Category Archives: race/racism

Talking to whites about their (our) racism: a question for anti-racists

Memphis, TN, is one of the few American cities where a critical aspect of white privilege is almost impossible to sustain—namely, the part that means almost never finding oneself in the minority. In Memphis, whites are outnumbered 2 to 1 by blacks, and other demographic factors can make the ratio “feel” much higher. (The city provided my first experience of being the sole white person in a filled-to-capacity venue. This was at the Applebee’s down the street from my house—hardly the Apollo fucking Theater.)

My wife and I spent a year there as part of her (pharmacy) grad schooling. The UT Health Services program attracts a large crop of students each year. Of course, many of these students are white, and as grad students who can afford to relocate—future doctors, dentists and pharmacists, at that—are privileged even among whites.

A quarter of the pharmacy students must complete their final three years at a satellite campus in Knoxville. My wife and I made this move, and naturally drew many acquaintances from this smaller “expat” community.

Among the white classmates, there are frequent expressions of “relief” to be out of Memphis due to the tangible “racial tension” there. When pressed, this inevitably reduces to anecdotes about how some (or a lot, or most) black people there were rude or standoffish toward them. (Note that the alleged cases are typically ones in which the white person is the patron of some customer service the black person is providing them; buying shit is really the extent of the “victims’” experience with local, non-school-related African-Americans.)

While they accuse these blacks of poor behavior, I have never witnessed overt racism attending these accounts. However, I strongly suspect that these impressions are due to latent racism on the part of the white students. (Shit, I know it is.) And naturally I have the urge to “prove” this to them.

I have tended to argue in the following way:

(1) My own experience has not matched theirs. Note too, my data set is probably far larger and more representative: Not being a student, I was more in “the real world” than they. My friends, neighbors and coworkers were likelier to be drawn from the general population, rather than the grad school community.

(2) Studies strongly suggest that high majorities of whites who do not perceive themselves to be racist tend to hold latent racist views. I like to say: “If an open, avowed racist—a klansman or something—relayed a string of negative encounters with blacks, wouldn’t we suspect his racism had something to do with these impressions?; but then, why not suspect a latent racist’s racism as responsible for the identical class of impressions?”

Specifically, those studies indicate that whites tend to rate the same ambiguous behavior as more aggressive or “personal” when performed by blacks rather than by fellow whites. (The evidence is broken down in sect. (ii) of this post; the citations are in Tim Wise’s blog, my original source.)

None of this really “works,” despite my confidence that my associates are overall decent, well-intentioned types. To them, as to most whites (most people?), “racism” always refers to bald, deliberate nastiness toward people of color; knowing they don’t feel this way about blacks, they resist the attribution of racist ideas. (Though I always include myself in the charge.)

Finally, to myself, I entertain a completely different defense angle:

(3) Assuming the white complainants are accurately recounting these exchanges, the “inhospitable” behavior could be perfectly justified. The fact of generalized white racism—or rather, the fact that blacks are aware of generalized white racism—can engender perfectly rational “trust issues.” (None of these are very exotic in kind; they are the sort of thing each of us has dealt with in some relationship or another.) One is reluctant to bestow much effort on someone who is not sure to appreciate it, much less to sincerely reciprocate; or to bend over backward in a service capacity for someone who is likely to think it is his or her “proper place” to do so in the first place; etc. (If you already see me as a clown, the last thing I’m gonna do is tell you a joke.)

(Note that “erring on the side of niceness” is not a risk-free option here. Acting within a trust deficit is no zero sum game. Turning out to be a sucker—or in this case, wondering if you’ve been one—takes a psychic toll.)

I haven’t pressed this line of argument for fear it concedes too much to the whites’ accounts; I don’t wish to reinforce a belief that blacks are standoffish. (Again, that hasn’t been my experience.) I’m only saying that if this is the case, there may be a good reason.

* * *

To conclude with a question:

This issue points well beyond what to tell my friends in isolated conversations. Any anti-racist work will encounter the “rude/unruly black” meme soon enough.

For example, during the 2009 Henry Louis Gates, Jr. flap, anti-racist advocates such as Tim Wise and Michael Eric Dyson were afforded public fora on the matter. They had to address the routine charge that Gates needlessly escalated the confrontation.

Some responded to the effect that, given the prevalence of racist ideas, racial profiling, etc., “it isn’t a crazy idea to ask if racism had to do with the incident.” And I agree—just as I contend it “isn’t crazy” to ask whether racism accounts for these impressions of those white students.

But this answer seems unsatisfying. My burden is how we might go further and actually answer the question with a, “yes, it was indeed racist” in a given case—especially in a way that might impress a (decent, well-intentioned) white critic.

So is the case I make to the white students even a good one? Is it the best sort of case one can hope for? Or what?


Reflections on the National Socialist “Stand” in Knoxville

[Last summer, the National Socialist Movement, a white power group, held an anti-immigration rally in my current home of Knoxville, TN. This is an albeit dated review of that action and our counter-protest.]

