Posted on March 20, 2023

The Death of Particularist White Identity

Scott Greer, Substack, March 17, 2023

Last week, the City of Newark, New Jersey, replaced its Christopher Columbus statue with a Harriet Tubman monument. “We have created a focal point in the heart of our city that expresses our participation in an ongoing living history of a people who have grappled through many conflicts to steadily lead our nation in its progress toward racial equality,” proclaimed Newark Mayor Ras Baraka. Clearly, Mayor Baraka doesn’t think Senor Columbus progresses America toward “racial equality” – and cities across the country seem to agree. At least 36 Columbus monuments have been torn down since the 1970s. Many refuse to celebrate his holiday, having renamed it “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”

Columbus’s public fate reflects America’s growing intolerance for particularist white identities. These identities allow–or once allowed–white Americans to express pride in who they are and where they come from. They never celebrated “white identity,” as not all whites could participate, but highlighted the achievements of a specific group. Italian-Americans saw Columbus as a hero of their people and a symbol of their contribution to America. Southerners fly the Confederate flag to express pride in where they come from.

Political correctness considers these identities racist and has banished them from the public eye. Whites aren’t allowed to have ethnic identities with real history, only non-whites are. Whites are only allowed to identify with a shallow and inclusive mass culture.

The New South exemplifies this development. For generations, the South venerated its Confederate heroes and symbols. Robert E. Lee was the pinnacle of Southern manhood. The flag he fought under was the banner of the Southland, flown at football games and on front porches alike. Towns and communities erected Confederate monuments to honor their ancestors and remind Southerners of their past. Their pride wasn’t revanchist; it was a way to honor history, common ancestry, and the land.

But all that has been destroyed. The South has lost its unique identity. You won’t see the Rebel Flag flying from homes or stickered on the back of trucks. Southern schools teach the same anti-Confederate history that you’ll find in the rest of the United States. Even conservative lawmakers condemn their ancestors as “racist Democrats.” Southern cities and northern cities are virtually indistinguishable. You’ll find pride marches and liberal slogans in both. The new hero of the South is Dolly Parton, a BLM-supporting singer who wants everyone to know that “Y’all means All.”

That’s not to say there are no distinct characteristics left in the South. Southerners still have their famous accent, a unique brand of evangelical Christianity, and SEC football. But all the aspects of Southern identity that give it historical depth have been erased. The New South is a shallow composite of consumer choices, inclusive and welcome to all. It doesn’t matter whether your ancestors fought for the Army of Northern Virginia or against the British Raj. You can still shout “Roll Tide” at Bama games.

The New South is the product of 70 years of migration, both internal and foreign. Thanks to air conditioning, business came and transformed the region. Many southerners, if not most, no longer have roots to the Old South. They don’t have any ties to a Robert E. Lee or Stonewall Jackson. They certainly don’t associate with the Confederate flag, which a majority of southerners now consider a “racist” symbol. But they’re fine with country music, cowboy boots, and sweet tea. They uphold the lifestyle components of southern identity and cast aside the non-inclusive.  What’s left is a harmless caricature of southern identity, a Pakistani in boots and a ten-gallon hat speaking with an affected drawl.

Italian and other white ethnic identities have suffered the same fate. Famous ethnic neighborhoods are either gone from Northern cities, or have been reduced to a touristic caricature. These are the very people who would rally to defend Columbus statues and insist their cities keep celebrating Columbus Day. But there aren’t many Italians in places like Newark anymore. The people inhabiting the old neighborhoods don’t see themselves in Columbus. They see him as a white racist. They want figures and holidays that represent who they are. Long dead Italians don’t fit the bill.

The vast majority of Italians assimilated into generic white America. Like most white ethnics, they moved to the suburbs, married outside their demographic, and adopted standard middle-class hobbies and tastes. Their strong attachment to ethnic identity faded. Italians, like many ethnics, still express pride in their heritage and cuisine, but the Italian-American community is mostly gone. The same can be said for Irish, Poles, and other white ethnics. The disappearance of strong white ethnic communities means fewer people demanding Columbus Day as their buy-in to the melting pot.

White ethnics are now generic Americans. They can content themselves with the less problematic holiday of St. Patrick’s Day. Ostensibly a day for the Irish, it’s now an inclusive day for all to get plastered while dressed in green. “Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day” is the ideal sales pitch to modern America. Any white identity must be open to all, and St. Patrick’s Day makes it very clear it’s not just for the Irish. Since the day doesn’t honor a white man hated by non-whites and brings Americans together to drink, no one wants to take it away.

Another contributing factor to the demise of ethnic identities is the death of WASPdom. The Anglo-Protestant majority has cast off any special identity for itself. They no longer see anything unique in themselves. They’re just generic Americans who largely find their identity in the national mass culture. There’s no longer a sense of difference between them and ethnics. Similarly, the differences between white Southerners and white Yankees are now minimal. The lack of a group to compare yours to reduces ethnic identification.

Whites still associate with ethnic groups when asked who they are. But that’s a sign of the strong prohibition on white identity in contemporary America. White means the absence of identity. Someone who is a quarter Irish and grew up in a suburb where ethnic identity never mattered will insist they’re Irish. It would be more accurate to say they’re white, but to most people, white stands for nothing but racism. An ethnic identity gives them something more–even if they have zero actual connection to that identity. Some flee whiteness through discovery of an Indian ancestor or some other remote exotic background. That path got Elizabeth Warren a job, even though there was nothing Indian about her. Southerners at least can claim a meaningful connection to the region they were born and raised in. That region just isn’t as different from the rest of America as it once was.

As particularist identities die out among whites, the system encourages non-whites to flaunt theirs as much as possible. Every minority group gets their own university studies department. Every minority group gets their own month. Every minority group gets their own history museum. And they all get treated as indispensable to American greatness. The next census will probably include a separate category for Middle Easterners and North Africans so they won’t have to say they’re white. It may also create further specifications among existing groups, such as American descendants of slavery (to differentiate them from black immigrants) and East and South Asians. The Globalist American Empire wants non-whites to strengthen their identities. Meanwhile, whites will be stuck in the abyss of nothingness known as “non-Hispanic white.”

It is tragic that particularist white identities are dying out, but there is an opportunity out of this. At times these particularist identities divided white Americans and made them see each other as fundamentally different. There was maybe a case for this in the past. But now these differences are anachronistic. Complaining about the dangers of Italians or Irish or Southerners is about as relevant as worrying about the Spanish Empire. All these groups are now just white. It’s how the government sees us. It’s how people on the street see us. And it’s certainly how non-whites see us. It’s pointless to try to divide ourselves and cling to communities that no longer exist.

It’s time to uphold an authentic American identity that gives the founding stock–and those who assimilated into it–a meaningful sense of who they are. Something more than what’s offered by our hollow mass culture. Something more than “all men are created equal.” Something more than a piece of paper. People desire a sense of community and belonging. For white Americans, the only thing offered is anomie.

The answer to whites’ identity crisis is an American identity that’s not rooted merely in citizenship or platitudes about freedom. It’s one rooted in the people, culture, and heroes that made this country great.