White supremacists are people who cling to the unfounded, self-admiring belief that being white makes them superior to every other human being. And that logic leads them to conclude they should have power over everyone else, their inferiors.
All white supremacists are, by definition, racists. Being white-skinned has become membership in the white race, although that is a construct based solely on the assumption they’re descended from white Europeans. The “white race” isn’t actually a “race” at all. In fact, race and ethnicity have no biologic meaning, and genetic testing can only identify to whom you’re related. As an individual, all that can be ascertained is that you’re a member of the human race.
Of course, these basic facts don’t keep white supremacists from their conviction that they are superior to everyone else. Jews may look white, but they are targets of hatred. In Hitler’s Germany, Jews had to wear yellow star armbands to differentiate them because many were blond and blue-eyed. Clearly, this is hatred looking for a target, however irrational and deluded it may be.
White supremacists latched onto the totally debunked pseudo-scientific field of scientific racism, which contended there was empirical evidence to separate human populations into discrete races that were classified as superior or inferior.
The United States tacitly validated this idea by condoning slavery—owning another human being based on their skin color—and Jim Crow laws. And this country wasn’t alone. Australia instituted a “White Australia policy” designed to forbid persons of non-European ethnic origin from emigrating there.
Many believed this nonsense from the 1600s until well into the 1940’s. It outlasted the use of leeches to cure disease, and the widespread belief that what a mother saw while she was pregnant could affect a fetus. Finally, after World War ll, it was totally discredited and officially denounced by UNESCO. But truth and science are no match for hatred and blind ignorance. Racists proudly continue to spout the claims of scientific racism to substantiate their beliefs.
A New Strategy to Counter Terrorism and Violent Attacks
Domestic terrorism is growing in the United States. In July 2019, FBI Director Christopher Wray reported that the number of arrests was already higher than in all of 2018. An FBI spokeswoman added that the 90 arrests for acts of domestic terrorism almost equaled the 100 arrests for international terrorism. Of the domestic terrorism cases involving a racial motive, a majority was believed to be driven by white supremacy.
In September 2019 the Department of Homeland Security issued a new strategic framework for countering terrorism and targeted violence. In summary, it describes the current terrorism threats and its plans to counter them. It acknowledges the continuing threat of foreign terrorism. But it also notes “a growing threat from domestic actors inspired by violent extremist ideologies, as well as from those whose attacks are not ideologically driven.”
The strategy recognizes “the critical role advances in technology have played in facilitating the spread, evolution, and interaction of violent ideologies and narratives of personal grievance.” Finally, it acknowledges that the DHS “must play a vital role in safeguarding the privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties of Americans and others.”
The RAND Corporation Report
The strategy is likely based on a report submitted earlier in 2019 by the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center (HSOAC). RAND Corporation is a research organization that develops solutions to public policy challenges. It operates HSOAC as a federally funded research and development center (FFRDC) providing independent analysis of homeland security issues. The report summarizes the state of knowledge regarding terrorism prevention organization, coordination, programming, and policy. It also examines past policy countering violent extremism [CVE) and current terrorism prevention efforts by DHS and its interagency partners. Finally, it presents options for the federal government to strengthen terrorism prevention capability.
The report asserts that the Department of Homeland Security is seriously addressing this issue. It recognizes that domestic terrorism poses a mounting danger, and that there is an increasing prevalence of white supremacist involvement. But it also recognizes the difficulty of identifying the would-be perpetrators. It highlights the fine line between protecting the public and not infringing on constitutionally guaranteed rights of individuals who have not yet broken any laws. In short, as the report’s press release concluded, “Terrorism Prevention Programs Need Strengthening If They Are to Be Effective.”
What’s Missing From RAND’s Report
While this report is chock full of facts, statistics and recommendations, I believe it falls short. After all, actions speak louder than words on paper. The Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice (DOJ), the FBI and the National Counterterrorism Center are the principal agencies charged with countering violent extremism. But when the DHS’s primary focus is innocent immigrants who are not domestic terrorists, it’s hard to have confidence in it. And when the DOJ, led by Attorney General Barr, plays the role of the President’s personal attorney and denigrates the importance and veracity of the FBI, it’s not only shameful, but dangerous.
Domestic terrorism attacks have grown in tandem with the number of individuals professing a racist agenda. The question is why, and can anything be done to reverse the tide?
I’m well aware that white supremacists promoting racism and anti-Semitism have always existed in this country. But, except in their own circles, white supremacists didn’t regularly flaunt their beliefs. Even now, though less of a pejorative today than, perhaps, ten or fifteen years ago, I suspect most people still don’t want to be known as white supremacists. Instead, they’ve made it acceptable by morphing into white nationalists—the euphemism for supremacists created to make them sound less threatening and venomous. And the availability of social media has allowed these hatemongers to spread their bitterness, hatred and blame to a larger audience. But I don’t believe that’s enough to explain why more people seem susceptible to the message.
Demographics in the United States are changing. In 2014 the US Census Bureau projected that by 2044 whites would no longer be in the majority. Some believe this eventuality explains the rise in white hate groups, who see this threat to their status and privilege on the horizon. Perhaps this has been a factor in fostering increased racial bias and creating opponents of immigration. So, yes, I believe that some people are more vulnerable to messages of hate today. For them, maybe self-preservation becomes an excuse to drink the Kool-Aid.
But I also believe there is an additional, specific reason. Sadly, I don’t expect this plague infecting some in our country to vanish in the near future.
As I said previously, racism and anti-Semitism aren’t new, but it was generally unacceptable to parade those feelings. That is no longer the case, and hasn’t been since August 2017. That’s when self-identified members of alt-right hate groups proudly and brazenly marched through the University of Virginia, carrying tiki-torches and chanting their hatred of Jews. The next day violence erupted and resulted in three deaths.
Any American could and should reasonably expect the President of the United States to have condemned these hate mongers. But not this President. He famously positioned the hate mongers and counter protestors as moral equals, saying there were “very fine people on both sides.” In essence, Donald Trump gave legitimacy to white supremacists, Neo Nazis, and Klansmen. He made it acceptable to openly express their racism and anti-Semitism. And to repeat what I said more than a year ago, he didn’t do it with a dog whistle. He did it with a bull-horn.
Trump is not the cause of the increase in racist and anti-Semitic acts, but he has enabled and emboldened them. And because these hate groups are part of his base, there is no chance he will condemn them.
Trump’s White Nationalist Senior Policy Adviser
Then there is Trump’s senior policy adviser, Stephen Miller—fortunately no relation of mine—whose previous emails have revealed and confirmed his white nationalist sympathies and anti immigration policies. This should be surprising since his great-grandparents escaped anti-Jewish persecution in Belarus and came to the US in the early 1900s. How horrified would they be? But that is clearly of no import to him. What it suggests, however, is that Stephen Miller has no comprehension of history, and deludes himself that men parading with Nazi armbands would make an exception for him. Maybe he didn’t realize the chant in Charlottesville, “Jews will not replace us,” includes him.
Trump apparently feels beholden to these hate groups and compelled to keep them happy. Stephen Miller provides complementary policy recommendations. With this dynamic duo setting the example and bragging about it, I think we’re doomed to see a continuing rise in the number of people susceptible to the rhetoric of white supremacy, and the domestic terrorism it breeds.
Just another reason Donald Trump must be removed from the Presidency.