Exempting an ultraleft “anarchisty” youth, I have always regarded white power counter-protests with ambivalence. I haven’t been confident that they “do” anything. Most actions that look like this are intended to raise awareness among the non-activist public about issue-x, with a longer term view to movement-building. But everyone is already opposed to overt racism. Like scientific theories, you want your actions to be fecund, to set up momentum for future actions; but this campaign is so immediate and defensive, it isn’t clear where it “goes” after its all over. You either run these guys out of town, or drown them out—and then what?

But with a Nazi group marching a stone’s throw from my home (even closer to where I work), I committed to go. I was genuinely open to some aggro shit. I was ready to go all antifa left-wing futbol hooly on some asses. This reflected both a tactical preference (more on that below) as well as, to be frank, less noble hypermasculinist motivations. I had no reason to expect there would be room for scrapping, though, and there wasn’t. (I was on probation anyway.)

The group that held the rally is the National Socialist Movement (NSM). My clandestine forays onto various white power boards give me the impression that NSM is the hate group most likely to be (a) praised in superlative terms, as well as (b) mocked and scorned, by their racist peers. They earn respect by maintaining high member rolls and “putting in a lot of work,” but the “realist” David Duke-ish contingent see a credibility threat in their cheesy faux-military maneuvers, Nazi suits, ranks and such.

Puh lease.

The rally promised to be a fairly big deal as these things go. NSM called their Knoxville visit “The Stand in the South”—not a stand, nor one stop on a serial stand, but “The Stand.” This follows two weeks of white power events in 2007 where other groups tried to get the murders of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom prosecuted as a black-on-white hate crime. There is some evidence these groups see Knoxville as a relatively friendly place for their kind of work and want to turn it into some kind of regular gig. Many antis (as in, anti-racists) I talked to with were motivated to counter-protest because they got the same impression.

I attended with nine middle-TN comrades (some in the little-c friend sense, some in the big-C socialist-ally sense). I had met all but one only recently via the MTRF campaign (defending the Murfreesboro mosque plan from Islamophobic Tea Party types).

I mentioned being ambivalent. Ambivalence is a mind-state; in terms of action, I went all out. I tore an old t-shirt (red, consequently) to make a “protest rag” (this is for anonymity to cops and to racists, and to be able to walk, not run, if the gas came.) I haven’t worn one of these for years. It is arguably cheesy. But it felt good. I felt strong, and socialist as fuck.

Our group arrived in downtown Knoxville’s Market Square around 1:30. I had a vague plan to meet a local activist, Richard Butler, to whom I’d only spoken by phone. (I know him better now.) He is from the second of two ARA groups in town, which he started on the premise that the original had become too exclusive in an effort to shed the network’s “punky” image. I think he also complained that they prefer the hippy-dippy dancing stuff to any kind of direct action. (Needless to say, this Richard Butler should never be confused with the like-named founder of the Aryan Nations.) Richard B. was there but was still waiting for his people. He and lots of others were saying, with some desperation of tone, that the NSM was “already at the courthouse” (the site of their rally). This was 1.5 hours before they were scheduled to march there from the Square. I concluded they had marched early, ostensibly to avoid close contact with angry antis. (Granted, they would’ve had a police escort, but this is more porous than the barricade that would be waiting for them at the rally.) This was a mistake; they marched around 3:00, as scheduled. I was the victim of honest misinformation. (I found this out only after bombing the white power sites with charges of “chickenshit.” But fuck it.)

So we left Richard to wait for his people, arriving at the courthouse area around 2:00. The “free speech zone” was set up in a section of Gay Street right across from the courthouse. Barricades ran the length of this street and turned the corner onto a section of Gay Street (to the left of the FSZ, facing the courthouse), where the NSM would march in from to get to the courthouse lawn. (At one point, I would think to heckle NSM for being homophobes “parading” down “Gay Street.”) We were advised by an unofficial anti spokesperson that the cops guarding the entrance to the FSZ would not permit water bottles to pass. (It was a pretty hot day.) There was some speculation that the cops were trying to “dry out” both sides; luckily, a light rain would provide some relief in time. Cops were checking bags and frisking everyone going into the FSZ, so we left our bottles with the Food not Bombs people, who promised to watch all contraband until 4:00 PM. (I also had mace, which I hid in a bush.) I later heard people swear the cops permitted mace, tazers and other weapons (not guns) if you declared them, but I can’t verify that.

* * *

We spent maybe an hour in the Zone waiting for the NSM guys to turn onto Main Street. Eric Bell, part of our contingent, is a documentary filmmaker—not aligned with any political group—doing a piece on the ‘Boro mosque protest. He took this time to film our opinions on the NSM thing. Apparently, NSM were frisked a second time at the Gay-Main corner, just out of sight, which (if not other factors) made them late for the protest. (This also inspired another jeer: “Late for your own rally? I thought you sons of bitches made the trains run on time.”)

I have to mention the huge law enforcement presence. I am piss with estimating numbers but cops were simply everywhere. Surely there were a couple to few hundred to be seen from the FSZ. Some were inside the Zone, and a sniper set up in the balcony above us. A few were on the courthouse lawn with the Nazis. There were various armored vehicles, paddywagons, helicopters, motorcycles, bicycles, etc. about at any time. FBI, THP, KPD, and SWAT (or whatever we call them here) were represented. One assumes there were undercover cops too. A line of riot cops lined the street side of each Gay Street barricade, one line facing us and another facing the NSM.

