Monday, August 21, 2017

Derek Black: "My Father, The Founder Of The White Nationalist Website Stormfront..."

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Last week, Newsweek reported something that Trumpanzee's "fine people" are actually correct about, namely that America is becoming less white, more diverse. When Trump's Nazi and Klan fans were marching around Charlottesville with their tiki-torches shrieking "You will not replace us," their fears, wrote, Cristina Silva, "are not unfounded, depending on whom you identify as white."
The nation's great thinkers have for decades pointed out the fallacy and racism inherent in grouping people by the color of their skin, particularly in a nation where the South's "one-drop rule" meant anyone with a black ancestor could be sold into the slave trade, regardless of how many white grandparents the person had.

Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates examined the nation's tortured history in his probing autobiographical Between the World and Me, through his repeated use of phrase "people who believe they are white." "Some of these straight-haired people with blue eyes have been 'black.' ...Virginia planters obsessed with enslaving as many Americans as possible are the ones who came up with a one-drop rule that separated the 'white' from the 'black,' even if meant that their own blue-eyed sons would live under the lash," he wrote in the 2015 best-selling book.

Decades earlier, social critic and writer James Baldwin challenged the nation's obsession with racial categories in in a 1963 television segment titled The Negro and the American Promise. "What white people have to do," Baldwin said at the time, "is try to find out in their hearts why it was necessary for them to have a nigger in the first place. Because I am not a nigger. I'm a man. If I'm not the nigger here, and if you invented him, you, the white people, invented him, then you have to find out why. And the future of the country depends on that. Whether or not it is able to ask that question."



Baldwin often sought to remind white America of its malleable racial differences, referring to African-Americans as the nation's “bastard” children. “The truth is this country does not know what to do with its black population,” he once said. “Americans can’t face the fact that I am flesh of their flesh.”

...[W]hite people have seen signs that their dominance over the general population might be waning. The Census Bureau announced in 2012 that non-Hispanic whites made up a minority of births in the U.S. for the first time. That year, minorities made up 50.4 percent of the nation's infants, in part because of a booming Hispanic population.

Some demographers have predicted the U.S. will become a majority-minority nation by 2050, with African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics and other minority groups outnumbering the people we call white.

The shift in the nation's racial demographics have already been stark. In 1965, whites represented 85 percent of the population, with the other 15 percent made up of African-Americans. These days, white people make up just 60 percent of the nation, while Hispanics account for 18 percent and Asians about 6 percent.

"The forces behind this transformation are a mix of immigration, births and deaths. The United States is more than four decades into what has been, in absolute numbers, the biggest immigration wave in its history-- more than 40 million arrivals. Unlike previous waves that were almost entirely from Europe, the modern influx has been dominated by Hispanic and Asian immigrants," the Pew Research Center concluded in 2012.

And that's exactly what white nationalists fear.

Richard B. Spencer, one of the nation's leading white nationalists who has backed President Donald Trump, has called for protecting the “heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States, and around the world” by creating a white “ethno-state.” He supports doing so through “peaceful ethnic cleansing” that would remove minorities from the U.S.

After Trump condemned people protesting Nazis at the Virginia rally over the weekend, Spencer said this week he didn't think the president was truly denouncing neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacists.

"His statement today was more kumbaya nonsense," said Spencer. "Only a dumb person would take those lines seriously."
Now, on to the son of Stormfront. Black, a former white nationalist, who once had his own popular alt-right radio show, penned an OpEd for the NYTimes over the weekend. "My dad," he wrote, "often gave me the advice that white nationalists are not looking to recruit people on the fringes of American culture, but rather the people who start a sentence by saying, 'I’m not racist, but …' The most effective tactics for white nationalists are to associate American history with themselves and to suggest that the collective efforts to turn away from our white supremacist past are the same as abandoning American culture. My father, the founder of the white nationalist website Stormfront, knew this well. It’s a message that erases people of color and their essential role in American life, but one that also appeals to large numbers of white people who would agree with the statement, 'I’m not racist, but I don’t want American history dishonored, and this statue of Robert E. Lee shouldn’t be removed.'"
I was raised by the leaders of the white nationalist movement with a model of American history that described a vigorous white supremacist past and once again I find myself observing events in which I once might have participated before I rejected the white nationalist cause several years ago. After the dramatic, horrible and rightly unnerving events in Charlottesville, Va., this past weekend, I had to make separate calls: one to make sure no one in my family who might have attended the rally got hurt, and a second to see if any friends at the University of Virginia had been injured in the crowd of counterprotesters.

On Tuesday afternoon the president defended the actions of those at the rally, stating, “You also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.” His words marked possibly the most important moment in the history of the modern white nationalist movement. These statements described the marchers as they see themselves — nobly driven by a good cause, even if they are plagued by a few bad apples. He said: “I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally. But you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists.”

