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White Power
October 1, 2010 2:29 AM   Subscribe

"Is the US heading toward a future of greater diversity and racial tolerance, or of racially-motivated violence and separation?" Al Jazeera takes a look at the White Power movement in the United States.
posted by klue (60 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ever since I saw "Blood in the Face" in 1991 I've thought the same thing about reportage like this film: sunlight really is the best disinfectant.

As for the pullquote, the US is already a place of great diversity and tolerance. Heck, our diversity is great enough to include racial extremists, and we tolerate intolerance. It's scary at times, but way less scary than the alternative.

Not that ever since National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie has anyone learned this lesson:

In the summer of 1978, the Nazis finally held three rallies, but not in Skokie. All were in the Chicago area: Lincolnwood (near Skokie), the downtown Chicago Federal Center, and Marquette Park on the city's Southwest side. Attendance at the three rallies was very low, but the national attention brought on by the Supreme Court case gave them enough press coverage as to make a Skokie rally redundant.


So maybe the aims should be to strike a difficult-to-define balance of sufficient disinfecting sunlight and minimal media oxygen.
posted by chavenet at 3:53 AM on October 1, 2010


So maybe the aims should be to strike a difficult-to-define balance of sufficient disinfecting sunlight and minimal media oxygen.

Previously on MetaFilter!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 4:31 AM on October 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is the US heading toward a future of greater diversity and racial tolerance, or of racially-motivated violence and separation?"

Jazeera please.

Al Jazeera hasn't been around for very long so they might be forgiven for forgetting that the U.S. is moving from a past of racially-motivated violence and separation. Used to be that respectable mayors and governors encouraged racist violence, black men got lynched by mobs, and little girls got firebombed in church - now the only people who think like this are skinhead assholes playing punk music and dancing with each other in some garage in Kansas.

It ain't perfect, but it's progress.
posted by three blind mice at 4:44 AM on October 1, 2010 [12 favorites]


For those MeFites who, in other discussions, say "you racists are old and are dying off, the young will take over" should look at the number of twenty-somethings in this video.

It's too bad that this had to come from AlJazeera, a station Americans look at with suspicion, and not CNN, ABCNews, or some other home-grown news source. It wasn't a perfect news story, but drawing a strong connection between white supremacy and the tea party is something American news seems to actively avoid drawing on the map. Especially now that people want to elect Tea Partiers to office, they should see video of this guy saying, "what is a racist? I mean, what does that word even mean?"

Not that it would really affect those with (both figuratively and literally) "black and white" thinking, but there's plenty of reasonable people who have been misled, right?

...right?
posted by AzraelBrown at 4:49 AM on October 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


now the only people who think like this are skinhead assholes playing punk music and dancing with each other in some garage in Kansas

Well... partially true. There are plenty of people that "think" like that, it's (mostly) just the assholes in the garage that spout it from a megaphone. There are plenty of people that are considered "respectable" that are absolute bigots. After all it was only 20 years ago that David Duke was a candidate for governor of Louisiana. But, yeah, we have come a long way.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 4:52 AM on October 1, 2010


After all it was only 20 years ago that David Duke was a candidate for governor of Louisiana.

And only 40 years since George Wallace WAS governor of Alabama.

This is colored journalism. Al Jazeera shows some clips that could have been taken from Romper Stomper and starts talking about a "movement"? Swastikas on the American flag? A return to segregation? White power taking over the country? C'mon. Only in Pat Buchanan's wet dreams.
posted by three blind mice at 5:18 AM on October 1, 2010



Jesus fucking christ on a popsicle stick...

I agree, this is more of a caricature than it is good journalism, but do you think it is possible a site called Musifilter ("The Orange") complains in FPP after FPP about the US News Corporations and how they portray Muslims?

Angst and condescention sells folks; this is our (USians) just desserts.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 5:40 AM on October 1, 2010


For those MeFites who, in other discussions, say "you racists are old and are dying off, the young will take over" should look at the number of twenty-somethings in this video.

