A Progressive ‘Redneck Revolt’ Says Tackle Racism First Addressing our systems of white supremacy cannot be dismissed as “identity politics.”

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“Moved by the need for control, for an unchallenged top tier, the power elite in American history has thrived by placating the vulnerable and creating for them a false sense of identification—denying real class differences where possible.”
—Nancy Isenberg, White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America

There is no shortage of media commentary discrediting “identity politics,” particularly the focus on Black, Latinx, LGBTQ, and immigrant communities calling for justice and equity. Economics is our real problem, a counter argument goes, not race, sex, gender, citizenship. But as author Nancy Isenberg points out in White Trash, “identity has always been a part of politics.”

Laws have been written to oppress and exploit particular identities—Native Americans, Black Americans, Asians, homosexuals, transgender, and women—in a successful effort to maintain a system of White supremacy. Yet, members of these communities have worked for the rights and equality of everyone. In turn, White allies have joined in these anti-racism fights.

The Redneck Revolt is one such organization. The self-described anti-capitalist, anti-racist, anti-fascist group challenges working-class White people to stand against White supremacy.

I recently talked to Brett, one of the members who heads up the network’s Southeast Michigan Chapter. (Because of hostilities toward the organization, Redneck Revolt members use only their first names publicly.) There are about 40 chapters nationwide. He explained why the group focuses on anti-racism rather than economics even though it seeks out white working-class and poor people in economically struggling rural areas.

The interview has been condensed and lightly edited.

Zenobia Jeffries: What is the significance of the name Redneck Revolt? Why did the name change from the John Brown Gun Club?

Brett: They’re two sides of the same coin. We have some branches that are still the John Brown Gun Club. Our national network is Redneck Revolt.

Redneck Revolt chapters like ours in Michigan here primarily focus on outreach, and winning hearts and minds, counter recruitment, showing up, being present, being allies, being where we need to be to show our community support.

Whereas, John Brown Gun Club pretty much only deals with the firearm aspect of things. It deals with a lot of tactical training, a lot of information security-type stuff.

Jeffries: Can you give an example of what you mean by “changing hearts and minds.” What does that look like?

Brett: A really great example would be back in June. The ACT for America folks did an anti-sharia law march. Redneck Revolt was there. We were on one side of the barricades along with a slew of other leftist organizations. On the other side of the barricades were Proud Boys, Vanguard America, and a hodgepodge of other alt-right groups. But one of the most prominent was the Michigan Liberty Militia, which is famously racist and famously exclusionary.

Toward the end of the demonstration, this one older gentleman—he was an older White man up at the barricade with all the gear on, and armed—had his rifle. One of my members and [I] went up to this guy and were like, “I understand mixing state and religion is not good. Nobody here wants to mix state and religion, nobody is protesting that. [But] it’s clearly anti-Muslim. This protest is against Muslims.

“Furthermore, it’s against all people of color because this neighborhood [is] first-generation Somali, first-generation people from sub-Saharan Africa who are fleeing abject poverty and warfare, starvation, disease. So how can you be in this neighborhood and be like, ‘This is what America stands for’?

“Not only that, if you look to your left and right, those kids with the sun wheel on their shields, and the eagle on their shirts, those guys are self-described, literal Nazis. We fought a war about this. I thought we were all in unanimous agreement that Nazis are bad.”

And this guy he kind of started tearing up, and he was like, “You know, I’ll tell you, my dad died in World War II in Europe fighting Nazis.” And he goes, “This really has given me [something to think about]. You know I may not agree with everything you say. But associating myself like this has really given me pause, and has really made me think about what I’m doing here.”

We don’t expect anybody to walk away from someplace where we’re counter-recruiting waving the red flag of revolution. But if we can at least pull them out of that mindset, that’s a win for us.

Jeffries: One of the things I find fascinating about Redneck Revolt is that your primary focus is organizing working-class Whites, yet you center race and anti-racism in the work that you do. So many are putting the focus on the economy, and calling anti-racism work “identity politics.” How did you all decide that you wanted to focus on White supremacy—that it is just as much of a problem for working-class Whites as for people of color?

Brett: Our stance is that our entire capitalist system is built on a bedrock of White supremacy, and as White folks we have access to spaces that people of color don’t. So we try to exploit the spaces and put ourselves in those positions to reach the White working class because it’s like the old IWW [Industrial Workers World] saying, “If we don’t get to them first, the Klan will.”

And we understand that if there’s going to be any kind of serious discourse about dismantling capitalism, about building the new world from the ashes of the old, as they say, that description can’t be had until the underlying issue of racism is addressed.

That’s why [we] don’t engage law enforcement. We believe law enforcement is an extension of the old slave catchers.

We don’t engage with anything that reinforces the current system that basically is built on White supremacy. We go to great lengths to dismantle that system and empower people to help us do that, but at the same time using the spaces that we have access to, to get other people to see that.

And I believe that a lot of people we speak to may generally not be racist in a conventional sense. But they’re certainly benefitting from the system of White supremacy that has been built. They’re not doing anything to actually help dismantle it.

So, that’s kind of the message that we try to bring across. Nobody is saying [to them], “You’re like burning crosses, you’re actively racist.” But you have to acknowledge that … as a White person in America, you are benefitting from White supremacy.

So, in order to address capitalism, in order to address economics, the issue of systemic racism first has to be addressed.

Jeffries: I would imagine that when you’re in those spaces, and saying what you’re saying, that people respond, “But Black people are racist, too.”

Brett: Yes, we get that a lot.

For an example, I was talking to a gentleman the other day. He was like, “Blacks have a whole month. They have Black History Month, where we do nothing but celebrate Black history. Blacks have their own channel. People would be up in arms if we had a White Entertainment Television.” And that’s the kind of thing we get most often.

What I say, first of all, is there is no such thing as White culture—that’s a myth.

Secondly, we do celebrate White holidays: Oktoberfest, St. Patrick’s Day, arguably Columbus Day. Not to mention our entire society is [tilted toward] celebrating Whiteness. What I try to tell people is, Look at your ancestors. Most White people can point to a single village. I’ll use myself as an example. I can point to a single village in Sweden. I know exactly where my people are from. That’s why I take a lot of pride in my Scandinavian heritage.

Whereas with Black folks—and other people of color, but especially Black folks—the reason they celebrate Black culture is because their culture, everything Blacks had, was ripped away from them when they were taken from Africa. So that’s why it’s celebrated; that’s why it’s important.

Because it’s the counter narrative to hundreds of years of systemic murder, oppression, just brutal slavery. That’s why we celebrate Black culture, because that’s all most folks have.

The conversation we have to have is how can we look at ourselves and say, “I’m benefitting from this culture that has been built to only make sure people that look like me get the advantage.”

And, obviously, the topic of privilege comes up, and most White folks will deny that they have White privilege. They’ll say things like, “I pulled myself up by my bootstraps” or “My grandfather started his own business.”

It’s hard to get people out of that mindset.

[We] start explaining to them that “I’m sure your grandfather was a hardworking man, I’d never doubt that he was. But the fact that he was able to do that, and given that opportunity, I can promise you that postwar United States, a Black man applying to that same position definitely would not have gotten it.”

Jeffries: Along the lines of the “I pulled myself up by my bootstraps” mindset, I’m sure you also get folks who say, “Why should we poor and working-class Whites care about what’s happening to Blacks and other people of color when we’re struggling, too?” Especially, when the issue of crime is brought up.

Brett: We get a lot of reactionary questions, and it keeps us on our toes. But it makes our practice better. What we try to explain is that Black communities have their own set of problems just as other communities have their set of problems.

The difference is White communities have the support of the state. For example, [when] a Black family moves into a primarily White neighborhood, then the housing values tend to go down. So what happens? The state intervenes and then makes the price of housing so high that then that Black family has to leave. That’s one example of how the state supports White supremacy. I’ve given that example a whole lot, and it tends to resonate with people.

