The Threat of White Supremacy

A short reflection on Trump's comment after the violence of Charlottesville, VA.

The latest tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia is yet another manifestation of the identity politics that have plagued American politics since Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the leadership of the Republican party. Several politicians rushed last Saturday to condemn the violence and laid the blame on white nationalists, white supremacists and racists (wrongfully encapsulated in the term "alt-right").

President Trump however chose to condemn the “many sides” responsible for this violence. Even if his comment has raised harsh criticisms across the political spectrum, he was not too far from the truth.

Since he announced his candidacy for the leadership of the GOP, his opponents began a virulent campaign to tarnish his image, dubbing him racist and misogynist. Anyone supporting him became by extension racist and misogynist, regardless of their ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.

Clinton became the only moral candidate and anyone disagreeing with the election of the first female president automatically became bigots. Her political supporters believed that her victory was unavoidable and the media warned the public through repeated accusations of racism that Trump’s victory would represent a threat to progress and to marginal groups.

After his election, a radicalization of racial discourses occurred in the media and inside liberal circles. Crimes were more often reported as hate crimes; Trump’s proposed legislation was depicted as the latest symbol of racist America. After all, Trump was elected because of the ambient racism of white America, wasn’t he? White supremacy became synonymous with conservatism. The polarization of political life continued as violence against fictive white supremacists spread to the streets (during the inauguration night, at Berkeley etc.). “Punch a Nazi” became the new slogan of radical left-wing activists.

On campuses, this new paranoia surrounding “whiteness” manifested itself through tribal allegiances. If you were white, you were not allowed to give your opinion on some topics involving minorities. You needed to acknowledge your privileges, recognized your oppressive historical status and give your place to marginalized people. If you were a member of a minority, you had to adhere to the official narrative or you were deemed a traitor who has internalized racism so much that you now support the enemy.

What was first a rhetorical device to shed light on the alleged sufferings of minority groups became a weapon to attack whites based on their collective faults. Groups forbidding whites were organized, lectures were created to address “the problem of whiteness” and accusations of discrimination towards whites were ridiculed by left-wing activists and the media.

While the liberal media fed this obsession of skin colors, conservative media reported this discrimination, thus partaking to the ever-growing polarization. By interviewing black nationalists (usually referred to as black activists by liberals) on national television, hosts like Tucker Carlson informed the average American that a new form of discrimination has been taken place, against Trump supporters, against conservative ideas and against whites in general. By overemphasizing this topic, conservative and liberal media give the impression that isolated events have become a common part of our daily life. By overemphasizing this topic, they created what they sought to eliminate in the first place: racism.

White nationalists like Richard Spencer are a product of this polarization. Like liberal activists who used skin color or sexual orientation as the determinant criterion of someone’s individual character, white nationalist used the fact that they are white to bond together and defend themselves against what they believe to be growing discrimination. The media’s overemphasis on skin color to denounce opponents played a significant role in bringing people from both sides of the political spectrum to gather together to resist the other.

The events of Charlottesville are just the logical conclusion of the polarization of American political life, where group identity became the main foundation of someone’s character. The language that was once used only by liberals to emphasize the identity of groups they claim were being marginalized are now being appropriated by the white majority.

The threat does not come from the supposed rise of white supremacy because the people adhering to such a backward idea are too few to be taken seriously. The danger comes from the constant references to skin color as the determining factor of someone’s value. The danger comes from the attribution of collective guilt or collective suffering to a group based uniquely on their skin color. The danger comes from the tribalization of society into opposing factions that are not only based on electoral preferences, but also on skin color, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

More than ever, it is time to unite around common values and embrace similarities instead of focusing on differences. It is time to stop these racial discourses before violence degenerates into open conflict. Instead of interpreting everything in terms of skin color and ethnicity, it is time to identify the real causes of social issues and work together to create a better society.

Eric B. Williams

Great piece! These white supremacists aren't anything new, they're simply an extension of the racial identity politics we've seen being sowed for years, which have also come to a head with groups like BLM. More identity politics and group factioning based on skin color is not the answer to division.

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DJT re-normalized white supremacist ideas because he made a point to reassure them that their racist voices and matter. Now, they feel more comfortable coming out of the woodwork and letting their true colors show, since their extremist views are now seen by "some" as normal.

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Great covering of the flow of social issues so far. Identity Politics is a stinker, and best left to the democrats to keep losing elections with. I don't do herd mentality or collectivism. I think intellectual thought and individuality is the way to,win young hearts and minds.

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soxfan2017 disagree. Can you point out an single instance where he "made a point to reassure them that their racist voices and matter"? Yet I can easily find hundreds of examles of SJW saying that all white people are racists and evil. So are you really shocked that some percentage of white people react in a very negative way? How can you blame that on DJT?

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Very few SJWs genuinely think that way, @ThaiDuck. I would know, because I am also what some would consider a "SJW." When DJT says that Mexican immigrants are "rapists and murderers," that sets the ground for racism to be normalized. I could provide you with several articles backing up my point, but I will spare you the agony of having to read each and every one of them.

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@soxfan2017 and part of the problem is hyperbole. I really disagree with most things Trump does and wants to do as president. But he never said Mexican immigrants are rapists and murderers. He said some are. Big difference.

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But SOME vile, arrogant white guys are rapists and murderers too... Why does he never address this?

Even if we put racism aside, Trump is the greatest failure in American politics that we have ever seen. He is mediocre like Archie Bunker, as talented as a flatfish, and he knows politics about as well as an above-average 13 year-old. He is uneducated and undignified. He has never done a thing in his entire life that I would consider being proud of. Why do you apologize for this fart that the American government has wafted? Trump is a symptom of major trouble for America.