'Alt-Right' Is Pushing White Supremacy By Playing The Victim

by
Lauren Harwyn
The alt-right continues to espouse white supremacy, but their main power lies in blaming the oppressed for their woes.

The latest iteration of white supremacists, the so-called "alt-right," notably painted themselves as victims at their now-infamous Washington, D.C. conference. 

Richard Spencer, president of the neo-Nazi organization the National Policy Institute, which funded the event, alluded to "great crimes" being committed against white people in America.

"We are not meant to live in shame and weakness and disgrace," he said in a puzzling statement.

It is not uncommon to see privileged groups co-opt the language of civil rights movements, painting themselves as victims of affirmative action, LGBTQ rights progress, and religious inclusion. What makes the victim-language of these white supremacists so worrying is who they choose to blame.

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President Lyndon B. Johnson famously said, "If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll empty his pockets for you."

The trend of xenophobia that has taken over Europe and the United States seeks to blame the weakest, most oppressed groups — like refugees — for the degradation of society. Predominantly white nations struggling with various financial crises are blaming the influx of people of color who speak different languages as the cause of their worries. They look back at a time when whiteness held even more power and equate their nation's struggles with a decline in white supremacy, hence the success of Donald Trump's slogan, "Make America Great Again" — a message which, for many, means "Make America White Again."

Of course, affirmative action in colleges is not what is keeping young white people from finding jobs — the job market is. The vast majority of refugees are not terrorists — they are fleeing terrorism and should have our deepest sympathies if we are concerned about the threats of the Islamic State. Black Lives Matter, which asks simply for black people to be treated with justice and equality in policing, has been called a hate group, anti-police, and even racist against whites

Political commentator Van Jones referred to Trump's election as a "whitelash," in response to our nation's first black president. Trump, the "alt-right," and other conservative groups rooted in white supremacy continue to use xenophobia as a tool to keep white Americans lashing out — and down — at people of color, immigrants, and other underprivileged groups to distract from the real causes of the issues affecting their lives.

People who have the societal advantage of being white, and often Christian, straight, and male, are swallowing the Johnson narrative and shelling out their votes, their support, and their minds to the ideology that their disadvantaged neighbors who use food stamps are the problem, not big banks receiving bailouts. They favor the institution of policing and condemn Black Lives Matter, even as police continue to kill Americans of all races in numbers not seen in other first-world nations. They buy into the myth of the job-stealing immigrant and fail to notice what our own government has done to the job market.

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The neo-Nazi "alt-right's" ability to see themselves as oppressed even as they crack down on those who are less privileged allows them to simultaneously see themselves as victims and as a ruling class. By elevating themselves above others because of their whiteness, they get to be kings. But by blaming minorities and progressive politics for the nation's problems, they also get to see themselves as victims of racial discrimination. 

In white supremacist ideology, white Americans get the chance to have their cake and complain about it too. As their rhetoric incites hate crimes against Muslim, Latino, LGBTQ, and black Americans, they cling to the narrative of deposed royalty, claiming injustice in any free speech against them.

But as Richard Spencer and his cronies try to separate the "alt-right" from Nazism and white supremacy, there are too many people who refuse to buy into their fairytale of victimization. Facts, statistics, and all of our history is against their story, and America is proving, in its classrooms, on its college campuses, in its politicians, leaders, and everyday citizens, that we won't stand for a resurgence of Nazism. While it may seem that the "alt-right" is ringing alarm bells across the nation, we have the opportunity to make sure that the myth of white supremacy rings out for the last time.

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Banner Image Credit: Twitter, @Hail__To_You

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