The New White Nationalism in America – a critique
This essay is a critique of Carol Swain’s book The New White Nationalism in America: Its Challenge to Integration. It is adapted from a paper written in 2008 and targeted towards a mainstream (i.e. ultra-liberal) academic audience, so if the tone seems somewhat detached and non-partisan for an MR article, that is the reason why. Although not especially topical (the book was published in 2002) the decision to post the piece was prompted by a comment left elsewhere on the blog to the effect that Obama’s election signals the rebirth of ethnocentrism in the United States. Is that actually a supportable proposition and if so, why? Certainly if Swain’s argument that WNism in America is largely (but not wholly) propelled by opposition to Affirmative Action holds up, then having a beneficiary of the same in the White House would seem to support the proposition as stated.
At the time of the initial publication of her book Carol Swain, was (and still is today) Professor of Political Science and Law at Vanderbilt University. On her website she cites herself in describing the book in the following terms: “My book is a wake-up call,” says Swain. “We’re at a point in history where we have an opportunity to avert disaster. I believe that unless we take action today, we’re headed for unprecedented levels of racial and ethnic conflict.” Even after allowing for a tinge of self-puffery and hyperbole, it sounded like pretty strong stuff from a rather unexpected source.
I felt that the combination of subject matter – the [re-]awakening of white racial consciousness – and the status of the author as a bona-fide member of an oppressed group, presented an interesting mixture rendering reading and commenting on it a worthwhile exercise. There is also the fact that the book is not positioned as a polemic, unlike most other attempts to deal with racial matters in contemporary America. In the course of this short critique, I intend to provide an overview of Swain’s stated objectives in writing the book, outline her perception of the problem(s) and their causes, then touch on her proposed remedies, and conclude by noting my personal impressions and commentary.
1 – CAROL SWAIN’S OBJECTIVES FOR THE BOOK
The author states at the outset that her work is intended for a mainstream audience, rather than being targeted at fellow academics and policy specialists, which all augured well for its readability. On the other hand, though, she doesn’t skimp on the citations, footnotes and bibliography for those who might wish to examine her sources for themselves. In p. xv-xvi of her Preface she sets out the objectives as follows:
(a) [… to] explore the development of an emerging white nationalist (WN) movement that poses a threat to the peace and repose of the multiethnic society;
(b) to heighten public awareness about the various groups that constitute the WN “movement” and their leadership;
(c) to provide liberals in particular with an insight into the ongoing racial problems in the United States;
(d) to show how some of the policies advocated by liberals are exacerbating racial discord, and
(e) to make the case for a reinvigorated public debate into the issues of race and identity politics.
2 – THE PROBLEM AS STATED
In p.1 of the Introduction, CS takes some care to differentiate between what she styles as the ‘old-style White Supremacist (WS) movement’ and what she terms ‘… a new and expanded white consciousness movement … white nationalism (WN)’. She contrasts the ‘new, sophisticated WNism with the crude racism’ of the KKK et al (p. 3), and highlights the current heightened focus on recruiting from an educated, mainstream audience. On pp. 4-5 she mentions the growth of a new ‘Euro-Americanism’ as an emerging new player in the identity politics field, one which is at present camped predominantly on the radical right of the political spectrum.
This ‘new white racial advocacy movement’ (p.15) is led by people who are ‘…cultured, intelligent, and often possessing impressive degrees from some of America’s finest colleges and universities’. They are a ‘… far cry from the populist politicians and hooded Klansmen who fought the losing battles for segregation during the great civil rights upheavals…’ (p.15). From p.16 onwards, several of the leading personalities are introduced, including David Duke, Jared Taylor of American Renaissance, the academics Philippe Rushton, Michael Hart, Michael Levin, Arthur Jensen and Richard Lynn. The Internet is cited as a prime recruiting tool (p.30) and CS details particularly Stormfront.org and its proprietor Don Black. CS concludes that the fundamental goal of the new WNism is not white supremacism but racial separation: “White nationalists recognize that America is already a multiracial, multiethnic society, but given their pessimism about the long-term health and viability of such societies, they believe that drastic measures must be taken to change things. Their solution is usually some form of ethnic separation based on territorial partition. Racial separation is the obvious next step for people who believe that racial and ethnic minorities are a danger to the personal safety and social values of white Americans” (p.19).
At this point, then, it seems clear that for CS the danger inherent in the ‘emerging new white nationalism’ and white ‘identity politics’ is not just the challenge it presents to racial integration but the threat it poses for the long-term viability of the United States itself in its present form.
3 – ROOT CAUSES OF THE PROBLEM
Back in her Introduction, CS sets out what she believes forms the underlying causation for the nascent WN movement. These “…seven conditions [which] threaten to fuel the growth of this new [white] racial consciousness movement” are taken up again in Chapter 14 and can be summarized/paraphrased as follows (pp.2 and 423), with an appropriate citation for each, as being illustrative of the author’s rationale for its inclusion:
Changing demographics principally due to large-scale immigration which brings the prospect that whites will cease to have a racial majority in the US (“… whites who feel threatened by immigration, and fueled by WN rhetoric, may one day take matters into their own hands to ‘solve’ America’s immigration issues” p. 103);
Job losses due to globalization (“… In almost every sector, large companies manipulate the immigration system, much to the detriment of Americans. The new H1-B work visa program is the most recent example of this” p. 93);
Resentment over racial preference polices e.g. Affirmative Action (“… affirmative action policies … have become synonymous with quotas, reverse discrimination, and naked racial preferences, all of which are strongly opposed by the overwhelming majority of America’s white population” p. 133)
High levels of black-on-white crime, particularly violent crime (“WNs have seized on this issue of black crime rates and begun a concerted effort to raise the racial consciousness of white America through a series of press releases detailing the racial disparities in violent crime” p. 113);
Multiculturalism, ‘ethnic pride’, and identity politics (“On many campuses, balkanization and grouping along cultural lines has prompted some white students to self-segregate and seek their own organizations …” p. 314);
Rising expectations among racial and ethnic minorities (“Moreover it is not only whites who are angry or feel resentful and threatened. A part of the future discord will come from the rising expectations and demands of racial and ethnic minorities, which are sure to increase as minorities become a larger portion of the American population” p. 424) ;
The communicative power and political impact of the Internet (“Concerted efforts by watchdog agencies and institutional elites to censor WN groups have failed … such groups have highly developed networks and forums that allow them to take their messages to millions of Americans” p.346)
She points to a rising level of racial consciousness amongst European-Americans and WN as the ‘next logical stage for identity politics in America’.