As with the water ban, it is hard to see a benign rationale in this degree of force. Nor do I suspect it is a product of mismanagement, a “waste.” Whatever else it is, it is an exercise, a test of the police infrastructure. And you can bet it’ll be used on us eventually; this protest was the only time any of us activist-types could recall having been on the other side of the batons. (Funny: The city made the NSM wear all black for identification, and they have a penchant for military regalia to boot (which is often black anyhow). A couple of times, new contingents of riot cops marched into view and it was hard to tell right away that they weren’t NSM.)

* * *

Here’s an aside: Speaking of bombarding the white power sites, a little more than half the youtube footage of this event was put up by NSM or their sympathizers. Of course, I lustily taunted them in the comments about needing police escorts. Here’s a snippet:

1964Smoky responds:
The police were there to protect you homos from yourselves. Several of the NSM marchers are ex-military and could have easily taken all of you on.

I respond:
You should tell the cops that. That would contradict every public statement they have made re. this and the previous rally. As you well know, the NSM are under discipline not to attack the antis; the police know this also and given the history of previous rallies, they have no reason to expect NSM to act out. “The Commander” is simply flexing nuts (as are you) when he says otherwise.

Also, how many NSM members are “ex-military”? More than 10% of the antis?—because that’s the proportion of ex-mil in society at large. Surely you aren’t claiming that NSM could beat 50 ex-military among the antis (10% of 500), which surely neutralizes their own “ex-mil advantage,” plus all the rest of the hundreds of antis? I assume you’re joking here.

Talking shit, or the ethics of such

Around 3:00 the NSM folks began to appear, crossing Gay Street onto the courtyard. They trickled in rather than marched or paraded or anything. This may have been, again, because they were being fed through patdowns just out of view. This entrance point was the closest we ever got to them, at least those of us bunched on the left side of the FSZ; plus, there was only ever one or two NSM walking past at any one time. This made it possible to call specific racists out, get them to focus on you in particular, and have a kind of direct personal exchange with them. Between comrade J. Westbrooks and myself, we talked more shit than a pro wrestler. Of course, this continued when the rally cranked up, but the noise level and distance between us was never as accommodating again.

The shit-talking in general brought up issues of its own (in no particular order):

(1) There is a preponderance of obese Nazis both in general and in the NSM. In fact, I’ve read a number of the NSM’s white power critics refer to them as a bunch of “fat slobs.” I yelled to a few of them that “Hitler would have thrown your fat ass in the oven, too,” or “Hitler called obesity a defect,” etc. (I don’t actually know if any of that is true; but neither do the NSMs.) One huge guy would lift up his shirt and pat his big belly at me whenever I said this, as if to revel in the feature he thought I was mocking. This was a pretty dopey response, as I wasn’t calling him fat, but inconsistent.

[For the record, I love my heavier brothers and sisters. Indeed (though this will sound worse to some) I’m known as a bit of a chubby chaser. Not that a fetish is the purest proof of “fat acceptance”; but I trust it is incompatible with a view that fat is ridiculous, ugly, etc., and therefore that I meant any such thing by that taunt.]

(2) We (comrade Wesbrooks and I at least) threw a lot of middle fingers and used a ton of profanity. I tried to bait the men into fighting, but this was probably never going to work. (But all it takes is one….) This bled into the personal attacks such as above.

There were those among the antis who opposed this more negative or “hostile” tack. Some were giving out these neon signs that said “LOVE.” On the back, it had a disclaimer that your use of the sign implied consent to use proper decorum, show respect, etc.

The “LOVE” sentiment probably means a couple of things at once. I’m sure it is partly about “loving,” rather than hating, people of color, immigrants, gays, and the rest of the NSM “enemies.” (As in, the NSM should show love rather than hate.) But it is also about us “loving” the NSM themselves rather than hating them. Some people on the microphone (there was prepared material from the organizers, and then open mic time) conveyed this feeling explicitly.

A few thoughts on this:

(a) There is a persistent feeling among anti types that resisting white power and homophobia is fundamentally about “opposing hate.” Well, I “hate” this argument. Surely the hate in and of itself can’t be the problem: It is conceivable (if unlikely) that the NSM could keep all of its noxious policies while dropping just the hate. I mean, you don’t have to hate blacks and latinos to want a nation separate from them (though I’m sure it helps.) There are already plenty of hard-right-wingers who probably don’t hate people of color (Pat Buchanan, maybe?), but this doesn’t stop their policies from harming these groups.

So would we be (more) OK with the NSM if they dropped the “hate”? Would they be any less “protest-worthy” without it? Surely not. But then “hate” is not the main issue here. (Not to mention most of us “good people” hate something, even someone. And we’re OK with that. It is all about just what or whom is being hated.)[1]

(b) I assure you the NSM are unimpressed when a group of “race traitors and mongrels” tell them they are “loved.” This reminds me of when Christians express “love” for more hostile nonbelievers. (You see this from street preachers a lot.) In these contexts, “I love you” sounds obligatory, backhanded and opportunist. Shit, the Bible even says that in being kind to one’s enemy, “you will heap burning coals upon his head.” (“Kill ‘em with kindness” is a secular rendition.)

