A July 11 American Thinker essay by Dean Malik criticizing white nationalism provoked a brisk debate in these pages that involved Jack Kerwick, Jerry Woodruff, and again Mr. Malik, as well as Vdare.com. I have been both praised and criticized in these exchanges, so I am grateful for an opportunity to speak for myself.
Mr. Malik promotes a multi-racial version of “American exceptionalism,” which leads him to denounce what he calls “white nationalism.” I believe he misunderstands both terms. Mr. Malik seems to think the Founders wanted to “escape from tribal loyalties,” that they anticipated today’s race-can-be-made-not-to-matter egalitarianism and dreamed of a land in which all races and nationalities would mingle. He is mistaken.
Until just a few decades ago, white Americans generally believed race was a fundamental aspect of individual and group identity. They believed people of different races had different temperaments and abilities and built different kinds of societies. They thought that only people of European stock would maintain the civilization they cherished. They therefore opposed non-white immigration, and many considered the presence of non-whites–blacks, especially–to be a burden. They strongly opposed miscegenation. For several hundred years, American social policy reflected a consensus on race that is the very opposite of today’s orthodoxy.
Let us take just a few specifics. After the Constitution was ratified in 1788, Americans had to decide who would be allowed to become part of their new country. The very first citizenship law, passed in 1790, specified that only “free white persons” could be naturalized, [i] and immigration laws designed to keep the country overwhelmingly white were repealed only in 1965. We can be certain that those laws would not have been repealed if it had been known that non-white immigration would reduce whites to a minority in less than 80 years.
Of the founders, Jefferson wrote at greatest length about race. He suspected that blacks were less intelligent than whites, and though he hoped slavery would be abolished, he also wanted free blacks to leave the country and be “removed beyond the reach of mixture.” [ii]
Jefferson also believed that the United States was to be “the nest from which all America, North and South, is to be peopled”[iii] and that the population of the hemisphere was to be entirely European: ” . . . nor can we contemplate with satisfaction either blot or mixture on that surface.”[iv] Jefferson was, of course, among the nine of the first 11 presidents who owned slaves, the only exceptions being the two Adamses.
James Madison likewise believed that the only solution to the race problem was to free the slaves and send them away. He proposed that the federal government buy the entire slave population and transport it overseas. After two terms in office, Madison served as chief executive of the American Colonization Society, which was established to repatriate blacks.[v]
The following prominent Americans were not just members, but served as officers of the society: Andrew Jackson, Daniel Webster, Stephen Douglas, William Seward, Francis Scott Key, Winfield Scott, John Marshall, and Roger Taney.[vi] James Monroe worked so tirelessly in the cause of “colonization” that the capital of Liberia is named Monrovia in recognition of his efforts.
In 1787, in the second of The Federalist Papers, John Jay wrote what must be one of the most powerful anti-diversity statements in American history. He gave thanks that “Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people, a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs[.]”[vii]
Alexander Hamilton was likewise suspicious even of European immigrants, writing that “the influx of foreigners must, therefore, tend to produce a heterogeneous compound; to change and corrupt the national spirit; to complicate and confound public opinion; to introduce foreign propensities.[viii] John Quincy Adams explained to a German nobleman that if Europeans were to immigrate, “they must cast off the European skin, never to resume it.”[ix]
As for Asians, state and federal laws excluded them from citizenship, and as late as 1914 the Supreme Court ruled that citizenship could be denied to foreign-born Asians.[x] The ban on Chinese immigration and naturalization continued until 1943, when Congress established a Chinese immigration quota–of 105 people a year.[xi]
American Indians, of course, were forcibly driven onto reservations and did not receive citizenship under the 14th Amendment that granted it to freed slaves. Congress gave Indians on tribal lands citizenship only in 1924.[xii]
The history of the franchise does not reflect an early yearning to “escape from tribal loyalties.” Every state that entered the Union between 1819 and the Civil War denied blacks the vote.[xiii] In 1855, blacks could vote only in Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Rhode Island, which together accounted for only 4 percent of the nation’s black population, and the federal government prohibited free blacks from voting in the territories it controlled.[xiv]
Nor was the movement to free the slaves an early expression of a desire to disregard race. The vast majority of Americans, including Abraham Lincoln, favored abolition only if it led to colonization. William Lloyd Garrison and Angelina and Sarah Grimké were exceptions. The majority view was that of Henry Ward Beecher, brother of the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, who wrote, “Do your duty first to the colored people here; educate them[,] Christianize them, and then colonize them.”[xv]
Of the 50 states, no fewer than 44 at some point prohibited interracial marriage.[xvi] Massachusetts repealed its century-old anti-miscegenation law in 1843 only because most people thought it no longer necessary. As the new law noted, interracial relations were “evidence of vicious feeling, bad taste, and personal degradation,” so were unlikely to become a problem.[xvii]
I could continue with a virtually endless list of shockingly harsh quotations about non-whites from prominent Americans of the past, but I believe what I have already written is enough to suggest that whatever “American exceptionalism” may mean to Mr. Malik, neither the Founders nor the generations that followed them had the slightest desire to establish a haven for people of all races.
