The new white supremacist United States

August 7, 2010

We need to reconnect with the spirit of the Abolitionists who fought to end slavery without delay. They saw what no one else did, a human force for the reconstruction of society–the slaves–and they based themselves on that. Today we need to look at the struggle of immigrant labor in that light. That only begins with seeing the oppression wrought by the U.S. in Latin America, and with pointing out that it is in the interest of all working people in the U.S. to act in solidarity with immigrant workers, that the system that exploits immigrants keeps the working class as a whole down. The rising racism is an attack on the majority of the U.S. in the interests of a small minority who live off the exploitation of the many.

Read The new white supremacist United States by Gerry Emmett from the July-August 2010 issue of News & Letters for an enlightening discussion of these issues. See also an earlier article by Emmett, Rising fascism grounded in American racism, Oct.-Nov. 2009 N&L.

The new white supremacist United States

The heavily armed neo-Nazis “patrolling” the border between Arizona and Mexico, manhandling and threatening who they will, are a measure of the U.S.’s fall into the abyss. At no time since the Civil Rights era has open racism been so accepted in the public life of this country. It is now being proclaimed defiantly, unashamedly. The passage of anti-immigrant measure SB 1070 and subsequent Arizona laws — which were written by open white supremacists, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) — are a gauntlet thrown down to all freedom movements.


The truth of what is happening is undisguised: from the words of FAIR founder John Tanton, “As Whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night? Or will there be an explosion?”; or the statement of a Tea Party publicist that “we look for key words and images to leverage the intense rage and anxiety of white working-class conservatives”; or Patrick Buchanan openly hailing the Tea Parties as a “New White Nationalism”.

These racist moves have to be called what they really are. They have to be opposed in every way possible, the racist laws overturned and discredited.

As it stands, SB 1070 creates a second-class citizen status based upon racial divisions, unprecedented in recent U.S. history. Since its passage in Arizona, 20 other states are considering similar legislation.

These laws would target people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, but would of course place no restrictions on the flow of U.S. capital into Mexico which plays such a role in displacing people from the land and forcing them to seek a place in a cruel, barely regulated industrial landscape of cardboard housing and border sweatshops.

For years some immigrants’ rights activists warned of the possibility of such drastic legislation being passed. But in the words of one Chicago activist, “We thought they were exaggerating, that this just couldn’t happen here. We honestly didn’t believe that this country’s politics could become so reactionary.”

As bad as the Arizona laws are, they represent the tip of the iceberg. The ultra-reactionary Tea Party candidates who are running for election this year intend to push things even further. It was no accident that Rand Paul, after his victory in Kentucky’s Republican primary election, told a national television audience that he did not support parts of the 1965 Civil Rights Act. Specifically, he opposes the idea that private businesses can be prevented from discriminating and refusing service based upon racial or other bigotries.

Implicit in the radical right’s threat is a threat to workers as well. Employers would look forward to being unconstrained by union agreements, or indeed any restrictions. The defense of BP by many of these tin-hatted Tea Party candidates should be enough to show the logic of their political thrust. Along with that, there is a dire threat to women’s rights — Rand Paul and the others openly deny a woman’s right to an abortion, in the name of fundamentalist religious fanaticism.

This represents not only a desire to roll back history, but to destroy it entirely — to wipe out even the memory of people’s genuine struggles for freedom. Arizona bill HB 2281 would outlaw ethnic studies in schools, and Texas officials have attempted to erase even as mainstream a figure such as Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall from their history texts. Real history would be replaced by the unspeakably racist fantasies of the Tea Parties, which picture the U.S. without Black people — even President Barack Obama isn’t considered a legitimate citizen — and without the crime of slavery. They aim to present U.S. history without the genocide perpetrated on Native Americans.

The rise of a right wing which does not scruple even at neo-fascism is frighteningly reminiscent of the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. The attempted genocide, the “ethnic cleansing,” had not yet begun in earnest. But all the ideas were in the air and the guns were already finding their willing hands. It would hardly be possible to count all those who have died fighting against the historic forces represented by this toxic rise of neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, and “white nationalists.” And now there are neo-Nazis with guns at the border. This must be stopped.

— Gerry Emmett

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