I have the clarity to understand that I am a college-educated [man] … who’s had uncountable numbers of opportunities thrown my way because I’m White. And given the same circumstances with a young Black man, that most certainly would not have happened. That’s what I try to explain: that people of color in the United States categorically do not have the same opportunities as White folks. Even if you are poor, which a lot are.

But there are systems in place to make sure that I succeed. There are systems in place that make sure that my Black counterpart does not. And it’s designed that way.

Until we as White folks can recognize collectively that we are benefitting from a system of oppression, then economics is secondary, or tertiary at best. There is no point in talking about economics when the only people affected by these economics are White people.

Jeffries: I’ve read some articles stating that Redneck Revolution doesn’t have a political ideology. While you may not align yourselves with the status quo parties of Democrat or Republican, your actions and principles are very much political. How do you describe your politics?

Brett: We’re broadly on the left. We’re what’s called a “big tent” organization. We’re overwhelmingly anarchists, but we have some communists in our ranks, we have some capitalist Democrats, progressives, and Republicans, believe it or not. I mean, we have people from all political stripes.

That being said, we do understand there’s not going to be any grand revolution tomorrow. But the best thing that we can do short of a revolution is revolutionary change. We believe that revolutionary change comes in the form of dismantling the system of White supremacy that exists.

Jeffries: What is the end goal of Redneck Revolt?

Brett: Part of it is dismantling White supremacy. Another part of it is creating spaces inside of communities [where we can] help people not rely on the state. We help to create and encourage radical spaces that encourage things like mutual aid and direct action, as opposed to relying on the state for whatever means.

For example, we’re working very closely with the IWW, one of the oldest radical unions in the country. They have a soup kitchen in Detroit where they distribute food and clothes every second and fourth Sunday in Cass Park. They’ve been doing it since 1996, or something like that. We’re trying to build a sustainable model like that close to Ypsilanti [in Michigan], especially with the winter months coming up. There’s another organization called the Michigan People of Defense, who do a lot of street medic training. There are a lot of us, including myself, who have military experience. I’m a combat lifesaver, so I have skills I can teach people.

People get hung up on the firearms thing, but we also believe that it’s very important for the working class to be armed. We also understand that that puts people of color at a very high risk. So we try to put ourselves at the tip of the spear, so that way we can teach people the knowledge that we have. We can show them safe operation of firearms. How to use them, how to safely handle them.

In [one community], there are a bunch of Hammerskins [a White supremacist group]. They basically patrol the neighborhood, and we have people of color over there who are in fear for their lives, and they’ve been reaching out to Redneck Revolt to help show them to use firearms.

We’ve taken proactive steps, and if a community needs us, they know they can call on us, and in a heartbeat we’ll be there to help in any capacity that we’re able.

The big point is building mutual aid, radical spaces inside of existing communities to not have to rely on the state, and while doing that trying to dismantle the system of White supremacy.

We think that by doing that, one kind of complements the other.

Jeffries: Was the Trump campaign for the presidency the catalyst for Redneck Revolt?

Brett: We were already around, it’s just people didn’t know about us. And that’s probably one of the problems that we face, is that people don’t know we exist. And I want to say it’s our own fault, but we do things very intentionally.

We don’t have much of a social media presence, and we do that on purpose because we have no interest in getting bogged down in spam wars on the internet. If you have a legitimate critique of our practices, meet us in the streets, tell us what we’re doing wrong. And if your idea is better, then we’ll incorporate your idea. That’s the way we operate.

We feel like we’re an organization that is meant to be in the streets with the people doing things, making differences in people’s lives, not sitting behind a keyboard crying about capitalism.

You can be any [ideology] you want. If you agree with the fact that capitalism is a system of oppression, and that system of oppression is largely held up by White supremacy, and you’re willing to dismantle that system, then welcome aboard.

Jeffries: What would be your message to the middle and upper-middle classes, to so-called elite/progressive/liberal Whites who dismiss rural poor and working-class Whites simply as Trump supporters?

Brett: The major issue is getting them to come out of their bubble of comfort. They hear the word “redneck” and they don’t see it through the [same] lens that we do.

The word redneck has always been used pejoratively, but we don’t see it that way. We look at our grandfathers, great-grandfathers, and great-great-grandfathers and understand why they were called rednecks. You look back at the Harlan County wars, and those folks would wear bandanas to keep the sun off their necks, and that’s where the term redneck comes from. We embrace that term, and say, “Yeah, that’s who we are. We’re working-class people who are out in the streets.”

If you can take the blinders off, you’ll see that … your comfort is still built on a system of White supremacy. Your comfort and the things that you’re enjoying are a byproduct of 150 years of working-class struggle. If you like the weekends, thank a union man. You like your 40-hour work week, you like that there are no kids slaving in textile factories, thank a union worker.

It’s working-class people who brought those changes. It wasn’t [the] middle-class bourgeois who brought that change. It was working-class people out fighting in the streets. That’s who we are, that’s what we do.

By Zenobia Jeffries / Yes! Magazine

Posted by The NON-Conformist


The Language of White Supremacy Narrow definitions of the term actually help continue the work of the architects of the post-Jim Crow racial hierarchy.

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Who or what is a white supremacist, exactly? The raging debate has resembled nothing so much as a classical ontological discourse on categorization. Are white supremacists considered so because they consider themselves so? Does one become a white supremacist by more Aristotelian means, expressing a certain number of categories of being—or swastika tattoos? Or is the definition something more slippery and subtle?

The language of white supremacy has become increasingly central to understanding the argument over the broad currents of Donald Trump’s ascendancy. Long before ESPN anchor Jemele Hill famously referred to Trump as a white supremacist on Twitter, the questions of just who is a white supremacist, and just what white supremacy is, have dominated the analysis of how he came into power, and what that power means.

Hill’s comments came as part of the general response to an essay from my colleague Ta-Nehisi Coates, one in which Coates says that Trump’s “ideology is white supremacy, in all its truculent and sanctimonious power.” The bent of that essay is that whiteness—and in turn white supremacy—uniquely buoyed Trump’s candidacy, and that he has in turn openly wielded those energies to capture support and lead. Hill’s summation seemed to complete the square of that argument: “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself with other white supremacists.” In this argument, white supremacy is framed as a broad concept, one where wielding racism or benefitting from it, even in its subtler forms, earns one the mark.

Opposition to this framing has varied, from conservatives who decry a tendency of liberals to see the hidden hand of racism in gosh darn everything, to those on the left who feel Coates downplays materialist analysis and unduly elevates Trump’s danger above that of other racist presidents. But one of the thought-provoking sets of analyses comes from those who roughly agree with Coates that Trump’s primary appeal has been racial—perhaps, racist—but disagree with labeling his ideology as “white supremacy” or with Hill’s assertion that he is an obvious white supremacist.

There are several shades of gray to those objections, but a column from Jonathan Chait in New York sums them up best. Chait does not agree with an expansive definition of white supremacy that would capture say David Duke, Steve Bannon, and Donald Trump, writing that “to flatten the language we use to describe different kinds of right-wing politics is to bludgeon our capacity to make vital distinctions.” Chait sees this labeling as a kind of language creep that in casting a wide net simultaneously cheapens some of America’s cherished institutions and in turn might tend to encourage radical acts against them.

This criticism of a broad definition of white supremacy isn’t new. Last November, Mother Jones’s Kevin Drum decried the “faddish term” wielded against members of the left and the right, and placed the genesis of that connotation with Coates himself. Jesse Singal, also of New York, and a frequent interlocutor of mine, tweeted yesterday expressing concern about the flexibility of the term as used by activists. “Don’t understand the utility of labeling a huge swath of things ‘white supremacist’ or ‘Nazi’ that simply aren’t,” Singal said. Our resultant conversation is threaded on Twitter and became the genesis of this essay.

