Jared Taylor, American Renaissance, September 2002
Carol Swain, The New White Nationalism in America: Its Challenge to Integration, Cambridge University Press, 2002, 526 pp.
Carol Swain, a black professor of law and political science at Vanderbilt, has written what is undoubtedly the most interesting and useful account of the racial nationalist movement yet to emerge from a mainstream publisher. Needless to say, Prof. Swain is not sympathetic — she is an integrationist — but she has made a serious effort to understand what racially conscious whites are saying, and in so doing has concluded that at least part of what we say is right. This is a giant step forward from the smears and caricatures that she would readily agree constitute the usual accounts of the racialist movement.*
Prof. Swain brings a certain urgency to her account because she fears that by banning dissent on race and dismissing obviously legitimate racial arguments, the liberal establishment is only feeding the frustrations of whites and priming them for recruitment by racialists. Rather than continue to quarantine racial nationalists, she would invite them into mainstream discussion, correct the abuses of which they legitimately complain, and then refute their mistaken worldview. Only thus, she believes, can this growing and dangerous movement be prevented from attracting ever-larger numbers of disaffected whites and subverting the goal of a multi-racial America. She urges her readers to take her warnings as seriously as they would a “diagnosis of cancer;” otherwise, she says, we “are increasingly at risk of large-scale racial conflict unprecedented in our nation’s history.”
Prof. Swain has clearly read deeply in the racialist literature, but she also took the unusual step of commissioning lengthy interviews with figures she thought best represented white nationalist thinking: David Duke (leader of the National Organization for European-American Rights), William Pierce (late leader of the National Alliance), Matthew Hale (head of the World Church of the Creator), Lisa Turner (Women’s Information Coordinator for World Church of the Creator), Don Black (webmaster of Stormfront.org), Michael Levin (philosophy professor at City University of New York and frequent AR contributor), Michael Hart (Princeton-trained astrophysicist and AR conference speaker), Dan Gayman (pastor of a Christian Identity church), Reno Wolfe (leader of the National Association for the Advancement of White People), and your servant, the editor of American Renaissance.
Prof. Swain quotes at some length from these interviews and from publications, in a way that makes it clear she is trying to present fairly what her subjects think rather than caricature or discredit them. She notes that “these individuals are more intelligent, more sophisticated, and potentially more dangerous than most Americans realize,” and even describes AR as “the leading intellectual journal of contemporary white nationalism.” Prof. Swain devotes approximately a third of the book to a straightforward presentation of racial-nationalist thought. If her summaries of every group’s positions are as fair-minded as those of AR — and for the most part they appear to be — she has done careful work.
Having investigated everything from AR to World Church of the Creator, with which of the racialist arguments does Prof. Swain agree? She believes we are generally right about affirmative action, racial double standards, black crime, immigration, and the bankruptcy of black leadership. This is the message she wants to deliver to liberals “because some of the policies that they support are contributing to a worsening racial climate.”
Although racial preferences may have once had a useful role, she recognizes that “white nationalists have already been successful in winning the debate over affirmative action,” and that preferences are today nothing more than discrimination against whites. Should the country insist on keeping them they will remain “the most useful grievance for white nationalists.” She understands that preferences for immigrants, in particular, are an outrage that rightly infuriates whites.
She also opposes the glaring double standard that permits only non-whites to celebrate their racial heritage and organize to advance their interests. She says government-supported multiculturalism “could cause large numbers of white people of European extraction to embrace the idea of a distinct white interest that is not being adequately represented by a government that endorses preferences for non-whites.” She says the country must stop promoting non-white ethnic identity in a way that could “inflame tribal passions” and drive yet more bewildered whites into the hands of racialists.
Prof. Swain notes that blacks can insult whites without penalty while whites must hold their tongues, and has discovered the growing fury among whites over the almost celebratory reporting of white outrages against blacks, and the silence that greets black outrages against whites. She accepts the findings of New Century Foundation’s study, The Color of Crime, and agrees it is unconscionable that black violence against whites always be explained away, ignored, or downplayed.
As for immigration, she explains that racialists oppose it because it is reducing whites to a minority, but seems to stop just short of agreeing this is a legitimate reason to oppose it. She says we should sharply reduce immigration because it takes jobs from low-income natives, especially blacks. She does suggest, though, that diversity is a gamble: “Contrary to the “contact hypothesis’ that some social psychologists have propounded, mere contact between people of different races and ethnicities does not necessarily reduce racism or increase tolerance and understanding.” Elsewhere she concedes that “demographic change is more likely to bring about racial and ethnic violence than downturns in the economy.”
As for black “leaders” and the white liberals who anoint and support them, they are “performing a great disservice to the public” by ducking most of the racial issue that really matter. She understands that at a time when whites are increasingly angry about racial preferences, it is foolish for blacks to ask for reparations for slavery. She wants blacks to stop worrying about symbolic issues that only make whites mad—like taking down Confederate flags—and says they should wrestle seriously with the reasons whites don’t want to live with them: high rates of crime and illegitimacy. She says the racial con-men and shakedown artists are “racial provocateurs who are unwittingly helping white nationalists.”
Prof. Swain complains that blacks too quickly forgive their leaders’ worst excesses, adding that they should never have let Jesse Jackson walk away unscathed from the news that his organization was paying off the mother of his illegitimate child. She offers this astonishing observation from a black congressman: “[O]ne of the advantages and disadvantages of representing blacks is their shameless loyalty to their incumbents. You can almost get away with raping babies and be forgiven. You don’t have any vigilance about your performance.”