The point is that you can’t use your own value system to impress an antagonist whose antagonism consists in denying that very system. You’d first have to provide them with a reason to buy into the system. Antis declaring love for the NSM is as effective as quoting the Bible to atheists about the folly of atheism. It can only make us look weak and stupid.

(c) At one point, an older anti chastised us for using personal insults. I politely told the guy I would take it under advisement. (I didn’t mean it but I was trying to be polite. Comrade W. kind of “gave him the business,” though. I ain’t mad at ‘im.)

I have partly addressed this criticism above; being negative per se is simply not the problem. It is not “wrong” in moral terms. (However, it could be impractical. This is entirely a tactical matter.)

But “personal insults” are more than a matter of negativity. There are other issues. On the one hand, there is a falseness in insulting people on the basis of traits that, as all us enlightened types know, aren’t really bad—or at least, that don’t warrant being picked on, i.e., things a person can’t help, or things that picking on won’t help, and things that are moreover irrelevant to the racism we’re really against.

Along these lines, I observed that this kind of protest brings out the arguably worst in a leftist (myself included). Some of the personal stuff was probably innocuous enough: I nicknamed this skinny NSMer “Ichabod Crane” (he definitely got this) and mocked that he wouldn’t fuck back with me on the streets. There was a really dumpy Commander guy with a shittown mustache who warranted, “Time to make the donuts!” after the chef in the old Dunkin Donuts commercials. (Maybe for regional reasons, nobody seemed to get this). In general I tried to impress the NSMers with how dopey and stupid they looked and how I could kick their asses.

Some of the material was less innocuous. I actually heard a gay man call the NSM men “fags.” There were a number of limp-wristed Heil Hitler salutes thrown up as well. The obvious problem with this kind of thing is that it implicates everyone who shares those traits. In mocking legitimate targets on the basis of these “negative” traits, you insult everyone who possesses them. In the end, you are making a homophobic (etc.) statement, whatever else you might be doing on top of that.

Still, the advantages of a “negative” approach are easy to find if you look for them. Socialists are not liberals, but will often use the language of liberalism against the (liberal) state as a way of simply getting things done; it amounts to holding an opponent consistent with its (her/his) own principles. The analogy is remote, but I have some sympathy for fucking (back) with hypermasculine males on and in their own fucked up terms. I couldn’t bring myself to call anyone an overtly homophobic name, but I can imagine “softer” sentiments that call his courage or fighting abilities into question. These features don’t make a damn in the world, but they probably make a damn to him, and this could bear effects. The clearest example of this at the NSM protest was heckling them for being “bad Nazis”—out of shape, shitty formation, late for their own protest, etc. (whereas the “real” Nazis were sharp, on time, etc.) This kind of jeer is intelligible, but nobody takes it to mean one advocates being a proper Nazi. Again, the charge is one of inconsistency.

(I don’t really have any conclusions here. Just articulating the terms of the question. I’m open.)

(d) The other thing everyone did was to mock the NSM about not being able to hear anything their speakers said. We would place a hands to the ear with a screwed up face, saying “What?? I can’t hear you,” pointing in the air to request a volume increase. (I assumed it was a shitty P.A., though the white power guys assure me our side sounded like garble to them as well. One also claimed that the cops allowed our side to exceed the specified decibel level, while the NSM either played nice or was regulated.)

“Arationality” (A kind of conclusion)

This leads me to a main point. If this kind of action “does” anything, I think the drowning out is a key objective. First, I can’t imagine anyone driving 10 hours, and speaking for 2, being absolutely indifferent to whether the message-proper gets out to the public. The white power folks I read afterward seem genuinely disappointed about getting shut down. So maybe this keeps them from coming too often. For whatever reason, R.B. surmises that, when they don’t get a huge response, they come back to the same city in about six months. (They were met in force here in 2007 and didn’t return for three years.)

There is also the issue of recruitment. The NSM is fond of saying, “Where the NSM goes, the NSM grows.” I think this could be true, possibly truer now than in many years. As comrade Jase reminded me, white hate groups have grown 5-fold since Obama’s presidency. The recruitment “pool” seems to be growing apace; the NSM Commander himself said at the rally that the Tea Party Movement was “a step in the right direction.” (They were also invited to come and protest with them.) And I don’t think the actual content coming across the P.A. necessarily has that much to do with recruitment success. The mere fact that a racist group shows up, bravely taking the shit that is given to them (and it isn’t always just verbal), probably inspires and emboldens people already informally sympathetic to white supremacist ideas. They will visit the website even if they can’t get to the group then and there.

But content aside, the drowning out and the strong, passionate opposition in general, can make these groups appear ridiculous. At one point, J. got on the mic and began reciting in Hebrew. These clowns really got pissed at this! It was like Superman responding to kryptonite, almost comical. This is just a dramatic example of how an opposition can convey a sense to potential recruits that these ideas are just beyond the pale, beyond any serious consideration. And it makes them look like they take themselves way too seriously.