So? It's always been that way, disaffected youth being pulled into a movement for the relief from a sad/boring life and the perceived familial structure it offers. See street gangs, terrorist groups, etc.

The people who enabled the continued normalization of institutional racism are usually old and are dying off.
posted by rollbiz at 5:42 AM on October 1, 2010


The biggest fail of this is the assumption that the US could possibly be heading in just one direction. They don't understand that the US is a whole bunch of little "countries" (and I don't mean States) all smashed together, and the overriding thing that has been holding it together is the thought that everyone is American.

The reality is that the shear forces that are tearing at the fabric of American society are the various factions' diverse idea of what it is to be an "American". It is no longer sufficient to live here, pay taxes, and be a law-abiding member of society. You now must also share the same belief system, or you are not a true American... and you might be a traitor.

The playing of the "you disagree with me so you are unAmerican" card isn't new, but it is disturbing as all fuck, and it really should be off the table because pretty much the founding principle of America is that it is okay for people to disagree just as long as they are civilized about the disagreement and continue to work together on things they do agree on, like law and order and freedom and leaving each other the hell alone.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:58 AM on October 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


there are two major threads to white supremacy: revolutionary and mainstream. The skinheads, neonazis and Klan are revolutionaries. That is the smallest faction. The mainstreamers are far more numerous and their rhetoric is strongly reflected in the Minutemen (anti-immigrant groups) and Tea Parties. The main difference between the two factions is their approach to electoral politics.

The revolutionaries reject electoral politics and the mainstreamers embrace it.

Zeskind's book, Blood and Politics is framed around an analysis of the revolutionary/mainstreamer factions.

There is a third faction, the separatist antigovernment survivalists known as the Christian Patriots. They propose withdrawal from society and creation of isolated areas under their own law and authority. These were the groups behind the militia violence of the 1990s. They draw on a mixture of revolutionary and mainstream propaganda and ideology. The hard core of the Christian Patriots are racist Christian Identity believers who rejected the overtly revolutionary approach of Aryan Nations under Richard Butler. John Trochmann of Montana, now a fairly obscure character, was the paradigmatic leader of Christian Patriot militias in the 1990s. Pat Buchanan's political persona was a fusion of mainstreamer and Christian Patriot influences.

All three groups have adopted a core ideology of white racialist nationalism. The core to this is an idea of distinct racial classes to citizenship and the separation of races by both law and custom.

The sunlight v shunning debate is an old one. Every time there has been a crisis, the sunlight approach wins. The key to defeating reactionary racist politics is education and exposure. They work mostly by deception, infiltration and subversion and these tactics are impossible when they are subject to scrutiny and exposure leading to confrontation and rejection. Shunning them actually give them additional cover.

The worst setbacks to the Tea Party have been due to exposure, not people trying to ignore them.
posted by warbaby at 6:01 AM on October 1, 2010 [17 favorites]


Dear Al Jazeera: It's not as though none of this has ever occurred to America before. We have a sometimes awkward, but functional and pretty well established procedure for adding new ethnic flows to the American melting pot.

The early stages are characterized by large numbers of immigrants from some particular culture that is not like ours in some way. These immigrants tend to group together, and wherever they do that, they impact the existing way of life. Those affected tend to freak out a little because strangers are pouring in and things aren't the way they expect them to be anymore. Sometimes this is a largely local or regional phenomenon (Hmong along the Texas Gulf Coast for example) and sometimes it goes national, helped along by sheer scale or by one of the moral panics Americans are given to, like the current brouhaha about Hispanics and Islam.

A century ago, it was Italians, Irish, and Eastern European Jews. Now nobody thinks twice about any of those groups. They might have settled in groups, spoken their own language, kept the customs of the old country, and generally maintained an island of their own culture, but their kids moved out, intermarried, and assimilated like mad. To the extent that in many cases those original ethnic enclaves, like the "little Italy" in any number of U.S. cities, are now seen as endangered historical artifacts whose loss is to be bemoaned, and which preservationists are actively trying to save.