To perhaps unfairly flatten these three arguments, which constitute the best of this school of objection, they tend to agree that the modern expansive definition of white supremacy is, well, modern. But that proposition is limited. The school of critical race theory, championed by scholars such as bell hooks, has been around in academic circles for at least 30 years, and its definition of white supremacy has long animated black activism. To quote scholar Frances Lee Ansley (taken here from a passage from David Gillborn, also, a critical-race-theory scholar):

“By ‘white supremacy’ I do not mean to allude only to the self-conscious racism of white supremacist hate groups. I refer instead to a political, economic and cultural system in which whites overwhelmingly control power and material resources, conscious and unconscious ideas of white superiority and entitlement are widespread, and relations of white dominance and non-white subordination are daily reenacted across a broad array of institutions and social settings.”

The provenance of that definition of white supremacy does not alone guarantee its usefulness, and 30 years is still relatively new in the academia-to-modern parlance frame. Also, as my colleague Conor Friedersdorf noted last November, the critical-race-theory definition could very well be “the vernacular of a tiny, insular subculture,” one which is contested and has not reached the level of consensus.

But the idea of critical-race-theory’s insularity is belied by its deep communion with widely-read titans of black intellectual thought. James Baldwin’s work did nothing if not tend towards the idea of “white supremacy” as a collective effort that went well beyond the work of self-avowed members of hate groups, and his 1980 essay in Esquire titled “Dark Days” crystalized that tendency. “To be white was to be forced to digest a delusion called white supremacy,” Baldwin wrote. In that essay, which itself was written in parallel with the nascence of critical race theory, Baldwin ties the very concept of whiteness to white supremacy.

Lest Baldwin be counted along with Frantz Fanon and Malcolm X as more radical “fringe” voices on the topic of white supremacy, the idea of white supremacy as a shared culture has been floated by many of the establishment voices of the civil-rights-movement, including none other than Martin Luther King, Jr. In his 1967 book Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, which is itself concerned with hope and building interracial solidarity, King wrote that  “the doctrine of white supremacy was imbedded in every textbook and preached in practically every pulpit. It became a structural part of the culture,” one that persisted to the present day.

“However much it is denied, however many excuses are made, the hard cold fact is that many white Americans oppose open housing because they unconsciously, and often consciously, feel that the Negro is innately inferior, impure, depraved and degenerate,” King wrote. “It is a contemporary expression of America’s long dalliance with racism and white supremacy.”

King saw that white supremacy was a structural pillar of America equally important to democracy itself. In that work, King also analyzed “white backlash” not as an insurgency responding to proximate political factors or politicians, but as a visceral, enduring autonomous response guided by white supremacy. In other words, King used “white supremacy” in a way that might have seen him scolded today, by many who do the scolding in his name.

The example of King is important, because a funhouse-mirror view of his philosophy tends to dominate the modern liberal view of race. King was famously conciliatory—in 1964 he refused to call Barry Goldwater “racist,” instead settling on saying the candidate “articulates a philosophy which gives aid and comfort to the racist,”  a restraint that even many modern journalists might not have—but in his late life he often dealt with the effects of that conciliation, and with an advancing conspiracy that would eventually consume him. By the time of his death, the country had turned on King. And one major driver was a concerted effort among conservatives to take “white supremacy” and flip it on its head, and to gaslight black activism.

Chait mentions that subversion, noting that “political appeals to racism had to use some level of symbolic remove” after the civil-rights movement, but his treatment doesn’t quite do justice to the musculature of the effort. The repackaging of Jim Crow into a “race neutral” set of policies didn’t just arise as a wink-and-a-nod deal in southern political backrooms a few years near the end of the civil-rights movement, but was a half-century-long project forged by thousands of lawyers and mainstream political leaders that costs millions of dollars, and was played out in every arena across the country from the Supreme Court to town hall meetings.

A recent investigation in the New York Times Magazine by Nikole Hannah-Jones illustrates how this process took shape in the court room arms race over education after 1954’s Brown v. Board, but similar neutralization occurred in housing policy, public health, criminal justice, and voting rights. Richard Rothstein’s recent book The Color of Law in particular is a primer in the ways that even the least sophisticated white political actors moved away from explicitly racist and even subtly racist justifications for their laws to escape the scrutiny of watchful courts.

Correspondingly, as new policies intersected with public opinion and genuine policy victories won by the civil-rights movement, expressing racism became gauche, and then taboo. That taboo itself crystallized a self-conceptualization of whiteness as innately anti-racist. In turn, charges of racism themselves became epithets, and the mantle of white supremacy was relegated only to the ranks of those white folks foolish or ideological enough not to abide by the taboo. As both Chait and Drum implicitly outline in their work, now the only way to be identified as a white supremacist is to say you are one.

It goes without saying that this realignment almost exclusively benefitted white supremacists, who did not suddenly die with the passage of the Voting Rights Act. In no small bit of class warfare, whites who most often carried out direct violence in white supremacy’s name took the heat, giving space to the white men in suits who did their work quietly with litigation and city-planning maps. Those people of color who critiqued white supremacy were cemented as malcontents and agitators, themselves racists or “race-baiters” who sought to exploit white guilt to upend American racial harmony.

The development of critical race theory and its definition of white supremacy strike me as a reaction against that post-King status quo. The idea of “white privilege” came about not as a mid-aughts term for Tumblr teens, but during that reaction as a way to identify the latent benefits of white supremacy during a time when white liberals, moderates, and conservatives alike promoted a fiction of progress that denied their collective benefit from it, and to recover the language of responsibility lost in the mainstream with King’s death.

Additionally, calling out white supremacy and calling people white supremacists functioned as a provocation. The provocation necessarily came from a tiny, insular group of people—as the rest of the country had convinced itself that white supremacy was a grievously offensive slander. That provocation has been continued by today’s black activists, who often see themselves not as mere instruments in building big tents under the status quo, but as awakening people to the reality that the status quo is still white supremacy. Thus, their provocation appears designed to probe and assault consensus, an endeavor that always risks enraging people who are part of that consensus.

The media likewise should not be merely a mirror of consensus; rather it should challenge groupthink any time it runs up against truth. And if consensus is that white supremacy is a thing that only exists in the hate-group fringe, that claim should be held in skepticism against the reality that many of the racial outcomes—income gaps, housing and education segregation, police brutality, and incarceration—of the era of naked white supremacy persist, or have even worsened. And when it comes to Trump, or any other politician for that matter, the knee-jerk consensus reaction that a mainstream politician cannot possibly be a white supremacist should be balanced with the truth that many or most American politicians have been, and that they were voted in by real Americans, many of whom are alive, well, and voting today.

These demands are difficult to square in today’s polarized, litigious environment. But, to counter Chait, while a more expansive view of white supremacy in media’s contemplation of politics may seem to “flatten” political discourse, perhaps the difficulty here is facing the possibility that things might actually be flat. Politics might actually be trapped in the black box of white supremacy, and people very well might be on a historical treadmill, fighting the fights their parents fought, and maybe losing. If that version of reality is true, then the panic brought on by that flattened language might be justified.


Posted by The NON-Conformist

Mississippi man takes Confederate flag fight to high court

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A black Mississippi citizen is taking his case against the state’s Confederate-themed flag to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In papers filed Wednesday, attorneys for Carlos Moore said lower courts were wrong to reject his argument that the flag is a symbol of white supremacy that harms him and his young daughter by violating the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection to all citizens.

His attorneys wrote that under the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling against Moore, “a city could adopt ‘White Supremacy Forever’ as its official motto; or a county could incorporate an image of white hooded figures and a noose hanging from a tree into its county seal; or a state could incorporate a Nazi swastika, as an endorsement of Aryan/white supremacy, in its state flag.”

Mississippi’s is the last state flag to feature the Confederate battle emblem. Critics say the symbol is racist. Supporters say it represents history.

