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The Allure of White Supremacy

[TRIGGER WARNING] There’s going to be some pretty racist stuff going on in this post. Please be aware of that before diving in.

NOTE: I had originally opted to use more inclusive and gender neutral language when I first wrote this post, but I decided to change it so that the voice it is written in is clearly that of a white male.  In several places I am trying to bring us all into the heads of white supremacists, and I have yet to meet a single white supremacist anywhere who has ever used the words ‘zie’, ‘zir’, or ‘ze’. I hope you’ll bear with me here. Also, while you and I may understand that concepts like ‘white’, ‘black’, ‘race’ are socially-constructed abstractions that have little to do with reality, white supremacists don’t. They see race as an essential characteristic of a person (unless they need to remove a person from their ‘natural’ racial category as we’ll see a bit later).

NOTE THE SECOND: I will not be linking to any white supremacist websites, forums, or book links of any kind in this blog. I absolutely refuse to be a party to driving traffic to their sites, or to drawing traffic to this one from theirs. I will provide a brief bibliography at the end of this post, and I will provide links to pertinent information from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Racism is ugly. It is damaging, and it is cruel. Yet for a significant chunk of society, racism is also highly attractive. It is appealing on many different levels; it can be psychologically rewarding, and it can even sometimes (and in some situations) be praiseworthy – at least by some members of society (and not just the goose-stepping, sheet-wearing segment). There is a reason why people become active (either actively or passively) in white supremacist activity, and that reason isn’t always simple ignorance; there are more than a few highly educated and articulate people who are nevertheless wedded to the idea that their skin colour makes them a higher order to being than others.

When I say that racism and white supremacy can bring certain psychological benefits, what I’m talking about is pretty straight-forward. Let’s pretend that we are all white men for a moment, and that we already hold certain racist beliefs: if you come from a position of relative powerlessness (or perceived powerlessness), then carrying with you the ‘knowledge’ that you are a superior form of life can act as a bulwark against some of life’s hard truths. Were you fired from a job that you liked? Well, it certainly wasn’t your fault – it was those immigrants. Passed over for a scholarship from your university? It must have been because the scholarship fund had been raided in order to give money to those undeserving minorities. Are you poor, uneducated, or unemployed? At least you’re not black*. Establishing – even if it’s just in your own mind – a racial hierarchy with you at the top makes it almost impossible for you to ever feel as though you’ve hit rock bottom.For a white supremacist, non-white groups are in the social positions they are because they deserve to be there, and white people are where they are (generally dominant) because they deserve to be there as well. Oh, and if you’re white and not at the top of the world, then it’s not your fault; there’s a conspiracy against you. Let’s take a look at an example of this.

There is a tiny, almost unheard of racist organization known as the Creativity Movement that while claiming to have around fifteen thousand members or so, more likely only has around two thousand – worldwide. Creativity – and the ‘Creators’ who buy into it – argue forcefully and explicitly in their ‘holy books’ (actually a series of long-winded, anti-Semitic rants and health-food faddism tossed into a pot and stirred with a liberal dose of genocide fantasy and fashion advice) that the ‘white race’ is the single most incredible thing ever evolved in nature. They believe that the ‘white race’ is the absolute pinnacle of not only human evolution, but of evolution in general.

For a Creator, being white is literally the best thing in the world one can possibly be; if a white guy works for a black CEO for example, then the white guy can still think of himself as superior because according to “The White Man’s Bible”, non-white ‘races’ can only ever ‘ape’ the actions and achievements of white people; the black CEO isn’t really a CEO, he’s a sort of imposter who only remains in his job because no one has found him out yet. According to the Creativity doctrine, the ‘natural’ position of ‘blacks’ in society is to be at the beck and call of the ‘true’ enemies of white people, namely the Jews.  According to the tenets of Creativity, members of the ‘Jewish race’ are the natural enemies of humanity. Throughout history, the Jewish people have subtly taken control of the interests of the other ‘races’ (because, as we all know, different ethnic groups are like different hockey teams – they move, think, and act as a cohesive unit) and they use them in order to thwart the white race from achieving its full potential. Any time a Creator perceives an unfair or unjust action being perpetrated by their government, company, or society, they immediately begin looking for ‘Jewish influences’. For a Creator, when life gives you lemons, it’s probably because of the Jews.

