Posts Tagged ‘White racism’

From white supremacy to white nationalism

June 17, 2019

This interview with Kathleen Belew was aired July 24, 2018.


I learned two important things from reading BRING THE WAR HOME: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America by Kathleen Belew (2018).

One is how the Ku Klux Klan and other white racist organizations changed in the late 1970s and early 1980s from vigilantes upholding a racist order to revolutionaries and secessionists trying to overthrow an anti-racist order.

The other is that so much of what I thought of as isolated incidents, ranging from the murder of talk show host Alan Berg in 1984 to Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, were in fact planned by a revolutionary movement.

Belew began her account with the story of a Klansman named Louis Beam who served in Vietnam as a helicopter gunner.  He regarded U.S. defeat in Vietnam as a betrayal engineered by Jews and Communists.  He and his like-minded friends regarded themselves as soldiers.  They regarded the war against Communism as the same thing as the war against racial integration and racial equality.

They obtained and stockpiled military ordnance, organized private militias and military training camps and enlisted as mercenaries in support of anti-Communist fighters in Africa and Central America.   The South African and Rhodesian governments made use of them, and so did the Central Intelligence Agency.

They saw no difference between killing Communists in Vietnam or Nicaragua and killing Communists in the USA.  Klansmen and Nazis joined forces in the shooting of Communist anti-Klan demonstrators in Greensboro, N.C., in 1979, resulting in the deaths of five white men and one black woman.

But at some point, they came to regard the U.S. government as hopelessly compromised.  The annual Aryan Nations World Conference at Hayden Lake, Idaho, announced a new organization called the Order, which would coordinate the Klan, Nazis and other white racist organizations, such as the Mountain Church, the White Patriot Party and the Covenant, the Sword and the Arm of the Lord (CSA).

Their new goal was to establish a separate white enclave and eventually to break up the United States and forcibly move whites, blacks and maybe other racial groups into separate areas, while deporting Jews to Israel.  Beam commented that carrying out this program might make the Third Reich seem mild in comparison.

Their idea was that African-Americans, being members of an inferior race, could not have more their civil rights on their own.  They thought that black people must have been aided by the Jews, whom they regarded as super-smart but evil.

Members of the Order swore to carry out “a sacred duty to do whatever is necessary to deliver our people from the Jew and bring total victory to the Aryan race.”

The Order’s plans included (1) paramilitary training, (2) robbery and counterfeiting to raise money, (3) purchase of military-grade weapons, (4) distribution of money and weapons to white power groups, (5) assassinations of enemies and informers and (6) a cell-type organization so that rank-and-file members only knew the names of members of their own group.

Beam’s vision was a “leaderless resistance,” in which there was no top-down chain of command, but a network of cells linked by Liberty Net, a computer network.  This was prior to the Internet, a time when computer networks were a novelty.

They got a lot of their ideas from U.S. Army training manuals on insurgency and counter-insurgency warfare, and their system of organization resembled the Communist fighters in Vietnam and the radical Muslim jihadists of a later era.


Who’s deplorable?

September 19, 2016


Racism is the belief that certain races, such as black people, are genetically inferior or that they should not enjoy equal rights.   David Duke, a neo-Nazi and former Klan Wizard, is a racist.  Steve Bannon, Jared Taylor, and Richard B. Spencer, supporters of the Alt-Right movement, are racists.

It’s not just deplorable, but despicable, that Donald Trump has accepted their support, and even appointed Bannon to head his campaign.

Racial prejudice consists of judging an individual based on beliefs about average behavior of that person’s race.  That, too, is deplorable.   It is deplorable even if the belief has some basis.

The chart above shows that certain beliefs are common to white Americans across the political spectrum.  It is not a measure of racism.  It may or may not be a measure of prejudice.

For example, it is a statistical fact that violent crime is more common among black Americans than among white Americans.  It is not racist or racially prejudiced think that African-Americans are, on average, more violent than white Americans.

What would be deplorable would be to assume that assume that any African-American you encounter is a threat, possibly deserving a preemptive violent response.  What would be deplorable would be to ignore the fact that the vast majority of black people are peaceful and law-abiding.

The problem with being overly quick to charge racism is that it provides cover for the real racists.  If almost all white people are racists, then David Duke and Jared Taylor aren’t be so bad.


Race, class and the Democratic Party

July 14, 2014

When I was a college student in the 1950s, I read THE AGE OF JACKSON by Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and, for many years, accepted his ideas about American politics.