Mississippi has used the flag since 1894, displaying its red field and tilted blue cross dotted with 13 white stars in the upper left corner. Voters kept it in a 2001 election.

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What is “white supremacy”? A brief history of a term, and a movement, that continues to haunt America

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First in a series: The term gets thrown around carelessly, but the history of this ideology is long and tangled

What is "white supremacy"? A brief history of a term, and a movement, that continues to haunt AmericaA member of the Ku Klux Klan in Hampton Bays, New York on November 22, 2016 (Credit: Getty/William Edwards)

We must secure the existence of our people and the future of White children. — David Lane’s 14-word creed.

Hardly any concept is thrown around as carelessly these days as “white supremacy.” It has become the go-to term of condemnation, applied as loosely as “fascism,” with similar ramifications in terms of lack of clarity. Are all white supremacists separatists, and are all separatists supremacists? Is anti-Semitism (and, more recently, Islamophobia) always a part of white supremacy? Are white supremacists interested in combating government or taking it over for their own ends? Are all white supremacists violent, or do some value peaceful means of attaining their aims? Are all white supremacists even Christians? If they’re not, then how does religious diversity accommodate the overall principles of white supremacy?

Getting a grip on the real meaning of white supremacy allows us to be clear about essential questions of behavior and policy. To what extent has white supremacy infiltrated mainstream political parties and actors, and how might this back-and-forth influence be addressed? What is the general set of beliefs under which white supremacy operates, and have those beliefs changed over time or remained constant? What is the actual power and strength of white supremacy, and are groups of people entering or exiting the movement in ways we can measure and understand? Finally, if we’re clear about the meaning of white supremacy, we can then legitimately ask how white supremacy is or is not a product of the values we all share, regardless of our stated opposition to this ideology.

Short of these clarifications, white supremacy (like the term “hate”) simply becomes an abstraction that perpetuates the very dynamics of injustice and tyranny that progressives claim to abhor. If we define the concept too broadly, then the attack on all of our civil liberties is likely to be too great. If we define the concept too narrowly, then we absolve liberal institutions for their responsibility.

White supremacy is and always has been in a deep symbiotic relationship with our structures of government, and with our theoretical beliefs going back to the American Revolution and even before. Both sides — the supremacists and their opponents — seem to need each other in equal measure in order for the tense dynamic to continue playing out. If white supremacy is truly the threat it’s made out to be, if it really poses a revolutionary challenge to the foundations of the existing order, then we cannot at the same time pursue ambiguous or half-hearted measures, such as delegating surveillance functions to watchdog groups that may have their own private interests in mind. If white supremacy is as rampant as liberal analysis currently makes it out to be, then how is it that white supremacists continue to feel embattled and victimized, excluded from permitted discourse in the way of pariahs and outlaws? To what extent does liberalism itself turn white supremacists into heroes?

In future essays I will take on in detail some central issues, such as the extent to which mainstream American political parties have borrowed from and adapted to white supremacy and continue to do so, the degree to which stylistically and substantively the “alt-right” movement differs from the known content of white supremacy throughout its 20th-century struggle with modernity, and the most effective and ethical ways to handle white supremacy as a polity committed to tolerance and freedom of discourse. For now, I’m interested in setting the stage for later discussion by highlighting what seem to me some of the least understood dimensions of white supremacy in America today.

The continuities go back to our very origins

White supremacy obviously means the belief that the white race is unambiguously superior, so we must be careful in leveling the charge because most people who are called that don’t fit the definition. It is a difficult ideal to live up to. Once the protagonist defines what the “white race” is, then a set of inescapable dilemmas follow from that: What to do about the necessarily inferior races that the white race is set against? Should there be cohabitation or separation, and what degree of rights should be extended to nonwhites, both in the white homelands and in the native countries of nonwhites already living separately? Does the white race believe in a religion or political ideology that is universalistic, and if so how can the inferior races be accommodated while being philosophically consistent? Is the white race obligated to exterminate other races as the eventual goal?

Defining what is white is not so easy as it might seem at first glance. In the age of Enlightenment, as the American republic was being founded, there was a lot of struggle with the definition, as both racist ideologues and liberal universalists parried back and forth with different classifications. Races were categorized in both America and Europe with an eye to delineating Aryanism and its origins. What exactly were the differences between Teutons, Anglo-Saxons, Celts and other identifiably white people, and did they all originate in the Caucasus? What happens to the white race in the context of intermarriage? Does it become stronger, by assimilating the inferior race, or weaker, by diluting the gene pool?

One of the earliest manifestations of white supremacism in this country, to which all later manifestations harken back in some way, was the Anti-Masonic Movement of the early 19th century. The Illuminati (adopting the vehicle of the Masons) were seen to be instigating forms of elitism that deprived the common white people of economic power. This crisis of suspicion and anxiety was to end in the renewal and reshaping of the American party system, with Andrew Jackson as our first populist president, but the yearning to purge the body politic of polluting elements became a constant. The Anti-Masonic Movement wasn’t just an economic struggle, it had an indispensable racial component as well (targeting Jews and Catholics), as has been true of supremacist movements since then.

White attitudes toward blacks, in terms of institutionalizing slavery, were not always as rigid as they became during the course of the 19th century in America. When the colonies were first being settled, blacks were closer in status to white indentured servants. However, as the Enlightenment went on in subsequent centuries, categorization of the races became a central taxonomic venture, and this in due course had its effect in sharpening racial attitudes. The discourse about the black race (and to a lesser extent Native Americans) hardened during the 19th century. At the onset of the last big wave of imperialism at the end of the 19th century, fantastic new theories about the Aryan race and its others started proliferating throughout Europe and America.

Just how special is the “Aryan race,” and why does it have to be so?

Imperialism is difficult to justify without assertions of racial supremacy. So whenever we encounter an upsurge of white supremacy, we are probably also dealing with the natural consequences of imperialism. In Germany in the late 19th century, all sorts of mythologies of Aryan superiority manifested in music, fiction, philosophy and the arts, often expressed in an occult manner. The music of Richard Wagner is said to have reflected this, just as in a debased way contemporary Black Metal articulates its own aesthetic of supremacy. German theorists in the early 20th century found a lot of affinity with the caste system in India, with its occupational stratification according to skin color, and many scholars suggested that the original colonizers of India were the same Aryan race that over time had become diluted to near-blackness. It was this tragic fate, following miscegenation, that German thinkers were keen to avoid for the present era.

In America too, with the onset of the Spanish-American War and other imperial ventures, a scientific racism, using and abusing Darwin’s ideas, began to flourish. The coming of Adolf Hitler, in the midst of the rising popularity of eugenics and other pseudo-sciences, could not have been more timely for American racists who saw him as the avatar to fight the dark age. Various Hitler-worshipping groups formed in the 1930s, such as the German American Bund, but under pressure of wartime censorship and patriotism they didn’t last.

In Europe, meanwhile, with the coming to power of the Nazi regime, ever more fantastic interpretations of Ariosophy proliferated. Savitri Devi (real name Maximiani Portas) lived in India, married a famous Indian yogic teacher and synthesized, like so many esoteric scholars of her time, whatever myths of racial superiority she could find in the Orient with the homegrown Teutonic versions. Sometimes these myths posed the Hyperborean origin of Aryans, sometimes they suggested that the Aryans came from the three sunken continents (one being Atlantis), and sometimes they suggested the race’s extraterrestrial genesis. Later in the century, the Chilean diplomat and author Miguel Serrano continued Devi’s speculations in his many books, speculating that the Nazis continue living underneath Antarctica, and heavily implicating UFOs in the fate of the Aryan race.

