2016 proved to be a rollercoaster ride in the political world. With a stunning election, in which the Republican Party (GOP) won enough office seats to control both chambers of Congress and the White House, the prominence of a controversial group has come to the forefront of American society: the white nationalists are no longer lingering in the shadows.
The concept of white nationalism isn’t new, which is a whole other problem in itself. The biggest issue at the moment stems from the normalization that the movement is receiving, particularly from supporters of President Donald Trump. White nationalism isn’t something to recognize and then brush aside - it’s extremely dangerous and the fact that, as a country, we have allowed its prevalence to grow over the course of this past election is shameful.
It’s important to differentiate between white supremacy and white nationalism. While white supremacy is built on the belief that whites are innately superior to other races, white nationalism is the belief that a nation’s identity is to be built around the white ethnicity and that they should dominate the political, economic and cultural aspects of that nation, not just from a numerical standpoint according to Eric Kaufmann, a professor who has studied how ethnicity majorities and politics interact. The groups are similar, however, in the sense that they both believe the interests of white people are above those of other racial groups and generally support incorporating racial discrimination into everyday law and policy.
While both of these groups are frightening, America’s election of President Trump has put current policies at risk of being altered to fit the agenda of white nationalists across the country.
On Nov. 19, 2016, a rally was hosted at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C. by Richard Spencer, a fairly well-known far-right activist. It was at this rally that he said, “America was until this past generation a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity. It is our creation, it is our inheritance, and it belongs to us.” This was just before he shouted, “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” As he spoke those words, rally attendees started cheering and some even gave Nazi salutes, according to The Atlantic.
The fact that there are people in this country celebrating our new president with Nazi salutes of all things is mind-boggling. At a time where the fight against these kinds of racist sentiments of America’s past is on the rise once again, it seems ludicrous that there are people willing to either: a) ignore this kind of behavior or b) make excuses for the people participating in the white nationalist movement. As a country we encourage diversity and this ideology does exactly the opposite.
President Trump’s utilization of Steve Bannon as Chief Strategist doesn’t numb my fear about the presence of this bigoted ideology within our government. Bannon, a well-known white nationalist (although he repeatedly has denied this), was the executive
chairman to Breitbart News, a far-right news/opinion/commentary website. He holds anti-semitic, sexist and racist views, which are problematic to have as the chief strategist in the White House.
According to CBS News, Bannon’s ex-wife Mary Louise Piccard said that Bannon made anti-semantic remarks while they argued about sending their daughters to an elite private school. In a 2007 court filing, Piccard elaborated, “he said he doesn’t like Jews and that he doesn’t like the way they raise their kids to be ‘whiney brats,’” after he told her he didn’t want their daughters to go to school with Jewish people.
Bannon has also insulted progressive women. NBC News reported that in a radio interview in 2011, he claimed that they attempt to villainize conservative women because [conservative women] aren’t “a bunch of d*kes that came from the Seven Sisters schools up in New England.” In regards to him being racist, he has allowed articles on Breitbart to be published that accused former President Barack Obama of bringing “more hating Muslims” into the country. Bannon has also been praised by neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and other white nationalist groups, according to Mother Jones.
Bannon’s influence in the White House can be seen in Trump’s executive order that banned people from seven Muslim-majority countries in north Africa and the Middle East from entering the United States for 90 days. Trump made it clear during his campaign that securing the nation’s borders and addressing immigration were things he wanted to focus on if he won the presidency and now that he has, his administration isn’t holding back. With Bannon being so close to the Oval Office and President on a daily basis, it’s scary to think that someone who holds such dated views can influence our Commander in Chief so easily.
Not only is Bannon’s position one that does not have to be approved by the Senate, he also was recently granted permission to attend all National Security Council and Principals Committee meetings. By carelessly giving a white nationalist like Bannon such easy access to top government officials, white nationalists are only given more of a voice and their ideals are indirectly promoted; because they see someone with their ideals in such a powerful job position, they may feel as though it’s okay for them to espouse their nationalist ideals despite them being derogatory towards other groups of people.
It is my understanding that while a great number of people oppose white nationalism, they are unsure of how to fight it.
One of the best ways to do this is to inform oneself about the history about white nationalism in America, be it by reading about the Ku Klux Klan and other nationalist groups or by discussing the ideology with those who identify with it. Getting inside the mind of white nationalists can be beneficial in that one learns about the views they hold directly from the source. When discussing with white nationalists it’s important to counter their arguments and point out when their views harm others; while everyone is entitled to free speech and having their own political opinion, a line is crossed when those opinions discriminate against the existence of a group of people or inspire violence.
Another way to participate in the fight against white nationalism has already been on display this year: protest. With the Women March on Washington event, travel ban protests, Dakota Access Pipeline and Keystone XL Pipeline protests encouraging people to turn out in large numbers, people have already shown the Trump administration and staunch conservatives that their voices will be heard – they won’t stand for policies and government officials that go against the ideals of the United States and its democracy. People have participated in these protests for a plethora of different reasons and haven’t failed to point out the prevalence of white nationalism.
When it comes down to it, sitting on the sidelines as the white nationalists seem to be rising consistently isn’t an option. It’s up to those who oppose these views to say something and try to suppress their bigotry.