Prof. Swain has little patience for cowardly whites who refuse to acknowledge legitimate racialist grievances for fear of being called “racists.” She laughs at President Clinton’s utterly superficial “dialogue on race.” She has no patience for universities that host “forums on controversial subjects where all the participants agree with one another.” She says academics must rediscover the value of disagreement and free speech rather than huddle together to recite liberal mantras.
She believes that just as liberals, by shutting out racialists, have cultivated ingrown views, the censorship that forces honesty about race underground means that discussions among racialists degenerate into competition among fanatics egging each other on. She points out, however, that it is the liberals and not the racialists who have imposed this censorship, and she wants it to end.
In some respects, therefore, her boldest proposal is simply to insist that racialists be heard: “Individuals in the white rights and white nationalist movements such as Jared Taylor and Samuel Francis occasionally raise important and legitimate public policy issues that deserve a hearing in the marketplace of ideas . . .” Setting aside the word “occasionally,” this is a complete break with the hysterical tradition of censorship that she believes has only fanned the flames of white resentment. Her thinking is a refreshing return to classical principles: “[T]he best way to neutralize dangerous ideas is to expose them to competing ideas and alternative explanations …” She believes the bogeymen must be brought into the light because “white nationalism thrives by its willingness to address many contemporary issues and developments that mainstream politicians and media sources either ignore entirely or fail to address with any degree of openness or candor.”
So far, an unqualified “bravo” for Prof. Swain—but of course there is more to the book than this, some of which veers from the silly to the misguided. In the former category is her view that Michael Levin of City University of New York is “well balanced” by Leonard Jeffries of the same university. Prof. Levin has written a massively-researched study of race and IQ called Why Race Matters. Prof. Jeffries is a black supremacist who made news in 1991, claiming whites are “ice people” while blacks are cuddly “sun people.” He has said if it were up to him, he would wipe all white people “off the face of the earth,” and that the 1986 space shuttle explosion was “the best thing to happen to America in a long time,” because it might prevent whites from “spreading their filth through the universe.”
Perhaps Prof. Swain equates Prof. Levin and Prof. Jeffries because the question of IQ is one to which her open-mindedness does not extend. She says Prof. Levin makes “absurdly exaggerated claims” about the heritability of IQ and of its importance to society. She approvingly quotes Richard Nisbett, who writes that “rigorous interventions do affect IQ and cognitive skills at every state of the life course.” If that were true, we would take IQ-boosting courses throughout our lives.
Prof. Swain also writes loosely about “hate” and “white supremacy” groups, despite sometimes quite specific quotations from racialists who are careful to explain why these terms are wrong. Michael Hart, for example, told her: “I, like most other white separatists, resent being called a white supremacist … I have no desire to rule over blacks, or to attempt to rule over blacks, or have someone else rule over blacks in my behalf.”
Perhaps, despite her general willingness to listen to what we say rather than what the Southern Poverty Law Center says we say, Prof. Swain doesn’t believe Prof. Hart. Though she never accuses anyone specifically of deceit, she writes irritatingly of racialists “disguising themselves in the mantle of mainstream conservatism,” “packaging their message to conceal the radicalism of their views,” and “disguising their true aims.” The claim to be able to read minds is never effective or attractive.
Prof. Swain has discovered that many white nationalists are hostile to Jews, and is therefore surprised to find any Jewish support for racialism. She is also disappointed, and for an odd reason: “As long as African Americans were in the same boat as Jews — objects of hatred and scorn — somehow we felt less vulnerable. For this reason it is most troubling when I see groups like Taylor’s American Renaissance successfully seeking and finding Jewish recruits, leaving African Americans more isolated and vulnerable than ever before.” It is almost as if she preferred that Jews be “objects of hatred and scorn.”
Although most of Prof. Swain’s recommendations are well-considered, a few are awful. She says “racism” is still a big problem for blacks and Hispanics, so government enforcement of anti-discrimination laws should be hugely beefed up. Not only does she want armies of government “testers” on the streets snooping for “racism,” she wants cash rewards to encourage anonymous informants to root out “racists,” and stiffer penalties for offenders. Prof. Swain already recognizes whites are too scared to talk honestly about race; an even stiffer dose of Big Brother would make things vastly worse.
At some level she seems to understand that the very idea of fighting “racism” is a tricky one: “Given the increasing diversity of the United States, a major challenge for the twenty-first century is how to combat various forms of discrimination against racial, ethnic, and political minorities without exacerbating existing social tensions.”
It would, in any case, be too much to ask Prof. Swain to understand that discrimination is inseparable from freedom, that government “testers” have no more right to vet my choice of a renter or employee than they do my choice of a wife, and that my refusal to hire someone leaves him no worse off than he was before. These ancient truths are now lost on most Americans.
But of course, the genuinely fundamental question Prof. Swain neglects is whether a multi-racial society is possible or even desirable. She simply takes for granted that it is, and even implies that anyone who does not should be shut out of the debate, be he an otherwise occasionally reasonable Samuel Francis or Jared Taylor. If we are to have the genuine dialogue for which Prof. Swain calls so frequently — and I believe sincerely — there should be no opinions that must be checked at the door. The conviction that multi-racialism does not work is virtually the touchstone of white nationalism, and to outlaw this conviction is to muzzle debate before it begins.
These are, nevertheless, the criticisms of a partisan in the debate, and they do not detract from Prof. Swain’s extremely important contribution. Precisely because she is willing at least to meet her opponents half-way, her book is likely to be ignored, and to be savaged when it is not ignored. This is the fate of all pioneers, and few know it better than the very people she has tried so hard to study and understand.
*White Power, White Pride!, written in 1997 by Betty Dobratz and Stephanie Shanks-Meile, was one of the first serious attempts to explain racialist thinking to the public, but does not recognize the legitimacy to any racialist argument.