When George H. W. Bush pronounced the inauguration of the New World Order in the wake of the first Gulf War in 1991, he kick-started the most prominent white supremacist group of the 1990s, the militia movement, with its links to various strains of American white supremacy, from Christian Identity to Posse Comitatus — although the militia movement (which is more aptly called the Patriot movement) cannot be reduced to any of these. Just as the founding of the various American Nazi movements in the 1950s was deeply connected to the onset of the national security state in the wake of the cold war, the various movements that burgeoned in the 1990s are inextricably linked to the forms of imperialism typical of the post-Cold War era. The gains that liberal humanism perceives are often insuperable losses for white supremacists.

Who are the founding fathers and do they still matter?

It was only after the end of World War II, when McCarthyism reigned strong and the world became sharply divided between the capitalist and communist camps, that the founders of the American white supremacist movement of the second half of the 20th century came into their own, among whom we may count the following luminaries.

Francis Parker Yockey, who worked as an attorney at the Nuremberg war crimes trials, grew disenchanted with American attitudes toward Europe, and wrote what supremacists to this day consider a magisterial tome. He wrote “Imperium: The Philosophy of History and Politics,” a 600-plus page Spenglerian analysis of race decline as caused by the “culture-disrupters” (the Jews), in 1947 in Ireland, allegedly in six months. Yockey committed suicide when he was arrested for passport violations in 1960, but not before meeting Willis Carto, founder of the Liberty Lobby (terminated 2001), in jail, and authorizing Carto to publish “Imperium.”

Carto was a central intellectual figure in the white supremacist movement, publishing the influential journal Right and then Spotlight, and also founding the Institute for Historical Review, which until 2002 published the Journal of Historical Review, the leading journal of Holocaust revisionism.

Carto was inspired by George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the American Nazi Party and a strong presence in the early 1960s, who was mysteriously assassinated in 1967. He was seen as the next Führer, and articulated as much in his book “White Power.” Also in the early 1960s, the Minutemen, a forerunner of the 1990s militia movement, had their heyday under Robert Bolivar dePugh. Meanwhile, the John Birch Society (JBS) remained strong, although it had an increasingly antagonistic relationship with mainstream conservatism, with William F. Buckley of National Review excommunicating Robert Welch, the JBS’ founder, for being too extremist. Unlike, say, the American Nazi Party, the JBS did not seem invested in overt anti-Semitism, but Buckley and other conservatives found it too unsavory nonetheless.

Certainly, for establishment conservatives someone like Richard Butler, founder of Aryan Nations, was entirely outside the pale, with a message of unabashed anti-Semitism and a strong desire to reclaim the American homeland for whites, with either repatriation or extermination awaiting nonwhites. The headquarters of Aryan Nations, the fabled Hayden, Idaho, compound, was a nexus for many strains of white supremacy during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Often at conclaves scattered around the Mountain West, different supremacist groups would come together to discuss strategy, particularly in the wake of government action leading to arrest or death. It was at one of these conferences that the idea of “leaderless resistance” took hold in the early 1990s, because it was felt that any central organization would be easily infiltrated and neutralized by government, as indeed was the case.

Finally, if anyone can be considered an imaginative inspiration to white supremacists, it would have to be William L. Pierce, whose 1978 novel “The Turner Diaries“ (and his later book “Hunter“), inspired many militants, such as Timothy McVeigh, to commit acts of violence against what they considered the illegitimate government. Not surprisingly, when the leading Black Metal record label was in trouble, because of government action, it was Pierce who took it over as Resistance Records, which continues to this day despite Pierce’s death in 2002.

The social status of the founders and the followers

A number of these founders were well-educated, and worked in the industries associated with the rising military-industrial complex — Richard Butler was an aerospace engineer and Ben Klassen, founder of Church of the Creator, was an electrical engineer — and there was always a love-hate relationship with the conservative establishment. As mentioned, Buckley’s National Review took issue with the JBS, and with others as well when particular groups were seen to have crossed the line.

Yet we may conceive of white supremacy, as it has always been practiced in this country, as merely the exaggerated form of our official creed, and think of all the meanings this implies for social status. Obviously the libertarian dimension is highly pronounced in the Posse Comitatus and Patriot movements, but this draws on the suspicion of government in all its larger manifestations, from the Federal Reserve Bank to the IRS, that is a staple of more acceptable conservative thinking. The John Birch movement arose in response to McCarthyism (calling Eisenhower himself a tool of the communists), just as the Patriot movement of the 1990s arose in a dynamic relationship with post-Cold War globalization and the new forms of war that went with it.

If war inspired by illegitimate government was a collective endeavor, then how was the patriotic American to preserve individual liberty? How could the true American patriot’s existing social status be leveraged? It is not always a question of perceived inferiority, or status anxiety, and it would be a mistake to reduce white supremacy to those terms.

The social status of white supremacists has always been subject to interpretation. The same has recently been asked of Trump’s supporters: Were they dispossessed voters trying to reclaim lost economic and social rights, or were they privileged voters seeking to disbar others from gaining equality?

What we learn from history is that no easy generalizations are possible; white supremacism is pervasive to the extent that it can’t be isolated as a phenomenon. Some of the most intellectually respectable among our founding fathers were supremacists, as were many establishment scientists and philosophers in the 19th century. The second-era Ku Klux Klan, which at its peak in the 1920s could boast millions of adherents and real control over policy, had legions of followers in the middle and even aristocratic classes. The JBS attracted solid bourgeois citizens, with the stage set by McCarthyism, while the third-era KKK of the 1970s easily transformed, for the most part, into respectable White Citizens’ Councils (now the Council of Conservative Citizens) which bridged the gap with establishment Republicans in the wake of the George Wallace candidacy.

More recently, the Posse Comitatus, which believes in government at the county level and nothing beyond that, and which provoked great irritation during the farm crisis of the Reagan years by filing fictitious liens against IRS agents and other officials, drew sympathy from tax resisters and dissidents of every class. Even the Patriot movement of the 1990s drew from a wide mix of the population, from alienated veterans (such as Timothy McVeigh) to dispossessed workers in the industrial and agricultural heartland (the Michigan and Montana militias were among the strongest) to those with exaggerated fears of globalization. The differences in social status between followers of Pat Buchanan, Pat Robertson, William Pierce and now Donald Trump are simply not as clear-cut as we would like to believe.

Are they all Christians?

White supremacy is naturally attracted to versions of Christianity that reinforce the race narrative. The most extreme manifestation of this is the religion known as Christian Identity, which was popular among the different strains of extremists in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Likewise, various Nordic religions — going by the names of Odinism, Asatru and Wotansvolk in America — put the Aryan race at the center of the world, though they may often just be separatist and not inclined to violence.

Christian Identity grew from British Israelism (or Anglo-Israelism) of the 19th and early 20th centuries. This theology posited more than one seed of humankind, which seems to be another constant of racist thinking throughout the ages — seeing mankind as divided rather than a single species, the easier to set superior races against inferior ones. Adam and Eve are believed to be the forerunners of the white race, but Eve was seduced by the serpent to create the Jews — hence, the two-seed theory, meaning that the so-called “mud races” are fundamentally different from the progeny of Adam and Eve.

Christian Identity believes that the lost tribes of Israel are in fact the settlers of Britain and the Nordic countries, from where they went to America. Jesus was not a Jew but an Aryan, and it is one of the great calumnies of the Jews to claim him as one of their own. In America, Wesley Swift was a leading originator of this theology in the mid-20th century, from whom, via the Church of Jesus Christ, Christian, it was transmitted to Richard Butler of the Aryan Nations, turning Hayden, Idaho, into the center of this theology. As is usually the case with white supremacist circles, this led to close interchange and dissemination of Identity beliefs in various branches of the movement.

