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Journal of Religion and Violence

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published on March 12, 2020

Richard Newton

Scared Sheetless
Negrophobia, the Fear of God, and Justified Violence in the U.S. Christian-White Imaginary

The ideology of white supremacy is alive and well in the U.S. This paper argues that those attempting to understand how white supremacy works should delve into recent justifications of anti-black violence rather than simply waiting to spot the white sheets of the Ku Klux Klan. Doing so requires scholars to disabuse themselves of taking for granted the descriptions of what may be characterized as a U.S. Christian-White imaginary and to observe the dynamic, discursive shifts that Jean-Franc̜ois Bayart calls “operational acts of identification.” Drawing on incidents from antebellum slavery to the Black Lives Matter era and beyond, it is argued that white people have long been able to justify anti-black violence by appealing to a biblicist “Negrophobia,” wherein black people are rendered as frightening, even demonic creatures that must be stopped for the good of God’s kingdom. This paper presents a critical history of violence in America that is representative of a devastatingly effective strategy that continues to fortify the functional primacy of whiteness despite popular rejections of racism.

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