February 4, 2017

The Meaning of White Nationalism as a Reaction Against Economic Marginalization

Remember, If there is one thing worse than national division post-Trump, it is a false national unity imposed by the dominant. America is....a complex political space. It is at once an independent democratic republic and a white settler colony, both a slaveocracy...and the land of the free. It is land that was stolen/taken from one group, and made into the manifest destiny of another group. White America is that sector of the electorate identifying as white and with the historical experience of 'whiteness'. This historical experience is its common currency, not genes or phenotype or even skin color. It is the historical experience of believing oneself immune from the humbling imposed by history, of being uniquely chosen by God, of being the 'best'. Of believing itself deserving of owning land and people. Of itself as refined, civilized, cultured, etc. White Americans are not the first group to believe this about themselves. But they (we, I am a part) define this attitude in America today. At its worst this attitude is the ultimate form of Satanic pride and hubris. Though White America is not a monolith, for good or for evil, it does have a history regularly marked by violent exclusion and fear of the non-white other. It is that history which must be confronted today more urgently than ever before. In spite of what Lincoln said and Obama recently quoted, don't underestimate the worse angels of America's nature. The worst elements have historically dominated American history. Brief interims of hope don't change that. As the dominant demographic of the American electorate, white America still has the overwhelming power to determine cultural norms and political futures. As we saw in this recent election, this power is especially dangerous right now, because we are living in a time where that once overwhelming dominance has decreased, at the same time that a unified front to defeat climate change is more necessary than ever, and the challenges of living in a global world are ratcheting up in intensity. There is nothing like the anger of a group who honestly believes its hard earned gains are being threatened and eroded by other races, religions and demographic groups. There is an old saying (often attributed to Malcolm X), "when white America catches a cold, black America gets pneumonia". The meaning of the statement is that when economic and social indicators get worse for whites, they will get catastrophically worse for blacks. But today white America has a cold, and believes it is pneumonia. We are now living through a period where the one time privilege of being white is being gradually eroded. The brutal reality is that the global economy will sacrifice any and all but the super rich as its victims. White nationalism taps into those grievances, offering whiteness (a form of cultural nationalism) as the answer. The work of internal community anti-racism/dismantling white supremacy is a form of spiritual work our community must undertake, and it is key to addressing the appeal of white nationalism and white supremacy. It is a form of acknowledging and confronting, but not validating white supremacist perspectives both overt and covert that exist around us. These perspectives (a form of false consciousness) are found among family members, coworkers, and church members. The goal is to help to cultivate patience, fortitude, forbearance, and compassion among our fellow whites who believe they have pneumonia when its only a cold. Many of them are very fragile when it comes to these issues and that fragility has to be respected, but not validated. They and we as a community have to learn how to live as non-supremacists in our everyday interactions and viewpoints.


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