There's no reason to think this current phase won't pass like all the others, and a generation from now the kids of today's Muslims won't think of themselves as wholly American and be pissed off about all the Japanese Scientologists moving in and screwing things up.
posted by Naberius at 6:08 AM on October 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's too bad that this had to come from AlJazeera, a station Americans look at with suspicion, and not CNN, ABCNews, or some other home-grown news source.

Some of us look upon the whole damn bunch with suspicion. FYI.
posted by Splunge at 6:12 AM on October 1, 2010


I am curious... what are the opinions of those "take back America" movements about the fact that Europeans stole the land from the native Indians and Texas used to belong to Mexico? I watched the video and they said it like America was their's in the first place.
posted by bbxx at 6:15 AM on October 1, 2010


Pretty awful reporting.
posted by rosswald at 6:18 AM on October 1, 2010


Many people in the U.S. equate Muslims with terrorists, even though only a tiny fraction of them are.

Now, Muslims equate Americans with white supremacists, even though only a tiny fraction of us are.

It doesn't surprise me in the least that a Middle Eastern news organization is highlighting this - it's the least we do for them.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 6:20 AM on October 1, 2010 [8 favorites]


there's nothing vey new or unusual about the way this story is framed or reported. They selected a narrow, dramatic segment of white nationalism. The focus isn't the same as a broad analysis, but it's not fiction like Fox News. This same story could be aired on any number of local stations or PBS without batting an eye. As a matter of fact, check out Hate On Trial, a PBS documentary by Bill Moyers about the Metzger trial in Portland if you want to see something that looks very much the same as this.

The emphasis on Klan/neonazi elements has been a key part of ADL and SPLC's fund-raising strategies for a long time. It's dramatic and it gets attention. It's not the whole problem or even the largest part of it. But that would require the sort of self-examination that Americans (as a whole) are nearly incapable of.
posted by warbaby at 6:42 AM on October 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dear Al Jazeera: It's not as though none of this has ever occurred to America before. We have a sometimes awkward, but functional and pretty well established procedure for adding new ethnic flows to the American melting pot.

So it appears that your argument is that if we just ignore it, it will go away?
posted by TypographicalError at 6:50 AM on October 1, 2010


But that would require the sort of self-examination that Americans (as a whole) are nearly incapable of.
posted by warbaby at 6:42 AM on October 1


Who is capable of it then? I'm trying to think of any other country—especially one our size—that is great about confronting their past bugbears in a timely matter. Sure, the United States has its doozies, but I don't think we're horrible at self-reflection comparied to the other nation-states out there.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 6:52 AM on October 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Because everybody knows Arabs aren't racist at all.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:12 AM on October 1 [+] [!]


Characterizing 'Arabs' as racist is kind of an odd thing to do in a post about white power, isn't it?
posted by Comrade_robot at 6:54 AM on October 1, 2010 [8 favorites]


It's too bad that this had to come from AlJazeera, a station Americans look at with suspicion, and not CNN, ABCNews, or some other home-grown news source.

Too true. If the report had come from a US channel, this discussion would be a lot less dismissive of the source. I understand; I'm as resistant to outside criticism of my own country as I am critical of it myself. But still no excuse for missing the point.
posted by londonmark at 7:04 AM on October 1, 2010


There are plenty of people that are considered "respectable" that are absolute bigots.

True story. I used to deliver building supplies. Whole houses mostly, but saturdays were decks and garages. For ease of maintenance, and because I liked it, I wore a shaved head at the time. All sorts of racist fucks would open right up to me, it was kind of spooky.

Once, I did a deck delivery to one of those little microburbs outside of town. You know, 10-20 500,000 dollar homes spread out about what was 10 years ago a 40 acre cornfield or some such. The homeowner, some doctor or plant manager or whatever, was telling me how great it was to live there.

