Supremacism is the worldview that a particular age, race, species, ethnicity, religion, gender, social class, ideology, nation, or culture is superior to other variations of that trait, and advocates those who identify with it to dominate, control, and subjugate those who do not.
Some feminist theorists have argued that in patriarchy, a standard of male supremacism is enforced through a variety of cultural, political, and interpersonal strategies. Since the 19th century there have been a number of feminist movements opposed to male supremacism, usually aimed at achieving equal legal rights and protections for women in all cultural, political and interpersonal relations.
Centuries of European colonialism in the Americas, Africa, Australia, Oceania, and Asia were justified by white supremacist attitudes. During the 19th century, the phrase "The White Man's Burden", referring to the thought that whites have the obligation to make the societies of the other peoples more like their own, was widely used to justify imperialist policy as a noble enterprise. Thomas Carlyle, known for his historical account of the French Revolution, The French Revolution: A History, which inspired Charles Dickens' novel A Tale of Two Cities, argued that European supremacist policies were justified on the grounds they provided the greatest benefit to "inferior" native peoples. However, even at the time of its publication in 1849, Carlyle's main work on the subject, the Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question, was received poorly by his contemporaries.
Before the American Civil War, the Confederate States of America was founded with a constitution that contained clauses restricting the government's ability to limit or interfere with the institution of "negro" slavery. In the Cornerstone Speech, Confederate vice president Alexander Stephens declared that one of the Confederacy's foundational tenets was white supremacy over black slaves. Following the war, a secret society, the Ku Klux Klan, was formed in the South. Its purpose was to "restore" white supremacy after the Reconstruction period, even though there still was white, Protestant supremacy in the United States, at the time. The group preached supremacy over all other races, as well as over Jews, Catholics, and other minorities.
Cornel West, an African-American philosopher, writes that Black supremacist religious views arose in America as part of black Muslim theology in response to white supremacism.
During the early 20th century until the end of World War II, known as the pre-1945 Shōwa era, in Japan, the propaganda of the Empire of Japan used the old concept of hakko ichiu to support the idea that the Yamato were a superior race, destined to rule Asia and the Pacific. Many documents, such as Kokutai no Hongi, Shinmin no Michi, and An Investigation of Global Policy with the Yamato Race as Nucleus, discussed this concept of Japanese supremacy.
In Africa, black Southern Sudanese allege that they are subjected to a racist form of Arab supremacy, which they equate with the historic white supremacism of South African apartheid. The alleged genocide in the ongoing War in Darfur has been described as an example of Arab racism.
In Asia, ancient Indians considered all foreigners as barbarians. The Muslim scholar Al-Biruni wrote that the Indians called foreigners impure. A few centuries later, Dubois observes that "Hindus look upon Europeans as barbarians totally ignorant of all principles of honour and good breeding... In the eyes of a Hindu, a Pariah (outcaste) and a European are on the same level." The Chinese viewed the Europeans as repulsive, ghost-like creatures, and even devils. The Chinese writers also referred to the Europeans as barbarians.
From 1933–1945, Nazi Germany, under the rule of Adolf Hitler, promoted the idea of a superior, Aryan Herrenvolk, or master race. The state's propaganda maintained that Germanic peoples, which they called "Aryan", were a master race or Herrenvolk that was superior to the Jews, Slavs, and Romani people, so-called "gypsies". Arthur de Gobineau, a French racial theorist and aristocrat, blamed the fall of the ancien régime in France on racial intermixing, which he argued destroyed the purity of the Nordic race. Gobineau's theories, which attracted a strong following in Germany, emphasized the existence of an irreconcilable polarity between Aryan and Jewish cultures.
Some academics and writers claim that Christian supremacism was a motivation for the Crusades to the Holy Land, as well as for crusades against Muslims and pagans throughout Europe. The Atlantic slave trade has been attributed in part to Christian supremacism as well. The Ku Klux Klan has been described as a white supremacist Christian organization, as are many other white supremacist groups, such as the Posse Comitatus and the Christian Identity and Positive Christianity movements.
Some academics and writers also allege Muslim or Islamic supremacism. Others claim that the Qur'an and other Islamic documents always speak of tolerant, protective beliefs, which have been misused, misquoted, and misinterpreted by both Islamic extremists and Islamophobes. Examples of how supremacists have exploited the name of Islam include the Muslim participation in the African slave trade, the early 20th century pan-Islamism promoted by Abdul Hamid II, the jizya and rules of marriage in Muslim countries being imposed on non-Muslims, the majority Muslim interpretations of the rules of pluralism in Malaysia, and "defensive" supremacism practiced by some Muslim immigrants in Europe. Other writers posit a "poisonous, violent, Islamic supremacist creed", and that supremacism is as inherent in Islam as it is in all other religions. Bruce Bawer, an American writer, alleges that Saudi Arabian princes have funded institutions to paint accusations of Islamic supremacism as "Islamophobic lies."
Some academics and writers allege Jewish supremacism, often in relation to Israel and Zionism. Author Minna Rozen writes that 17th century Jews who lived in Jerusalem were supremacist in their views that they were superior over other Jews. Ilan Pappé, an Israeli historian, writes that the First Aliyah to Israel "established a society based on Jewish supremacy." Joseph Massad, a Professor of Arab Studies, holds that "Jewish supremacism" always has been a "dominating principle" in religious and secular Zionism. The Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center condemn writings about "Jewish Supremacism" by Holocaust-denier, former Grand Wizard of the KKK, and conspiracy theorist, Dr. David Duke, as antisemitic – in particular, his book: Jewish Supremacism: My Awakening to the Jewish Question. Kevin B. MacDonald, known for his theory of Judaism as a "group evolutionary strategy", has also been accused by the ADL and his own university psychology department of being "antisemitic" and white supremacist in his writings on the subject. However, prominent rabbis have, in fact, explicitly made claims regarding purported Jewish superiority.