As White Nationalists Gather Again Near Nashville, They Say Racial Justice Efforts Are Helping, Not Hurting Their Cause
Paige Pfleger, WPLN, November 12, 2021
At the annual American Renaissance conference, attendees and speakers don’t show up in white sheets, with Nazi regalia or an AR-15 strapped to their back.
Instead, the meeting inside Montgomery Bell State Park’s conference center could easily be confused with a corporate retreat — lots of white guys in suits, trying to sell the idea of white separatism.
“In some ways, it’s far more insidious,” says Vanderbilt’s Sophie Bjork-James, “because it allows them to have a bigger reach.”
“It’s been an incredibly successful strategy,” she says.
And it’s part of the reason the group has so much staying power when compared to other white nationalist groups. American Renaissance has been around since the 1990s.
But underneath that facade, its ideas are still racist. American Renaissance wants complete segregation and believes an entire race’s value can be measured by statistics like crime rates and births out of wedlock.
“We simply want to be left alone as whites to have the opportunity to hold our own destiny in our own hands,” says Jared Taylor, the editor and founder of American Renaissance.
He argues his movement has been helped — not hurt — by ongoing national dialogue about systemic racism.
“It drives people into our arms,” he says.
Montgomery Bell State Park has been Taylor’s chosen venue for about 10 years now. The park, incidentally, was named after a slaveowner. Taylor says it’s the most agreeable place they’ve been able to find.
“We used to meet in hotels convenient to airports,” Taylor says. “But now we must meet at a publicly owned facility because unlike a hotel, which can be bullied and intimidated by people who don’t want people like us to be able to speak our minds freely, the state of Tennessee refuses to be bullied.”
That reputation — that Tennessee protects free speech — has drawn far-right pundits to the state in recent years and was even cited as one reason the social media site Parler decided to relocate here.