See, in the city, if the black people move in, you can't stop them. But here, they had a covenant. In order to buy the land, you had to belong to the church. And the church "aint gotta let no [black people] in". He was pretty proud of his little racist enclave. It was fairly disturbing.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:17 AM on October 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've seen investigative journalism on this culture made by Americans too. It mirrored the professional and matter-of-fact tone of this piece. But of course you get defensive and accuse Al-Jazeera of slandering you. Colored journalism? Caricature? I thought the Newscastor and Narrator were clear that this is a faction and were chronicling their movements. lack of diversity in opinion, and a mob-like tendency, that's the blue for you.
posted by Student of Man at 7:21 AM on October 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Some years back I stayed at a hotel in Milan that offered Al Jazeera on the television. I was surprised at the professionalism and neutrality contained in the reporting.
posted by exogenous at 7:39 AM on October 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


"In the summer of 1978, the Nazis finally held three rallies, but not in Skokie. All were in the Chicago area"

I hate Illinois Nazis.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 7:40 AM on October 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Dr. Al-jazera and Dr, Zaius were, you know.
posted by clavdivs at 7:44 AM on October 1, 2010


Did Al Jazeera see that video of the two kids pretending to steal a bike or something?
posted by orme at 7:49 AM on October 1, 2010


This is colored journalism.

We don't say 'colored' anymore.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:58 AM on October 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's a surprisingly even-handed look at white supremacy in the US, and it's of interest partially just because Al Jazeera is an international TV station and frankly, it's easy to forget the fact that in most non-US countries, these folks would be under government surveillance at the very least.

It's kind of infuriating to watch, but that's mostly simply because it involves being reminded that the country I grew up in could be doing so very much better.
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:02 AM on October 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'd like to be upset by this, but considering the coverage that American media gives fringe Islamic supremacists, this is sort of tit for tat. And yes, American media certainly has covered this topic in the past and will again in the future.

But mostly it's Friday morning and white power makes my head hurt. So blinding. I'm going back to my coffee.
posted by maryr at 8:07 AM on October 1, 2010


I lived with the reporters of this for 3 years. I haven't so much as spoken to them in 5 or 6 years, but I love 'em and respect how fearless they are. She was arrested in the Church of the Nativity during the siege 8(?) years ago, they both spent time with the Zapatistas in Chiapas and later around other people who are getting shot at in Iraq, Afghanistan, Columbia, etc. I'm kinda amazed they're still alive.

Anyway, they're friends and I wouldn't speak ill of a friend in a public forum. Race is certainly one of the ugliest issues in America and it shapes *everything*. However, the reporters here look at the world with an atypical set of eyes. They don't make stuff up, but they use their footage to support mind-bendingly anti-establishment worldview. As always, do your own research and not believe everything you hear on TV.

FWIW, more of their stuff is at bignoisefilms.com.
posted by pjaust at 8:08 AM on October 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Characterizing 'Arabs' as racist is kind of an odd thing to do in a post about white power, isn't it?

My point was is that all societies have racists in them. Some of my Arab acquaintances are the most racist people I know. Not to say that all Arabs are racist, just a small minority like most societies.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:08 AM on October 1, 2010


A couple of anecdotal points:

The Republican candidate for NY Gov forwarded an email that had a picture of black people being chased by a plane with the caption, "Run N(words) run."

A kid at the community college where I worked has been quite open to me about how he is racist, and he is, because he thinks that all black people are lazy and have no morals and are violent and I don't know what the fuck. I think he sees white affluent people and poor black people and makes his assumptions accordingly. But I was astounded at a) His openness about being a racist and b) The depth of his ignorance re: some of the causes of the poverty in the Philly area, and the nation in general.

I don't get the folks who are bugged by the video (I've watched/listened to 1/2 at this point). It's like a news drama program in the U.S. I just hope non U.S.ians who watch it don't conclude that none of us ain't got no common sense.
posted by angrycat at 8:16 AM on October 1, 2010


There certainly can't be any racism behind the dismissal of Al Jazeera's reporting. No, certainly not.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:16 AM on October 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is just a fraction of Al Jazeera's coverage of the US, part of a series called 'People and Power' which as you can see had a pretty wide-ranging remit with stories from around the globe; I think the notion that this somehow represents a bit of cherry=picked America-bashing for easy consumption in the Middle East is way off track - Nigeria's not all about armed militants from the oil-producing regions but it's a fair enough story for a news organisation to report.
posted by Abiezer at 8:34 AM on October 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Now if it was a story about the growing anti-Muslim attitude in America...
posted by iamck at 8:36 AM on October 1, 2010


> My point was is that all societies have racists in them. Some of my Arab acquaintances are the most racist people I know. Not to say that all Arabs are racist, just a small minority like most societies.

