White supremacy or white supremacism is a form of racism centered upon the belief, and promotion of the belief, that white people are superior in certain characteristics, traits, and attributes to people of other racial backgrounds and that therefore whites should politically, economically and socially rule non-whites.
The term is also typically used to describe a political ideology that perpetuates and maintains the social, political, historical and/or industrial domination by white people (as evidenced by historical and contemporary sociopolitical structures such as the Atlantic Slave Trade, Jim Crow laws in the United States, and apartheid).
Different forms of white supremacism put forth different conceptions of who is considered white, and different white supremacists identify various racial and cultural groups as their primary enemy. White supremacist groups have typically opposed people of color, immigrants, Jews, and Catholics.
In academic usage, particularly in usage drawing on critical race theory, the term “white supremacy” can also refer to a political or socio-economic system where whites enjoy a structural advantage (privilege) over other ethnic groups, both at a collective and an individual level.
White supremacy has ideological foundations that at least date back to 17th-century scientific racism, the predominant paradigm of human variation that helped shape international and intra-national relations from the latter part of the Age of Enlightenment (in European history) through the late 20th century (marked by the abolition of apartheid in South Africa in 1991, followed by that country’s first multiracial elections in 1994).