While the majority of the blogs from last month pertained to explicit activities of white supremacist groups, this blog addresses a more indirect but no less damaging impact of these organizations. Specifically, I suggest that the links between mainstream conservatives and white supremacy organizations are both insidious and possibly on the rise. This can take shape in several forms including funding, research, and advocacy of themes explicitly linked to core white supremacy doctrines and mobilization. This research is used to frame arguments in major national debates within American politics on issues like immigration, welfare reform, and criminal prosecution. In the sections which follow I provide a few examples of blatant connections between racist organizations and movements to the conservative mainstream of American politics.
Perhaps the most famous contemporary example of racist connections to conservatism is The Bell Curve. In 1994, conservative political pundit Charles Murray and the late Harvard psychology professor Richard Hernstein published their now famous manuscript. In it, Murray and Hernstein argued that that intelligence was almost entirely genetic and clearly measureable, but that disparities between racial groups were extreme. Blacks and Hispanics ranked the lowest in their hierarchy while whites lagged only slightly behind their Asian counterparts.
While it is not within the purview of this blog to rehash all the criticisms of this work, a primary focus among critics was that the sources used in the book were themselves racist. For example, a New York Review of Books critique (Lane 1994) noted that five of the texts cited were from and at least seventeen of the researchers had published previously in Mankind Quarterly—an anthropology journal focused on “racial history.” Indeed, in their acknowledgements, Hernstein and Murray mention that they “benefited especially from the advice” of Richard Lynn, a scholar whose 1991 publication in Mankind Quarterly stated that “the Caucasoids and the Mongoloids are the only two races that have made any significant contribution to civilization” (Metcalf 2005). Similarly, at least sixteen of the authors cited received funding from the Pioneer Fund, an organization dedicated largely to funding scientific racism.
Although The Bell Curve was seriously scrutinized by a wide variety of American scientists and left-leaning political outlets, it was equally praised by conservative and moderate political pundits and intellectuals. For example, Forbes published a ringing endorsement replete with interview excerpts with Hernstein and Murray. Similarly, The New Republic made the book its cover story, featuring an extensive chapter extract, an article by Charles Murray, and a series of reviews of the book. In 2005, Andrew Sullivan who had been the editor of The New Republic at the time reflected fondly on his decision to devote so much attention and credit to The Bell Curve. Despite the litany of scientific reviews of The Bell Curve since 1994, ones which decried the scientific merits of the book’s data and conclusions, Sullivan asserted “the book held up, and still holds up as one of the most insightful and careful of the last decade.”
More recently, Jason Richwine, who Charles Murray informally mentored, was granted a Ph.D. in public policy at Harvard University and then a job as a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation after submitting a dissertation laden with racist claims and theoretical arguments. Mr. Richwine’s 2009 dissertation entitled IQ and Immigration, argued forcefully that American immigration policy should eschew Hispanic immigrants on the basis that this group tended to have lower IQs than “native whites.” Given Richwine’s association with Murray it is not surprising that he copiously cited researchers with strong eugenicist tendencies funded by the Pioneer Fund like Philippe Rushton and Richard Lynn, or perhaps most famously, Arthur Jensen.
During his time at the Heritage Foundation, Richwine continued his denunciation of Hispanic immigrants, authoring “The Fiscal Cost of Unlawful Immigrants and Amnesty to the U.S. Taxpayer.” The report analyzed the potential costs of the 2013 Senate Immigration Bill (S. 744) which Heritage Foundation President, former Senator Jim DeMint, staunchly opposed. During his tenure at Heritage, Richwine also wrote two articles, “Model Minority” and “More on Hispanics and Crime” for AlternativeRight.com, a racist website which was, at the time of his publications, edited and founded by Richard Spencer, the President and Director of the openly racist National Policy Institute (see more below). Both articles were cross-posted by conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute, which funded Richwine’s dissertation and employed him directly after his graduation.
Richwine was only encouraged to resign from Heritage in mid-May 2013 after the Washington Post published a blog chronicling the racist tenor of his dissertation. The Heritage Foundation sought to distance itself in the days after the news broke by pointing out that it did not support his dissertation and that he had only been a co-author on the immigration report. However, there can be no question that his dissertation and open disdain for Hispanic immigrants was one of reasons Richwine was hired by Heritage in the first place.
While some researchers and political advocates like Murray, Hernstein, and Richwine use data and theoretical arguments tainted by white supremacists, others are themselves directly affiliated with white supremacy organizations. James B. Taylor, conservative advocate, offers a prime example. On the more legitimate side, Taylor is one of nine members of the board for the Young America’s Foundation (YAF) which, among its other achievements, owns and manages the Ronald Reagan Ranch in California, helped create the Conservative Political Action Conference, and runs a center purporting to train journalists in “the values of balanced, responsible and accurate reporting.”
Mr. Taylor was also, however, Vice President of the National Policy Institute (NPI), a tax-exempt group founded in 2005. Their website prominently features a picture of a happy white family. The message over the photo reads, “For our people, our culture, our future;” and just below it states, “NPI is an independent think-tank and publishing firm dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of European people in the United States, and around the world.” In the last year of Taylor’s service as vice president, NPI published “The State of White America 2007.” Among other things, the report asserted that the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education “was arguably the worst decision in the Court’s 216-year history;” and that the 1964 Civil Rights Act was “unconstitutional” and had created “quota systems privileging unqualified blacks (and later, Hispanics, and today even illegal immigrants!), at the expense of qualified whites.” The report took a similar stance on more recent events, asserting that today “more whites than minorities are being thrown into poverty” because of increased job competition between poor whites, Hispanic immigrants, and “black welfare moms.” Similarly, in a diatribe about bilingual education programs in New York, the report claims “not only are illiterate (really non-lingual) immigrants routinely issued high school diplomas by New York City high schools, they are also admitted to attend college at campuses of the City University of New York, once America’s finest urban system of higher education.”
These sentiments are echoed by YAF itself without the overt affiliation with white supremacist organizations. For example, in an article appearing on the YAF website May 2013, author Ben Smith referred to a resolution passed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill which advocated providing in-state tuition to undocumented immigrant students. Hill went on to state that, “Knowing the liberal atmosphere on many campuses, their acceptance is all but guaranteed. This will only encourage more illegal immigration.” Likewise, back in late September of this year, the University of Texas, Austin chapter of YAF reportedly sponsored an “affirmative action bake sale” in which patrons were charged on a sliding scale based on race (Kingkade 2013).
My point in these examples is that white supremacy today has increasingly strong ties to conservative and moderate political and academic circles. Researchers and policy advocates with what are considered legitimate credentials are freely flitting in and out of racist debates and circles, and their points are rehashed by white supremacists and Washington insiders alike. It would behoove those of us interested in social movements or concerned with white supremacy to systematically trace the links between the two more clearly. I have only provided a few examples, but there are far more out there.
Kingkade, Tyler. 2013. “University of Texas Conservative Students Hold Affirmative Action Bake Sale.” The Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/01/affirmative-action-bake-sale_n_4025362.html
Lane, Charles. 1994. “The Tainted Sources of the Bell Curve,” The New York Review of Books. December 1.
Metcalf, Stephen. 1994. “Moral Courage: Is Defending the Bell Curve an Example of Intellectual Honesty?” Slate. http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2005/10/moral_courage.html