So the white nationalists are coming back to Charlottesville, and once again we’re going to hear the standard media narrative that these bigots are “on the right.” Leave aside that Jason Kessler, the organizer of the original Charlottesville rally, was an Obama activist and an Occupy Wall Street guy. Never mind that Richard Spencer, the poster boy of white supremacy, reveals in a detailed interview in my new movie that he’s a progressive who supports nationalized health care and expanded centralized state, and whose favorite presidents are all Democrats.
We need to probe deeper to understand who these white nationalists are and what they are about. One of the few scholars to make a genuine attempt to study their movement is political scientist Carol Swain. Swain, who was featured in my film “Hillary’s America,” is one of the leading African-American scholars in the country. She has written two books, a detailed study of the white nationalist movement called “The New White Nationalism in America ” and the other consisting of searching interviews with its most prominent members.
Swain recognizes that the “new white nationalism,” as she calls it, is different than old-style racism. Most significantly the nationalists of today vehemently deny they are white supremacists. They insist they are simply advocates of white identity and white power in the same mode as the advocates of black identity and black power. Incredibly the white nationalist movement seeks to portray itself as a kind of civil rights movement, fighting for equal treatment for white people!
Jared Taylor is the editor of the white nationalist website American Renaissance. An American who spent his youth in Japan, Taylor is much more urbane and cosmopolitan than we might stereotypically expect. Pointing out that minority groups often prefer to relate to members of their own group, he says, “If a white person says, ‘I like being white, and I prefer my associates to be white,’ that’s hate? Why?” Taylor adds, “Races are different. Some races are better at some things than others.”
Yet in his conversation with Swain, Taylor takes this line of thinking in a surprising direction. “I think Asians are objectively superior to whites by just about any measure that you can come up with. This doesn’t mean I want America to become Asian. I think every people has the right to be itself. … Even if Asians build societies superior to those built by white people, I think white people are perfectly legitimate in preferring the kind of societies they build.”
Lisa Turner, the women’s coordinator of a white nationalist group called the World Church of the Creator, also insists she is merely standing up for whites as a group, although she takes a dimmer view of Asians than Taylor. Turner tells Swain, “Asians are nothing but imitators, copycats. It’s monkey see, monkey do. They have copied what white Europeans have done, and that’s the only reason that Asians have any kind of civilization at all.”
Despite its name, the World Church of the Creator is an atheist organization, as most white nationalist groups are. “The philosophy behind Christianity,” Turner says, “is utterly poisonous. Turn the other cheek, love your enemy – these kinds of ideas have put a guilt trip on the white race. The biggest enemies we have out there are the Christian churches.”
Swain quotes Michael Hart, who advocates a separate nation for whites somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. “I have no desire to rule over blacks, or to have someone else rule over blacks on my behalf. Quite the contrary. I do not want to rule, enslave or exterminate anyone. All that I – and most white separatists – want is the opportunity to rule ourselves, in our own independent country.”
Even David Duke is on board with this approach, as suggested by the name of the group he founded, the National Association for the Advancement of White People (NAAWP). Duke tells Swain that just as the NAACP works for black interests and La Raza Unita works for Hispanic interests, his group is “about preservation of our identity as ethnic people, our existence, our values, our culture, our traditions.”
One white nationalist that Swain did not interview is Matthew Heimbach, founder of the Traditionalist Youth Network. Although he has been dubbed the Little Fuhrer in the media, Heimbach insists, “We reject the label of any form of racial hatred. We have contact with comrades in Syria, comrades in the Philippines, comrades around the world, and black nationalists in the United States. We believe every group should be able to have self-determination.”
I can, from personal experience, verify Swain’s observation that this appeal to group identity and self-determination is the language of contemporary white nationalism. In the mid-1990s, as part of my research for “The End of Racism,” I attended an American Renaissance conference. There I heard Jared Taylor trace his intellectual lineage not to the Republican Right but to the Democratic Party and the Confederacy. His ancestors stood up for their cause and for their race, he told me, and he intended to do the same.
At the conference, I also heard Sam Francis, then a columnist for the Washington Times, make an argument I had never heard anyone make in public before. “What we as whites must do,” he said, “is reassert our identity and our solidarity, and we must do so in explicitly racial terms through the articulation of a racial consciousness as whites. The civilization that we as whites created in Europe and America could not have developed apart from the genetic endowments of the creating people, nor is there any reason to believe that the civilization can be successfully transmitted to a different people.”
I quoted Francis saying this, and the Washington Times fired him over it. Swain mentions this episode as one of the first skirmishes between a mainstream conservative – me – and a white nationalist – Francis – who had been successfully posing as a mainstream conservative. I wasn’t trying to get Francis fired. I quoted his remarks because they struck me as one of the very first explicit articulations of a doctrine of white racial consciousness.
Not only is Swain right that the white nationalists are not the bigots of old, but she also correctly discerns that the point they make is not entirely wrong. It takes a courageous scholar to make this point. The progressive economist Glenn Loury is, as far as I know, the only one on the left to make it. “I really don’t know how you ask white people not to be white in the world we are creating,” Loury says. “How are there not white interests in a world where there are these other interests?”
The usual progressive response to Loury is that white solidarity is dangerous because whites as a group have the power to put their prejudices into practice. Racism is prejudice plus power and whites supposedly have both. Black and Hispanic solidarity is not dangerous because minority groups may have their prejudices but they don’t have the accompanying power. Moreover, the motives for minority collective associations are benign. In the progressive view, disadvantaged groups have a right to form in their desire to resist white oppression and white supremacy.
This argument, however, fails to consider the contemporary reality that minority interest groups are much more powerful than white nationalist groups. It’s not even close. Which group has more clout, the NAACP or the NAAWP? Black representatives in Congress have a Black Caucus, which does not hesitate to fight for explicitly black interests; where is the White Caucus that openly promotes white interests? Moreover, black and Latino nationalist groups have powerful allies in Hollywood and the media.
The white nationalists have none of this. They are shunned by both political parties and they have much less power to enforce discrimination in their favor than their black and Latino counterparts. While the old-style racism is now outlawed as a consequence of civil rights legislation, affirmative action – racial preferences against whites and in favor of blacks and other minorities – is currently the law of the land.
So marginalized are the white nationalist groups today that they are the ones who feel victimized. They are the ones who are branded as hate groups. Even most whites hate them! Their ideology is so controversial that on campus it sends students fleeing in search of safe spaces. “The only occasion on which it is acceptable for whites to speak collectively as whites,” Jared Taylor writes, “is to apologize.” Consequently, their racial solidarity, the white nationalists say, is a necessary response to being so besieged in mainstream culture.
Both Swain and Loury advocate that America move away from ethnic identity politics. Loury, in particular, calls for a “racially transcendent humanism being the American bedrock.” I am on board with this, but here I should say why white nationalists should not be expected to cheerfully go along.
It is all very well to tell them that politics ideally should not be structured along the lines of race or ethnicity. Their point is: It is. And as long as the Democratic Party mobilizes groups along ethnic lines, they are going to feel justified in doing as whites what every other group does in the name of its own ethnicity. Multiculturalism has come home to roost, and white nationalists are its newest advocates.
This article is adapted from Dinesh D’Souza’s new book “Death of a Nation,” published by St. Martin’s Press. His movie of the same title is in theaters nationwide.