Schlesinger argued that American politics (as of 1945) was based on a permanent conflict between big business and its opponents.

A succession of parties—the Federalists, the Whigs and then the Republicans—represented the interests of the banks, merchants, railroads and manufacturing corporations.  The Democratic Party and its Jeffersonian predecessors represented a diverse coalition of people whose interests might be threatened or harmed by big business.

Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson

The political health of the United States, as he saw it, required an alternation in power and between these two sides.

The Republican Party was needed to speak for the American capitalist interest, which was what gave the United States its economic energy.  But the Democratic Party, of which Schlesinger was an active supporter, was needed to prevent a dangerous concentration of power in corporations.

The Democrats did not represent an equivalent danger to liberty, in his view, because their coalition of supporters was so diverse—labor unions, immigrants, Southern planters, Catholics, black people, farmers, small business—and their program would represent a balancing of interests rather than a single interest.

I think Schlesinger’s analysis was true as far as it went.  The Democratic Party, as represented by the Indian fighter and slave-owner Andrew Jackson, really was the party of the common man—at least the white common man.  Jackson scandalized upper-crust Washington by allowing frontiersmen and working people to participate in his inauguration.  He did fight to prevent the government from becoming the servant of the banks and the manufacturers.

But the Democratic Party also reflected the prejudices and racism of the white common people.  Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, the great defender of Southern slavery, said there were no class distinctions in the South because all white people were part of an aristocracy of race.  This was not an aberration, and not limited to the South.  It was central to the Democrats’ identity for a century or more, and it was not limited to Democrats in the South.

The problem with Schlesinger’s analysis, and also its appeal, is that it enabled liberal Democrats like me to regard the South’s one-party system as merely incidental.  In fact it was fundamental.

College educated intellectuals and reformers of the 19th century were mainly Whigs and Republicans.   The great New England humanitarian reformers that we Unitarian Universalists admire were mostly Whigs or Republicans.  The Republican Party was founded as a movement to prevent the spread of slavery, which the Democrats supported.  What little support there was for civil rights between the Civil War and Second World War came from Republicans.

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

Broadly speaking and with many exceptions, there is one party that accepted social distinctions based on wealth and education, and minimized social distinctions based on race, and another party that resented distinctions based on social class and insisted on social distinctions based on race.

Now it is the Republican Party that gets the votes of a majority of white people, and the Democratic Party that depends on minorities’ votes to give it a margin of victory.   I think that any American prior to 1932 would have thought it unbelievable that the United States would have a black President, but they would have found it unimaginable that a black President would be a Democrat.

During the middle and late 20th century, college-educated reformers and racial minorities migrated to the Democratic Party.  But the Republicans still represent corporate and financial interests as they always have, and what little support there is for organized labor and workers’ rights still comes from Democrats.

The political realignment that began during the Truman administration and reached its culmination during the Reagan administration was not a reversal of roles, but a new mix and match.   My thoughts about how this came about will be the subject of another post.


Racism vanishing, racial prejudice remains

June 1, 2011

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Racism and racial prejudice are not the same thing.  Racism is a doctrine.  Prejudice is an unconscious attitude.  Racists are usually proud of being racist.  Prejudiced people are usually unaware of being prejudiced.  Prejudiced people object to being called racist.  They’re right.

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Racism is a doctrine that some groups of people are genetically superior to other groups, and that the superior groups are justified in denying equal rights to the inferior groups.  Today few Americans will admit to believing any such thing, but I can remember a time (I’m 74) when racist ideas were part of the normal discourse of American society.  I wish I had a dollar for every time somebody said to me, “Tell, me, Phil, and be honest:  Would you want one of them to marry your sister?”

Prejudice is an unconscious attitude.  Prejudiced people judge individuals on the basis of superficial characteristics, such as skin color, or they project the negative traits on individuals onto every member of the group to which the individual belongs.  They sincerely believe their opinions are based on fact and reason.

While racism is marginalized, racial prejudice is very much with us.  The experience of testers – sending out teams of closely-matched white and black people to see if they’re treated different – shows that racial discrimination is not a thing of the past in American society.   At the same time, I’m old enough to remember when things were a lot worse.  Black people do not yet compete on a level playing field, but I can remember when they were completely barred from the game.  They have a harder time getting jobs or mortgage loans than equally-qualified whites, but I can remember when their race made them ineligible even to be considered.  In fact, I can remember a time when there were parts of the United States in which white people could kill black people with impunity, and sometimes did.