Tag Archives: Neo-Nazism

More on Racially Profiling Whites

14 Aug

A friend (who I’m lucky to know because he’s so much smarter than me) commented my my post “Why Don’t We Racially Profile Whites?” pointing out that there is a white racial profile.

The white racial profile is the other side of the story of the way people of color are profiled. So, for instance, where welfare is concerned, Blacks are undeserving entitlement junkies, but whites are deserving needy people facing temporary setbacks, and that’s just among those who are able to put “white” and “welfare” together at all. Some would say whites are profiled as over-burdened taxpayers subsidizing freeloaders.

Youth of color who experiment with drugs are profiled as dangerous addicts, while white youth are just going through a rebellious phase. And while Blacks and Latinos are profiled as criminals, whites are profiled as innocents. In fact, where property crime is concerned, whites are profiled as victims. They are the ones who worked hard to have what we Others want but don’t deserve, while our supposed criminal natures make us prone to turning wanting into stealing.

And because Blacks and Latinos are profiled as undeserving, over-entitled whiners while whites are profiled as deserving patriots, that fear of violation of white property rights turns easily towards resentment against whole communities. That seething resentment might just explain the proliferation of Stand Your Ground Laws.

But here’s where the irrationality goes over the top.

At the end of the Civil War, whites created the Ku Klux Klan in Tennessee. It was supposed to be a club for former Confederate soldiers but quickly became a movement devoted to upholding white supremacy. The Klan quickly spread across the former Confederate states and played a critical role in ending Reconstruction. Yet, Southern law enforcement colluded with the Klan more than it opposed it.

In the mid-20th century, whites formed White Citizens Councils, often with overlapping memberships with the Klan. These Councils included elected officials and community leaders. Around that time, whites also created the Posse Comitatus, a white supremacist movement organized like the KKK, but inspired by European Nazism. Whites organized the Christian Identity movement, a white supremacist religious sect who believe, among other things, that people of color are subhuman mud people.

White people also founded the Aryan Nations, originally based on a compound in Hayden Lake, Idaho. Aryan Nations is a national center of Christian Identity and home to the Church of Jesus Christ Christian, and also served as a training ground for violent neo-Nazi skinheads.

The core membership of the neo-Nazi skinhead movement of the ’80s and ’90s was alienated middle-class white kids. Racist skinheads were the terrorist arm of a much more sophisticated racist movement guided by professional neo-Nazi activists like Tom Metzger. Metzger’s White Aryan Resistance was sued by the Southern Poverty Law Center for involvement in the murder of Ethiopian immigrant Mulugeta Seraw.

The most famous domestic terrorist group of the 1980s was the Order. The Order was inspired by William Pierce‘s novel The Turner Diaries, a racist and anti-Semitic manifesto that closes with enemies of the white race strung up on light posts with piano wire.

The Order was responsible for the murder of Alan Berg, a Jewish talk-radio host in Denver. They also started a counterfeiting operation and pulled off the biggest armored truck hold up until that time, taking $3.6 million that they spent on weapons, paramilitary training camps, and material aid to allies.

I probably don’t need to tell you that the Order was all-white.

And, of course, it was whites who created the violently anti-immigrant Minutemen border vigilantes and the currently insurgent white nationalist Patriot movement.

But in spite of this long history, are white racists profiled as potential criminals or domestic terrorists? No. When whites form groups for the promotion of white-only interests, does the public grow suspicious? Rarely. And when young white males gather in groups, does law enforcement see a gang or a college fraternity?

My friend is right. There’s a racial profile for whites. That profile assumes innocence and deflects suspicion and is every bit as wrong as the racial profiles that target people of color as violent political dissidents, gang members, and criminals.

This is paradox for the echo chamber. Let’s call it out.

The Good White People: A Quick Tip on Countering Interpersonal Racism

1 Jun Anti-racist Whites

A while back I posted Four Tips on Talking About Racism. Those tips were -

  1. avoid moral superiority, after all, this is about what is strategic for the “we,” not just what feels good to “me;”
  2. find common ground;
  3. don’t guilt people into changing their minds – change leveraged through guilt is rarely very durable; and
  4. don’t be a smarty-pants.

That last one is probably the toughest. I mean, who doesn’t want to make racist people feel ignorant, right? The problem is, making folks feel foolish just makes you look like a snob.

Now that the review is over, here’s another tip -

Help white folks be “good” white people.

Cringing yet? Don’t. It’s really not that tough, and, anyway, just laying a list of grievances on people makes potential allies feel guilty while putting off the less persuadable white folks. Since there are, at least in my experience, fewer easy allies than there are white people who react to anti-racist rants like they’re anti-them, the attack strategy too often polarizes folks with too few on our side.

So, rather than isolate yourself, appeal to the good in white people.

Here’s a case in point:

Back in the day (circa late 80s/early 90s), Portland, Oregon had a nasty problem with neo-Nazi skinheads. The group I was active with documented over 200 members of Nazi groups in Portland, and that was just the tip of the iceberg. The hangers-on and unregistered believers were far greater in number. Violence statistics soared, earning Portland the moniker “the Mississippi of the North” in the national media.

We needed to reach people at the projected base of support for neo-Nazi and other racist recruitment to counter the rise in violence. That projected base of support was, of course, white.

