Thomas Edsall concluded a column on polarization in American politics by saying that it might decline as a result of generational change: "It will be another decade before these millennial and Gen Z voters reach levels in the electorate powerful enough to shift the direction of national politics away from the obsolete doctrine of white supremacy. It can’t happen soon enough." Edsall isn't the kind of person I'd expect to use "white supremacy" in that context--he's a mainstream liberal, not an academic, and about the same age as Joe Biden. That made me wonder about trends in use--it's clearly becoming more popular, but when did that start? I did a search for mentions of "white supremacy" in the New York Times for recent years and then every 10 years going back to 1959:
The use of "white supremacy" took off in 2013-15, and its growth doesn't seem to be slowing down (39 mentions in the first three weeks of 2021, a rate which would produce over 700 for the whole year).
Of course, some of those references are historical, and some are to fringe groups. But some of them, like Edsall's, involve general racial attitudes. It's hard to say what it means in this context. Understood as a "doctrine"--a conscious belief that whites ought to have a superior position, and that laws should help them keep that position--white supremacists are a tiny minority. In 1944, the National Opinion Research Center asked a sample of white people "Do you think Negroes should have as good a chance as white people to get any kind of job, or do you think white people should have the first chance at any kind of job?" 51% said white people should have the first chance. The question was asked a number of other times:
The last time it was asked was 1972, when 3% thought that whites should have the first chance and 96% thought that blacks should have an equal chance. Of course, there are lots of other kinds of prejudice--for example, people might be reluctant to have blacks as neighbors, or think that blacks are less intelligent than whites, and you might say that those opinions are a form of "white supremacy." Still, it would be hard to argue that more than maybe 10-15% of whites support white supremacy in that sense--not nearly enough to determine the direction of national politics.
Of course, there are a lot of whites who say that racial inequality is bad, but we're already doing as much as we can. I've had several posts saying that in the past few years whites have become more likely to believe that there is a lot of discrimination against blacks. However, it's not clear whether and how this change has affected opinions about specific measures to address racial inequality. In 1996, California voters approved of a referendum banning affirmative action in admissions to state universities (also state employment and contracting, but college admissions got the most attention). This year, a proposal to repeal it was on the ballot, but it failed by almost the same margin that the original one passed by (I intend to do a post on that sometimes). So if opposition to affirmative action is the sort of thing that Edsall means by "white supremacy," it's not clear that it's declining (and of course, it's not limited to whites, leading to ideas like "multiracial whiteness").
[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]