You realize that there is a difference between casual racism and guys with SS tattoos marching in parades, right? Arabs have an endemic racism problem, yes, but that has just about zero bearing on whether or not an Al-Jazeera report can be taken on its own merits.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:37 AM on October 1, 2010


three blind mice: "the U.S. is moving from a past of racially-motivated violence and separation. Used to be that respectable mayors and governors encouraged racist violence, black men got lynched by mobs, and little girls got firebombed in church - now the only people who think like this are skinhead assholes playing punk music and dancing with each other in some garage in Kansas. "

This argument has been repeated in various forms since the end of Reconstruction, but that didn't stop us from having Civil Rights or Black Power. It's possible to simultaneously believe we have made lots of progress in race relations in the past fifty years and this movement is representative of a larger trend.
posted by yaymukund at 8:42 AM on October 1, 2010


endemic racism

I don't consider having basically what amounts to slaves as endemic racism. You should read up on the living and working conditions of Bangladeshi, Indian, and other foreign workers in Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the Emirates.

But yes I agree with you that this has zero bearing on the merits of the reporting.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:47 AM on October 1, 2010


> You should read up on the living and working conditions of Bangladeshi, Indian, and other foreign workers in Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the Emirates.

But yes I agree with you that this has zero bearing on the merits of the reporting.


You should avoid telling people to read things without knowing what they know. And thank you for admitting that your comments have nothing to do with this post.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:50 AM on October 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


You realize that there is a difference between casual racism and guys with SS tattoos marching in parades, right?

On the sunlight argument, I have to say I think "casual racism" is a lot more problematic for society than "guys with SS tattoos marching in parades."

All part of the same spectrum, natch. But the marchers are less insidious an influence.
posted by chavenet at 8:50 AM on October 1, 2010


iamck: Anti-Islam sentiment on the rise.
posted by Craig at 8:58 AM on October 1, 2010


Oh, Al Jazeera, the answer is "Both."
posted by klangklangston at 9:07 AM on October 1, 2010


> "So it appears that your argument is that if we just ignore it, it will go away?"

Not at all. Like fire, this kind of thing can burn and it can cause damage, and people can be hurt, so when we see it we should try to stamp it out. But, to stretch the metaphor a bit, we have fire extinguishers, decent fireproofing in the walls, and a capable fire department, and so our house is not likely to burn to the ground.

My argument was more that there have always been newly arrived "outsider" groups in the U.S. and nativist bigots to hate and harass them. But the Republic has always survived, and has not collapsed into the kind of ethnic violence and anarchy that seem to characterize so much of the world. This too shall pass. Which is not to say that the rest of us shouldn't stand up and be counted.
posted by Naberius at 9:08 AM on October 1, 2010


In the summer of 1978, the Nazis finally held three rallies, but not in Skokie. All were in the Chicago area...

which eventually led to:

Jake: [To a patrolling officer] Hey, what's going on?
Police Officer: Ah, those bums won their court case so they're marching today.
Jake: What bums?
Police Officer: The fucking Nazi party.
Elwood: Illinois Nazis!
Jake: I hate Illinois Nazis.

So, to sum up. Nazi's suck, but making fun of them did give us a great piece of dialog.

posted by quin at 9:08 AM on October 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


You should avoid telling people to read things without knowing what they know. And thank you for admitting that your comments have nothing to do with this post.

I'm not gonna argue with you Burhanistan; if you have a problem mefimail me.

