David Marcus, The Federalist, May 23, 2016
I opened Twitter recently and saw 20+ notifications. Most of the time that means the new generation of white nationalist Twitter trolls are filling my feed with racist and anti-Semitic cartoons. It was the trolls, but this was different. They were celebrating my use of the word “anti-white” in a tweet. They saw it as a victory that a “mainstream conservative” was using this term that for so long has been their calling card.
They had a point. Until recently I would have been unlikely to use the term. Not because I didn’t believe some people harbored animosity towards whites, but because that was a fringe attitude removed from power, which represented little real threat. That is no longer the case. Progressive rhetoric on race has turned an ugly corner and the existence of “anti-white” attitudes can no longer be ignored.
In the past year, all of the following headlines have appeared, in well-read publications:
- The White Guy Problem
- White Men Must be Stopped: The Very Future of Mankind Depends on It
- I Don’t Know What To Do With Good White People
- Ten Things White People Need To Stop Saying
- Dear White People: Here’s a List of Things We’d Wish You’d Stop Doing
What is new is the direct indictment of white people as a race. This happened through a strange rhetorical transformation over the past few years. At first, “white men are our greatest threat” postings tended to be ironic, a way of putting the racist shoe on the other foot. They were meant to show that blaming an entire race for the harmful actions of a few individuals is senseless.
Then the tenor changed. What started as irony turned into an actual belief that white people, specifically white men, are more dangerous and immoral than any other people. Loosely backed up by historical inequities and disparities in mass shootings, this position has begun to take a serious foothold.
White people are being asked–or pushed–to take stock of their whiteness and identify with it more. This is a remarkably bad idea. The last thing our society needs is for white people to feel more tribal. The result of this tribalism will not be a catharsis of white identity, improving equality for non-whites. It will be resentment towards being the only tribe not given the special treatment bestowed by victimhood.
A big part of the reason white Americans have been willing to go along with policies that are prejudicial on their face, such as affirmative action, is that they do not view themselves as a tribe. Given the inequality of resources favoring whites in our society, it is a good thing that white people view themselves as the ones without an accent. Should that change, white privilege (whatever one views that to be) will not be eviscerated–it will be entrenched.
All of this comes at a time when the last immigrants from the great wave of white immigration from 1850-1920 have died off. In the past, most whites identified with their European ethnicity: Irish, Italian, German, etc. As white people gravitate away from such identities, many see themselves as a neutral, “non racial” population. The Left criticizes this refusal to see themselves as “white,” but it is far preferable to the alternative: an American white population that views itself as a special-interest group.
The recurring, tired refrain that we should have a white history month if there is a black history month, or white student unions on campuses, is unintentionally being given new life by the Left. Celebrations or organizations of whiteness do not exist because we don’t need them. White people do not face the same kinds of systemic discrimination that people of color do. But progressives are doing a very good job of convincing white people that they do.
It surprises many people that an increasing number of white Americans over the past decade believe whites face more discrimination than blacks. Obviously this feeling is inconsistent with economic data. Many have argued that a white fear of losing the dominant economic place in society is behind this belief. But what if the discrimination that white people are feeling and expressing is not primarily economic in nature?
One of the key components to the success of this racism is the almost-daily parade of silly micro-aggressions and triggers, specifically on college campuses. Conservative media seize upon disputes over the cultural appropriation of taco night or banning hoopskirts as evidence that minority racial grievance has gotten unhinged.
In emerging white nationalist journals such as Radix, this constant drumbeat of attack against white insensitivity is viewed gravely. What results is a belief among a growing number of whites in the concepts of “white genocide” and “racial realism.”
Young white men, reacting to social and educational constructs that paint them as the embodiment of historical evil, are fertile ground for white supremacists. They are very aware of the dichotomy between non-white culture, which must be valued at all times (even in the midst of terror attacks), and white culture, which must be criticized and devalued. They don’t like it.
The result of these societal double standards is for many a desire to lash out against it. For every white college student who dutifully accepts his privilege, many more resent the idea and wish to fight it. The sharpest arrow in their quiver is to be offensive.
This desire to be offensive has given rise to the “alt right.” Supporters of this loosely assembled white nationalist movement understand a playful aspect to its use of slurs. But just as the Left shifted from using anti-white rhetoric as an ironic device to an actual indictment of white culture, so has the alt right come to believe much of its troubling rhetoric.
For both groups the central theme is identity. That theme quickly calcifies into attitudes too brittle to hold up serious discourse. In reducing all phenomena to a question of race, both the alt right and the progressive left ensure the dominance of racial resentment as the lynchpin of our society.