bridge between Lewis Gordon’s existential account of anti-Black racism as bad-faith and concrete political thought and practice.  The “racial contract” describes both the social agreements constituting racial domination as well as the structured unknowing that facilitates it. This offers resources to think critically about how religious communities morally shape persons to actively not understand their role in reproducing the racial contract.  It also helps us to see how religious values and virtues such as forgiveness and grace are recruited in politics to uphold the racial contract.

Second, I continue to see value in the role of religion and theology in attending to matters of ultimate orientation and concern. I find ‘the racial contract’ as a complement to Orlando Patterson’s idea of social death and Ruth Wilson Gilmore’s account of racism as producing premature death. The racial contract is also a death contract. This was generative for thinking theologically about the sacrificing of Black life for the maintenance of white existence. In addition, Mills’ claim that the racial contract is spatial opens new possibilities in thinking about eschatology and ethics. Together with Vitor Westhelle’s recovery of space in eschatology, I started thinking about the racial contract as both a political and eschatological problem. The racial contract operates across time and space, rendering normative judgements about the inferiority of non-white populations. I’m sure this enduring work by Mills will provide more insights for a long time to come.  

Christophe Ringer
Associate Professor of Theological Ethics and Society
Chicago Theological Seminary

What makes a state secular? Secular law typically begins when a state has no religious competitor for authority. For this reason, it can be said that the Australian state is secular because its authority is derived from its own laws. What happens to this secular formulation if we bring settler colonisation into view? The law’s foundations in colonial violence and the extinguishment of Indigenous sovereignty as a competing authority are also a crucial way in which secular Australian law can continue to operate as the sovereign authority within the state. Goenpul scholar Aileen Moreton-Robinson has extended the work of Charles W. Mills to demonstrate how the racial contract in an Australian settler context works to obfuscate the role of white possession in legitimating the state. Following both Mills and Moreton-Robinson, I have developed the concept of the secular contract to show how legal and political characterizations of the law as secular work to disavow the state’s racialized foundations in colonial violence. In developing this notion of a secular contract I hope to show that secularism must be re-thought of as not simply the operation of law without religion, but also, as complicit with the ways Indigenous sovereignties in settler colonial states are removed from view.

Viewed through the secular contract, the connections between religion, politics, and settler colonization in Australia become apparent. The Australian flag displays the royal union cross, the Constitution has a preamble mentioning Almighty God, the British monarch has a representative Governor in each state and federal parliament, and more significantly, Crown possession constitutes the legal fulcrum for state authority. Drawing on Mills, contracting into the secular state involves a cultural, political, and legal form of epistemic ignorance that constructs the substantial and obvious instances of Christianity intersecting with secular law and politics (and their embodiment in the monarchy) as compatible with the operation of state neutrality. In the same way that Mills sought to challenge notions of the raceless social contract, the secular contract likewise interrogates notions of secular neutrality and highlights the relationship between secular law and the negation of Indigenous sovereignties. The secular contract discloses how religious and cultural practices compatible with Crown possession can be supported by political, legal, and public institutions, while those that do not remain marginalized.

Dr. Holly Randell-Moon
School of Indigenous Australian Studies
Charles Sturt University

Whiteness, Coloniality, and Muslims

Charles Mills’ The Racial Contract was groundbreaking at the time it was published, but I have come to it more recently. His conceptualization of the Racial Contract as the structuring element of the system of white supremacy has developed my thinking in Critical Muslim Studies. In particular, his work has helped me make connections and add nuance to the overlaps between coloniality and whiteness in shaping Muslim subjectivity as racialized, religious minorities in the west. I want to raise a few points that are most relevant.

The first is the expansive nature and consolidation of white supremacy as a system, historically and in the present, from the pre-colonial period to the contemporary context. It takes many forms, including European colonialism, the conquest of the Americas, and transatlantic slavery. This is the larger context for locating Muslims within a global history of the racial formation of religious others, namely Muslims and Jews, described collectively as Moors, who were defined in relation to the emergence of Europe as both Christian and white.

Second, Mills argues that the white/non-white racial hierarchy of the Racial Contract overlaps with other binaries of Christians/heathens, Europeans/non-Europeans, and the civilized/barbaric. His argument connects with Edward Said’s discussion of Orientalism as a hegemonic discourse. Said did not address race explicitly, but it was implicit in his critique of Orientalism as a colonial, political, and epistemological project. Muslims were defined by the ontological divide of the Occident/Orient, which was reflected through essentialized binaries of the modern, civilized, and rational west against the uncivilized, patriarchal, and irrationally violent Orient. Mills’ work allows for connecting the framework of white supremacy with that of Orientalism. 

Lastly, the pervasiveness of the Racial Contract as constitutive of contemporary North American society continues to bring together these twin threads of white supremacy and coloniality to understand the relationship between Muslims and white majorities today. For example, I used Charles Mills’ conceptualization of the epistemology of ignorance to theorize the deliberate refusal by politicians to see and name Islamophobia in Quebec, despite a horrific mosque shooting in 2017. It demonstrated a broader refusal to acknowledge whiteness as a hegemonic system that structures the relationship of the white majority with Indigenous peoples and racialized minorities, including singling out Muslims as a specific racialized, religious minority.

Overall, Mills’ argument about the globality of the Racial Contract, despite its national permutations, illustrates how white supremacy operates as a transnational system. Thus, it facilitates thinking about Muslims as racialized, religious minorities beyond the particularities of a national western context, and instead as transnational, postcolonial and post-western subjects.

Uzma Jamil
McGill University

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