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The White Victim Charade on Parade
“We are struggling against the deliberate extermination of our race by an alien elite that has hijacked almost all of our institutions. This criminal cabal is using everything at their disposal, including Third World immigrants and other non-Whites, to eradicate White people from the face of the Earth. We are faced with a daunting task, but we must prevail, so as to secure the existence of our people and a future for White children.”
– White Man March’s Call to Action
From this country’s origins, race has been the fundamental political contradiction of our society. From the conception of the American racial system in the U.S. South in the early 1600s to the current moment of mass incarceration, unequal education, and vigilante violence, white supremacy has been challenged, but also re-fashioned, re-packaged, reproduced. “The White Man March” took place this past Saturday, March 15th, in a number of U.S. cities, as well as several more internationally. The website for the march is filled with neo-Nazi imagery, anti-Black, anti-Jewish, and anti-immigrant sentiment. These marches, and the associated propaganda, are basically the same as they were 20 years ago. These marches, like the many that have come before, are designed to (like any march) illustrate and amplify the demonstrators’ politics and ‘grievances,’ to mobilize and express their strength, and to recruit new members. Not unlike the ever-present Liberal “tone and tactic police,” the website instructed marchers on how to seem more palatable to potential supporters:
“The media would like our people to believe that pro-Whites are all Klansmen, Neo-Nazis, Skinheads, and the like, which discourages many White people from becoming advocates for their own interests. We will be showing that many pro-Whites are well-educated, attractive, and respectable people who are concerned about the future they and their families are facing. We encourage people to carry themselves with dignity, pride, and a sense of professionalism when demonstrating for their race.”
What should be more disturbing than skinheads’ and the KKK’s attempting a 21st Century makeover, to bring them closer to mainstream whites, is the empirical evidence that suggests, quite clearly, that mainstream white political culture has come to reflect the foundational assumptions of the neo-Nazi political platform.
White Nationalism on Main Street
“The history of white people has led them to a fearful baffling place where they have begun to lose touch with reality – to lose touch, that is, with themselves… They do not know how this came about; they do not dare examine how this came about.”
– James Baldwin
“If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.”
– W.I. Thomas
60% of working–class white Americans feel that racial discrimination against whites is at least as great as discrimination faced by racial minorities, according to a recent Public Religion Research Institute report. 49% felt that the government had done too much in recent decades to benefit the conditions of racial minorities, while 57% “agree that illegal immigrants taking jobs that would otherwise be filled by American citizens are responsible for our current economic problems.” (This belief in “reverse discrimination” is not borne out by social indicators, which illustrate economic stagnation or loss for the bottom 80% of earners, but a concomitant expansion of racial inequality – with the average white family now having 20 times the average wealth of Blacks and Latinos.) The use of racialized scapegoats to explain American decline, and its effects on white Americans, has clearly been successful. Reading reports and studies of white public opinion, alongside the White Man March’s call to unity – a clear and thick overlap is present. It is a story of white victimhood, a baseless but widespread belief that there is systematic societal and governmental discrimination against whites – a growing belief steeped in anger, fear and ignorance.
White Man Games, Black Youths’ Lives
The most recent fear-driven racial scapegoat and moral panic, the “knockout game,” not only epitomizes the glorification of the white victim, but demonstrates how the explicit politics behind the White Man March are unquestioningly disseminated in the mainstream press. The origins of the “knockout game” lie in a self-published book by Colin Flaherty, called “White Girl Bleed A Lot,” which became an Amazon bestseller in the category of “Civil Rights and Liberties” after the baseless “knockout game” panic took off. Flaherty was identified as a “White Nationalist propagandist” by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2012, which reported that:
“In July , Flaherty appeared as a guest on the Lowell, Mass.-based Malevolent Freedom Radio, a white nationalist show whose motto is “embrace white culture” and whose logo is the Schwartze Sonne, or black sun, a Nazi occult symbol. Telling Malevolent Freedom host Dean Anderson that he’s not part of “the [White Nationalist] movement,” Flaherty declared, “I’m just a guy that likes to write … I just have my eyes open. My attitude is, I’m going to tell you what’s happening now, and if you want to freak out about it, I really don’t care.”
The skinheads didn’t need to “freak out about it” since the story was picked up by Fox News, who helped browbeat the likes of CNN, the New York Times, and the Huffington Post into making it a “legitimate” news story. Despite the fact that several of the anecdotal cases brought forward in the press proved to be false, including the story of a woman who was actually beaten by her white boyfriend according to police, and despite the fact that there was no evidence that these crimes were widespread or increasing, the knockout game nevertheless served to further criminalize black youth based on a ‘current crime trend’ culled from the rantings of a noted racist and a sensationalized video, comprised of mostly years-old footage. Nonetheless, “knockout game” legislation has passed in Washington state, and is being debated in over a half dozen states right now.