This is why I don’t oppose personal attacks on these people per se. There is a distinct ‘arationality’ to this whole enterprise even before we get to content. This is manifest in the above scenario; if stiff opposition conveys a sense that racist ideas are ridiculous, it is in the way that dancing cartoon elves “convey” to consumers that chewing brand-x gum will be fun. It accomplishes the right goal for all the wrong reasons—but accomplishes it no less. This reinforces the completely wrong approach to decision-making, but the cost in a given case might be worth it.

Nobody seriously thinks we can dialogue with white power groups; at least, if we can, we aren’t trying to do it at a counter-protest. On the one hand, this erodes much of the grounds for banning “personal” attacks. The form/content dichotomy is a false one here: If shouting the NSM down isn’t “personal,” it remains a whole bunch of other stuff just as unconducive to “serious” engagement. (And really, if you were shouted down at a public meeting, could you not take this “personally,” even if the content avoided “personal insults” about your appearance, etc.?) The only possible object of setting up a P.A. on the clear other side of the street is to harass and harangue them as much as possible—before you even get to content. Remaining “respectful” ceases to be an option once the shouting down begins. You can not protest, but pretending the protest gains anything by being “respectful” is just bad faith.

To repeat, this might not apply with other kinds of actions. The counter-protest of the Murfreesboro anti-mosque group is about winning the “hearts and minds” of the broader non-activist, non-left community. One approaches this with a certain decorum. Let them look like the unhinged bigots. But “everyone” already hates the Nazis. Few people are (as) put off by yelling, etc. at them. (They killed 6 million Jews, for God’s sake.)

I also think these considerations lead logically to some kind of violence. I think chucking rocks and other debris at the members, leaping the barricades en masse and rumbling with them, will run them out of town more assuredly and keep them away for a longer time. That is, all of the things the protest is designed to do (whether or not the participants are consistent in their self-appraisals of what they are doing), it will do better with physical violence. It might cause the city to deny the next white power permit also. I don’t think it will alienate the broader public, and I think the same “paling” psychological effect on potential recruits is only enhanced. The only obstacles are moral objections, e.g., pacifism, and of course fear of being arrested.

* * *

Finally, I can think of some other reasons to protest white power groups. First, there are all the “generic protest goods”: You can see how cops work, as next time, they’ll be protecting someone else from. Any protest also fosters solidarity and networking among comrades.

Second, for socialists specifically, it provides a chance to point out the connection of anti-racist ideas to socialism (conversely, racist ideas to capitalism). Racism is one of those cleavages within the working class that impedes collective action. This has been actively exploited by individual capitalists and is also “selected for” by the system in functionalist terms. There is also the fact that whites and blacks tend to earn higher wages to the extent that the wage-gap between them is smaller. And there are many such facts.


[1] On the other hand, hate can be positively useful. It can aid in opposition campaigns of all stripes (protest, war), provide inspiration, drive, etc.

On requiring a “loyalty oath” of the Murfreesboro Islamic Center

The latest insult in the ongoing Murfreesboro mosque controversy is the demand by Lou Ann Zelenik and cohorts that Imam Bahloul sign a pledge essentially forswearing terror, “infidel-killing,” contravention of American laws, and the like—forswearing, that is, the parts of Islam that supposedly call for that sort of thing.

The first thing to know about all of this is that Lou Ann, etc. don’t actually want it signed; at least, they couldn’t want it for the reasons they say they do.

They wouldn’t believe the Imam’s pledge anyhow. Demanding it only makes sense if Lou Ann, etc. is unprepared to accept it in the first place. Think about it: If they were sincerely prepared to accept a promise to forswear terror or terror-support, such a pledge would be neither necessary nor sufficient. You might take the word of someone who tells you they aren’t a murderer (or a murder-supporter), if, for whatever oddball reason, they brought up the subject out of the cold blue. But if you already assume they might be guilty—and if you need a pledge, you do—then surely a paltry verbal assurance won’t be enough to make you feel secure: “Oh, you’re not going to chop off my head, you say? Shit, I really thought you might. OK, works for me!” Of course a guilty person has motive to claim innocence; a suspect’s own assurances are worthless for evidentiary purposes. Add to this that the anti-mosque contingent are absolutely convinced that Muslims will invoke taqiyya to lie to “infidels” to mask their true, sinister intentions.

So whatever the reason Lou Ann, et al, are making this demand, it isn’t because it would make them feel more secure about the Imam’s and his community’s intentions. So the motivation must be something else.

For reasons having nothing to do with “supporting terror,” the Center has good reason not to sign: It is insulting to impose “loyalty oaths” on one sector of the community and not others, especially when they come from open antagonists of that sector. (Zelenik was the first to allude to the new Center as a “training camp,” language which has stuck. At times, the construction is just openly referred to as “a mosque and training camp.”) This would be like the Klan demanding that black people pledge to bathe regularly and not steal in order to gain full entry into the community–after having widely accused the black community of failing to do both. Signing would just endorse that insult, and would imply that the connection (blacks-theft; Muslims-terror, etc.) has some prima facie plausibility—again, while giving their critics zero reason to back off.