While it is true that Christian Identity despises Christianity for its weakness in allowing interracial mingling, and in cohabiting with the mud races whose only aim is to end the purity of the white race, the same disdain toward Christianity is also true of the neo-pagan Teuton religions, who look back to the Nazi regime for validation of the material success of their theology. The true religion of Aryans is said to be their ancestral one, rather than the imposition of enervating Christianity, and a plethora of mystical rites — using runes and symbols — reinforce separatist neo-pagan theology. There may be a question about the extent to which Odinists are supremacists — some in the Asatru religion believe that not only northern Europeans but all white people can claim paganism as their true religion — but there is little question about Odinism’s separatism.

In both Christian Identity circles (influencing in turn the Patriot movement) and among Odinists, the Pacific Northwest is often seen as the starting point for a regained homeland where neo-paganism can be practiced freely. Again, this theology returns the ordinary white person to the center of the moral universe, endowing him with an ingrained and undefeatable aristocracy. David and Katja Lane, and later their friend Ron McVan, ran the 14 Words Press to propagate Odinism. David continued his mission from jail, where he spent 22 years before his death in 2007 for his early 1980s militant role with the Brüder Schweigen — or Silent Order, or to insiders simply the Order.

Finally, it would be remiss not to return to the aforementioned Ben Klassen, founder of the World Church of the Creator (COTC), or Creativity, which was taken over by Matt Hale after Klassen’s suicide in 1993. Klassen’s many writings propagate a religion that verges on the naturist, advocating a macrobiotic diet (true of many incarnations of white supremacy) and a relationship to the environment that borrows something from the leftist version of it that we know better.

The grand narrative of contemporary white supremacy

In the broadest sense, white supremacy is a populist movement. The conspiracy for leftists is an elite-driven globalization that creates inequality and makes minorities and poor people suffer inordinately, whereas the conspiracy for white supremacists today is the New World Order that operates through a centuries-old chain of international bankers and is determined to end the purity of the white race. The logic in each instance — the conspiracy on the left and the right — is parallel, and leads to similar resentment of elites, who have access to special knowledge not available to the ordinary person. On the extreme right it is a mythology of battle and leverage, of heroism and valor, of Robin Hoods and dark cabals, of the Illuminati and Freemasons, of the heartland American values of liberty and individualism under assault by a globalist conspiracy to introduce monotony and conformism. In a way, the grand narrative is simply a much exaggerated version of yeoman values such as a founding father like Jefferson would have advocated.

As the reality of the industrialized economy throughout the 20th century eroded the possibility of independent freeholding such as was possible during 19th-century America and earlier, the grand narrative became more and more powerful in shaping imaginations. We can hardly claim that the emphasis on race is an innovation, because this was a constant throughout our history of oppression of Native Americans (were the Mathers and other New England luminaries of the 17th century any less racist than those we wish to condemn to perdition today?), African-American slaves, and then Catholic and Asian immigrants, except that each of America’s entanglements in foreign wars has provided increasing depth and circumstantial providence to the grand narrative.

I find it not coincidental that the KKK’s great rebirth came in the 1920s, after we had “won” World War I, and that the peak of Bircherism occurred in the 1950s, soon after we claimed victory in World War II. Each major war is seen to have been brought about by international conspiracy, leading to the progressive diminishment of the rights of white Americans. It is perhaps easier to condemn a government that has been taken over by a secret cabal (as set out in the influential “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” which were vigorously disseminated by Henry Ford, the leading founder of American industrialization, and which have in turn shaped the conspiratorial view of the Zionist Occupation Government, or ZOG, followed by those caught up in industrial decline) than to condemn our whole system of government, because to do the latter is to leave no way out, whereas to believe in a conspiracy is to set oneself up as a hero with a shot at salvation.

Are they just patriots in a besieged homeland?

Gordon Kahl, a member of the Posse Comitatus, became one of the leading martyrs of the white supremacist movement in the late 20th century, when he was killed in a fiery shootout in 1983. The Posse Comitatus, as noted earlier, does not recognize any jurisdiction larger than the county, and wishes to disobey federal functions such as taxation, banking, currency and all forms of regulation. The Posse is separatist, but not necessarily supremacist. It was during the farm crisis engendered by Ronald Reagan’s monetarist policies in the early 1980s that the Posse took off. Kahl refused to pay his taxes (for income of less than $10,000) time and time again, eventually leading to a bloody confrontation, despite the doubts of certain local officials in going after him. It’s possible to think of the Posse as an extremist manifestation of tax-resistance.

Robert Jay Mathews is probably the best-known martyr in the white supremacist pantheon. Allied with Aryan Nations, he decided to take matters to the next level by embarking on a revolutionary strategy of armed robberies and assassination of selected targets (such as Denver Nazi-baiting radio host Alan Berg, whom Mathews and his allies succeeded in killing). Caught after a major robbery of an armored car, Mathews met the same fate as Kahl, dying in a fiery shootout. Later, in the 1990s, the two most famous heroes of martyrology were Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and David Koresh at Waco, Texas, their families and supporters confronting extended standoffs ending in death.

I will take up the patterns of FBI dealings with white supremacists later, but we should note that the Posse Comitatus and the Patriot movement took hold in the midst of extreme economic crisis in the American Midwest. A sense of too much change (such as the urbanization and industrialization of the 1920s, or the reverse tendency of post-industrialization in the 1990s) brings out the white supremacist demons, but when there is an acute feeling of economic depression, as was the case during the 1980s and early 1990s, then the grand narrative becomes all the more important to explain why there aren’t enough jobs and why certain distant people seem to hold all the economic power. In this narrative, affirmative action is a form of reverse discrimination against whites, aimed at the core philosophy of individualism, and the economic crisis faced by white Americans is just a stepping stone to their extermination.

Concluding thoughts about problems of definition

Given the diversity of thought and strategy, is “white supremacy” still a useful term? Should we think about abandoning it altogether? Likewise, when it comes to “hate” (as in hate speech or hate crimes), is that even a valid concept, if we consider that the white supremacist grand narrative fundamentally rests on accusations of hate coming their own way? Does hate become a transmitter belt, in other words, where traffic between liberal opposition groups and white supremacist groups becomes increasingly abstract, strengthening both sides in equal measure?

More importantly, how can the various legacies of white supremacy be separated from populism, something to which liberals don’t have as much aversion? If we claim to be principled opponents of white supremacy, then what about the liberal universalist manifestations of white supremacy well into the 21st century, by way of our continuing wars (of compassion and liberation)?

Could it be that white supremacy, as I have described its substance here, actually ended for the most part around the turn of the millennium? Was the 1990s Patriot movement its last gasp? We know that the KKK was already in severe decline from the 1970s to the 1990s, with quite anemic membership, and we also know that the number of adherents of the various white supremacist movements discussed here, from Aryan Nations to the American Nazi Party and its successors, was minuscule in comparison to the overall population. But could it be that, with the death of many of the founders of the postwar white supremacist movement in the 1990s and early 2000s, white supremacy, of the kind that was rooted in 20th-century philosophies, has actually ended?

Certainly, white supremacy in some form continues, otherwise we wouldn’t have President Donald Trump. But is the heavily internet-reliant alt-right movement a continuation of the 20th century’s white supremacy movement, or a new thing altogether?

The intellectual leaders of white supremacy were very keen on computer technology and other means of mass communication. They were early users of computer bulletin boards in the 1980s. Their entire movement can be said to have been tract or pamphlet-based from the 1950s to the 1990s. They were good at getting the word out through videos, public-access cable shows and radio shows, and they were excited by the advent of the internet. But could it be that the internet has actually killed white supremacy?

Instead of separating themselves from society and dreaming of a white homeland in the Northwest, and eventually cleansing the rest of the country, and instead of mobilizing in discrete physical groups defined by leaderless resistance and coming up with creative strategies to fight the enemy ZOG — tactics borrowed from the more extreme manifestations of the New Left that the white supremacists adapted to great ability in the 1970s, 1980s and on into the 1990s — are white supremacists now irreparably fractured by living out a virtual fantasy life on the internet rather than adopting physical separation?