I wonder what the relationship is between the white power movement and the tea party? The report suggests that the National Socialist Movement is trying to mold a more mainstream message. It would be interesting to know if that explains the racist elements that are being seen in the tea party. Is it possible that they are trying to latch on to gain legitamacy?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:09 AM on October 1, 2010


Has it occurred to anyone else that Muslims and Middle Easterners - the original core audience of a then-fledgling Al-jazeera - view the typical reporting of Islamic extremists with the same exasperation?

We are not one country, we are not one people, we are not monolithic. One thing everyone has in common - we don't like being painted with a broad brush, especially when the painted image is one so ugly, and representative of only an ugly minority.
posted by Xoebe at 9:10 AM on October 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


three blind mice: "Al Jazeera hasn't been around for very long so they might be forgiven for forgetting that the U.S. is moving from a past of racially-motivated violence and separation. Used to be that respectable mayors and governors encouraged racist violence, black men got lynched by mobs, and little girls got firebombed in church"

This. Just to clarify, as recently as 1910, town mayors and other community members in the south regularly participated in events where black men accused falsely of raping white women were taken out of their jail cells, flogged, hung from a tree and then shot full of holes, often while their families were forced to watch. Even those accused of rape only made up a third of total lynchings: other victims were lynched for talking back to a white person, competing with white businesses or "acting white" by wearing nice clothes, speaking to a white person using their first name, or allowing other people to call them "Mister."
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 9:15 AM on October 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just to clarify I know the report tries to link the two but doesn't really offer any evidence besides saying the the CCC has started many tea party movements. I wonder what the actual number is. If the connection is indeed there then I will have to rethink my conception of the tea party. As I said in the last tea party thread the people that I personally know aren't connected to any racist organizations. I wonder if it is more of a southern phenomenon? I wonder if there can be a distinction drawn between "tea parties" in different regions in the country?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:20 AM on October 1, 2010


As I said in the last tea party thread the people that I personally know aren't connected to any racist organizations. I wonder if it is more of a southern phenomenon? I wonder if there can be a distinction drawn between "tea parties" in different regions in the country?

We understand. No true tea partier could be racist.
posted by TypographicalError at 9:32 AM on October 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thank you for putting words in my mouth.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:42 AM on October 1, 2010


Racism is still well alive in the Pacific Northwest. And I'm not talking about some liberal soccer mom accidentally saying nigger in front of mixed company or some tea-partier with a misspelled sign using a racist quip against Obama. I'm talking about organized street violence from skinheads. There still exists an affiliation of white pride neanderthals here, not as prominent as they once were (in the 1920's the KKK head a rally in what is now PGE Park: home to Major League Soccer) but still occasionally flexing some muscle.

I've heard anecdotal reports of a skinhead (though not bald headed, nor wearing doc martins anymore to make them easy to spot) resurgence in Portland, OR involving some beatings on NE Alberta street this summer. Just this last April, a prominent anit-racist/anti-fascistshot in downtown.

It comes as no shock to those of us that know that in the 90's Portland was in the cross-hairs of racist Skinheads, the Volksfront [wiki], to become the capitol of a new white America after the killing of an Ethiopian student sparked collective action of many racist skins to move to the city to take it over via street gang style intimidation.
posted by wcfields at 9:59 AM on October 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


To me, the video just seemed to be grossly overstating things.

Has there been a rise is racist rhetoric since the election of Obama? Of course. Still though, I feel like this report gives the impression that the white power movement takes up far more of the public sphere than they actually do.
posted by rosswald at 10:02 AM on October 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I dunno, the fact that the white power movement takes up ANY of the public sphere in an age of such widespread self-congratulating about our ability to look beyond race seems pretty newsworthy to me.
posted by Go Banana at 11:03 AM on October 1, 2010


Watched the whole video. The dark, droning background chords were unneccessary, but among the good bits was the ending quote:
"There's two hearts beating in the American breast: One's multiracial, democratic; and there's a white heart, if you will, that is narrow and exclusionary. At this moment, there's a struggle going on in the United States. Both hearts are there, they're both beating strong, and which one will ultimately become dominant? That has yet to be decided."
That seems about as articulate a description of the dynamics of the Tea Party as I've heard.