Racism and white supremacy can also carry with it social benefits. Historically, openly racist politicians in the United States were able to win seats at every level of elected office by appealing to the fears and hatreds of their white constituents – Strom Thurmond comes to mind here. More recently, people like David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan used his views to spur on his successful bid to become a Republican representative in the Louisiana State Legislature. Currently members of the Tea Party political movement in the United States have been garnering a great deal of political support by employing dog-whistle racism in order to appeal to white supremacists and white supremacist supporters, while maintaining a cover of plausible deniability with the press. Any time you hear a person declaring that ‘Obama is a Kenyan’, you’re most likely hearing a form of dog-whistling. While the Tea Party itself is not explicitly racist it is, to paraphrase the Simpsons, “Number One with Racists!”

White supremacist organizations such as the Creativity Movement, and less-obviously racist movements like the Birthers or some ‘Patriot’ anti-immigration movements are – while dangerous – not the central problem; they are symptoms of a broader social ill: the stubborn refusal of racist ideas and racist social and political institutions to die. The Klan, the Creativity Movement, and groups like Christian Identity could not exist without the wide and deep permeation of white supremacist ideas at every level of our society. When academics and activists refer to American (and yes, even Canadian) society as being white supremacist, this is what they’re talking about; you don’t need to wear a sheet or a swastika to be a white supremacist.

That, in a nutshell, is the problem faced by social justice activists; we attempt to stomp out white supremacist groups, while embedded in a society that privileges supremacist ideas. When those ideas and privileges are threatened, it results in the formation of new, often radical movements aimed at ‘preserving traditions’ or ‘maintaining culture’, and the cycle begins again. And so we do what we’ve been doing for decades: counter the street-level displays of explicit white supremacy, while engaging academics at our colleges and universities in an attempt to undermine the years of racist socialization that have desensitized students to the subtle forms of racial discrimination. At the same time, we lobby governments at every level to condemn racist ideology and seek ways to ameliorate the harmful effects that years of racist activity have inflicted on society. But who, ultimately will be successful? Will it be us – will our struggles succeed in building an equitable (or at least, more equitable) society, or will our opponents succeed in minimizing the voices of social justice advocates, whose very existence threatens the centuries-old edifices of white supremacy? I remain optimistic. We will ultimately succeed in constructing the society we wish to live in, but my optimism is tempered by the belief that I probably won’t be alive to see it.

Suggested Reading:

Daniels, Jesse, “Cyber Racism: White Supremacy Online and the New Attack on Civil Rights

Ferber, Abby L., “Home-Grown Hate: Gender and Organized Racism

Ferber, Abby L., “White Man Falling: Race, Gender, and White Supremacy

George, John & Wilcox, Laird, “American Extremists: Militias, Supremacists, Klansmen, Communists, & Others

Michael, George, “Theology of Hate: A History of the World Church of the Creator

* In the Creativity context (and in many other white supremacist organizations as well) the word ‘black’, while still used as a descriptor of race, is deployed strategically in order to benefit the Creator; if there is a white person who is acting counter to the doctrines of Creativity, a Creator may ‘discover’ that said person has a black (or Jewish) ancestor and is therefore really black (or Jewish) – even if they don’t look it. ‘Blackness’, for white supremacists, is an essential characteristic that exists independently of skin colour, it seems.

Comments

  1. Jean says

    Ian, do you have other examples of dog-whistling we should be aware of especially for us in Canada?

  2. says

    Well not to answer for Ian, but there’s the Toronto mayor’s suggestion – more a thinly veiled insinuation – that Toronto’s gun violence might be linked to all those damned brown people immigrating into his city…

  3. scotlyn says

    Are you poor, uneducated, or unemployed? At least you’re not black

    I can confirm that there is a branch of my family – grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins – in which variations on this view are expressed with depth, feeling and vehemence and frequently with little provocation. Not college educated, hard-working but hard-pressed, needing this sense of superiority, exactly as you describe. I’m not aware of any of them having any actual affiliations to supremacist groups, but they would certainly be the fellow travellers that allow such groups to flourish.

    Unfortunately, knowing them so well has given me no particular insight, as I would wish, into how to undermine such deeply felt attitudes, as they are pretty impervious to anything I’ve thrown at them. They just look at me with a “there she goes again” expression and roll their eyes. And five minutes later come out with something just as offensive but with a thicker veneer of deniability.