But this refusal will be used by the anti-mosque crowd as more evidence that these crazy Islamists are ravening to take over. That’s probably what’s behind this. When they do this, keep the following in mind: Is it reasonable that the Imam, etc. would be OK with supporting terrorism, etc. but not with telling a lie (i.e., signing the pledge without meaning it, just to get the critics off their backs)? If they were really endorsing a nasty version of Shariah law, complete with injunctions to kill the infidels that request the pledge, why wouldn’t they just say they weren’t?

[p.s. The first “plank” of the pledge states: “Redda Law, the Shariah Law that allows the killing of Muslims who leave Islam, must be banned in Islamic teachings and in Shariah legal doctrine.” So wouldn’t the anti-mosque crowd have considered the possibility that the ICM would not wish to sign out of fear that it would bring a fatwa on itself for apostasy? I mean, they talk as though this happens here all the time.]

What would it mean to “preserve the white race”?

[Parts I and II here. Part III later.]

This past weekend the white power people came to town. This has prompted me to get a handle on what makes these assholes tick.

Part I

“White power” has any number of meanings, not all of them compatible. There is white supremacy, white nationalism/separatism, “mere” white pride, and so forth. The most basic corollary can be termed “white preservation” (WP). The brief 14 Words manifesto (probably the one thing every white power group agrees on) begins, “We must secure the existence of our people….” In a debate with Tim Wise, WP advocate Jared Taylor expresses the fear that “…whites, who are perhaps 7% of the population of the world now, will disappear in a flood of miscegenation; is that what you would like to see happen?”

WP means ensuring the conditions for whites to reproduce into the future. It is the tenet upon which all the others depend; if it fails, so do the rest. (No whites, no “white-anything.”) This makes it a natural starting point for examining white power “theory.”

Who is it being preserved for?

It is obvious that white preservationists (WPs) view WP not as a nice thing to have happen, but a mandate. That is, the numerical decrease in the white population (real or perceived, present or pending, by human or natural causes) is something “happening to them,” a bad circumstance that warrants self-defense.

The difficulty rests in trying to locate a victim in this process. Just who is it happening (or would it happen) to? Suppose that multiculturalism, immigration, and miscegenation actually brought about the “extinction” of the white race. Just who is harmed by this? The fear is not that whites are directly endangered, being “killed off.” (If anyone claims this, they’re crazy.) So whites’ “preserving themselves” cannot mean “saving we particular here-now individuals from death.” It could only mean “ensuring future white generations.” Fine, but in what sense is this a self-defense?—as “the existence of our people” would suggest. How would ensuring future whites serve the self-interests of present-day whites? To say “both groups are white” only begs the question; the whole issue is why the fact that they are both white makes them “ourselves.”

The seduction of grammar

WPs speak in terms of a “loss” that they themselves “suffer.” “Whiteness” is a quantity they have, and must hold onto. The whites of today must preserve their whiteness. Indeed, they could speak no other way; a self-defensive imperative always takes this form. This way of speaking is inspired, or reinforced, by the formal structures of language: Grammatically, “whiteness,” like “being married,” is a transient property, one which can be lost and gained by the self-same underlying subject. But WPs seem to have forgotten that it isn’t transient in real life; unlike marriage, if you ever had “whiteness,” you still do, and vice-versa.

Thus, to say that whites have failed to preserve, have “lost their” whiteness must really mean: Some whites died; and later, some non-whites were born. This describes two distinct events, with two corresponding subjects. The first event in no sense “happens to” the second subject. Indeed, if the relevant event is “the extinction of the white race,” it didn’t “happen to” the first group either! (An individual can’t “go extinct”—any more than running out of jellybeans means this particular jellybean ran out.)

Indeed, a numerical decrease is the very sort of thing that “happens to” no one in particular. For whites to suffer a “loss of whiteness” just means that there are no whites left to suffer any kind of loss at all. What “they” have “lost” is precisely their status as a “they.” (And if there is no “they” to be harmed, then, from a self-defensive point of view, there is no harm.)

* * *

In conclusion: The “extinct” whites can hardly be victims of “extinction”; they simply died out naturally, as they would have without any process of “white loss.” Their position is precisely the same either way. The only possible victims are the future survivors of this “tragedy.” But this is a miscegenated future; the survivors are (at best) biracial. The implicit logic of WP would have us view these persons as “potential” or “supposed-to-be” whites who missed out on “their” whiteness. One imagines them sitting and lamenting to themselves: “We” have been robbed of “our” proper racial inheritance. The absurdity is (hopefully) manifest.

I conclude the “self-defense” argument for WP is simply incoherent.

Part II

Arguments from analogy: ”But we preserve so many other things”

At times, WPs set aside the negative consequences of failing to preserve the race (i.e., those “harms” to be “defended against”) in favor of the positive virtues of preservation. One argument is that those features associated with whites—say, “white culture” or Caucasian physical anthropology—are unique and valuable, and thus should, all things being equal, be kept around. (For now, we set aside questions as to whether a “white culture” exists, and is preservable by moral means.)