But this protest, contrary to his defense, was advertised unambiguously as a white nationalist rally. The marchers chanted, “Jews will not replace us”; in the days leading up to the event, its organizers called it “a pro-white demonstration”; my godfather, David Duke, attended and said it was meant to “fulfill the promises of Donald Trump”; and many attendees flew swastika flags. Whatever else you might say about the rally, they were not trying to deceive anyone.

Almost by definition, the white nationalist movement over the past 40 years has worked against the political establishment. It was too easy for politicians to condemn the movement-- even when there was overlap on policy issues-- because it was a liability without enough political force to make the huge cost of associating with it worthwhile. Until Tuesday, I didn’t believe that had changed.

We have all observed the administration’s decisions over the past several months that aligned with the white nationalist agenda, such as limiting or completely cutting off legal and illegal immigration, especially of Hispanics and Muslims; denigrating black communities as criminal and poor, threatening to unleash an even greater police force on them; and going after affirmative action as antiwhite discrimination. But I had never believed Trump’s administration would have trouble distancing itself from the actual white nationalist movement.

Yet President Trump stepped in to salvage the message that the rally organizers had originally hoped to project: “George Washington was a slave owner,” he said, and asked, “So will George Washington now lose his status?” Then: “How about Thomas Jefferson?” he asked. “Because he was a major slave owner. Now are we going to take down his statue?” He added: “You’re changing history. You’re changing culture.”

Until Trump’s comments, few critics seemed to identify the larger relationship the alt-right sees between its beliefs and the ideals of the American founders. Charlottesville is synonymous with Jefferson. The city lies at the foot of Monticello and is the home of the University of Virginia, the school he founded. Over the years I’ve made several pilgrimages to Charlottesville, both when I was a white nationalist and since I renounced the ideology. While we all know that Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence, which declared that “all men are created equal,” his writings also offer room for explicitly white nationalist interpretation.

My father observed many times that the quotation from Jefferson’s autobiography embedded on the Jefferson Memorial is deceptive because it reads, “Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these [the Negro] people are to be free.” It does not include the second half of the sentence: “Nor is it less certain that the two races, equally free, cannot live in the same government. Nature, habit, opinion has drawn indelible lines of distinction between them.”

Jefferson’s writings partly inspired the American colonization movement, which encouraged the return of free black people to Africa-- a goal that was pursued even by Abraham Lincoln during the first years of the Civil War.

The most fundamental legislative goal of the white nationalist movement is to limit nonwhite immigration. It is important to remember that such limits were in place during the lifetimes of many current white nationalists; it was the default status until the 1960s. In the 1790s, the first naturalization laws of the United States Congress limited citizenship to a “free white person.”

Legislation in the 1920s created quotas for immigration based on national origin, which placed severe restrictions on the total number of immigrants and favored northern and western European immigration. It was only with the civil rights movement of the 1960s that the national origin quota system was abolished and Congress fully removed the restriction favoring white immigrants.

I’m not offering these historical anecdotes to defame the history of the country. I’m not calling for Jefferson’s statue to be removed along with the Confederate memorials. I do, however, think it is essential that we recognize that the white nationalist history embedded in American culture lends itself to white nationalist rallies like the one in Charlottesville. If you want to preserve Confederate memorials, but you don’t work to build monuments to historical black leaders, you share the same cause as the marchers.

Until Tuesday I believed the organizers of the rally had failed in their goal to make their movement more appealing to average white Americans. The rally superimposed Jefferson’s image on that of a pseudo K.K.K. rally and brought the overlap between Jefferson and white nationalist ideas to mind for anyone looking to find them. But the horrific violence that followed seemed to hurt their cause.

And then President Trump intervened. His comments supporting the rally gave new purpose to the white nationalist movement, unlike any endorsement it has ever received. Among its followers, being at that rally will become something to brag about, and some people who didn’t want to be associated with extremism will now see the cause as more mainstream. When the president doesn’t provide condemnation that he has been pressed to give, what message does that send but encouragement?

The United States was founded as a white nationalist country, and that legacy remains today. Things have improved from the radical promotion of white people at the expense of all others, which has persisted for most of our history, yet most of us have not accepted the extent to which white identity guides so much of what we still do. Sometimes it seems that the white nationalists are most honest about the very real foundation of white supremacy upon which our nation was built.

The president’s words legitimized the worst of our country, and now the white nationalist movement could be poised to grow. To challenge these messages, we need to acknowledge the continuity of white nationalist thought in American history, and the appeal it still holds.

It is a fringe movement not because its ideas are completely alien to our culture, but because we work constantly to argue against it, expose its inconsistencies and persuade our citizens to counter it. We can no longer count on the country’s leader to do this, so it’s now incumbent upon all of us.
Now a graduate student in history, this was hardly Derek's first splash into popular political culture. He was once a wunderkind of the right-wing fringe and after he rejected his parents' politics and last year, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Washington Post, Eli Saslow, profiled him, observing that "Years before Donald Trump launched a presidential campaign based in part on the politics of race and division, a group of avowed white nationalists was working to make his rise possible by pushing its ideology from the radical fringes ever closer to the far conservative right... Derek Black represented another step in that evolution. He never used racial slurs. He didn’t advocate violence or lawbreaking. He had won a Republican committee seat in Palm Beach County, Fla., where Trump also had a home, without ever mentioning white nationalism, talking instead about the ravages of political correctness, affirmative action and unchecked Hispanic immigration. He was not only a leader of racial politics but also a product of them. His father, Don Black, had created Stormfront, the Internet’s first and largest white nationalist site, with 300,000 users and counting. His mother, Chloe, had once been married to David Duke, one of the country’s most infamous racial zealots, and Duke had become Derek’s godfather. They had raised Derek at the forefront of the movement, and some white nationalists had begun calling him 'the heir.'"

