Posted on March 13, 2024

The American Nation: Identity

IM-1776, March 13, 2024

Lafayette Lee: In our recent dialogue, Darryl Cooper and I explore American identity and ethnogenesis. We both found ourselves agreeing that the civic nationalism of our parents and grandparents is inadequate to provide meaning and sustain identity, but we also shared doubts that racial identitarianism could be a viable alternative. In the end, we arrived at a third way, emphasizing the uniqueness of American civilization, our sectional character, and our capacity to reinvent ourselves. In a response, you [Scott] wrote that “what lies ahead for the historic American nation is deciding between acceptance of the new multiracial model or embracing the racial foundation to its identity,” and that “there isn’t a third way out of this problem.” I think we can all agree that the 20th-century regime is dying, and with it goes the civic nationalism of an earlier generation. But is restoring the nation’s racial foundations required? Is that even realistic?

Scott Greer: I think it’s unrealistic to expect a colorblind national identity to thrive in a minority-white America. America is great because of the people who made it. Those people were whites with an Anglo-Protestant culture. Much of the Left understands this when they denounce America for its “whiteness” – the Left’s use of “whiteness” by the way. Whiteness refers to the way that whites, our customs, our culture, and our beliefs operate as the national standard. The Left sees this fact as an abomination. I see this as a great testament to our unique civilization and its contributions, and in turn what we should preserve.

The Left’s criticisms exhibit a clear understanding of the racial character of America. The Right shies away from this because of the great taboo around a positive white identity. Generations of whites have been taught to wince at this subject. Only hillbillies and other uncouth types would talk about being white. Respectable white people don’t see race. But even the old civic nationalism relied on an implicit understanding of the fundamental character of America. As the Left notices, it was a celebration of dead white men and their culture. Whites wouldn’t recognize this because we don’t see the Founding Fathers through a racial angle. We see them as deracialized individuals (which is a caricature of the ahistorical, liberal ideal; Locke and Jefferson obviously wouldn’t have seen themselves in that regard); but to non-whites, their whiteness is very apparent.

Civic nationalism thrived in a nation that was majority white. We could pretend race doesn’t exist and we’re all just individuals. Our history still glorified white men and Anglo-Protestant culture. It only made sure not to draw a racial conclusions. The values of, and ideas, of America were certainly prioritized over the founding stock of America in the telling of civic nationalists. But outsiders could still see the racial character of it all. Civic nationalism still posited whites as the generic Americans. That’s why the Left can’t resist an explicitly racial understanding of America. The DEI apparatchiks see whiteness as fundamental to the nation – and want to wipe it out. Leftists understand that they can mold a new country into the image they want if whiteness is dethroned.

Many normal white Americans would prefer we return to colorblindness or some other race neutral identity. But that’s unlikely to happen. Colorblindness is a luxury of a nation with an established, solidly positioned, yet tolerant majority. This is not America in 2024. We’re quickly heading towards a future without a racial majority. Non-whites, raised up on anti-white history, will bitterly resent the honors afforded dead white men and the relative prosperity of whites. They will cling to their racial and ethnic identities to distinguish themselves from the shallow consumer culture of the mainstream. Colorblindness doesn’t appeal to them. Colorblindness really only appeals to whites. They will prefer anti-whiteness.

This is a conflict being imposed on white America. It may not make for the best campaign message. It probably will discomfort a lot of middle Americans. And it will certainly invite attacks from the establishment. But it’s necessary to stand up for the truth. Whiteness is fundamental to America. Without it, it’s no longer America.

Darryl Cooper: There is an interesting paradox here. True, generations of white people have been trained since kindergarten to view white racial identity as a mark of the uncouth lower classes, but who taught them to think that way? In the 1960s, the Anglo-Protestant elite still held the reins of power, and were the most passionate and vociferous opponents of white racialism. When the Irish, Italians, Jews, and other urban Euro ethnics began, in the mid-20th century, to put aside their differences and band together to protect their communities from the onslaught of the black Great Migration, they were universally vilified and politically attacked by the members and institutions of the Anglo-Protestant ruling class. The WASP elite weren’t taught in school to hate white racialism, it was they who taught it to others. {snip}

{snip} The South is full of founding stock WASPs who never had a say in this, and in fact had it forced upon them at the point of a bayonet. Perhaps those experiences left them with an understanding that sometimes the good guys lose, and that “we will win, because we must win” is not enough to overcome a lost cause. In my experience, they tend to wear their racial identity with a quiet assurance, and without resorting to the fanaticism necessary to sustain the faith of deracinated white nationalists in the rest of the country. In fact, most of the Southern racialists I know are closer to neo-Confederates than white nationalists, and don’t labor under the illusion that they share much of a common destiny, let alone a common identity, with Portland hipsters or Upper East Side Jews, or even liberal Yankee elites, for that matter. Southerners know from long experience not to base their politics on trying to control what the rest of the country does, and don’t spend their time or energy pretending that it’s possible, or necessary, to drive all the Latinos out of the Southwest. Sectionalism is a defensive posture, and it comes naturally to a Southerner; in the rest of the country, too many of us still cling to the Yankee faith in grand crusades.

