These words mean something. They are not prima facie references to the Klan, Nazis, neo-Nazis, or any other white terrorist hate group. In fact, these groups are only a small manifestation of what those two words come together to mean–and today, perhaps even one of the less significant ones.
Yet almost every time I publicly use those two words–accurately–white people get upset. Someone inevitably tells me to say “white privilege” instead of “white supremacy,” because people wrongly associate the latter only with the KKK and hearing it scares them off. To those people I always have the same answer, and again reiterate, NO. These terms don’t mean the same thing and should not be conflated.
So let’s clear up the difference between the two.
White supremacy refers to a racial hierarchy in which whiteness sits atop of. The United States was founded on a system–legally, culturally, economically, and politically–of white male upper class supremacy. All of these remain today.
Each can be confirmed through a number of outcomes and measurements–wage gaps, employment gaps, cultural influence, political power, economic power, incarceration rates, sentencing disparities… and on and on. Those arguments don’t need to be made here. These are established facts.