What does this have to do with “white nationalism?” First, as Jerry Woodruff pointed out, there is no agreement on what that term means. Whites who do not accept the current–and, I might add, very recent–orthodoxy on race have been called many things, but the reason there is no agreed-upon name for them is that they are expressing views that were so taken for granted by earlier generations of Americans that there was no need for a name.
People care more for their own children than for the children of strangers, so we have no word to describe such people. We can imagine a nightmare government that ordered that all children be reared in common and that forbade favoritism. Only then would we need a word to describe dissidents who wanted to rear their own children. Americans who have a traditional view of race find themselves in the same situation: without a name for themselves because historically there was never a need for one.
Does it make sense to call Woodrow Wilson, for example, a “white nationalist”? If not, what about whites who today hold views similar to his on race? These would include: (1) A preference for thecompany of whites. (2) A desire to live in a white-majority country. (3) A love of Western civilization and the belief that only the biological heirs of those who created it will carry it forward in a meaningful way. (4) A desire that their descendants be white and that American whites remain a distinctive people with a distinctive culture forever.
I would note that such views are considered scandalous only when expressed by Gentile whites. Israelis want their country to stay Jewish for precisely those reasons. The Japanese want their country to stay Japanese. Mexicans do not want to be reduced to a minority by foreigners. Like the Israelis and Japanese and Mexicans, we want to be left alone to let our destiny unfold, free from the embrace of those whose presence, in large numbers, will divert that destiny. We are in earnest about our survival.
On one point, therefore, Mr. Malik is correct. Those of us with a white identity have little affection for a government that practices an immigration policy that will reduce us to a minority, and shamelessly discriminates against us under the name of “affirmative action.” Just as French patriots could not support a wartime government that cooperated with German occupation, we cannot support a government that encourages occupation of the United States by strangers.
Those whom Mr. Malik calls “white nationalists” harken back to traditional American convictions. Though we may regret some of our ancestors’ actions, we find much wisdom in their views, and we share their vision of America as a nation of people with common values, culture, and heritage. When Mr. Malik denounces us he is therefore rejecting America from colonial times until perhaps the middle of the 20th century. He is free to do so, of course, but he should refrain from claiming that his multi-culti, anything-goes America is somehow more authentic than ours.
[i]Quoted in Peter Brimelow, Alien Nation (New York: Random House, 1995), p. xii.
[ii]Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, quoted in Gary Nash & Richard Weiss, The Great Fear (New York: Holt, Rinehard and Winston, 1970), p. 24.
[iii] Julian Boyd, ed., Papers of Jefferson, Vol. IX, p. 218, quoted in Reginald Horsman, Race and Manifest Destiny (New York: Harvard University Press, 1981), p. 86.
[iv]Andrew Lipscomb and Albert Bergh, eds., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, 20 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1905), Vol. X, p. 296, quoted in Horsman, Race and Manifest Destiny, p. 92.
[v]Nathaniel Weyl and William Marina, American Statesmen on Slavery and the Negro (New Rochelle, N.Y.: Arlington House, 1971), pp. 105-107.
[vi]Ibid., p. 132.
[vii]Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, The Federalist Papers (New York: Mentor Books, 1961), p. 38.
[viii] Madison Grant and Charles Steward Davison, The Founders of the Republic on Immigration, Naturalization, and Aliens (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1928), p. 52.
[ix]Quoted in Ben J. Wattenberg and Pat Buchanan, “Immigration,” The American Enterprise, March 2002.
[x]Yuji Ichioka, The Issei: The World of the First-Generation Japanese Immigrants 1885-1924(New York: The Free Press, 1988), pp. 211ff.
[xi]Wayne Lutton, The Myth of Open Borders (Monterey, VA: American Immigration Control Foundation, 1988), pp. 26-42.
[xii] Alexander Keyssar, The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States (New York: Basic Books, 2000), p. 165.
[xiii] Ibid., p. 55.
[xiv] Ibid., p. 55.
[xv] Quoted in George M. Fredrickson, The Black Image in the White Mind (New York: Harper & Row, 1971), p. 115.
[xvi] Lemire, Miscegenation, p. 2.
[xvii] Ibid., p. 139.