White nationalism

Showing the white flag: Protesters wave flags bearing the slogan ‘white pride worldwide’.

Donald Trump’s triumph has let a new crowd into American politics. Until recently stuck on the fringes, they are now set to have the president’s ear. They are the white nationalists…

  • What is white nationalism?

    It is, to quote one expert, ‘the belief that national identity should be built around white ethnicity’. To this end, whites must remain a majority in the country and retain dominance over politics, economics and culture. White nationalists advocate ethnic segregation, brakes on immigration, even deportation.

  • Is it the same as white supremacy?

    Not quite. White supremacy is the view that whites are innately superior to other races. White nationalists do not necessarily see themselves as racists. They argue that multiculturalism simply does not work, and that groups should keep to themselves for everyone’s sake. Of course, there is much overlap between the two ideologies.

  • Is white nationalism a new phenomenon?

    Xenophobia and racism have always existed. But, in a sense, there was no need for this ideology in the past: Western countries were, by default, white nations.

    With the Civil Rights Movement, mass immigration and the resulting changes in demographics, that has changed. White nationalism has grown in response to a perceived threat to white dominance. In the USA, it has got a huge boost from Donald Trump.

  • How so?

    Trump’s campaign was full of divisive language and policies: deport Muslims, keep Mexicans out, etc. This has emboldened white nationalists: for the first time, their ideas are entering the mainstream. Many people associated with the movement openly support Trump, who has repaid the compliment by retweeting some of them.

  • Who supports him?

    Last Saturday the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank, met to discuss how to ‘start influencing policy and culture’ under Trump. Richard Spencer, their president, gave a speech loaded with racist rhetoric. ‘Hail Trump!’, he called, as listeners gave Nazi salutes.

    Meanwhile Jared Taylor, editor of the white nationalist journal American Renaissance, praised Trump for articulating some of his ideas. The president’s policies ‘will slow the dispossession of whites’, he said.

    And then there is Steve Bannon.

  • Who?

    Trump’s former campaign manager and future chief strategist – ie, one of his top advisors. Before entering politics, Bannon was chief executive of Breitbart News, a sensationalist right-wing media outlet.

    The website regularly stigmatises blacks, Muslims and immigrants. It is loved by white nationalists. Critics accuse Bannon of being one of them, by extension. Some of his comments appear to back this up: for example, he once implied that even highly skilled immigrants threaten American culture.

  • Would he agree?

    No. Bannon describes Breitbart as ‘the platform of the alt-right’. This term refers to a loose online movement of (mostly young, white, male) radical conservatives who rail against political correctness and immigration. Some use racist memes to make their point. Arguing that mainstream conservatism has failed, they generally back Trump.

    While some alt-righters (like Bannon) reject the label of white nationalism, others embrace it. To outsiders, the two movements are essentially the same.

  • Is Trump a white nationalist?

    He would never call himself one. This week, he ‘condemned’ and ‘disavowed’ the alt-right, but defended Bannon, insisting that Breitbart ’is just a publication’. In the past, he has hesitated to reject these supporters – even from the Ku Klux Klan, the world’s most notorious white supremacists.

    It may be that Trump and Bannon pander to alt-righters and white nationalists for political gain, while disagreeing with them privately. To many, that is almost as bad as being one.

You Decide

  1. Is it always racist to oppose mass immigration?


  1. Look up Pepe the Frog, a cartoon character that the alt-right movement turned into a meme. Come up with five other symbols whose meanings have changed over time.

Word Watch

One expert
Eric Kaufmann of Birkbeck University.
Civil Rights Movement
From the 1950s, black Americans (and whites sympathetic to their cause) campaigned continuously for an end to racial segregation and discrimination. The movement culminated in 1964–65, with the passing of laws that guaranteed the rights of the black population.
In 1965, those born abroad made up 5% of the USA’s population. Today, that figure is 14%. The Pew Research Center predicts that the white population will dip below 50% by 2055.
Racist rhetoric
Spencer made Nazi-inspired remarks about Jews. He also said that the USA was ‘designed for’ whites. See more in Become An Expert.
White nationalist and supremacist websites, such as The Daily Stormer, often post links to Breitbart. A Twitter study conducted by The Investigative Fund found that users of supremacist hashtags like #whitegenocide, and anti-Muslim ones like #counterjihad, are far more likely to read Breitbart than other conservative media.
The term, which stands for ‘alternative right’, is often attributed to Richard Spencer.

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