The rise of the Alt-Right represents a unique dilemma in the fight against racism and global inequality. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Alternative Right is “a set of far-right ideologies, groups and individuals whose core belief is that white identity is under attack by multicultural forces using “political correctness” and “social justice” to undermine white people and “their” civilization.” They have recently taken the spotlight with their controversial support of President Donald Trump, whose campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” apparently resonated with their message of embracing “white pride”. Contrary to popular belief that racism is the domain of older folks and thus, in decline within our progressive society, the Alt-Right consists predominantly of young white men, many of them described as “college graduates”, who frequent online sites such as 4Chan, Reddit and Twitter to anonymously promote their views.
While many of us assumed the harmlessness of young white males “trolling” online, these men were harboring the racist attitudes of a bygone era, under the pretext of being unfairly “victimized” by everyone from immigrants, to refugees, to Muslims, to Black Lives Matter. “What about us?!” they cried, and took to basically reaffirming allegiance with the very mindset that made them the most dominant group in the world, while…currently still being…the most dominant group in the world. No really, white guys, what more do you want?
Glaring questions remain. Is “white pride” identical to “white supremacy”? Is it even worth the hassle of trying to distinguish between the two? For whilst we ruminate over the possibility that one is acceptable and one is not, we run the risk of unwittingly allowing the very thing we have fought against for so long. What if white supremacy is simply being masked as “white pride”, a shiny new name with the 21st century politically correct seal of approval, blatantly spewing the same old rhetoric.
Their agenda is hardly as genius as it might seem. It’s the old wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing trick. One term has successfully been deemed “racist” or “insensitive”, make up another term to refer to it. “Nigger” became socially unacceptable, so “thug” was introduced. These groups simply make blanket statements disavowing their relation to established forms of racism ie. “We do not support Nazis or anti-Semitism”, “We are not associated with the KKK”, etc., and the public is expected to breathe a sigh of relief and look in the other direction. Never mind that their core values and goals are eerily similar.
And so, with the agenda of these sorts of groups being at best shady and at worst blatantly offensive, people of color are forced between a sword and a cheek. We have two options that make themselves clear. We can brush this off, telling ourselves that these groups are “the minority”, “far away” or “not powerful enough to do any real damage”. This mentality would both enable us to comfortably continue our lives in the world as it is, and escape accusations of being too militant or “focusing too much on race”. The classic argument that discussing issues of racism makes people more racist, while ignoring issues of racism, or “not taking things personally”, makes society less racist. In the animal kingdom, this logic would be that burying your head in the sand is a practical response to danger.
The other option for people of color, is to band together, and against the dangerous ideologies that have ravaged our people and our countries mere decades ago. This is an uncomfortable thought, as it requires paying attention to upsetting ideas and groups, and dedicating time to organizations, events and people that are committed to reinforcing unity, peace, and the significance of diversity.
However, we do this with the thought gnawing in the back of our mind, are we becoming just like them? Is organizing via racial affinity and related socio-economic interest the same as promoting racial division? The answer is not as simple as black and white. It may be an extreme comparison (it’s actually not), but is self-defense considered the same as pre-meditated murder? In the face of a clear threat, do we pretend like everything is okay or do we prepare for the worst? Besides, a message of racial unity, inclusion and rejection of white supremacy is not the same as a message of division and preservation of the false notion of superiority.
Richard Spencer is a prominent white nationalist and key player within the movement, crediting himself as having coined the term “Alt-right”. Known to preach a message of “conquer or die” at white nationalist conferences, at one particular Washington conference, he was filmed giving a speech: “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!”. Numerous audience members responded with the Nazi salute. Spencer has defended the actions of his supporters, claiming that the Nazi salute was raised in the name of “irony and exuberance”. He even elaborates that “to be white is to be a striver, a crusader, an explorer and a conqueror”. While it is disturbing that someone would attribute countless years of slavery and colonization to being a “conqueror”, even more disturbing is that this is already in fact, the established global narrative, as upheld by history books, media and the entertainment industry.
But should white people be ashamed of their whiteness? Is it that they are the only ones not allowed to be vocal about their ethnic pride? No. White people can be proud of their features, ancestry, culture and so on. But they must face the fact that quite a large portion of their legacy was founded on the creation of racism as a social construct and tool of division for the purpose of economic gain, power and influence. As a result of successful mass theft, mass genocide, and miseducation, they already enjoy being at the top of the human food chain, so to speak. They must learn to separate the bad from the good when it comes to their heritage, although it is all quite awkwardly entangled. The precise problem of the white people who enslaved, colonized, stole, raped and murdered, was that MONEY and POWER as an end justified their means. If the current white people are not careful, the philosophy of making their respective empires great again could result in the same disregard for other races and cultures, equitable distribution of resources, and equal opportunities for all.
Somewhere along the road, we accepted the lie that the best way to cure hate is to ignore it. In fact, the best way to deal with hate is to counter it. Hate can never truly be cured in our imperfect world, but it can be conquered with love. A message of love and unity should never be equated with a message of hate, division and supremacy. One is the disease, one is the treatment, and we can either allow the disease to fester and become contagious, or we can consciously, bravely, actively attempt to treat it.