I know that sounds like a tough sell, but we believed that liberal whites would respond to expressions of extreme racism with shame. The most virulent racism lives as an echo of our own histories. Depending on which side of the color line you’re on, the meaning is different, but, it resonates in one way or another for all of us. For that reason, overt racist appeals make liberal whites uncomfortable in our supposedly post-racial society.

So we gave “good” white people an opportunity to express that discomfort. Moreover, we helped them to draw a line in the sand between “good” and “bad” white people by giving liberal whites a leadership role in the fight against hate groups.

Whites opened their homes. They participated in campaigns to paint out racist graffiti and welcomed us to neighborhood meetings. They marched with us, and put themselves between violent racists and their targets in candlelight vigils. Whites also made donations, brought needed expertise, helped us to organize Rock Against Racism concerts in venues that served as racist recruitment grounds.

And helping “good” white people to draw that line in the sand achieved two more goals. First, it created political space among whites for a discussion of systemic racism and its relationship to violent racist groups. Second, it got a lot of people on our side; something that mattered to us because when extreme, even violent racism goes unchecked, the effects on mainstream political culture are never good.

All of this was made possible by first accepting that everyone can change, and then looking for soft entry points. Because all organizing is ultimately about giving people the opportunity to claim acknowledgement, respect, and dignity, appealing to white people’s sense that violent racists defamed them got folks organized.

So the next time you’re confronted by racism, don’t just attack. Isolate the racist, not yourself. Their racist actions could just be an opening to get the “good” white folks organized.

The Trouble With Nazis, White Nationalists, and Other Assorted Extremists

11 May

Today’s Huff Post story about KKK Grand Wizard and Bonner County, Idaho sheriff candidate Shaun Winkler hosting a cross burning got me on a rant today. Clearly, we’ve got a problem with populism of the right wing variety in America.

According to a 2011 report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of hate groups in the U.S. has been steadily climbing for the last 10 years. White nationalist Patriot groups, first organized in reaction to the violent government crackdown on dissident groups at Ruby Ridge, Idaho and Waco, Texas in the early 90s, went from 149 groups in 2008 to 1274 groups in 2011.

Add to that the recent stories of Idaho State’s only black lawmaker receiving a hand addressed invitation to join the KKK, a couple of murder-suicide cases involving white supremacist leaders in Arizona and Pennsylvania, and the bust of 10 white supremacists in central Florida for stockpiling weapons and training for a “race war,” and the evidence starts to pile up.

The 2010s are starting to look like the 1980s all over again.

My t-shirt, circa 1989.

According to veteran right wing watcher (and a greatly admired friend) Chip Berlet,

“We are in the midst of one of the most significant right-wing populist rebellions in United States history. We see around us a series of overlapping social and political movements populated by people [who are] angry, resentful, and full of anxiety.”

Those overlapping movements include a resurgent neo-Nazi faction, Tea Parties, anti-immigrant vigilantes, Christian jihadists, assorted white nationalists, and a big chunk of the Arizona State Legislature.

Back in the late 1980s and through the 90s, my activism was mainly pointed at exposing and countering vigilante white supremacists and the religious right wing. Grassroots groups representing both wings of the white right were on the rise back then. But toward the end of the 20th century, things changed. The white supremacist movement went underground, and the religious right had won so much, including taking over much of the grassroots infrastructure of the Republican Party and electing George W. Bush president, that they became the mainstream and lost momentum, even as their power and influence was greater than ever.

But the combination of the election of an African American president, the economic crisis, including a bail out of elites by the government, and the changing demographics of our country has the right surging again. Top that off with a heaping helping of post-9/11 Islamophobia and a side of anti-Chinese sentiment and that rebellion is beginning to look like a movement.

I know that to a lot of people, the litany of groups I listed looks pretty fringe-y. And I agree that it’s not as though anything as exotic as neo-Nazism is likely to amount to a major movement in the U.S., especially given our history with Nazi’s in WWII.

However, don’t discount the fringe. The violence they represent is a very real threat and they have a powerful impact on our political culture.

Remember the role the KKK played in the collapse of Reconstruction and enforcing Jim Crow? The chilling affect of vigilante groups is not to be underestimated. Border patrols are today’s Night Riders of the KKK. They don’t just scare the bejeezus out of undocumented immigrants, they also up the ante for immigrant rights activists who must face an opposing side that includes folks with guns who have designs on mining the border.

When extremist groups parade, protest, burn crosses, and distribute hate literature, they’re testing the public consensus on bigotry. They define “hate” as the most extreme and genocidal ranting, making more conservative expressions of bigotry appear mainstream and acceptable by comparison.

Here’s an example. my first entry in this blog was inspired by a marathon of TV news watching I undertook in order to see how people of color are portrayed in liberal media. What I discovered was that even on MSNBC, supposedly the liberal alternative to Fox News, Native Americans are rarely if ever mentioned. Asian Americans nearly received the same treatment, while Latinos and African Americans were almost exclusively represented by sports stars and entertainers. I’d call that racist, but then what do you call Fox?

You see how the presence of something far worse makes what is problematic appear mainstream and, by extension, pretty normal? Just think of the radical racist fringe as the Fox News to more conservative racism’s MSNBC and you’ll see why I say, we’ve got a major problem on our hands.

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