White supremacy, both in its neo-Nazi and more homely domestic varieties, is a perplexing phenomenon. On the one hand, everybody seems to be against it.
The Republican National Committee, the Mormon Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, the Commandant of the US Marine Corps, the California ACLU, George Takei, Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie, Nashville’s Metro Council, 700 concerned Christian ethicists and theologians, Lady Gaga (for a more complete list, see the bottom of the page)* just to name a few, recently have condemned white supremacy in the strongest terms.
Clearly, everybody is against it, and yet white supremacy is still supposed to be a big problem—pervasive, ineradicably-rooted in the nation’s culture, and dangerous. “White supremacy has been ignored for years and yet it is now the strongest it has been in my lifetime… [It] is a fungus that grows in a damp, shitty darkness,” a Charlottesville-based expert eloquently observes.
An unusually perceptive food writer discerns white supremacy in Bon Appétit magazine’s designation of a white-owned casual eatery in predominantly black New Orleans as best new restaurant of 2017:
“Regarding food culture in particular, we have to stop skimming the surface for superficial spume. Deliciousness cannot be the entirety of the narrative; it is merely a prerequisite for a wider conversation that considers the broader context. People of color are continuously dispossessed of culture and self in service of whiteness… If the ownership and staff of [the best new restaurant designee] were to be replaced exclusively with black New Orleanians, it would hardly be interesting to most food publications.”
Clearly, the white supremacy phenomenon cries out for a neo- [Yogi] Berraism to capture the ambiguity, perhaps something along the lines of: Nobody believes in white supremacy: it’s too pervasive. Now any informed right of center culture warrior has a ready explanation for the seeming contradiction: in the continuing revolution aimed at remaking American culture, the definition of what is mainstream must be extended constantly. Usually, this means redefining what had been regarded as outside the bounds, not to say deviant, as widespread, normal and therefore acceptable. In the case of white supremacy, though, we are obliged to re-define a deviant phenomenon as mainstream in order to diminish it, because exaggerating white supremacy’s omnipresence and durability as a societal problem justifies addressing it with more strenuous leftist solutions.
“So, fellow white people ― my message to you is this. When you ignore the pervasiveness of white supremacy, you become part of the problem. When you think of it as mostly a thing of the past, you become part of the problem. When you reduce it to nothing more than a handful of ignorant people, rather than the dangerous and persistent movement that it is, you become part of the problem… Will you help turn America into the great nation it’s supposed to be?”
The preceding explanation is fine as far as it goes, but I think there is something else that distinguishes the officially-sanctioned approach to white supremacy. To begin, note a curious lapse on the part of the left respecting our white supremacy de jour: nobody seems interested in explaining it away. Normally horrible people (at least those who are not pedophile Catholic clerics) who do horrible things are granted some form of empathetic analysis— the Islamic slashers, serial criminal illegal entrants into the U.S., protected categories of rioters, or actual or would-be cop killers most readily come to mind.
Sometimes the “root cause” of their misguided acts is explored sensitively and sympathetically; sometimes false equivalents are postulated—a rhetorical form known as the argumentum ad The View: an example being, “Radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam in a country like America.” But, with rare exceptions, both of these common indulgences are denied by leftist commentators, and pretty much everybody else, to white supremacists: “You’re going to hear a lot of wailing from the left about our “disconnection” with (sic.) the values of “ordinary working-class people.” It is bullshit – both as a fact and an explanation of what’s happened… “Those who tell you the left has to somehow ‘reconnect’ with people whose minds are full of white supremacy and misogyny must finish the sentence. By what means? By throwing our black brothers and sisters under a bus? Eighty years ago the poets and miners of the International Brigades did not march into battle saying: ‘Mind you, the fascists have got a point.’ It’s not about reconnection.
