Worth reading: “Why I Left White Nationalism”
And worth pondering, since I think most with any trace of a liberal education will believe that it will be best for our communities, culture, and country if a lot of people left white nationalism, so it’s worth paying attention to those who do and discover what motivated them.
R. Derek Black writes in the NY Times:
I could easily have spent the night of Nov. 8 elated, surrounded by friends and family, thinking: “We did it. We rejected a multicultural and globalist society. We defied the elites, rejected political correctness, and made a statement millions of Americans have wanted to shout for decades.”
I’d be planning with other white nationalists what comes next, and assessing just how much influence our ideology would have on this administration. That’s who I was a few years ago.
Things look very different for me now. I am far away from the community that I grew up in, and that I once hoped could lead our country to a moment like this.
I was born into a prominent white nationalist family — David Duke is my godfather, and my dad started Stormfront, the first major white nationalist website — and I was once considered the bright future of the movement.
In 2008, at age 19, I ran for and won a Palm Beach County Republican committee seat a few months before Barack Obama was elected president. I received national media attention and for a while couldn’t go out without being congratulated for “telling them what’s what.”
I grew up in West Palm Beach across the water from Donald J. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, and he was always a loud presence in the neighborhood. I would drive a pickup truck with a Confederate flag sticker past his driveway each morning on my way to the beach and my family would walk out into the front yard to watch his fireworks on New Year’s Eve.
It surprises me now how often Mr. Trump and my 19-year-old self would have agreed on our platforms: tariffs to bring back factory jobs, increased policing of black communities, deporting illegal workers and the belief that American culture was threatened. I looked at my white friends and family who felt dispossessed, at the untapped political support for anyone — even a kid like me — who wasn’t afraid to talk about threats to our people from outsiders, and I knew not only that white nationalism was right, but that it could win.
Several years ago, I began attending a liberal college where my presence prompted huge controversy. Through many talks with devoted and diverse people there — people who chose to invite me into their dorms and conversations rather than ostracize me — I began to realize the damage I had done. Ever since, I have been trying to make up for it.
For a while after I left the white nationalist movement, I thought my upbringing made me exaggerate the likelihood of a larger political reaction to demographic change. Then Mr. Trump gave his Mexican “rapists” speech and I spent the rest of the election wondering how much my movement had set the stage for his. Now I see the anger I was raised with rocking the nation.
People have approached me looking for a way to change the minds of Trump voters, but I can’t offer any magic technique. . .
Later in the column, he points out that support of the measures was a good example of whose ox is gored:
Mr. Trump’s comments during the campaign echoed how I also tapped into less-than-explicit white nationalist ideology to reach relatively moderate white Americans. I went door-to-door in 2008 talking about how Hispanic immigration was overwhelming “American” culture, how black neighborhoods were hotbeds of crime, and how P.C. culture didn’t let us talk about any of it. I won that small election with 60 percent of the vote.
A substantial portion of the American public has made clear that it feels betrayed by the establishment, and so it elected a president who denounces all Muslims as potential conspirators in terrorism; who sees black communities as crime-ridden; who taps into white American mistrust of foreigners, particularly of Hispanics; and who promises the harshest form of immigration control. If we thought Mr. Trump himself might backtrack on some of this, we are now watching him fill a cabinet with people able to make that campaign rhetoric into real policy.
Much has been made of the incoherence of Mr. Trump’s proposals, but what really matters is who does — and doesn’t — need to fear them. None of the ideas that Mr. Trump has put forward would endanger me, and I once enthusiastically advocated for most of what he says. No proposal to put more cops in black neighborhoods to stop and frisk residents would cause me to be harassed. A ban on Muslim immigration doesn’t implicate all people who look like me in terrorism. Overturning Roe v. Wade will not force me to make a dangerous choice about my health, nor will a man who personifies sexual assault without penalty make me any less safe. When the most powerful demographic in the United States came together to assert that making America great again meant asserting their supremacy, they were asserting my supremacy.
Most of Mr. Trump’s supporters did not intend to attack our most vulnerable citizens. But with him in office we have a duty to protect those who are threatened by this administration and to win over those who don’t recognize the impact of their vote. Even those on the furthest extreme of the white nationalist spectrum don’t recognize themselves doing harm — I know that because it was easy for me, too, to deny it.