For example, an alternate 14 Words with wide currency in white power circles demands, “Because the beauty of the White Aryan woman must not perish from the earth.” This aesthetic sentiment is matched by those which exploit the discourse of multiculturalism. These are typically heard at those “cultural celebrations” held by WP groups, e.g. Irish, Scottish, or Southern (US) “heritage events”: “If they (Mexicans, etc.) can celebrate (promote, “preserve”) their culture, why can’t we?”

Notwithstanding the near coextension of ‘those who make these statements’ with ‘racist whites,’ by themselves the statements are not necessarily noxious. That is, to say they often indicate racist beliefs is not to say they are themselves racist (any more than a weather vane is a southerly wind). And the analogy of whites to other groups holds a surface plausibility; every culture has folkways, coping mechanisms and other specialized knowledge borne of a particular social housing, which in principle can inspire, enrich, entertain, or aid anyone.

A more advanced argument from analogy is heard as well: Parsing the words alone, the concept “white preservation” seems to resemble other kinds of morally benign “preservations.” Consider the ecological impulse to “preserve” endangered species. By this I do not mean the desire to preserve as a means to some end “beyond” the species (or beyond biodiversity) itself, e.g. ecosystem balance. Nor do I intend anything having to do with protecting species members from pain and harm per se. Rather, I mean the “moral” impulse to save a biological group for its own worth.)

The idea is that each animal group contributes a unique layer of novelty and interest to the world, and this is (all things being equal) a value to be preserved. For instance, we wish to “save the Great Apes” because apes are beautiful, interesting, and so forth; that is, a world in which apes exist is a more interesting, beautiful, etc. world than one in which they are absent.) In short, if a species is worth saving, why not a race? (This could even rescue the earlier “self-defense” argument: If neither extinct whites nor the miscegenated generations of the future would be harmed by white extinction, maybe it is the whole group of survivors, of all racial complexions, that are harmed in being denied that cultural or aesthetic inheritance associated with whites.)

When it “doesn’t” it doesn’t matter whether it “can’t”

Even if this argument can be defended, it is not clear it can be defended from a white power perspective. The WP project as we know it is not simply concerned to endow a unique value to the world. If it were, we could expect to hear from WPs—in parallel with other “multicultural” affections—that WP will benefit and enrich other racial groups. Indeed, one could expect other racial groups themselves to make these arguments alongside the WPs.

The WPs attribute their exclusion from the multicultural catalogue to anti-white discrimination; but this hardly explains why they welcome and foster the “exclusivity” themselves: Whatever benefit they believe “white culture” has conferred upon the world, this benefaction forms no part of their motivation. They don’t give a damn about how this legacy benefits non-whites. (In fact, they probably resent it.)

The point (here) is not whether this racial exclusivity is wrong or right. The point is that it cannot be deduced from the bare preservationist impulse—any more than an impulse to “save the whales” for their beautiful songs and mating rituals implies that whalewatch trips and aquariums should be limited to white patronage. Such delimitations must be “grafted on” from outside, and their merits independently argued.

I don’t doubt that the disanalogies between WP and ecological-preservationism (EP) reflect something sinister; to the extent the WPs use the “us too” argument, it is disingenuous, a mere tactic, a wedge issue to make palatable some other agenda. For present purposes, though, the disanalogy just means: We cannot take the benign character of EP as support for the benign character of WP—as the white power folks actually conceive it. (More on the “multicultural” comparisons in the concluding Part III, soon to come.)

Too easy: Yet more proof the Murfreesboro mosque protest is about bigotry and not security

If you missed the last few posts (see here and here), those protesting the new mosque/Islamic center in Murfreesboro, TN “officially” say they are merely opposed to the legal process used to vet the plan. However, when you look at their rally signs, and the comments made in the commission meeting, there is nothing but anti-Islam sentiments.

Kevin Fisher, the main guy pushing against the mosque proposal, wrote a shitty letter to the Tennessean outlining his case. Among the very few specific “concerns” he lists, he is upset that “there is [no] ref­er­ence to 9/11 on its his­tory sec­tion of its web­site.” (“It” being the Murfreesboro Islamic Center, the group trying to build the new facility.)

He didn’t elaborate on this point, which is odd, as this could mean a few different things. But I’ll make some educated guesses.

First, the reality is that virtually no church with a history section is going to mention 9/11, nor the great majority of other human events that have ever occurred. For theirs is not “History” but rather “a history”—a selective account tailored for a less-than-general purpose. (I hear Muslims don’t list 9/11 on their medical “histories” either.)

The purpose of the Center website could be anything. Maybe it aims to educate new Muslims on events they may not know about yet. (Surely they’ve heard of 9/11.) Or one of a million other things having nothing to do with 9/11.

However, I am almost certain Fisher is not looking for a “history” of any kind. He is looking for a denunciation of 9/11. He wants the Center to state that they don’t support the terror, didn’t have ties to the bombers, etc. If not this, explicitly, he wants some mention of the event because it would show that the Center is not “avoiding the subject,” ashamed to acknowledge it.