As in the UK, the racist right in America is a minority that can and must be defeated. It’s about reforming the political coalition that won both the New Deal and the Second World War. The left, the unions, the ethnic minorities; the liberal middle class; and that section of Wall Street and the US boardroom that is unprepared to lie supine as wannabe-Trumps put their ‘locker room talk’ into practice.”
It took one of the dimmest bulbs on the left, Senator Kamala Harris of California, to wander anywhere near the banana peel of trying to understand the miseducated and unsocialized young men, adrift in a world of Internet gaming and pseudo-history, disconnected from community and culture, jobless or underemployed, without status, girlfriends or prospects, turning to a sometimes violent and always fundamentally un-American dead end. The camera-hungry Harris is so eager to make herself heard above the general din of Charlottesville riot deplorers that she has grabbed reflexively for the progressive cliché and is calling for Senate hearings on “violent white supremacy to examine root causes.”
Not to worry. It will never happen. Democrats are too smart and Republicans are too timid to risk such hearings on the off-chance of their venturing beyond the familiar parade of grievance scholars, victims, and radical activists. No need to give undue attention to, say, the normalization of identity politics and its role in driving rootless status-starved young men into the arms of tribalism and race theory, nor the consequences of promulgating the zero-sum game model for the American economy and society paired with a relentless diversity orthodoxy that defines everyone but them as diverse.
There is no earthly legislative value in testimony about marginal child-men who wake up every day to a life of adding no value to anything whatsoever “attracted to the alt-right not because they’re instinctively drawn to its ideology: [but instead] drawn to it because it seems fresh, daring and funny, while the doctrines of their parents and grandparents seem unexciting, overly-controlling and overly-serious.”
Certainly, no busy public servant needs to be reminded that the grandfathers and fathers of the young men in question likely harbored the very same restless iconoclastic impulses, but that a more sustaining culture and civil society and a growing economy provided productive ways to channel that energy. The disappearance of the starter home, worthless high school degrees, unconscionable federal-policy fueled college tuition inflation, unprecedented college debt default rates, the neglect, and devaluing of vocational education, and pounding from every side with the guilt of our history and shame of our present—forget about them. None can have had anything to do with creating a small group of sad young throwaways with tiki torches for whom the high point of their day is striking menacing postures to frighten delicate Pajama Boys.
No, these losers reared in the “damp, shitty darkness” of HopenChangeville have only themselves to blame– right?
* PayPal, John McCain, the Wheaton College Faculty, the Writers Guild of America, National Nurses United, Jeff Flake, the Department of Gender and Sexuality Studies of Wake Forest University, the National Association of Evangelicals, Sarah Silverman, Ted Cruz, Airbnb, Bernie Sanders, Orrin Hatch, the University of California at Santa Barbara Associated Students Senate, Sean Hannity, Go Daddy, the great-great grandson and great-great granddaughter of Robert E. Lee, Rob Reiner, the Boulder Colorado City council, the Wisconsin State Assembly, the Dave Matthews Band, Indivisible New Orleans, Paul Ryan, Dave Brat, Rob Reiner, the US Army Chief of Staff, Barbara Streisand, Gary Cohn, The North Carolina State AFL-CIO, the Governor of Idaho, Spotify, the Denver City Council, Apple, the Chief of Naval Operations, LeBron James, Christian Ethicists Without Borders, Cher, the leader of the Pennsylvania Light Foot Militia, Keith Olbermann, the National Association of Social Workers, the Human Rights Campaign, Andrew Cuomo, Bill DeBlasio, Ivanka Trump, everybody on ESPN, Joe Biden, more than 20 descendants of Arlington Cemetery sculptor and Confederate veteran Moses Jacob Ezekiel, the Chancellor of Antioch University, The Anti-Defamation League, Dozens of major CEO’s including Intel, Under Armour, Merck, various weeping Fox News talking heads, Lorde, John Legend, the family of Johnny Cash, Stormfront, Mia Farrow, The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, Seth Rogan, the Rockford Illinois City Council and Katie Couric.