Saturday, November 21, 2009
David Duke Picks Up Where He Left Off by Leonard Zeskind
In April, 2004, after paying a $10,000 fine and serving a year in jail for mail fraud and tax evasion, David Duke picked up where he last left off. At a unity conference of white nationalists, his charisma and gift for public oratory set him apart from the other speakers. He cast adherence to the cause as the most selfless devotion to humanity, and he captured the gut anxieties of average racists like no other person of his generation. And when Duke introduced fifty-seven -year-old Sam Dickson, the acerbic attorney from Atlanta, it became obvious that both men felt they were preparing for the next generation.
Dickson revisited the white nationalist movement's underlying assumptions. "Our race needs a homeland where we can be by ourselves," he said, unpopulated by Muslims, Jews, those he called "Negroes" and other unspecified people of color. Liberals, specifically white liberals, stood in the way now. Then Dickson changed course and began listing reasons for hope in the future.
One was the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. They had lifted the lid on the "Jewish issue," he said. For the first time anti-Semites could talk openly. Racial liberalism among whites, he argued, with its "Camelot" and "hootenannies" and Peace Corps, was a thing of the past. Those people thought they were going to turn "Ghana into Norway".", he said in a quick turn of phrase, but "nobody believes it anymore." Public opinion polls may show white support for "diversity" and desegregation, he told the crowd, but polling is about "public opinion", what you are willing to tell a stranger over the phone. Actual, privately held beliefs are more evident in the way people live. And white people will "pay $300,000 for a $75,000 home, just so they can live with other white people. Deep down, he claimed with a certain glee in his voice, they all realize "black people are hopeless."
Racial egalitarianism, according to his analysis, had rested on the prospect of seemingly unlimited economic expansion during the decades following World War Two. But the good times were over. Now, he argued, "The worse the better, let the bad times roll." Other factors were also changing. Television had once given liberalism a "media monopoly" Now the Internet provided open access to ideas of every kind. The liberal monopoly had ended, he proclaimed.
The most important change he noted that day was generational. The war against Hitler had once led white people to associate what he called "normal racial values" with Nazis, and they had been America's enemy. "The World War Two generation is being gathered unto their fathers.", he declared in triumph. With their deaths, he believed, remembrance of the fight against Hitlerism would fade. The postwar period would finally and completely end. And after stating the case for a brighter whiter future, the attorney sat down to deep and grateful applause.
In his talk that day, Dickson succinctly summarized the white nationalist case (as they understood it) for the twenty-first century. After thirty years of grassroots organizing, they had learned several of the more unsavory facts about American life. A significant number of white people, for whatever reasons, continue to buy overpriced houses just so they can live in all-white neighborhoods. Survey respondents are often less than forthright, particularly when responding to sensitive questions about race-related matters. Some white people will use racial slurs and tell jokes when talking with other white people but will not use them when talking within earshot of black people. The terms of public discussion changed sharply after World War Two and the civil rights revolution, and racism and anti-Semitism were no longer considered socially acceptable. Throughout the events described in this book, white nationalists aimed at transforming this social (and racial) discourse. And to the degree already discussed, they partially succeeded. In sum, a number of white nationalist leaders had a fairly accurate sense of the future direction of a sector of the white populace. And from this group the mainstreamers of the twenty-first century will continue to develop.
At the same time, white nationalists consistently misunderstand the larger world around them. A significant number of white people remain determined to live and live happily in a multiracial, multicultural United States. And they do not regard themselves as "race traitors",. Perhaps even more significant, black people and other people of color are not the passive objects of history. They are historical subjects in their own right. African Americans in particular had changed American life at every one of its critical junctures since the advent of New World slavery. Ideological thinkers on the white-ist side of politics remain completely blind to this aspect of the twenty-first century. And from this failure, vanguardists and Aryan killers will continue to pop up, at odds with the direction of American life.
In the future prerogatives now accruing to majority status will be challenged, as black, brown and yellow faces increasingly populate the halls of economic and political power. The presidency of Barack Obama only confirms the white nationalists notion of dispossession. And in the decades to come, the next generation of activists will seek to establish a white nation-state, with definable economic, political and racial borders, out of the wreckage they hope to create ( or is created for them) of the United States. Some will kill and bomb and shoot their supposed racial enemies. Some will run for elected office and win. They will fight for local (white) control. Failing a complete victory, they will continue the cultural battle over symbols from the past and the history of the future. And they will draw on the legacy of those who resurrected white supremacy as an autonomous movement in the 1970s and brought it into the twenty-first century.