By Nicole Nichols
During the last few weeks, out in the Blogosphere that has become home, and almost second nature, for pundits, truth-seekers, philosophers, and some really good writers, it has become evident that racism and bigotry is flourishing in these United States of America. As is the thinking man’s disposition, a reason for such things is always desired. Therefore, it is the norm, rather than the exception, for each of us to attempt to present viable and well-thought out explanations for this upsurge in hateful and discriminatory actions and rhetoric.
How can one explain something that is utterly indefensible, you may ask. Is it even possible to attribute any logic to something as illogical as racism? Probably not. However, the variables at play, which may be accountable for the recent public display of that which has previously been kept at a low boil just below the surface of the American landscape can certainly be explored.
It has been noted by a few that discussion of race and race relations are subjects that have been almost forbidden in modern society. A cursory surf of internet discussion boards will attest to that assertion. Generally speaking, once the dialogue changes to address those topics, either the subject is changed or interchanges cease. Additionally, race, racism, etc. is certainly not part of dinner party repartee.
This refusal of people in our society to even broach one of the most important and acute issues facing Americans today only exacerbates a situation that has reached malignant proportions and promises to reach dangerous heights in the coming years. The first step in finding a solution is always acknowledging that there is a problem.
Hate, in and of itself, is a natural emotion. Racism is not. How many of us didn’t hate whoever was responsible for the September 11th attacks? In the aftermath, we wanted revenge. We wanted an eye for an eye. Initially, we wanted Al Qaeda so bad that the hatred in this country was almost palpable. However, when we saw the anguish that goes along with war, when we saw the destruction of human life, our hatred began to wane. We were still angry. We still wanted revenge. But, we didn’t want revenge at the cost of innocent people – unlike the terrorists.
Racism, on the other hand, knows no such boundaries. It is hate and that hate is vengeful and relentless. For that reason, it is little wonder that organized hate groups in this country have been labeled “domestic terrorists.”
After the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995, hate groups, militias, and the like went underground for awhile. Realizing that many believed and held them responsible for such an act made them a little more than leery of recruitment and public displays of anti-government and racist ideology. But, that hiatus didn’t last for long.
Immediately following the attacks of 9-11 the hate groups went into high gear. Because the enemy was one of color, they intended to capitalize on that hatred that Americans were feeling. They saw this as an opportunity to recruit and to further, not only their racist agenda, but their anti-Semitism and hatred for Israel, as well.
People like David Duke, William Luther Pierce, Billy Roper, et. al. stepped to the forefront and pointed a racist and bigoted finger at the people they held responsible while applauding, yes applauding, the prowess, dedication, and bravery of the terrorists.
Interestingly, and unfortunately, they experienced a little success in reaching out and touching the American people. Albeit a brief moment in the sun, these groups exploited American emotion. At the same time, some of the entities were undergoing a metamorphosis. Understanding that their previous approach to mainstream America was not palatable to most, they decided to “clean up their act” and become more “mainstream.”
Using euphemistic verbiage, the language among these racists changed. A person was no longer a “racist” but a “racialist” or “racially aware.” White supremacists were now “White Nationalists.” They were no longer about “hate,” but about “love” – love of the white race. They no longer fought against “equal rights” but for “white rights.” And, so it went.
This attempt at appearing more “civilized” worked to an extent and is affording them a little kinder treatment by mainstream media. While changing the language, they also recognized the need to be more involved in social issues.
As an attack on Iraq started to appear imminent, the anti-war movement started to build. Seeing an opportunity to endear themselves to hundreds of thousands, many racists signed on. Carrying “No War For Israel” banners and signs, they took to the streets to protest right along side the other groups. Few were fooled, however, and the anti-war folks usually sent them packing.
Frustrated by not getting as much mileage out of their chameleonic attempts, the groups began to factionalize. Many were tired of this sanitized version of hate and they joined with other, more militant and overtly racist, organizations.
Perhaps the most receptive and nourishing cause for the racist movement to hook its’ sails to in modern times has been the anti-immigration movement. Adroit leaders within the racist realm have, historically, recognized a climate of unrest and tension as an optimal period for recruiting and furthering their agenda. The anti-immigration groups have created a fertile and enticing atmosphere in which racism, bigotry, and prejudice can flourish.
Steeped in intolerance, fanaticism and, sometimes, ignorance the movement itself has been joined and enjoined at the hip with the racist and his ideology thus providing a vehicle into mainstream American culture.
Much as the Ku Klux Klan was able to ingrain itself into the hearts and minds of America during its’ heyday, the anti-immigration movement has made inroads into every aspect of our society. Hence, so has racism and bigotry.
In a free society, such as ours, we tend to “go with the flow.” We are easily influenced by the media and the spin-doctors of the world. We latch on to what is “popular” at the moment – so do public personalities, politicians, advertisers, and the media. The war is no longer popular. George Bush is no longer popular. Discriminating against immigrants is popular.
We have lost the war on drugs. We know that the war on terror is a farce. Our economy is in rapid decline. Health care is critical. Our justice system is broken. Voting people in or out of office doesn’t seem to change anything. The middle class is disappearing. More and more people are feeling disenfranchised – and there is nowhere to vent our frustration. In times like these, hate thrives.
Anti-immigration rhetoric has given way to anti-minority rants and more and more people are joining the fray. Why? Because we have to have someone to blame. All of this cannot be our fault. That’s human nature. It may not be right. It may not be accurate. It may even be reprehensible – but true, nonetheless.
When humans feel control over their lives and their destinies they often strike out at others in an attempt to demonstrate that they are still the pilots of their fate and that they still have something in the way of power.
It is understood that those most susceptible to being oppressed, subjugated, or dominated are those who lack financial and social resources, hence they become the target of those seeking to control something – anything.
Knowing all of this doesn’t solve anything, but it does beg the question “Who is it that feels the loss of control the most?” The answer is, just as it has been for decades, “white America.”
Fear is a powerful motivator – and fear of losing that “specialness,” that “White Privilege” has been fueling and motivating the racist arena for decades as well. It matters not how irrational this fear may be because, once it reaches its’ peak, it is all consuming leaving no room for any sort of rational thought.
Consequently, we, in America, are now witnessing the rise of a tide of fear cloaked in racism and hatred. Only, this time, the target for their catharsis is mightier than in the past and is armed with the knowledge that comes with life’s experiences.
Nooses can be hung, children can be exploited, graffiti can be painted, men can be dragged, and talking heads can rant, but I predict that those acts of intimidation and fear-striking preludes to oppression will have a less than desirable affect on the mark. White America will have to find another whipping boy for its’ purification.
It has become evident that while we have been so busy portraying ourselves as the “superior” nation, as the haven of diverse and multicultural lifestyles, as the American Dream we forgot how to just be who we really are – humans striving to be human.
History really does often repeat itself. Sometimes, however, it does so with a twist.