Lafayette Lee: Following up on Darryl, I agree that America sprang from a largely Anglo-Protestant culture and that the racial composition of the nation remains relevant. Without a doubt, demographic change will alter the character of the country, though I don’t pretend to know the extent. But I think it’s important to point out that given its unique history and physiography, America has always had the capacity to reinvent itself while remaining positively “American.” The civic nationalism we deem inadequate is merely the byproduct of a specific place and time which saw a rapid consolidation of political and economic power, the birth of a global order, and a civil rights revolution. Before the rise of this mid-century consensus, the country was defined by sectional competition and Western expansion. We have every reason to believe that we are undergoing yet another transformation that will force the nation to reinvent itself once again. But is white solidarity as a national or transnational project suitable today?


Scott Greer: One thing that needs to be made clear is that deracination is the norm in America. The average person, especially white person, doesn’t have a strong, rooted identity. There are some exceptions, such as Mormons. Regional identity is especially weak. Darryl brought up the South, which he describes as the same place it was in the 1960s. I was born and raised in the South. Most of my family lives in the South. I had several ancestors who fought for the Confederacy. It is not at all like it once was. The type of Southern identity he describes is really only found among the older generation. Sons of Confederate Veterans meetings are elderly affairs. The young guys who get into neo-Confederacy generally learned it from the internet and are no different from “deracinated white nationalism.” The largest neo-Confederate group was the League of the South, which was at Charlottesville and was completely on board with the alt right. In fact, the largest protest against the takedown of Confederate monuments was the Charlottesville rally — and the majority of participants were from outside the South. Obviously, this was extremely counter-productive as Cville led to increased suppression of Southern heritage. But these were basically the only people who publicly protested.


The South’s distinctive identity has diminished over the last 60 years. {snip} If the South — which has historically had the strongest regional identity in the US — is losing its distinctiveness, this doesn’t speak well for regions with weaker identities. Yankee WASPs are almost an anachronism at this point. The regional and cultural differences between white Americans are at an all-time low.

As for Southerners not caring about Hispanic migration to the Southwest, I think that fails to understand the national impact of immigration. The South gets as many of the newcomers as anywhere else. A lot of these migrants end up in the rural South. Albertville, Alabama — not a metropolis at all — in the last 30 years went from having virtually no Hispanics, to its schools being majority Hispanic. The town also has a sizable Haitian population. This isn’t an outlier. Demographic transformation is happening even more rapidly and on a larger scale in the South’s urban centers, e.g., Charlotte and Atlanta. The rural south is experiencing mass immigration as much as anywhere else. This may explain why Trump dominated the South in the 2016 primaries. Southerners related to this anti-immigration message because they personally experienced the transformations Trump railed against. The Great Replacement affects all parts of the country.

To Lafayette Lee’s questions on political pragmatism, there are few considerations. The best strategy for politics is Trumpism. It’s not explicitly white identity politics, but it’s opposed to DEI, racial quotas, historical erasure, mass immigration, and anti-white racism. So it strives to achieve most of what we want without spelling it out. {snip}


Localism without a clear identity is not a revival. It’s just a retreat to the hospice. Americans all experience some degree of deracination. We move around all the time and we’ve been doing it since the founding. Tocqueville even remarked on the deracinated nature of Americans nearly 200 years ago. Turning to sectionalism is a safer alternative than white identity, but it’s allowed to be articulated largely because it’s harmless. Americans focusing on the local realm couldn’t stop any of the major changes in our society, which occur beyond the reach of local political power and decision-making. It would keep some of the wokeness out of schools, but it would do little to stop the Great Replacement.

We live in a globalized world where kids in the middle of nowhere Arkansas can see content from China in a second. We no longer live in the 19th century America of Tocqueville and Jackson where a strong system of localism thrived. As America increasingly becomes less white, anti-whiteness will become even more prevalent. Retreating to an identity around being a Topekan or a Midwesterner won’t challenge it. They will still take your money, undercut your access to opportunities, and hate you for being a white man — all while you subsidize the same system.