In my experience, the average Tea Partier isn't a racist, at least not the swastika-loving type. They recoil from that kind of naked bigotry, and not merely because they are afraid of sunlight, but because it genuinely offends them. They believe that the white, Christian America they grew up in was a meritocracy, where other races had just as much opportunity to succeed as they did, as long as those other races played by "the rules."

They want so desperately to prove this that they will fall all over themselves trying to demonstrate their non-racist bona fides. Whether it's Stephen Colbert-esque my-black-friend style photos, or Tea Party anthems with anti-racist verses, or Beck having a rally on the anniversary of MLK's "I Have A Dream" speech with his niece as a featured speaker. To them, the Civil Rights movement was not an indictment of crippling racism in America, but rather proof that "the rules" work.

At the same time, mixed in with these people are a great deal of old school racists who are only too happy to fan the flames of racial grievance and intolerance, to turn fear of economic instability into hate of the Other. Most of them aren't the flashy, swastika-loving ideologues the news media would like them to be. They don't dream of Racial Holy War or greet their friends with seig heils. They are just plain old ignorant, narrow-minded hicks who were born without any advantage but their skin color, and need someone to kick to feel good about themselves.

It's tempting for some to dismiss the whole Tea Party movement as "just a bunch of racists", but doing so ironically plays right into the racists' hands. You can see that strategy at work in this video when Gordon Baum, the head of the Council of Conservative Citizens, rhetorically asks, "What's a racist? That you're proud of what you are? Then everyone's a racist of some sort."

In other words, If they call you a racist, well, then be a racist.

For the Tea Partiers who still have that multi-racial heart beating inside them, labeling their fears and discomfort about the future as mere racism ultimately hardens and radicalizes them.

In my experience, there are really only two successful strategies for dealing with the Tea Partiers that crop up at the edges of our lives. The first is to challenge them to broaden their sources of information. Offer to read one of their books if they'll read one of yours. The second is to listen to the things that they're afraid of, and reassure them that, even though the world is changing, things are going to be okay.
posted by Missiles K. Monster at 12:16 PM on October 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


Used to be that respectable mayors and governors encouraged racist violence, black men got lynched by mobs, and little girls got firebombed in church

True. Now, respectable government officials deride Presidents and opponents as "ragheads", black men are executed in public by the police, and little girls are shot to death in their homes by invading Minutemen vigilantes.

We're not in the days of firehoses and separate drinking fountains, so by one measurement things have gotten better, but I find it hard to swallow the notion that we're just experiencing the final death throes of racism. Tea Party rhetoric is frequently skinhead rhetoric minus the 88s and straight-arm salutes; "white Christian nation" is a familiar phrase to anyone who isn't, as is "take our country back", anti-immigrant furor, on and on.

A former friend of mine turned into one of these assholes a number of years ago, complete with swastika tattoos and Mein Kampf in the trunk of his car, next to the guns. I often wonder if he brags about his Blackfoot heritage now the way that he used to. I'm guessing not.
posted by Errant at 12:33 PM on October 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I dunno, man. I can't help but feel like the US could use a good anti-fascist movement.
posted by Amanojaku at 12:48 PM on October 1, 2010


We have a sometimes awkward, but functional and pretty well established procedure for adding new ethnic flows to the American melting pot.

I don't think previous groups were the target of a culture war. We didn't blame the biggest terrorist attack in the history of the country on the Irish, even if they were portrayed as criminals and drunks. We didn't have radio and TV stations telling their audiences that there was a worldwide conflict between Christians and Italians.

The scale of the rhetoric today is much higher, and we ignore it at our peril. There are enough people involved in Islamophobia today to be a very real danger to our democracy.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 8:35 PM on October 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


There are anti-fascists in the US and Lenny Zeskind is one of the best.
posted by warbaby at 9:00 AM on October 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Right-Wing Terror Returns to Oregon
posted by homunculus at 9:21 AM on October 2, 2010


Old but interesting in a similar vein: Louis and the Nazis
posted by meehawl at 6:09 PM on October 2, 2010


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