Bill O’Reilly’s coverage of the “knockout game” illustrates a deeper point about white victimhood. O’Reilly used the “knockout game” to articulate a de facto defense for George Zimmerman, despite the fact that he had already (somehow) been acquitted. O’Reilly (and Fox News more broadly) are not only amplifying white victimhood, and criminalizing Blackness, but more fundamentally – are trying to render unintelligible very real and persistent white supremacy. Guest Bernie Goldberg, agreeing with O’Reilly’s take on the Justice for Trayvon movement, added:
“You had [Jesse] Jackson, you had [Al] Sharpton, you had sanctimonious Tavis Smiley all going on television … painting a fairy-tale picture about how young black males are being hunted down by white people. It was absurd, but they went on doing that…. And on this [black-on-white violence], they say nothing because – this is important – because it speaks to their failure as black leaders. They don’t know what to do about this.”
Flaherty and O’Reilly even got Al Sharpton to take responsibility for this nonsense.
The Postmodern White Man Wants “His Colonialism (um, I mean) Country Back”
In the existing ahistorical, astructural political culture, white people, especially white men, have increasingly claimed “reverse racism” – a concept that is only intelligible when we have erased history, social structure and power. In an imagined nation that has no history, and a postmodern society that has no structural forces, everyone has “identity politics” and everyone can position themselves as a victim. In this milieu, claims of “reverse racism” in relation to affirmative action have been somewhat successful because the cultural and political terrain is now defined by a total absence of an analysis that looks at the legacies of white supremacy and their contemporary structures. It is on this ahistorical and astructural landscape that declining white wages and a cornucopia of scapegoats have produced this emerging racial formation of aggrieved whiteness – a politicized white identity politics. This stretches beyond pronouncements of a “post-racial” society, to one where the language of discrimination, racism, and oppression is not erased, but politically inverted. What has been produced is a policial subject that is materially and historically absurd in-itself, yet nonethless a current historical agent-for-itself – the “racialized white victim.” This current political manifestion of white supremacy does not deviate from previous incarnations – lacking a legitimate grounding in reason and fact, while still producing very real social consequences.
The Tea Party, Glenn Beck (who has repeatdly called for a “White Civil Rights Movement”) and the White Man March all articulate their politics in the language, imagery and myth of the founding fathers. The articulation of reclaiming “my” country in a racially coded discourse, and appeals to the founding fathers and original Constitution, are instructive. The origins of the nation, the country they want to return to, was one dominated by landholding, adult, white men (who were not keen on paying taxes). Women were not allowed to vote or hold property and people of color were either annihilated, robbed or enslaved.
Eric Foner argues that the course of American history has largely been a conflict over who “We the People” refers to. Suffragettes, Civil Rights marchers, and myriad others have steadily broadened the exclusionary vision of the founders, while hitting barriers when trying to expand beyond formal and partial equality under the law. The White Man March, the Tea Party, and the aggrieved whiteness project more broadly, are clearly pushing for a narrower definition and a reclamation of ground they feel they have lost over prior decades and generations of struggles for social justice. The fact that discussion as to whether we want to go back to this past is not only on the table, but now on the top of many agendas, should be more than cause for concern. We need to begin to more forcefully highlight historical injustices that manifest in contemporary inequalities, in a way that avoids simple, liberal victimhood, and invokes history and social facts in order to challenge the “good old days” trope of the Right, while also grounding a structural analysis of today’s white supremacy, why it is emerging as it is, and what needs to be done about it.
Abolition-Democracy or Barbarism
“Today there is still the white problem – its expectations, its power, its solidarity, its imagination. Even after the civil rights movement, whiteness stands at the path to a more democratic society like a troll at the bridge. The political task, I have argued, is to chase the troll away, not ignore it or invite it to the multicultural table.”
– Joel Olson The Abolition of White Democracy
“The fascists are the vanguard of the white race; however, the big problem right now is not the white vanguard but the white mainstream.”
– Noel Ignatiev
It is clear that the White Man March politics are not fringe at all. Racist, anti-democratic, backwards, intellectually baseless…? Surely. But, fringe? Unfortunately not. What does this mean? Should we be content that the skinheads can’t turn out as many New Yorkers as Occupy? Should we conclude that the white working class are just modern Archie Bunkers and hopeless simps? I don’t see how any person who believes in creating a just society can say “yes.” How to fix this is a lot more complicated, and needs to be a strategy pulled together by the variety of people and groups challenging white supremacy on a daily basis. Instead of being outraged about the expression of such anti-democratic and hateful extremist politics in public, we should take a closer look at how these politics have already been mainstreamed, and figure out a way to effectively counter this situation.
It is clear that if the social order were to somehow be destabilized today, the fascists are not only better prepared militarily, but have been steadily winning hearts and minds for some time. If we are clear about what needs to be done and vigilant about tendencies that would hold us back, we can start to build a different world up out of this mess. Barbarism is a lot closer than we think.
Mike King is an Assistant Professor at SUNY-Oneonta. He is currently completing a book on the Policing of Occupy Oakland. He can be reached at mikeking0101 (at) gmail.