The landscape of organized white supremacy has dramatically changed since I conducted my research for White Man Falling: Race, Gender and White Supremacy in the 1990s. At that time, most organized white supremacist groups were isolated, disconnected, disorganized, and difficult to follow. They seemed to be easily identifiable as “extremist.” Since that time, the broad contours of White supremacist ideology appears to be the only thing unchanged. Continue reading
August’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, where more than a thousand white nationalist adherents conducted a torch-lit march chanting “white lives matter” and “Jews will not replace us” before provoking widespread street violence the following day, was viewed widely as a watershed moment for the burgeoning Alt-Right. As the “largest hate gathering of its kind in decades in the United States,” the Charlottesville rally demonstrated that the diffuse movement – whose vibrancy had been most prominently displayed online – could mobilize in large numbers in physical space. It also showcased a level of organization that seemed far from ad hoc, and a set of media-ready male leaders who sought to embody the modern white supremacist brand: clean-cut, neatly dressed, with coifed “fashy” haircuts. Continue reading
Many of us were introduced to empirical research on racism through popular psychology, which suggests that racism is an individual-level problem among whites. The idea is that racism stems from prejudice, which is “an antipathy based on a faulty and inflexible generalization,” meaning that it’s negative and hostile, irrational, rigid, and inaccurate. According to this perspective, prejudice may be “felt or expressed;” it can involve both the intent to discriminate and actual discrimination. To “cure” white racism and to solve this prejudice problem, then, we should endorse more education, training, and diversity initiatives. Such initiatives would expose individuals to accurate and scientific information, replacing antagonistic and inaccurate information with harmony and truth, resulting in the reduction of prejudice. Policy initiatives that take this approach may address interracial conflict, but what about the underlying racial inequality? Continue reading
In our second month discussing the alt-right, we have additional contributors.
Donald Trump’s recent rise to power has put a spotlight on what has come to be known as the “alt-right.” Yet the alt-right proceeded the Trump campaign and has, perhaps, contributed to Trump’s victory and also benefited from its close ties with the White House. This dialogue invites social scientists to comment on its causes, consequences, and its likely trajectory. What can social movement scholars learn from this movement? What has contributed to its successes? What limitations to future growth does it face (if any)? What type of people are most likely to be attracted to the alt-right, and why? How can this movement be resisted? How severe is the threat posed by the movement? How should progressives respond to the way in which the alt-right prompts debate and contention over the line between hate speech and free speech?
Many thanks to our wonderful group of contributors.
Abby Ferber, University of Colorado-Colorado Springs (essay)
David Cunningham, Washington University in St. Louis (essay)
Kim Ebert, North Carolina State University (essay)
Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, Guillermo Trejo
How can activists avoid burnout?
Gordon, Hava Rachel. 2009. We Fight to Win: Inequality and the Politics of Youth Activism. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press
Klandermans, Bert. 1997. The Social Psychology of Protest. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers.
See also: Sharon Erickson Nepstad’s video on the same topic
Just nine months prior to the August 2017 Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, a New York Times profile of the alt-right explored the potential force of the movement but tempered the immediacy of the threat, explaining, “…at this point, [they] would have trouble holding a serious street rally, let alone turning into a mass political party.” Many journalists and scholars alike highlighted the “nebulous,” “loosely-assembled” nature of the alt-right, as a disparate collection of largely anonymous online communities – white supremacists, anti-Semites, nativists, neo-fascists, masculinists, conspiracists, nihilists – without any clearly shared goals or motivations. Yet, less than a year later, they marched unified through the grounds of my alma mater, tiki torch-wielding young men clad in polo shirts and khaki pants, angry faces illuminated in collective rage. Horrified publics grappled with the seemingly spontaneous re-emergence of overt, unapologetic white supremacy, the explosive violence in the streets, and the question of how our political polarization reached such depths. Continue reading
On the weekend of August 11, 2017, right-wing extremists, or what many call the Alt-Right, gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest the pending removal of a statue of Confederate leader Robert E. Lee from a city park. Many were shocked to see images of the protest on Friday, with Neo-Nazis and other extreme right supporters carrying torches en masse, in one of the largest extreme right protest events in recent history, and were horrified when participants in the protest on Saturday murdered a counter-demonstrator and injured dozens more. President Trump suggested that both sides were to blame for the violence, generating an outpouring of dismay and arguments that he was “Giving the right a boost,” and sanctioning the violence. However, while many may have been surprised by the protest, those of us who study the extreme right were not. And, while President Trump’s support for the Alt-Right does enable them, their mobilization started long before he became a candidate for President. I argue here that social movement scholarship on extreme right mobilization predicts this contemporary mobilization. Particularly relevant are theories regarding the mobilizing effect of economic and political threat, including power devaluation theory, as well as scholarship on political and discursive opportunities. Continue reading