[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.
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.