I suspect this is a strong possibility, and that a number of changes, particularly in the wake of 9/11, ended 20th-century white supremacy in fundamental ways, so that to continue to chase that particular enemy may be to fight a phantom war. It’s also interesting to note what happened to the neo-paganists, who seemed to be the wave of the future about 20 years ago, but whose presence does not seem to be palpable in the culture to the extent we might expect, given their esoteric appeal. Recent fears of a worldwide neo-Nazi “alliance” likewise seem to me to be overblown.

Where white supremacy is helpful is in understanding systems of thought that otherwise seem random or incoherent. If we consider the white supremacy grand narrative, then someone like Ron Paul makes a lot more sense as a white supremacist than a libertarian. This explains his animus against the Federal Reserve or the IRS, against globalization and immigration, and against various powers of the federal government that have become enshrined over the course of the 20th century. Paul, Pat Robertson and Pat Buchanan throughout the 1990s, and Donald Trump today, articulate positions that foreign policy analysts describe as “isolationist” or “protectionist” but are more correctly understood as assertions of white supremacy, as ways to protect the purity of the white race against the encroachments of global multiculturalism (which dilutes the white gene pool) and against the entanglements of foreign adventures seen as emanating from the ZOG conspiracy.

Government is occupied, in the grand sense, in all white supremacist thinking; many who come across as merely “loving” the white race, as the new protocol has it, and claim not to be supremacist in the sense of “hating” other races (former Louisiana Klansman David Duke follows this template), are bent on taking government back from the forces that are set on exterminating the white race. Many who believe in Aryans as the “chosen race” desire an imminent racial holy war (RaHoWa), a term first popularized by Ben Klassen, and in some of the people who have lately taken power at the highest levels we can detect this urge. And yet there are those who do not have political power and would be labeled as supremacists, who would claim their source of inspiration as the libertarian impulse in the American revolution.


Former Neo-Nazi Says It’s On White People To Fight White Supremacy

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“White people need to solve the problem of white supremacy.”

Christian Picciolini doing a Nazi salute outside the gates of Dachau, a former concentration camp in Nazi Germany, in 1992

As a 14-year-old in 1980s Chicago, Christian Picciolini was ripe for recruitment into a hate group: He was bullied, didn’t have a lot of friends and felt “abandoned” by his Italian immigrant parents who worked long hours.

One day, when he was standing in an alley smoking a joint, a car pulled up, and a man with a shaved head came out, pulled the joint out of his mouth and said:

“Don’t you know that’s what the Jews and the Communists want you to do to keep you docile?”

That man was Clark Martell, a national leader of the white supremacist skinhead movement. Martell’s history of violence, according to a 1989 Chicago Tribune article, included targeting LGBTQ people and people of color. He once attempted to burn down the house of a Latino family.

Picciolini was recruited into Martell’s neo-Nazi skinhead group in 1987, and when Martell ended up in prison a couple of years later, Picciolini took the helm.

“He made me feel powerful when I felt powerless, gave me family and a sense of purpose,” Picciolini told HuffPost. “I was a nobody kid people picked on for having a funny name ― and [a few years later] I was respected and powerful.”

“False power and false respect,” Picciolini added.

After having children, which Picciolini says challenged his “notions of identity, community and purpose,” he left the hate group in 1995.

Over a decade later, in 2009, he co-founded Life After Hate, a small nonprofit run entirely by former members of America’s radical far-right, dedicated to supporting those who have left, or are seeking to leave, hate groups in the U.S.

It’s the only organization of its kind in the country ― and it’s up against a growing problem: The number of hate groups in the U.S. has doubled in the last 10 to 15 years, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, and around 80 percent of those groups advocate white supremacist beliefs.

“People come to us because they know that we won’t judge them.”

Leaving a hate group isn’t easy. When a woman left his neo-Nazi group in 1989, Martell viciously beat her, according to the Tribune. He reportedly kicked her in the face and drew a swastika on the wall of her home in her blood. He was later arrested and sent to prison.

Life After Hate helps those who have left or are trying to leave extremism behind by providing them with an array of support services. The main tool of the Chicago-based group is a private online network, set up by and for former extremists, to provide them with a new, supportive community.

“People come to us because they know that we won’t judge them,” Picciolini told HuffPost. “As someone who understands their past, we give them a helping hand ― not focused on yesterday, but focused on today and tomorrow.”

Picciolini and his colleagues ― some of whom are social workers, all of whom are former extremists and have worked with psychologists to craft their nonprofit’s approach ― also travel the country to meet with members in person, to provide individualized support. They help connect members to local service providers, including therapy, job training and tattoo removal, to try to tackle the underlying drivers of their hate.

Picciolini says most people who come to them have experienced one of three things: trauma, unemployment or mental health issues.

“I listen for potholes ― or what deviated them from their normal path and led them down this one ― and try to find them services to help,” Picciolini said. “When you make people more resilient, self-sufficient and self-confident, they don’t have anyone to blame, and the ‘us against them’ ideology goes away.”

Privacy is paramount, so before they let anyone into their online group, they spend months chatting with them to make sure they’ve truly left extremism.

“We want to protect the people in the network,” Picciolini said. “It’s a safe place, not for someone vulnerable to going back ― and taking names with them.”

Life After Hate’s reach is relatively small: Its online group currently has 60 members. Some had already left extremism before they joined and were looking for community. Others are actively exiting hate groups.

For Picciolini, who recognizes their group is small compared with the problem of white supremacist hate, it’s all about helping people one by one.

“We reach one person at a time ― we know we can’t solve racism,” he said. “What I do know is I can affect the people closest to me. If everybody thinks that way ― with your coworkers, your friends ― it can change the world.”

“What changed us is when we received compassion from the people we least deserved it from.”

One key strategy the group uses to help people leave extremism behind is to facilitate in-person meetings between former extremists and members of groups they once discriminated against ― for instance, having a former Islamophobe meet an imam, or letting a onetime Holocaust denier talk with a survivor.

“As former extremists from the far right, what changed us is when we received compassion from the people we least deserved it from,” Picciolini said. “Often times they’ve never met a black person or had a meaningful conversation with a Muslim or Jewish person. I get them into a situation where they can sit and talk, and realize there are more things in common than differences.”

The strategy derives from “contact theory,” or the well-researched idea that contact with groups from different backgrounds can increase tolerance. It seems to have worked for certain high-profile extremists, such as former white nationalist Derek Black, who began leaving the movement after being invited to a series of Shabbat dinners by a Jewish fellow college student, and Life After Hate Deputy Director Angela King, who left the skinhead movement after being befriended by a group of Jamaican women in prison.

“That’s how most people get out,” expert Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center told HuffPost last month, adding that the work of reaching out to people from different backgrounds should not fall on people from marginalized groups.

“It shouldn’t be on the groups facing this,” Beirich said. “It’s on the rest of us.”

“We still don’t call it terrorism when it’s white extremism.”

Part of the reason there aren’t more groups like Life After Hate in the U.S. ― while other forms of organized violence, such as gangs and Islamist extremism, have long had programs and funding dedicated to tackling them ― is because Americans tend to ignore the realities of white supremacist violence, according to Beirich.

“There has been a general reluctance in this country to see white people as responsible for terrorism in some sort of organized way,” Beirich told HuffPost last month. “When people talk about white supremacist terrorism, they want to call it a one-off. He’s a crazy person. It’s like white people can’t handle the idea that there are devils in our midst.”

Since September 11, 2001, there have been 85 deadly extremist attacks in the United States, according to a recent Government Accountability Office report — 73 percent of the attacks were carried out by far-right extremist groups, compared to 27 percent by radical Islamist extremists.

Just a couple of months ago, Reuters reported that the Trump administration may alter the government’s counter-extremism program to focus solely on Islamist extremism. As a result, Life After Hate may lose $400,000 in funding that it had been awarded through the program in January under President Barack Obama, said Picciolini. The group hasn’t received the funds yet and doesn’t know if it will.

