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June 17, 2009

White supremacy lives in post-racial America

My next book is entitled, “The End of Race: Moments and Movements in Post-Racial America.” One goal of this work is to make the point that there are great differences between socio-political movements and moments, though the two are often confused. Moments are usually high-profile but short-lived. They are one-hit wonders. They temporarily excite us but do not really have sufficient impact to change the world.

Movements, on the other hand, have collective and long-term thrusts. That is, they have a purpose that is widespread. This does not mean that everyone participates in movements — that’s romantic. It simply means that their endgame is structural, not one simply concentrating on individual achievement. Ultimately, movements seek to change fundamental power relationships between groups and the individuals who belong to them.

“The End of Race” asks pressing questions. Is it easier and healthier to deny race, ethnicity and religious divisions than deal with them? Is the first question moot because America has already dealt with these problems? Are those of us who remain on the American left simply wrong, and have our views on race, ethnicity and other American cleavages outlived their usefulness? Have we really crossed the post-racial/post-ethnic/post-religious affiliation frontier?

Maybe there is no real need for President Obama or anyone else to pay much attention to these issues, because what’s left will now die a natural death. Maybe saying that we have fought a good, noble fight and have simply won just takes courage on the part of the left. Maybe a victory in the war (not a battle) is upon us, but in our growing ideological solitude, we just don’t (or can’t) realize it. (Note to Message readers: Write in and let us know how you would answer one or all of these questions.)

For my part, I think the “post-American division” mentality is dangerous. It prompts us to mistake progress for victory, better for best, and moments for movements. For those paying attention — and there seem to be fewer every day — evidence that warns us that we have not yet “arrived” and the American dream of racial and ethnic solidarity has not been achieved is there. Sometimes, that message even punches those who aren’t paying attention in the face.

Take the case of 88-year-old white supremacist James von Brunn, who stormed Washington, D.C.’s U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum with his rifle ablaze last week. He mercilessly killed security officer Stephen Johns before being brought down by other guards.

Apparently, von Brunn is somewhat of a legend among many white supremacists and neo-Nazis. They regard him as a former P.O.W. because he served six years in prison for trying to kidnap Federal Reserve Board members in 1981. Von Brunn’s rationale? Interest rates were too high. He blamed his prison term on a “Negro jury, Jew/Negro attorneys” and “a Jew judge” on his anti-Semitic and anti-black website, “The Holy Western Empire.”

Von Brunn is not alone. Hate groups in America are “thriving” and their memberships are actually growing, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Its spring 2009 Intelligence Report found that 926 hate groups are currently operating in the U.S. — an all-time high. The SPLC partly attributes this rise in hate groups to the seemingly incorrigible recession, the election of Barack Obama, and the ongoing immigration debate. These supremacists don’t just stoke their flames around “lighted” crosses. They are also fueled by the rhetoric of the Rush Limbaughs, Michael Savages, Bill O’Reillys, and WHAS Radios of the world. Their often racially and ethically insensitive dribble is simply a bit better veiled.

Ironically, some time ago I accepted an invitation to debate a self-proclaimed white “racialist” from Virginia — on why he feels diversity is a weakness — at U of L this fall. Should be interesting. Until then, make no mistake, white supremacy is not a moment — it is an American movement. It always has been and is gaining momentum in certain quarters. It will not go away if we stick our heads in the sand. So, get ’em up and educate yourselves!

Remember, until next time — have no fear, stay strong, stand on truth, do justice and do not leave the people in the hands of fools.

Dr. Ricky L. Jones is the author of “What’s Wrong With Obamamania?” Visit him at www.rickyljones.com