As an anti-racist activist, researching white supremacists, white nationalists, anti-Semites, neo-Nazis and anti-immigrant groups hasn’t always been easy, particularly when I’m trying to figure out the similarities and differences (and yes, there are MANY important differences) between each of these groups. And then there are the militia/patriot groups and those we define as “Christian identity”. (Are you confused yet?)
When I started working with anti-racist leaders I heard the term “white nationalist”, but I had no idea what it meant. Out of fear of looking stupid, I didn’t ask anyone if there was a difference between white nationalism and white supremacy. I assumed that they were the same – a huge mistake for any researcher, particularly for anyone trying to understand how race and racism functions in 21st century society.
Part of the problem is locating a coherent, yet brief, source for defining far-right social movements. Certainty not the case when researching U.S. suffrage and labor movement, it’s easy to find any left-leaning professor or activist to share his/her thoughts.
While white nationalism is still a contested term amongst white nationalists themselves, there are some clear differences between white nationalism and white supremacy.
For those beginning to see “pro-white” organizations as a social movement and not just an isolated issue operating without a grassroots base, I decided to create a brief working definition that looks at three of the main points of white nationalism.
1. White Nationalism is an ideology that supports the creation of a whites-only nation. As one white nationalist proclaims on the popular white nationalist website Stormfront, “I’m a White Nationalist, one who supports the founding of a White Nation, White self-determination and self-government… one who believes the White Race should separate from the non-White races.”
2. White Nationalists believe “that multi-racial societies are inherently unstable, and…that a preference for one’s own group is natural, normal, and health. Racial diversity is a terrible source of conflict and tension; it is not a strength”, according to Jared Taylor, founder of American Renaissance, a white nationalist website.
3. White nationalist (or racialists) believe that the genetic make-up of “non-white” people are biologically and culturally inferior to white people.
While both nationalists and white supremacists are segregationists, white nationalists are not interested in sharing a nation with “non-whites”. The citizenry of a white supremacist nation would include whites and people of color; whereas white nationalists prefer a whites-only nation. However, white supremacists still believe that whites must control the political, economic and social institutions.
What looks like a myriad of separate issues, such as the anti-Obama conspiracies, tea parties, and anti-immigration protests, are actually strains of a white nationalist movement testing the possibility of openly organizing and promoting the creation of an all white nation. While it’s easy to dismiss opposing ideologies as crazy, it doesn’t necessarily make the analysis correct.
To effectively challenge white nationalism, understanding and responding to it should no longer be viewed as another item on the list of things to do.