Category Archives: Racist and Racial Justice Movements

“ ‘Walk Together Children!’ The Charismatic Leadership and Race-Conscious Politics of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.”

This month, we’ve celebrated the birth and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who has become the face of African American civil rights in the United States and human rights worldwide. While there is much of King’s legacy that remains under appreciated, particularly his post-1963 “I Have a Dream” speech critiques of capitalism and worker’s rights protests, there is also room to explore the influence of lesser-known Civil Rights advocates and activists. Continue reading

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On the Rise: Relationships Between Mainstream Researchers and Advocates and White Supremacist Organizations

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. Continue reading

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Racist Movements: Round 2

Since Mobilizing Ideas began, we have quickly covered a lot of interesting topics by featuring a new essay dialogue theme each month. This strategy is good for keeping the content fresh, but the downside is that there is less time for contributors to engage and respond to one another in meaningful dialogue.  So, we are now featuring each essay dialogue topic for two months instead of one, with some essays posted at the beginning of the first month and another group in the second month.  We are asking contributors to the second round to weave some reactions to points raised in the previous posts into their original insights on the topic.  Contributors to the first round of essays for the Racist Movements topic certainly offered a lot of great material for this kind of exchange, and the authors for round 2 have picked up on some of those threads and have extended the discussion in important ways. We hope you enjoy these new contributions on this important topic:

Amy Kate Bailey, University of Illinois, Chicago (essay)
Maya Beasley, University of Connecticut (essay)
David Cunningham, Brandeis University (essay)
Jenny Irons, Hamilton College (essay)
Pete Simi, University of Nebraska, Omaha (essay)

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Heterodoxy, Insulation, and the Production of Racist Violence

By David Cunningham

Whenever I speak about research I’ve conducted over the past decade on the civil rights-era Ku Klux Klan, the one question I can be sure I’ll hear relates to the danger posed by the KKK today. For a long time, the question would throw me, as—despite their similar monikers and common predilections toward foreboding racist rhetoric and ubiquitous adoption of white hoods, burning crosses, and other familiar symbols—I’ve long viewed the contemporary klan as a phenomenon distinct from its 1960s forebears.

There exists a straightforward response, of course, and I’ve typically relied on the data that Heidi Beirich and Evelyn Schlatter describe in their earlier essay in this dialogue, associated with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s important work compiling the locations and characteristics of a wide range of contemporary domestic hate groups. Continue reading

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Violence and Local Memory: Effects on the Middle

By Amy Kate Bailey

Framing black men as violent and predatory has been a constant in American race relations.  During the lynching era, this characterization was typically rooted in assertions of genetic difference between the races, and these stereotypes were used to justify many lynchings.  Tropes such as the “black brute” or “dark fiend” were repeatedly invoked in public discourse, particularly the Southern media.  The cry to “protect our women” propelled many to join the white supremacist organizations of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  To be perfectly clear, lynching was a relatively rare event, with most Southern counties experiencing no lynchings, or only a single lynching, across the entire half century many scholars acknowledge as the “lynching era.”  The practice of lynching itself was abhorred by many white Americans, while they simultaneously joined supremacist groups and evinced faith in the threat that black people (men, in particular) posed to the white community.  Lynching culture was widely diffused within American society—both North and South.  Lynching events occurred within local communities.  This duality of the extremist behavior of a few married with cultural and institutional practices that brutalize specific black bodies, and the black community at large, continues to mark American society. Continue reading

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Framing Invisibility: Why We Continue to Ignore the White Supremacist Movement

By Pete Simi

We all use a “schemata of interpretation” (Goffman 1974) to understand our world. How we “frame” experience renders some aspects of our world more visible and meaningful than others. In this essay, I want to explore the idea raised in several of last month’s essays that social scientists, media, and policy makers frame the world in ways that render the U.S. White Supremacist Movement (WSM) relatively invisible. The WSM’s invisibility flows from inattention (i.e., too many ignore the phenomenon despite knowing it exists) and inaccurate distortions when we do acknowledge it. Continue reading

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Organizations for Racial Justice

By Jenny Irons

I recently moved back to the South after a 17-year absence. Someone asked me why I would return to this place, to come back after being away for so long. The mess, I said. It’s motivating. I meant the mess of extreme inequality—of race, of gender, of sexuality, of class, of nationality.  It’s hard to be purely academic about such matters when you’re not ensconced in an ivory tower atop a lovely rolling hill in the Northeast. Yes, racism exists everywhere; as last month’s posts tell us, it thrives in “free spaces” and sneakily deploys itself all over the country. But the racial inequality in the South is particularly stark and visible, and it has very deep roots. Continue reading

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