    The experience of being with them is too wierdly like the Krikkit planet people described by Douglas Adams – (paraphrasing) they were “nice, friendly, kind to animals, family-centred, song-loving, food-sharing people dedicated to the extermination of all other intelligent life forms in the universe.”

    I’m glad you’re doing this post, and I hope there will be more. There is an old feminist phrase that I haven’t heard in years – “The personal is political.” Unfortunately, this is still true, and unavoidable.

  4. says

    Ian, thank you for this excellent post! I am linking to my facebook page.

    Also, I was looking into the links you posted trying to decide which book to buy first – the first “review” under the White Man Falling page is a data point supporting your description of a “Creator” above.

    This is a horrible and demeaning diatribe against white males. Dehumanizing at best, this Jewish “scholar” abandons the lessons of hate from the 20th century and deploys it with full barbs against humans who have white skin. I for one am tired of being vilified for no good reason. Any white male who wants to get angry and organize into an advocacy organization should read this book and then burn it.

    There’s more but ugh.

    I hope your essay gets reposted frequently.

  5. Annie says

    You know what would be interesting? Getting white people’s perspective on race. Hear me out! Not in a talk-over-colored-people kinda way. That’s not what I mean. I’m talking about the stuff you’ll only get from white people because colored people get carefully excluded.

    Whenever I look at my experiences or talk to white people who work on understanding social issues, I find I get an endless stream of anecdotes about appalling things relatives, friends, and neighbors say about other races. There is this culture when some white people congregate that grants a feeling of being in a “safe zone” of sorts with regard to being “honest” about “the other races”. (Hello, Bullshit Detector? Is that you I hear?) Depending on how tight-knit the company is and depending on how ideologically close they are you’ll get an ear assault ranging from “all I’m saying is they talk kind of stereotypically” and “it’s not racist, I’m just comparing people” to “slavery should still exist” and other gems of classical racism. It’s a slew of stuff that comes out that would never be said within earshot of a black person. (As a side note, these are also, incidentally, the same white people who deny that race is an issue and roll their eyes at black folks for “pulling the race card”.)

    A compilation of these kinds of instances might be an interesting project to take on. Sometimes I get the feeling that black people sense when they’re being racially scrutinized but can’t really point to anything solid because of the oil-slippery nature of modern racism.* So at very least this might be a way of going, “Hey. You. You’re not crazy.

    *I’m sorry, did I overstep into whitesplaining territory just now? Sigh…work with me…this winner is a little disconnected.

  6. left0ver1under says

    Racism is ugly. It is damaging, and it is cruel. Yet for a significant chunk of society, racism is also highly attractive.

    You could add that it is ignorant, religion-based and stupid (e.g. the judge in Loving v. Virginia and his idiotic “god separated them with the waters” comment).

    https://genographic.nationalgeographic.com/genographic/atlas.html

    “Race” in itself is a silly word. As the maxim says, we are all Africans. If National Geographic’s Genographic Project isn’t enough to convince someone, nothing will. That person is just not smart enough to grasp it.

    Excuse the combining of metaphors, but the only way a person can look down the nose on another is by sticking one’s nose in the air.

  7. says

    not so much “religion-based” as being one of the hierarchies religion has effortlessly absorbed and is now propagating/maintaining, because that’s what religion does: it propagates and maintains “tradition” AKA the hierarchies as they’ve existed since the last time the holy text got a thorough edit.

    :-p

  8. im says

    THat, and also the good side. It seems like (although I could be blatantly, totally wrong) that nobody really seems to study white people’s whiteness except when they are being racist.

    I wish that my race could be defined by something other than it’s racism. I wish we could go back to Europe.

  9. im says

    I think race can exist independent of hierarchy, just that it doesn’t usually in the world we live in.

    Or at least as a symmetrical ingroup-outgroup thing?

  10. im says

    Ugh. These people would be much better off redeeming Europe with me. Unfortunately, that would not let them ameliorate their RIDICULOUS insecurities. And they would have to actually freaking make a decison about immigration rather than just hating and not caring about who they hurt.

  11. ischemgeek says

    I should probably send this to a few relatives of mine. I’m debating when to start up with certain relatives about their dogwhistle racism on the issue of Obama (particularly that he’s “Kenyan” when they’re talking about him holding the presidency but that he’s “not really black” when they’re talking about his attitudes on race issues), and I think this and the articles linked explain the concept better than I can.

