Do White Supremacists Feel Welcome When You Talk About Race

     With politically liberal and moderate people, it seems to be generally believed that white supremacist groups are a “fringe” in our society. There is a belief that white supremacist groups are such a minority compared to the general population that we shouldn’t worry about them. Similarly, to many moderate and liberal folks, militant and radical anti racists seem “extreme” and “unnecessary” in our diversity focused contemporary society.
In my experience, however, I have found that moderates and liberals often use similar language when they talk about race as white supremacists do. When these attitudes are tolerated in liberal and moderate circles, it gives openings for the growth of white supremacist ideals.
The main example I have found frequently playing out is the argument that anyone can be racist to anyone (namely that racism against white people exists) and that white pride should be accepted alongside black pride and asian pride, etc. These ideals are supported by a “color blind” mainstream perspective on diversity and equality, where any acknowledgement of race or difference is discouraged.
     So what does it mean when your so-called liberal or moderate beliefs around race are actually shared, in basic premise, by white supremacists? These lines of thinking are repeated almost exactly by neo-Nazis if you read interviews with them, examine their literature, or peruse their online forums. The fact that these perspectives are not often considered under the umbrella of “racism” is terrifying. This casual racism creates a baseline norm where white supremacists can exist in our communities under the radar, participating in casual conversation around race with the liberal and moderate majorities without detection. It creates social environments that actual white supremacists can easily infiltrate- because their less extreme rhetoric will be met with nods and agreements.
     To illustrate, a few years ago Jimmy Marr (a local white supremacist in the Eugene Oregon area) posted a thread on stormfront, a white supremacist online forum, which included a picture of him playing the bagpipes on the busy corner of 29th and Willamette St., with a sign that said “black pride said the black man, asian pride said the asian man, white pride said the racist”. In his commentary on the photo, Marr said that he got many honks and thumbs up of approval. He mentioned that it surprised him when a passing black woman said she liked his sign. There is no way to know how much Marr may have been exaggerating the positive responses that he got, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he wasn’t exaggerating very much. I have met a lot of folks who self identify as left wing or moderate and would likely agree with this message.
     This is the heart of the problem. These likely moderate or left wing folks (it was in South Eugene, which is a notoriously liberal side of the town) who gave Jimmy Marr a thumbs up share a core belief with white supremacy: that there must be a completely even playing field to foster true equality, and therefore that racism against white people is a form of oppression similar to racism against people of color. Even if these moderate or liberal folks wouldn’t approve of segregation, or be against interracial relationships, or condone the physical assault and murder of people of color, they share beliefs with the people who do. And they create an environment in which white supremacists can exist covertly, where they can feel like they have approval from their communities, where they can organize and live without challenge as long as they are careful about not being too explicit with their beliefs.
     To me, the final question is: would the way you talk about race make a white supremacist feel like you might be a potential ally, or would the way you talk about race make it very clear to a white supremacist that they are not welcome in your space?

There is Nothing

There is nothing

there is only mortality

but to grow the green leaves need the darkness too.

Those sacrificed before me have been released from life-

but they will keep dripping in the rain-

they will fall rotten from the vine.

After life there is eternity-

I can feel the power of it prickling against my skin.

As nothing we become everything-

bubbles in the foam of an endless sea.

The Dangers of Essentialism

Essentialism is a pointless framework.
Essentialism simplifies the beautiful complexity of our world in an unnecessary manner.
Essentialism is too easily used as a justification for oppression, bigotry, or the status quo. It is too easy to argue “That’s just how it is”.
Deconstructing an attitude essentialism does not have to be anti-science, anti-objectivity, or anti-reality. Constructionist and scientific frameworks can exist simultaneously.
Science allows for variability. Science allows for ambiguity. Science is the admission that as humans, we have a limited perspective, and we are only capable of knowing so much about the nature of the world. Science is the recognition of how little we know for sure. Or at least this is what science could be, if it wasn’t so bogged down in a rigid, western, reductive schema. The world is not a reductive place. The things that inhabit the world do not have at their core an essence that is untouchable by it’s surrounding environment or context. This is not how the universe manages itself.
Essentialism is meaningless on even the most basic issues.
Some scientists have spent their whole lives trying to show that certain traits are ‘essential’ for certain humans, for example in relation to sex and gender. Men are ‘naturally’ dominating and violent. Women are ‘naturally’ nurturing and passive.
Scientists and politicians have literally picked and chosen particular studies of particular cultures that support these claims. They bring it down to brain structure and hormone levels- things that at first glance appear to support an essentialist framework. Estrogen causes sensitivity- testosterone causes aggression. Anything that is simplified down to such limited understandings loses the most important part: the nuances.

An essentialist perspective begins to crumble under any critical examination. The world is too beautifully complex to believe that anything is essentially any one way. Every entity shifts given a new context. Every rule has an exception- every observation has a aberration that shatters the possibility for generalities.
Simplifying reality may make it easier to understand in the short term- but it destroys our comprehension in the long run when a true full, complex explanation has been subverted by already established essentialist assumptions. When people say, but we need to make generalities to understand this issuewe are losing the possibility for meaningful discourse down the road.
Men have more testosterone, and are more aggressive. Women have more estrogen, and are more nurturing. It seems simple, straight forward, and evidence for the fact that these are “essential” traits of gender.
These assumptions crumble when the complexity of the real world is addressed. What about the many women warriors in many different cultures through out the ages? Why should their existence be pushed aside an an ‘exception’ when it has happened many times in many different places in many different times? Why is it not looked at as a normal variation of gender expression?
What about women who choose not to marry, or who choose not to have children? This, again, happens in many different cultures in many different ages. There is not something ‘wrong’ with these women’s hormone levels- it is a normal expression and should not be seen as any less normal than the majority.

What about transgender and third gender people of many different cultures throughout the ages? What about the vast variations in gender expression, gender norms, gender roles, gender ideals. It only takes a little digging to dive underneath the boring veneer of assimilation that western science has long placed over many issues, including gender. Differences are not a sign of abnormality from an essential norm– it is a sign that the norm is variation- and a sign that essentialist frameworks only end up silencing the true beauty of difference that the real world is made of.
Differences cannot and should not be defined in rigid, essentialist terms: every thing that exists in this world are reliant on an infinite number of factors- from environment to experiences to individual expression to social definitions.
Essentialism is not helpful- not even in the most basic understanding of a phenomena. Essentialism only waters down the beauty in variation- essentialism only poisons complexity. Essentialism acts only as ammunition for the solid lines of oppressive ideologies.
Rejecting essentialism will not harm science. Rejecting essentialism will make science ultimately more objective- more rooted in reality- more in tune with the varied experiences of us messy animals.