Editor’s note: This article is meant to educate the audience white supremacy and white nationalism. It is not meant to express support nor sympathy for it, only to study and understand it.
White nationalism and white supremacy have been in the news heavily lately in the wake of protests and counter-protests nationwide. Some of the protests have turned violent — most notably in Charlottesville last month when terrorist James Alex Fields Jr. rammed his car into a crowd, killing Heather Heyer and injuring a handful of others. The racial tensions which underscore this event and others leave many Americans scratching their heads, wondering what it is that pushes people, primarily young men, on the road toward white nationalism and white supremacy. We are hoping to shed some light on this with this article.
The expression and memes which surround the topic sometimes like to use the slogan “nobody is born racist.” This, while technically true, is insufficient to explain how some turn. Without getting into the psychological and philosophical debates about nature vs. nurture, there are some who, while they may not be “born” racist, are born into it. They may have racist parents or guardians, or another form of mentor who indoctrinates them from a very young age, making the question of whether or not they are that way from birth or from a very young age an academic one: They are racist from the point when they are able to form their worldviews on.
This group, while troubling, isn’t the one most of the focus is on, however. The ones who are of greater concern, and greater threat, are those who convert at an older age, often in their teens and into early adulthood. Rather than being passively accepting of it as a fact of life like those raised into it, they are the true believers — those who get on board with the cause through exploring ideologies and finding it to be the most fitting for them.
Many times these are young men who feel slighted by the system in one form or another. It may be a cumulation of smaller events, such as losing a scholarship or job to a minority group despite having better qualifications due to affirmative action or other quota systems or by being constantly bombarded with messages from the media or education system about the nature of racial groups. You will often see them decry programs and systems set up to be explicitly for one group — how many times have you seen someone criticize BET and argue there should be a white alternative for example? The concept that the channels without explicit racial or ethnic branding default to white programming doesn’t occur to them — especially since the vast majority of the media, entertainment or otherwise, has a left of center bent.
Other media messages push them toward certain conclusions as well. When watching movies and TV shows or playing video games it is rare for the protagonist to be anything other than a white guy. Meanwhile, people of color (especially African-Americans) are portrayed as poor, more prone to crime, and in need of assistance from our white hero. Meanwhile, in the education process, the white man is often portrayed negatively. Europeans and other western peoples going out into the world to pillage and plunder, colonizing and enslaving other races for fun and profit.
The perspective then becomes an “us against them” mentality, where everything becomes a zero-sum game. After all, if advancement by minorities must come at the expense of white people, then the opposite must also be true. Additionally, they feel that they are made to pay for crimes they did not themselves commit — they didn’t own any slaves or colonize any nations after all. The concept of “white privilege” seems foreign to them as they see only programs and institutions aimed explicitly at uplifting groups which are not white.
Additionally, the higher crime rates among minority communities both in the real world and in the media reinforce the idea that white people must inherently be more moral or more capable. They do not see the unequal application of the law, nor do they see laws which were put into place too much more subtly target minority communities, they only see the results. They watch the same police shooting videos that the rest of us do and instinctively side with the police officer — regardless of the circumstances. After all, if they were in that circumstance they would simply comply and the cop would move along.
They may also look internationally to see how things work on a global scale. They are then bombarded with images of white-dominated countries being stable and powerful, while African, Middle Eastern, and other Asian nations struggle. Instead of attributing these struggles to the centuries of warfare and colonization from outside forces, they instead see destabilization when European nations leave their colonies. They begin to form the opinion that white rule is inherently more desirable than rule by other groups.
When all of these things combine — programs aimed at helping POC at the expense of white people, receiving blame for things they did not commit and do not believe they receive benefit from, the perception that POC are inherently less able to govern and are more prone to violence and crime — and the white supremacist ideas begin to take root. They then start seeking out media and information sources which reinforce these ideas and begin to radicalize.
Once radicalized, criticism of them becomes reinforcement of their ideas. They have already long believed that the media and society as a whole are largely biased against them due to their identity. That their beliefs are outside of the mainstream is a point of pride, proving their point. To their minds, they are now the minority, the ones being oppressed. This only furthers their conviction and they begin to dig in. Their transformation is complete, and there is little more that can be done to change their views, as most attempts are seen as the exact sort of discrimination and oppression that set them down this path in the first place.
Good overview. Not that it excuses their behavior and (inaccurate) beliefs, but it is important to look at the ways that worldview is formed.