“We’re concerned about the policies of the new administration [indicating] that white extremism may not be an issue,” Picciolini said. “There really is no difference between what happened in Charleston with Dylann Roof and what happened in San Bernardino. They’re both terror attacks based on ideologies of extremism ― yet we still don’t call it terrorism when it’s white extremism.”

“The only difference between alt-right and what I was in then is packaging.”

Picciolini says that the recent rise of the so-called alt-right movement ― a white supremacist movement with young leadership, branding meant to appeal to millennials and a large online presence ― makes Life After Hate’s job harder.

“In the old days you could spot a skinhead a mile away ― now it’s harder in a virtual world. And they made the message more palatable, wear suits and ties, don’t shave their heads.

“The only difference between alt-right and what I was in then is packaging. It’s a marketing strategy: They just soften the edges.”

Since President Donald Trump’s election, Picciolini says, the number of requests that have come in to Life After Hate for support have grown ― from one to three requests per week to one to three per day. Most of these come from friends or family concerned that a loved one might be involved in extremism.

“White people need to solve the problem of white supremacy.”

It is not clear how well exit programs like Life After Hate work. Older exit programs in Europe, such as those developed for white supremacists in Sweden in the 1990s, have been criticized at times for “glorifying former extremists as ‘experts’” and not eliminating participants’ racism, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

But experts who have weighed in on Life After Hate consider it a useful contribution to the larger fight against white supremacism.

“Everything always has to be considered part of a larger toolbox,” Pete Simi, an author and expert on far-right extremists, said in an interview last year. “There’s never any program that’s ever going to be your catchall. But I think it is an important tool.”

SPLC’s Beirich, who has been studying white supremacism since 1999, told HuffPost last month that she sees Life After Hate as a solution.

“I don’t have anywhere to send a white supremacist if they come to me and start questioning the movement they’re involved in,” Beirich said. “Once you become a hard-core white supremacist, you lose all links to family and friends, there isn’t really a place for you to turn if you leave. I’m not trying to give anyone a pass, but if someone wants to get out of something bad, I want to help.”

A Life After Hate member echoed the need for more groups like it.

“There were years I was looking for a way out, and I didn’t have anywhere to turn,” former skinhead Logan Stewart told HuffPost. “It’s great support. Anything you need to talk about you can do that with them.”

For Picciolini, if there’s one thing that holds true when thinking of how to best tackle white supremacist hate, it’s this: The responsibility falls on white people.

“White people need to solve the problem of white supremacy,” Picciolini said. “It’s white people’s problem, we created it, and it’s a problem we need to fix.”

By Sarah Ruiz-Grossman

Posted by The NON-Conformist

The Stubbornness Of White Supremacy

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It is like a cancer that has metastasized. It allows itself to be “treated” in bouts, but then, it fires back up again. Why?

It is at once fascinating and troubling that white supremacy just will not go away.

A news story today said that the president, in the annual Easter Egg roll held at the White House, did not include or invite school children who attend D.C.’s public schools. Most of those children are African American. They were left out. White supremacy raised its head against the most innocent of human beings, yet again. It is a sore that is a part of our lives.

It is like a cancer that has metastasized. It allows itself to be “treated” by bouts of compassion and commitment to equity between races, but then, it fires back up, like the angry, malignant tumor that it is.

It is not a disease relegated to and isolated in these United States. No, this disease is all over the world, quieter, perhaps, in areas where there are not too many people of color, but present nonetheless. It began long ago, this notion of one people being “superior” to another. In the Roman Empire, the Romans made a distinction between themselves and those who were not like them; many who fit into the latter category were often called “barbarian.” Wes Howard Brook says in his book, Empire Baptized that people relegated as “different” were often those whose customs were regarded as being “peculiar.” Romans were apparently not fond of Jews, and relegated them to the “other” status, and were seen to be “beneath” Romans. There were apparently, by the time of the Roman Empire, “centuries old stereotypes” about Jews that Romans bought into. The stereotypes, writes Brook, “served to justify the superiority of Roman-ness.”

The sense persisted; the Pilgrims were said to embrace the notion of white supremacy and served to justify their formation of a country in which slavery would be accepted. Puritans excluded black people from indentured servitude, in which white people were engaged and which allowed them to be “enslaved” for a specific amount of time. White minds were already poisoned by white supremacy. The very most pious were often the very most racist, and as early as the first days of the America we know, these pious, religious Christians “were the first to twist Christian ideas into a theology of racism that gave divine justification to slavery and other acts of violence against African Americans” writes Paul Griffen in his book, Seeds of Racism in the Soul of America.’

In other words, white supremacy is a long-standing, systemic disease which has been around before even the time of Jesus. Jesus must have known it and felt it and been affected by racist policies which were formed by governments which believed in the superiority of certain people over others.

White supremacy is a long-standing, systemic disease which has been around before even the time of Jesus.

In the aftermath of this country’s most recent presidential election, it seems that white supremacy has raised its head once again. It seems that many white people in this country have been traumatized by the gains made by people of color. Rev. William Barber reminds us the first Reconstruction came after the Civil War, when angry whites fought to undo all the gains that black people had made, and that after the Civil Rights Movement of the ‘60s, angry whites again began to fight to undo rights newly-acquired privileges earned by black people.

Now, there is backlash going on yet again, with nearly all the gains made not only by blacks in jeopardy, but gains made for children, women, people in the LGBTQ community, environmentalists, labor in jeopardy as well.

In this, the 21st century, it seems that those in power on the federal level for sure but many on the state level as well, are bound and determined to take America “back” to the days of blatant injustice and indignity for any and everyone who is not white, male… and wealthy. That “great” America was one where racism was honored, where sexism was accepted as the norm, and where it was expected that those who were affected by the tenets of white supremacy would just be quiet and take it.

What so many people do not realize is that white supremacy adversely affects not only black and all people of color, but women as well. White supremacy is a white male malady, where bullying because one can… because of one’s race and gender… are hailed as being badges of strength and honor. White supremacy, while it has always used white women as an excuse to go after black men, doesn’t respect women, either, be they white or black. How else does one explain the tacit acceptance of sexist behavior toward all women… all over the world?

This tumor called white supremacy has done damage all over the world, with white men and men who want to be white refusing to let go of toxic and damaging behavior as they have sought to hold onto power. The fight against it seems almost impossible, except, as with any illness that threatens life, not fighting against it is not an option.

How long can this stubborn condition last before it dissolves and destroys the very fabric of the world?

The question is, how long can this stubborn condition last before it dissolves and destroys the very fabric of the world? Nothing thus far has been able to stop it; Christianity as we know it today, writes Howard-Brook, has been ineffective in the fight against white supremacy because white supremacy co-opted the religion of Jesus the Christ generations ago. We are dealing with a centuries-old malady which has resisted healing since before the time of Jesus the Christ.

That being the case, can we ever stamp it out? Or are we destined to keep going back and forth between the evil of white supremacy and the hope for its demise?

By Susan K Smith/Huffpost

Posted by The NON-Conformist

New Orleans Starts Tearing Down Confederate Monuments, Sparking Protest

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New Orleans officials removed the first of four prominent Confederate monuments early Monday, the latest Southern institution to sever itself from symbols viewed by many as a representation racism and white supremacy.

The first memorial to come down was the Liberty Monument, an 1891 obelisk honoring the Crescent City White League.

Workers arrived to begin removing the statue, which commemorates whites who tried to topple a biracial post-Civil War government in New Orleans, around 1:25 a.m. in an attempt to avoid disruption from supporters who want the monuments to stay, some of whom city officials said have made death threats.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has called the Liberty Monument “the most offensive of the four” to be taken down, adding it was erected to “revere white supremacy.”

More from NBC News

Posted by Libergirl

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