But think about how weird this request is: If the Center is truly innocent of supporting 9/11, why should it have any greater obligation to denounce it than anyone else who is innocent of that act? Again, Fisher doesn’t demand this disclaimer of other websites, church or otherwise; he himself has writings online that don’t mention 9/11. How is an innocent Muslim different from an innocent anyone-else?

I contend Fisher demands this disclaimer because he believes that simply being Muslim means that the site indeed “has something to do with 9/11”—that it is someway or another implicated in terror, etc.

Let me be clear. I’m not saying Fisher finds the Muslims guilty. By analogy: Many readers have found themselves in a restaurant sitting with someone who is rude to the server. We are not guilty of this behavior, but we usually feel some responsibility to apologize on its behalf—as if saying nothing would be to condone it. At least, we have more responsibility than someone at another table, or who had the same table last week, or a grocery clerk in Holland.

At best, Fisher is acting like a server who wants this apology and hasn’t gotten it. His request only makes sense on the assumption that the Center Muslims are at least responsible in a way that other Americans are not.

Let me put this another way. Demanding the statement only makes sense if Fisher is unprepared to accept such a statement in the first place. Think about it: If Fisher were sincerely prepared to accept the Center’s plea of “innocence,” such a plea would be neither necessary nor sufficient. You might take the word of someone who tells you they aren’t a murderer (or a murder-supporter), if, for whatever oddball reason, they brought up the subject. But if you already assume they might be guilty, surely a paltry verbal assurance won’t be enough to make you feel secure: “Oh, you’re not going to chop off my head, you say? Shit, I really thought you might. OK, works for me!” Of course a guilty person will claim innocence; a suspect’s own assurances are worthless for evidentiary purposes.

* * *

This gives further lie to Fisher’s and the other protester’s claims that they are disinterestedly “investigating” the Muslims for security purposes, e.g. “We don’t hate anyone for their religion, we just want to vet them before the mosque gets the go-ahead.” Not so. Fisher’s expectation of a 9/11 disclaimer is insane unless he has already made up his mind that they are “bad guys.” Again, since there is nothing about this group that tells Fisher they are “bad guys” except for the fact that they are Muslim—this is plain and simple religious bigotry.

Solidarity site on the Murfreesboro mosque protest

I’ve been writing about the Islamophobic protest against the planned mosque/Islamic center in my old hometown. This tells more about the counter-protest, whose rally actually dwarfed the original (concurrent) protest. It shows the role of World Outreach Church, where the organizers and most of the opposition appear to come from, something I’ve not known enough to talk about.

Be sure to read the comments at the end–lots of good info there too. Word to my comrade Jase Short.

Link here.

Murfreesboro Mosque redux: More proof this is about bigotry and not security

Those protesting the mosque plan like to claim they are merely “investigating” the Muslims for security purposes—given the reality of Muslim terror, the war, etc.: “We don’t hate anyone, we just want some answers first; we aren’t saying the mosque can’t be built, we just don’t like that the legal process to determine this was shunted.’

In my last post, I argued that the generally negative tenor of the protest contradicted this claim. Let me add to my earlier examples.

Consider the presence of Israeli flags at the rally. First, Israelis and Muslims probably shouldn’t be viewed as natural “sides,” whereby in supporting one, you automatically go against the other; for there is a third option in the interests of both. But that isn’t the point. The point is that the protester who waves this flag clearly intends it to antagonize neighboring Muslims.

I don’t have a problem with “negative tenor” in principle. I’m not calling for “civility” in political action; that is a tactical, not a moral question. I’m all for antagonizing “the enemy.”

But that’s the problem: Antagonizing local Muslims only makes sense if they are the enemy, when the whole point of “investigating” was to determine that very question. Waving the Israeli flag means the “investigation” is complete in the minds of the wavers.

In fairness, fearing all Muslims isn’t enough to make you a bigot—if all Muslims are in fact dangerous. In that case, your “prejudice” just happens to be an astute observation. (The same logic applies in the saying, “it ain’t really braggin’ if you got it.”)

Obviously, it is empirically false that all Muslims are dangerous. But we don’t even need to prove that because the protesters don’t deny it—at least, not openly. They will each acknowledge that there are, or could be, some peaceful Muslims in the world. They just don’t like the “bad ones.”

But here’s where they slip up. As soon as you admit the possibility that a Muslim, some Muslim, could be un-dangerous, the question emerges: What makes these Muslims dangerous? What specifically are they doing that those “good ones” aren’t?

The protesters can’t answer this question because there isn’t an answer. The Murfreesboro congregants haven’t done anything to warrant being taunted with Israeli flags, etc., besides be Muslim. Logically, any other Muslim in their position “would do”—would warrant the same level of antagonism. The antagonism precedes and is detached from a determination of “danger.”

So the protesters’ claim to “respect all faiths” is bullshit. This is about opposing Islam because it is Islam. This is religious persecution, by definition. Either (a) the protesters are lying about not believing all Muslims are “bad,” or (b) they are prepared to mistreat a Muslim whether they think them to be “bad” or not. There are no other options.