Shawn Bell, American Renaissance, April 10, 2021
This is part of our continuing series of accounts by readers of how they shed the illusions of liberalism and became race realists.
For me, awakening to my own whiteness, as well as to our approaching dispossession, was the formative event of my life. My story begins in a doctrinaire “anti-racist” household. My well-educated and professional parents raised me to believe that my past and my inheritance was one of sin and violence. All the positive aspects of my European heritage were universalized — Bach and the scientific method were “human” achievements — while the negative aspects of European dominance were not only regretted, but incessantly invoked. My mother raised me on liberal feminism, and my father made sure that I was a pugnacious atheist. Growing up in the center of a major city, I constantly saw black misbehavior. Indeed, black criminals mugged me on two separate occasions, once quite violently. But to speak frankly about the facts of interracial violence, not to mention the fact that half of the city had been rendered uninhabitable by the violence and dysfunction of its non-white residents, would have been seen as an unspeakable affront to decency. In sharp contrast, there was a sort of social cachet to disparaging anything white, from the conquest of the New World to the Christian heritage which held us together through plague and famine. In the enlightened progressive milieu of my youth, a snide remark about the dumb, flag-waving hicks “out there” was a cheap way of demonstrating one’s cultural belonging.
I wanted to travel before going to college, and was interested in the sort of humanitarian volunteerism you’d expect from an empty-headed white American progressive. I went to a rural part of the Middle East, and lived there for the better part of a year. Though I was treated well, and look back on my time there with great fondness, seeing the Islamic world up close threw my worldview for a loop. I couldn’t help but notice that much of what these Muslims believed didn’t seem compatible with the liberal principles I firmly held.
I spent an inordinate amount of time simply trying to convey the importance of free speech to a good friend of mine. He tried his best to see my way of looking at things, but in the end, he concluded, “We don’t need that here. Here we have Islam and we have our king.” As a young male feminist, it bothered me how all of the women in the little village I lived in, aside from small children and the elderly, were kept under lock and key. Once, I was party to a casual, hypothetical discussion about raping tourists, which my interlocutor believed was justified by the loose morals of the woman concerned. Most of all, I remember the uncompromising fervor with which another acquaintance defended the Charlie Hebdo attackers. These were normal guys, not terrorists. They were typical, if rather lower-class and uneducated, of the general population. They were not “extremists” by the standards of their own society. Later, when I looked into the survey data, I found that their beliefs were relatively common among immigrant Muslims in the West. “How is this supposed to work?” I remember asking myself. “How are we supposed to live together if we can’t agree on free speech or gender equality?” In those days, I thought a lot about the “paradox of tolerance” that liberal philosopher Karl Popper addressed in The Open Society and Its Enemies:
Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.
This paradox, and the Muslims that made me realize its importance, was the first crack in the psychological dam that had held back so much “wrong think” for so long.
When I came back to America, I went to a liberal arts college to study philosophy. It was intolerable. There were militant transgender students with laundry lists of mental illnesses they’d discuss with you unprompted, middle-aged feminist professors who croaked at you about your white male privilege, and entitled affirmative-action students happy to bring their “vibrancy” to every class. It was attending college, not living in the Islamic world, that made me fully realize how much the West — and whites — are under assault.
I was friendly with a white girl during my freshman year. We had similar backgrounds, and had both taken a gap year to do volunteer work. College changed her. Within a few semesters, she had cut her hair short, began using “they/them” pronouns, and started reveling in her status as an oppressed woman. One day, she took me aside after class to lecture me about my “misogyny.” She was totally unwilling to interpret my actions in anything but the most uncharitable possible light, just because I was a white man.
Classroom discussions about the Western canon were always derailed by non-white and/or progressive female students. They’d subject the rest of us to interminable accounts of personal slights they felt themselves to have suffered at the hands of whites. One particularly eye-opening example was a diatribe from a black girl about a time a white man had rudely stepped in front of her to board a train, which she saw as emblematic of white, male “entitlement.” Even though I was still a liberal at the time, I had to bite my tongue to keep from sharing some considerably worse experiences with blacks on public transportation.
The incident that contributed most to my sense of white identity was during a discussion of some Marxist text. I asked how the abolition of private property would apply to personal items such as clothing, sentimental keepsakes, etc. A non-white student replied, “We’re coming for your toothbrush, whitey.” The feminist professor and plenty of other students laughed, and continued on with the seminar.
All of these people wanted me to see myself as white — and in a sense, they got their wish. Seeing the precious legacy of my civilization and my forebears attacked, smeared, and “deconstructed” made me realize for the first time that I had a particular culture that didn’t belong to everyone, that I was the rightful heir to a proud and ancient tradition, and that without action, my inheritance would be destroyed. My awakening came at the perfect historical moment. Donald Trump was on his way to the White House. Websites such as American Renaissance were still on mainstream platforms. On social media, online forums, and comments threads, I was able to speak with many young men in the midst of the same journey I was on. Soon, I was calling myself an “identitarian” and had joined a national white advocacy organization.
In retrospect, those were salad days. The “Trumpian moment” has passed, the identitarian organization I was a part of has disbanded, and the future of the Dissident Right is unclear. It can be hard to stay hopeful. Nonetheless, I don’t regret my awakening. The discovery of my identity allowed me to come into my own as a man. In particular, studying the classics has given me strength and courage. By grounding myself in European scholarship, I have developed the historical perspective and scholastic rigor to withstand the onslaught of mainstream society’s anti-civilizational propaganda. I only wish that more of our young people had access to this sort of education. In these times, as Jonathan Bowden said, “to read about your own culture is a revolutionary act.” To any young readers grasping for meaning in the chaos of today, my experience has been that the more you root yourself in the wisdom of Europe’s great men, the less it will matter to you that in today’s decrepit anti-society, being sane will make you into an outcast. With the past as our guide, whites can be great again.