    It’s really the six-year-long “saying ‘that’s so gay’ in a derogatory sense is homophobic regardless of whether you intend homophobic sentiment” fight I had with my sister all over again. Or the “referring to my period when I’m arguing with you over something completely unrelated to my reproductive anatomy is sexist” fight I had with my father. Or the “blaming First Nations people for the fact that they are suffering the effects of a dedicated and intentional campaign to destroy their spirits and culture which only really slowed down less than a full generation ago is a racist attitude.” fight I’m currently having with my mother.

    The issue is that my relatives invariably conflate me calling their attitudes and phrasing racist/sexist/homophobic/etc with me calling them racists/sexists/homophobes/etc – and they see themselves as Not Racist/Sexist/Homophobic/Etc. So these issues tend to blow up when I try to argue them (and I’m sure not helped by the fact that I’m paler than the driven snow so they can and do brush me off with “what do you know? You’re whiter than me!”). I need to do more research before I’ll feel comfortable arguing with them – my relatives are the sort who expect a challenger to be able to cite studies off the top of their heads, while they think their “just knowing” is good enough. I can get them to change their minds, but where many people will admit you might have something if you bring the ball-peen hammer of evidence, my relatives demand the wrecking ball. I think the Lousy Canuck referred to it as “hyper-skepticism”.

  12. chriscampbell says

    Sorry to be obtuse. Is it a bad word based on your “I am not my ideas” philosophy outlined in the FAQ? Fairly new here; enjoy it very much; sometimes a lot of subtle social cues that I don’t pick up on right away. Sorry again – no intention to derail anything. Thanks

  13. chriscampbell says

    Thanks very much for this. Ironic that the movement is called “Creativity” (with a capital “C” no less) – some of the least creative ideas I’ve ever heard.

  14. says

    I wonder if the ron paul supporters, so enamored of his stance on drugs and war, realize that his state’s rights platform is read by supremacists as a blank check to restore institutionalized racisms.

    I guess they probably don’t care. Most are young white men who oppose any programs that try to eliminate privilege in our society.

    Anyway, this is a great read. I had never heard of dog-whistle racism. I wonder how much of it is intentional and how much of it is just parroting the stuff one’s supporters like to hear and say. It probably speaks to my level of respect for tea partiers that I don’t consider many of them smart enough to be that sly.

  15. Dianne says

    Are you poor, uneducated, or unemployed? At least you’re not black*.

    This sort of logic (using the word loosely) always seemed to me to be backwards. If you’re white, cisgendered, het, and male and still unable to succeed, what excuse do you have? People take you more seriously simply because you are white, etc, are more apt to give you breaks when you screw up, are more likely to give you opportunities…In short, if you’re still unsuccessful, who is there to blame but yourself?

    Caveat: Yes, I know being poor is no picnic, even if you’re white or pass for white. Quite a lot of my relatives are poor and white or reasonably successful at passing for white. And those with ambition have found their way out of poverty much smoother than it likely would have been if they were black or more visibly mestizo.

  16. LeftSidePositive says

    Chris, not to answer for Ian, but it’s a “bad word” because it erroneously sees “a racist” as something one can simply be or not be, rather than racism as a system of biases to which the vast majority of people can be susceptible to different degrees. It’s common for those called out on something they did/said that was racially insensitive to simply declare that ze is not “a racist” as though as long as one is not wearing a sheet one could not possibly have racial prejudices, or that as long as one is not consciously putting forth explicitly racist statements one couldn’t possibly have racial biases. In other words, it’s a defensive and remarkably shallow assertion of one’s own self-image instead of a commitment to learn about and improve sociological phenomena.

  17. Annie says

    On the plus side, at least your relatives have some common idea that racism, homophobia, and sexism are Bad Things. A few of mine just straight up endorse these attitudes.

  18. says

    @Dianne: If someone is white, cis, het, and male, but poor/uneducated/unemployed, the reason they are not able to exercise their god-given right to be on top is that the eeevil liberal progressive Jewish conspiracy has taken it away from them and handed it to the undeserving people of colour (whose inherent disadvantage is a result either of their “choice” to be LGBT, or because of the way God ordained the world.).