Much of the remainder of the book is taken up with the author’s rationale for identifying this particular “host of powerful social forces” (p.423) as the principal drivers behind the growth of the new WNism. Separate chapters in the book are devoted to the impact of demographic change, crime and the fear of violence, and, in particular, Affirmative Action and racial preference policies in general. In fact there seems little doubt that of all the ‘powerful social forces’ enumerated above, racial preference policies are the most troubling for CS in constituting a main driver for WNism. So much so, in fact, that she devotes a further three full chapters to discussing the implementation of Affirmative Action schemes in America’s colleges, and the legal, social and political consequences that have ensued.
4 – THE PROPOSED REMEDIES
In Chapter 14, the author recites a number of recommendations for initiatives to mitigate and, potentially, to eliminate the roots causes of the problems that she says are putting Americans at risk of “… large-scale racial conflict unprecedented in our nation’s history” (p. 423). She has two distinct groups of recommendations: ideas for the improvement of American society generally, and recommendations directed specifically towards the African-American community. The former group consists of fourteen recommendations, listed on pp. 425-443, the latter group has nine recommendations, described on pp. 425-455.
Among the general recommendations which are both more radical and likely to be challenging to implement are calls to action on: the opening up of political discourse on unfashionable ideas on race; the need to address legitimate public policy issues raised by WNs and conservatives which are currently ignored by governmental offices and liberal elites; the abandonment of all racial- and gender-based double standards, especially in colleges and universities, and the termination of all racial preferences in employment and promotion; and finally, a dramatic scale-back of legal immigration and proper enforcement of current laws against hiring illegal aliens.
Some of the recommendations for action on the part of the black community and its leadership are no less radical and challenging. These include calls to make the reduction of black crime rates America’s No. 1 public policy issue, for the black leadership to cease using riotous behavior by blacks as an opportunity to press for more federal largesse, and to vigorously condemn the ‘scandalously high’ rates of illegitimacy and AIDS in the black community.
5 – COMMENTARY
At almost 500 pages excluding bibliography this is a long and densely-written work. It is an honest and, to my mind, even-handed treatment of a difficult subject and it is clear that Professor Swain had no compunction in leading to slaughter a number of cows considered sacred by the liberal managerial elites. She is particularly critical of the way in which the self-anointed leadership of various minority communities, and especially blacks, are encouraged through the prevailing dogma of multiculturalism and oppression-theory to indulge in ethnic rent-seeking and identity politics. The non-partisan reader could hardly fail to agree with the author’s conclusion that the social dynamics that have led to the racially-charged atmosphere have increased the vulnerability of mainstream white Americans to the ‘subtle recruitment strategies’ of WNism. Nor with her claim that the situation is greatly exacerbated by the ability of WNs to cloak their arguments in legitimate-sounding rhetoric, as well as the intransigence of the white liberal establishment and minority leaders in addressing the concerns that the white majority has about racial preferences and all the rest.
Impressive as the work is, it is not, in my opinion without some serious flaws. The largest, in my view, is that the author has, despite a strenuous effort to be more all-encompassing, fallen into the trap of viewing the new WNism as a binary issue of black-white identity politics. The undue focus on Affirmative Action and black social pathologies obscures the greater truth, which is that advocates of white separatism are primarily motivated, not by fears of black crime and resentment over racial preferences, by rather by a more atavistic fear of ethnic and cultural displacement. A cursory look at contemporary WN literature, propaganda and, particularly Internet forums such as Stormfront (not to mention of the dozens of private ones), will reveal immediately that, while many white nationalists are extremely disparaging about blacks and wish to be rid of them, there is a far greater level of concern about what is termed ‘the rising brown tide’, which is being fuelled by continuing large-scale immigration from the Third World. In the grand scheme of things, the ‘black issue’ on its own is generally held be manageable in the long term but the demographic transformation is not.
The other criticism I would make is that CS has focused rather too much on the “story so far” and, while issuing dire but necessarily non-specific warnings about the consequences of identity politics, she fails to properly sketch out any plausible future scenarios. She ignores totally the political dimension of the impact that the demographic transformation fuelled by immigration and globalization will have the American political landscape, and appears to assume that a ‘business as usual’ approach will prevail whilst the transformation process runs its course. This is to an extent a reflection of her parochialism and her inability to view the issue through anything other than a prism of African-American sensibility. If she had made a greater effort to examine the situation in other countries, she would not have failed to notice the emergence of ‘far-right’ nationalist parties, some of which have now entered the mainstream political process. In Denmark, for example, the Danish People’s Party has become the third-largest party in Parliament, based on the popularity of its stance against immigration and multiculturalism. In America the continuing option of white flight may delay the emergence of such factions for a while yet, perhaps even another generation or two, but unless the issues that Carol Swain has described can be resolved in the meantime, their eventual emergence is practically guaranteed. Our children and grandchildren will be living in interesting times, I wonder what they will make of the societal legacy that we have left them?