Derek used to talk about how "The Republican Party has to be either demolished or taken over. I’m kind of banking on the Republicans staking their claim as the white party." It was a smart bet.
White nationalism had bullied its way toward the very center of American politics, and yet, one of the people who knew the ideology best was no longer anywhere near that center. Derek had just turned 27, and instead of leading the movement, he was trying to untangle himself not only from the national moment but also from a life he no longer understood.

From the very beginning, that life had taken place within the insular world of white nationalism, where there was never any doubt about what whiteness could mean in the United States. Derek had been taught that America was intended as a place for white Europeans and that everyone else would eventually have to leave. He was told to be suspicious of other races, of the U.S. government, of tap water and of pop culture. His parents pulled him out of public school in West Palm Beach at the end of third grade, when they heard his black teacher say the word “ain’t.” By then, Derek was one of only a few white students in a class of mostly Hispanics and Haitians, and his parents decided he would be better off at home.

“It is a shame how many White minds are wasted in that system,” Derek wrote shortly thereafter, on the Stormfront children’s website he built at age 10. “I am no longer attacked by gangs of non whites. I am learning pride in myself, my family and my people.”

Derek, age 9 with Gov. Kirk Fordice, Mississippi's first GOP governor since Reconstruction


Because he was home-schooled, white nationalism could become a focus of his education. It also meant he had the freedom to begin traveling with his father, who left for several weeks each year to speak at white nationalist conferences in the Deep South. Don Black had grown up in Alabama, where in the 1970s, he joined a group called the White Youth Alliance, led by David Duke, who at the time was married to Chloe. That relationship eventually dissolved, and years later, Don and Chloe reconnected, married and had Derek in 1989. They moved into Chloe’s childhood home in West Palm Beach to raise Derek along with Chloe’s two young daughters. There were Guatemalan immigrants living down the block and Jewish retirees moving into a condo nearby. “Usurpers,” Don sometimes called them, but Chloe didn’t want to move away from her aging mother in Florida, so Don settled for taking long road trips to the whitest parts of the South.

...So many others in white nationalism had come to their conclusions out of anger and fear, but Derek tended to like most people he met, regardless of race. Instead, he sought out logic and science to confirm his worldview, reading studies from conservative think tanks about biological differences between races, IQ disparities and rates of violent crime committed by blacks against whites. He launched a daily radio show to share his views, and Don paid $275 each week to have it broadcast on the AM station in nearby Lake Worth. On the air, Derek helped popularize the idea of a white genocide, that whites were losing their culture and traditions to massive, nonwhite immigration. “If we say it a thousand times-- ‘White genocide! We are losing control of our country!’-- politicians are going to start saying it, too,” he said. He repeated the idea in interviews, Stormfront posts and during his speech at the conference in Memphis, when he was at his most certain.

Derek finished high school, enrolled in community college and ran for a seat on the Republican committee, beating an incumbent with 60 percent of the vote. He decided he wanted to study medieval European history, so he applied to New College of Florida, a top-ranked liberal arts school with a strong history program... He left after one semester to study abroad in Germany, because he wanted to learn the language.
Saslow's report on how Derek's experience at college changed his attitude towards white nationalism is fascinating and I suggest you read the whole column. Most of it was because of friends he made at school although he did learn during his studies of medieval history that "Western Europe had begun not as a great society of genetically superior people but as a technologically backward place that lagged behind Islamic culture. He studied the 8th century to the 12th century," wrote Saslow, "trying to trace back the modern concepts of race and whiteness, but he couldn’t find them anywhere. 'We basically just invented it,' he concluded."

When his father read an article at the Southern Poverty Law Center Derek had written the day before, "Activist Son of Key Racist Leader Renounces White Nationalism," he called Derek to tell him he'd been hacked. When he told his father the letter he sent to the SPLC was real, his father hung up the phone. His parents and half-sisters freaked out and shunned him. He moved. He says he took one of those online political quizzes, and his views aligned 97% with Hillary Clinton’s. Eventually he came to the conclusion that race is a false concept.



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1 Comments:

At 11:38 AM, Blogger Elizabeth Burton said...

Am I the only one who would like to see whoever coined that ridiculous "majority-minority" oxymoron compelled to listen to it repeated constantly 24/7 for an entire month? I get that "minority" is intended to cover "everyone not white," but are our so-called journalists so totally brain-dead they don't understand just how racist that makes it?

 

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