· You Can Make a Difference ·
It’s safe to say that white nationalist members and sympathizers prefer the racist 1915 film, “The Birth of a Nation” over the anti-racist 2018 blockbuster movie, “The BlackkKlansman.”
In the early 1900’s the leading white nationalist organization of the day was the Ku Klux Klan. The KKK was organized after the Civil War in order to counter the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery and involuntary servitude. The terrorist group was able to sell itself as protecting the traditional values of a white society. By day it became a widely accepted fraternal-like organization but by night it was a cross-burning, homicidal, domestic terrorist group based on hate. If people weren’t WASP’s (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant), then they were open game—the targeted enemy.
The KKK was able to become powerful because enough Americans looked at the Klan as an acceptable tool to use for controlling minorities. Those who were silent, who did not stand up, may have accepted that they were benefiting from the terror acts or they may have believed that they couldn’t make a difference so did not try.
In 1915 President Woodrow Wilson watched the film, “The Birth of a Nation,” at the White House. This presidential act helped the KKK grow its membership as the terrorist group was portrayed as a heroic force protecting white women from uneducated, sexually aggressive black men.
Today white nationalist groups espousing white supremacist or white separatist ideologies have had a resurgence as they preach hate against people other than themselves, usually focusing on the alleged inferiority of nonwhites and Jews. Just like the Klan in post-Civil War America, white supremacist groups point to demographic change in the US as a reason for violent extremism. They supposedly want to protect traditional values with a limited government but not before it ends civil rights protections and halts the “immigrant invasion.” By spreading myths of black criminality, scientific racism, and eugenic theories the white nationalist movement continues to create fear by lying and creating misleading news.
Many white nationalist groups disguise their politics from their extreme positions. Others want a revolution. They don’t believe the system can be reformed. All these groups would like to be viewed as powerful when in reality they are an underwhelming minority.
Timothy McVeigh is an example of a person who took extreme action against the government. His 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people and injured 680, remains the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in US history. Yet, today he’s barely mentioned as a catalyst for further violence. Could it be that since he was a white American, not a foreigner, that his home-grown obsession is largely ignored?
Here’s my tip for my white friends. Don’t be scared. Don’t be silent. Don’t be tricked. Don’t be a pawn. Don’t go back.
I grew up in Skokie, Illinois, a predominately Jewish community. I was a religious minority there. My neighbors and friends were Jewish. No problem.
In college I was exposed to racial diversity. The experience was enriching.
I hitchhiked through Mexico and Central America. People were brown and I was white, my Spanish was limited, but I was treated as a visitor, not an enemy.
I worked as a volunteer in a Georgia prison. The south was a new cultural experience for me, a Yankee. There were challenges since I represented forced change by the federal government, but we got along despite some resentments.
A college friend of mine invited me to visit him at his apartment-home in Brooklyn, New York City. I was curious and excited for the new adventure. I remember one day when Hameed and I were walking down a crowded sidewalk together and all I could see were black faces. I was outnumbered, and for a second I felt a hint of fear. I stood out. As we continued walking, I got a little closer to Hameed. I wanted everyone to know that I had a friend, a black ally. Though I was one white face, a minority in a sea of black, I was safe.
My challenge to my white friends is to meet someone new who doesn’t look like you. At least hold off from judging an entire race, ethnicity, or religion because of the actions of a few.
What if people of color or of different religions judged the entire Caucasian race as the enemy because of one Timothy McVeigh?
Don’t be tricked. Don’t be manipulated by deceptive news. You can worry about African Americans, Muslims, and Mexicans harming you, but statistically you should be much more concerned about the Timothy McVeigh who lives next door.
Until next time, happy writing and reading!