Darryl Cooper: {snip} While Southern identity might be a body on life support, hanging on by a thread, white identitarianism in the rest of the country is a Frankenstein creature, made up of thrown-together, poorly-fitted parts, hoping for a spark that will bring it to life.

So I’ll concede that local identity is currently as much of a fiction as any other identity, and like racial identity has to be built virtually from scratch. I simply believe that the former is a much more manageable, and, for the overwhelming majority of white Americans, more agreeable project than the latter. By more manageable, I mean it’s a lighter lift to get people to identify with their neighbors based on common interest and understanding than it is to get them to identify with strangers based on similar skin pigmentation. And by more agreeable, I mean that white identitarianism, as Scott and Ben have helpfully demonstrated, is almost entirely devoid of positive content. Ben’s right that identities are often forged and shaped by conflict, but one need only look to black and other minority identitarians to see the toxic consequences of adopting an identity whose sales pitch is: “You’re under attack, everyone hates you, everyone will always hate you.” Localism, unlike white identitarianism, is able to appeal to one’s loyalty and aspirations, and most normal solid citizens who resist white identitarianism do so because they sense that anger and resentment are the price of admission.

Scott Greer: White American identity isn’t a Frankenstein creature. You can pick up any American history book to learn about it. It’s been articulated in this country since Europeans arrived here. Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Calvin Coolidge are a few of the prominent Americans who were open about America’s racial character. Frontier conflict sharpened American national identity to where different whites saw each other as one group against the great Indian other. White identity was emphasized in our naturalization laws until the 1950s. The 1965 Immigration Act was passed only with the false promises that it wouldn’t change America’s fundamental white makeup.

This is a great example of where the woke are more correct than conservatives. Whiteness is arguably the fundamental fact of American history. As leftists bitterly note, much of our history is about whites imposing white norms, values, and traditions on the land and people. Many minorities recognize the habits and standards whites take as “normal” as white culture. White identity stands obvious before a lot of Americans. There’s just a very strong taboo around whites proudly acknowledging it.

I think the Frankenstein creature you have in mind is what the alt-right advocated for years ago. Greek statues, strange symbols, and all that. That clearly fell flat. But that’s not what I’m advocating for. The white identity I envision is one firmly rooted in the history, experience, and tradition of white Americans. The heroes and monuments the Left threatens today are expressions of that identity. This identity is everywhere around us — you merely need the eyes to see it. This is a far more real tradition than the dreams of localists.

I don’t think identitarianism will be the GOP platform in the next few years. But none of us are solely focused on building a party platform. We’re more interested in metapolitics and changing the perception of the people who read us. White identity may be taboo, but it’s more relevant to our age than localism. It offers deracinated Americans a heritage, a purpose, and a people to call their own. The hinterlands on their own don’t provide that.

Benjamin and I feel it’s necessary for white identity to be advanced in order to keep America America. Whites developing some form of group consciousness is necessary to resist replacement-level immigration, reparations, and racial quotas. It is also essential to assert the “traditional American culture” that conservatives cherish. This would be different from minority identitarianism in that we would be begging for handouts from the system. We would aim to make the country as a whole great again. Without the development of a positive white identity, the new American identity will be based around anti-whiteness. We will be the Other for everyone else to define themselves against. There’s a good reason why many whites are trying to flee from whiteness and claim they’re POC. Society denigrates whites in a similar way to how frontier society saw Indians. Unless that changes, our country is doomed.

I would also challenge that localism is a completely positive identity. Localism generally emphasizes the hinterlands over the cities and suburbs. These are the places filled with a lot of understandable “anger and resentment” at their current state and the way the country is heading. It’s why they overwhelmingly vote for Trump. Nearly every identity needs an Other to define itself against. What localism seems to do is to direct that animosity towards a safer target. Namely, other whites. I see many self-proclaimed localists talk about how much they love the illegal immigrants in their towns yet endorse terror campaigns against newly-arrived whites who fled from blue states. This politically correct animosity further reinforces the impression that localism is just Frontporch Multiculturalism. The primary reason the Right is uncomfortable with white identity is because of the taboo around it. There’s a great cost to advocating for it. Just look at how Jared Taylor is treated by Big Tech and the EU. No one who advocates for localism is treated that way, which underscores that it is no threat to the system.

Towns on their own can’t stop mass immigration, civil rights law, corporate DEI practices, or federal law enforcement mandates. If our main issues were cleaning up trash from local parks or renovating dilapidated store fronts, then localism would make sense. These are positive things to do, but they’re not what’s driving people to the Right. Everybody should strive to make their community nicer. But without a larger political mission that unites a wide array of people, we aren’t solving any of the core problems. Localism, in practice, would accept America’s radical social transformation.