Featured image: CHINESE Red Guard parade, June 1966. Photo Jean Vincent, APF/Getty Images
I never declared myself a White Supremacist. In four years of hanging around the Internet’s darkest quarters I have never met a White Supremacist. “White Supremacist” isn’t an identity, it’s an accusation. Organizations like the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center use the label as a warning that this person is not to be trusted, this organization is not to be supported, this book is not to be sold, this podcast is not to be heard. I didn’t choose White Supremacism, White Supremacism was thrust upon me.
My great crime was asserting that White people exist and that we were something other than a problem to be solved. I do not know what surprises me more: that I was reviled for this or that I had to say it at all. People of European descent residing in the New World have been called “White” for centuries. Yes, the borders have always been ill-defined and shifting. Sit me next to Samuel L Jackson and 100 out of 100 people will be able to spot the White man. My ancestors did both horrible and glorious things: acknowledging the first wins you accolades while mentioning the second gets you scorned in polite company.
I would not repent from my beliefs nor refrain from talking or working with people branded as “White Supremacists.” Neither could I refrain from criticizing the White Left’s increasingly shrill and performative obsession with race and sexuality. But while Critical Theory encourages us to deconstruct and challenge our beliefs and prejudices, any efforts to deconstruct or challenge that theory is “flat out a declaration of white supremacist sympathies at the very least, but really a declaration of your belief in white supremacy.” In a saner time I would have been a gadfly like Jimmy Breslin or Nat Hentoff. Today I can only be an enemy.
My core beliefs have not changed a great deal in forty years. I believe an honest day’s work deserves an honest day’s pay regardless of a worker’s race, color, creed or other incidentals. I do not care what consenting adults do in private with or to each other. I am critical of immigration as a tool used to suppress wages and evade work safety laws. I support free speech even for controversial opinions and ideas. I am suspicious of big finance and big corporations. At 15 this put me to the left of Walter Mondale. Today I’m a white Supremacist. And since I found myself a White Supremacist, I might as well make the best of it.
Today many powerful and wealthy people are working very hard to convince you that violent White Supremacists are a dangerous threat to the social order. The images they associate with these “White Supremacist militias” are pickup trucks, meth addiction, Confederate bumper stickers and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN hats — things most commonly associated with working class and impoverished Whites. Most readers are well aware of how words like “thugs” and “super-predators” can be weaponized against young Black men. That technique is color-blind. And when lots of powerful wealthy people are warning you about a threat, it could be that they’re concerned for your well-being. More often it is because they find your fear useful.
“If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket,” Lyndon B. Johnson famously told Bill Moyers. “Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.” Rich folks have been throwing us that bait for centuries and poor White folks have taken it every single time. Now they’ve given some Black folks a place at the middle of the bus and even let a few sit up front. They’ve told the rest of you the only thing keeping you back is the White passengers alongside you. And while we squabble for seats on the bus, we never ask why we can’t afford a car.
But LBJ’s little trick works on rich White folks too. The doctrine of “White Privilege” takes as a given that the lowest white man is still better than the best colored man, only today they call him a Person of Color. Whiteness comes with the noblesse oblige to lift up the disadvantaged — and the list of disadvantaged grows ever longer and more diluted. Prosperous White folks who affirm their privilege every time they empty their pockets at a workshop or stand in solidarity at a march. Abolitionists have always preferred their Negroes needy and pitiful.
Let’s take a look at the “Pyramid of White Supremacism,” as envisioned by earnest White liberals.
At the base of the pyramid we find “Housing Discrimination.” Housing has been an enormous issue for the Black community since before Reconstruction. One of the biggest grievances that led to the 1967 Newark riots was the shoddy living conditions Black residents endured every day. Today Newark is still plagued by greedy slumlords who run moldy, ill-maintained, vermin-infested buildings. And yet these warriors against White Supremacy find Columbus Day, Halloween costumes and “Don’t blame me, I never owned slaves” to be more pressing and dangerous threats.
It is also telling that they place “fetishizing POC” near the very bottom of the pyramid. Dating apps like OKCupid and Tinder have been struggling with the issue of racial preferences in their user choices, and contemplating ways to encourage more interracial hookups. One of the Internet’s most popular porn sites, Greg Lansky’s Blacked, focuses on White women and Black men. And while People of Color are disproportionately forced into sex work by poverty and lack of opportunity, most Sex Work Activism is more concerned with “slut-shaming” than economic inequality. They don’t want to help these workers out of the life: instead, they assure them that selling their bodies is no more degrading than flipping burgers or washing cars.
HOW DOES THIS HONOR AND RESPECT Black People?
For the modern White Left, feelings trump facts every time. And inevitably the feelings which matter most are their own. Housing shortages and the School to Prison Pipeline are abstractions: images of a Black man pinned by a White police officer provide a much more satisfying dopamine rush. This results in lots of indignation channeled into whatever shocking video clip is making the rounds this week. But it also results in a lot of energy being channeled away from concrete issues into manufactured outrage. And no matter how justified that outrage, it only lasts until the next spectacle begins.
The George Floyd protests are rooted in organic rage and in long-simmering grievances. The anger and the injustices are very real. So is the outpouring of support they have received from the mainstream media, major corporations and wealthy NGOs. As an old-school Progressive, I have always known that when wealthy people support your cause it means they hope to gain from it.
