White Nationalism’s Deep American Roots

The concept of white genocide”—extinction under an onslaught of genetically or culturally inferior nonwhite interlopers—may indeed seem like a fringe conspiracy theory with an alien lineage, the province of neo-Nazis and their fellow travelers. In popular memory, it’s a vestige of a racist ideology that the Greatest Generation did its best to scour from the Earth. History, though, tells a different story. King’s recent question, posed in a_New York Times_ interview, may be appalling: White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive?” But it is apt. That language” has an American past in need of excavation.

… Jonathan Peter Spiro, a historian and the author of Defending the Master Race: Conservation, Eugenics, and the Legacy of Madison Grant (2009), described the backlash to me this way: Even though the Germans had been directly influenced by Madison Grant and the American eugenics movement, when we fought Germany, because Germany was racist, racism became unacceptable in America. Our enemy was racist; therefore we adopted antiracism as our creed.” Ever since, a strange kind of historical amnesia has obscured the American lineage of this white-nationalist ideology.

… [R]ace is whatever those in power say it is.

… Harry Laughlin, the scientific expert on Representative Johnson’s committee, told Grant that the Nazis’ rhetoric sounds exactly as though spoken by a perfectly good American eugenist,” and wrote that Hitler should be made honorary member of the Eugenics Research Association.”

What the Nazis found exciting about the American model didn’t involve just eugenics,” observes James Q. Whitman, a professor at Yale Law School and the author of Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law (2017). It also involved the systematic degradation of Jim Crow, of American deprivation of basic rights of citizenship like voting.” Nazi lawyers carefully studied how the United States, despite its pretense of equal citizenship, had effectively denied that status to those who were not white.

America has always grappled with, in the words of the immigration historian John Higham, two rival principles of national unity.” According to one, the U.S. is the champion of the poor and the dispossessed, a nation that draws its strength from its pluralism. According to the other, America’s greatness is the result of its white and Christian origins, the erosion of which spells doom for the national experiment.

Adam Serwer, White Nationalism’s Deep American Roots

This is depressing reading, but important.

March 21, 2019


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