  19. chriscampbell says

    I see. Thank you for the clarification. Read the other post in the FAQ, and it clears that right up.

  20. emptyknight says

    Annie says:

    I get an endless stream of anecdotes about appalling things relatives, friends, and neighbors say about other races. There is this culture when some white people congregate that grants a feeling of being in a “safe zone” of sorts with regard to being “honest” about “the other races”.

    THIS. As a white male (in Texas, if that helps) I am continually amazed at the things some white males will say when they find themselves in a small group with other white males. All with the unstated assumption that of course everyone will agree with them on some level, even if we’ve been trained to be politically correct by the “liberal media” and so on. They frequently give up entirely on dog-whistling and say some of the most horrible things I’ve ever heard right out in the open about blacks, Hispanics, and women. And when I disagree, I’m usually accused of being queer, which is correct, but beside the point. I’m pretty pale skinned, so maybe that’s the only thing they can think of that might be “wrong” with me that would lead me to not share their opinion.

    I suppose I should be thankful for these experiences on some level, I might never have started to question my own naive, though less vitriolic, ideas about racism and privilege otherwise.

  21. Dianne says

    I’m sorry, theobromine, but all I can think to say is that that attitude just makes no sense. How can a less powerful group be oppressing a more powerful one? I know, of course, that you’re explaining it, not arguing it, I just can’t understand how this thought process occurs. Do they think that they are in fact the less powerful group somehow?

  22. says

    Well, for those who are at the top, any move towards equality does, in fact, erode their privilege, and they think that they *deserve* to keep that privilege. So, the poor dears really *are* powerless against the masses who have ganged up on them to fight for equality and social justice. (This is similar to MRA activists who I have heard complain how much worse things are for men these days, now that women make $.70 for each dollar men make as compared to the $.50 they used to make.)

  23. Robert says

    Wow. I feel so fortunate in my choice of relatives.

    Granted, I tend not to spend very much time with most
    of them, but given that I’ve been out since 17, my first
    husband was Panamanian-Chinese and my second husband is
    African-American (as are our two adopted sons), it is
    possible that they just censor themselves when I’m in
    the room.

    But then again, I remember mentioning to my eldest brother
    how surprised I was at how accepting our father was to
    my first husband, and he observed, ‘look at it this way -
    this is his only chance for a Catholic son-in-law.’

    In fact, the only time I’ve been in all-white company lately
    has been at my Masonic lodge, and NOBODY in the lodge
    says bad things about women or people of color.

  24. Ysanne says

    Whaddaya mean, “redeeming”? Europe has its own brands of horrible people, and just about enough of them without needing to import more, thank you very much.

  25. Ysanne says

    They think that members of the powerless group are actually getting preferential treatment, which gives them an unfair advantage over hard-working “normal” people.
    As in “affirmative action takes away good white students’ scholarships and gives them to undeserving blacks with bad marks”, “unqualified women are promoted over competent men to meet the politically correct proportion of female managers”, or “you can’t get a creative job unless you’re gay because all those gays in there conspire against straights”.

  26. razzlefrog says

    Is “colored” not kosher? I thought ’cause NAACP…I figured it wasn’t impolite. Am I incorrect in that assumption?

    (Also when I read about race and society it gets used a lot, so I thought it was allowed. But I’ll drop it if it’s not.)

  27. Dianne says

    Sigh. Ysanne, I look a little like your gif just now (the rolling the eyes part, not the green and octagonal part). I guess there is something irresistible in the idea that you’re wonderful and could do great things if not being oppressed by the evil whoevers, but when considering the woes of the straight white male and how oppressed he is by minorities, women, and gays, I keep thinking of this XKCD

  28. Pen says

    @ Annie and emptyknight

    I have a different report to make because where I come from remarks that are perceived to be out of line can get you mocked or possibly socially ostracised (out of line in the judgment of other white listeners, mind you). Which only adds to the seething resentment of certain parties. The internet is a boon to them because they can let themselves go anonymously and I really wish I knew how many there are. I think they believe that the rest of us have been cowed into submission and that it just needs someone with a bit of courage to set us straight – like the nutter Breivik.

    @ im who wishes he could go back to Europe

    Most European countries are somewhat multiracial now so you won’t get off the hook so easily. You’ll just have to deal with a bunch of people claiming their own sweet version of First People’s Rights.

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