Black Lives Matter is receiving donations through ActBlue, a large fundraising platform with ties to the Democratic Party. (Hence the name). Pretty much every Fortune 500 corporation has issued Tweets or Instagram posts in support of BLM. The “Defund the Police” movement is being spearheaded by Local Progress, a coalition of local government officials funded by numerous NGOs (including but not exclusively groups funded by George Soros). This is not entirely a bad thing: as a Left-leaning friend noted, this kind of exposure helps spark important conversations on difficult topics and encourages support for what were once fringe ideas. As somebody who spends most of his time on the fringe, I think this is a good thing. But what you ask for and what they give you once you no longer serve their purpose are often very different things.
As communities defund the police, we will likely see the rise of privatized security companies hired for the job. (The big mercenary company Blackwater would love to step into this position). These police will likely be no more accountable or less brutal than the ones they replaced. Instead of suing townships and cities, you will be dealing with high-priced corporate legal teams who will fight tooth and nail and who have very deep pockets. The cost of insuring these security patrols will be prohibitive so within a few years you will have one or two major security firms handling most of America’s policing. (Think Amazon or Google).
Counselors and social workers are a great idea. Community mental health care centers were a great idea after they deinstitutionalized most mentally ill Americans. But those community health care centers never materialized because the money was never allocated for them. You may see a few programs in a few areas, but I wouldn’t expect any widespread adoption of that model. Contracts for social workers aren’t nearly as lucrative as contracts for trained security professionals.
Right now billionaires are funding what looks to me like an organized effort at regime change. While I would shed no tears if Trump ascended the scaffold, I doubt very much that they are spending that money because they genuinely feel that Black Lives Matter. If the wake of the 2020 riots looks like the wake of the 1960s riots I expect more, not less, segregation and ill will between White and non-White Americans. After this effort ends I expect them to offer little help in cleaning up the post-riot messes or in ensuring they don’t happen again. And most of the momentum and hope will wind up channeled into the cause of technofeudalism.
I have been expecting a serious economic and social collapse for several years. During that time I expected many tensions would break along ethnic lines. My hopes were that this process would be relatively peaceful, as with the dissolution of the Soviet Union: my fears were that it would be more like the end of Yugoslavia. Today I am more frightened than hopeful. But as that new order is shaped, we will need people of good will from all sides to work toward the most peaceful and just end possible.
I do not expect the present social unrest to go away any time soon, nor do I expect much healing. I don’t anticipate Jim Crow’s return. Black Americans will never again sit at the back of the bus or drink from a colored water fountain. “How you gonna keep them on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?” a popular post-Great War song asked. Black veterans were among the earliest and most effective crusaders for Black rights. Give people freedom, dignity and power and they’ll die before they give it back. But I do expect that one effect of the protests — and the protests to come — will be significant demographic changes and greater, not less, tension between American ethnic groups.
The Interstate system gave us suburbs. The rise of the Internet we saw a growing movement toward working from home. The lockdown which fueled many of these tensions has also given companies a stress test in WFH: we can expect a growing number of employees, mostly in highly skilled executive, financial and technical fields, to work from home. This will give them much greater freedom in choosing where they live.
Riot-torn cities will almost certainly become poorer and darker-complected. Many majority White areas will become Whiter: there are lots of liberal Whites who will happily scream “Black Lives Matter” then pay huge sums to get away from “crime” and “bad schools.” These newcomers will be surrounded by locals who will likely be bearing the brunt of the incoming Great Crash and angry about it. The homes they fled will be surrounded by other, non-White locals who will be faced with the same challenges.
In Minneapolis America learned that you can burn police precincts and get away with it. In Seattle America learned that you can declare yourself an Autonomous Zone and get away with it. This is generally a good thing and I welcome anything which takes power away from bureaucracies and places it in the hands of the people. But I can’t help wondering how a government which can’t stop a few hundred anarchists from declaring public buildings an Autonomous Zone are going to stop a few thousand good old boys from declaring themselves a sundown county. Or expecting integration to be the first casualty of America’s disintegration.
You have been told that working-class White people are your mortal enemies and that your lot will only improve when we are browbeaten into capitulation or left to die in our trailer parks and flyover states. Most of us just have no interest in fighting you. Despite the best efforts of politicians and pundits to goad us into traveling into cities and starting a race war, the White Right stayed home and watched the System choke on its own contradictions. Because, despite what you have heard, most of us on the White Right know a couple little secrets that lots of loud and powerful people don’t want getting out.
We know that Black people are not our enemies. And we know who the real Enemy is.
Our Enemy is the filthy unjust System which grows wealthier every day on our blood and our sweat. Our Enemy hates Western civilization and seeks to replace it with a corporate monoculture. Our Enemy hates piety and devotion and would see it replaced by hedonism and nihilism. Our Enemy sold your bodies as property and would have you locked alongside us in chains of debt. They would see us all equally poor, equally uneducated, and equally entertained by digital bread and political circuses. And they will support your Blackness so long as you don’t demand it too strenuously. (Louis Farrakhan could say a thing or two about that)
We are different peoples united by geography and divided by history. Those differences have been long exploited by people who want to preserve their wealth and power. We have lived alongside and amongst each other for centuries and will do so for centuries to come. For most of that time, we have lived together peacefully if not equitably. We will do so again. We may do so after a bloody war that adds new grudges to the old ones. Or we may do so through honest negotiation between proud representatives acting upon enlightened self-interest toward justice and peace. But this will never happen until we quit focusing our enmity on each other and turn our attention to those who benefit by seeing us at each other’s throats.