The new rise of white supremacy

NEW RELEASES – In 1963 Martin Luther King Jr. gave a speech at the Lincoln Memorial (Washington D.C.)  that was meant to change the lives of American people for ever. Particularly, he stated: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."” The idea of equality of all men was contrasting the racial discrimination that America was experiencing in those years. White supremacist ideologies were spreading and the possibility for all citizens to live with the same civil and political rights seemed impossible to become reality. Ultimately, however, it did happened. Nonetheless, we’re now living a new, dangerous rise of white supremacy. This article will tackle the issue considering first the case of the USA and then moving on to the European continent to present the particularly delicate situation of the UK. Will we ever learn from the past to avoid the same mistakes in the future?

English

The ideology in history

The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘white supremacy’ as “The belief that white people are superior to those of all other races, especially the black race, and should therefore dominate society.”1 As such, this ideology or belief is strongly associated with racism and antisemitism, notwithstanding the negative responses of its affiliates.2

A group that is defined by white supremacists theories is the Ku Klux Klan (KKK.) Founded originally in 1865 after the American Civil War, the KKK was created in Tennessee in order to defend white supremacy.3 Over the years, the KKK grew and developed its ideologies and means of action; “it established itself in local communities, where it had its own bands and baseball teams and was embedded within religious and educational centres.”4 During the 1960s, the racial discrimination that marked the history of the USA provoked a strong resurgence of the KKK. With around 20.000 active members, the KKK was responsible for the majority of discriminatory violent actions committed against black people in the USA.5

Currently, the KKK is not the only white supremacy group in the United States. The Southern Poverty Law Center “estimates that there are a little more than 930 such groups in the country right now.”6 Interestingly, the Center found out that “there were 194 such groups in 2000, a number that dropped to 149 by 2008, but after President Obama’s election, the number jumped to more than 1,000.”7 With such high numbers and worrying figures, how is white supremacy influencing our lives and political activities nowadays?

 


USA and UK: white supremacy and politics nowadays

In relation to the Ku Klux Klan and its activity nowadays, it’s particularly interesting to consider their endorsement of Donald Trump. The KKK, in fact, officially supported the now President-elect as their preferred candidate. However, during summer 2015, when he was still considered as a “summer amusement”8, Trump used to avoid any questions on the KKK, usually disregarding the journalists’ interest in his opinion on the Klan’s endorsement he received. 9 Before him, Ronald Reagan was also endorsed by the KKK. However, he explicitly and publicly distanced himself from their endorsement. “The Klan adopted a regressive, nativist rhetoric. A similar version of its mantra, “100% Americanism”, featured prominently in the Trump campaign.”10 Thus, the general belief that white supremacist ideas could be associated with the Republican candidate was dangerously strengthened. Trump often stated: “I know nothing about white supremacists.”11 On the other hand, David Duke, former KKK leader, claimed: “Our people have played a HUGE role in electing Trump.”12 For instance, Kansas University cheerleaders were suspended for their photograph captioned “KKK go Trump.”13


The rise of white supremacy ideologies can be witnessed in Europe as well. This article won’t go deeply in the issue of nationalism and its links with white supremacy; it will present, instead, the case of the murder of Jo Cox to illustrate the widespread hate and anger that characterises the European continent’s political sphere, seemingly mirroring the American one. Jo Cox was a British lawmaker, “a 41-year-old mother of two young children, a well-known campaigner for Britain to remain in the European Union and a passionate advocate for refugees.”14 Cox was killed just a week before the UK voted to leave the European Union in a campaign that was “marred by anti-immigration and refugee rhetoric.”15 The man found guilty of her murder is Thomas Mair, now sentenced to life imprisonment. Mair was found in possession of books on white supremacy and Nazism by the police.16 Judge Alan Wilkie stated that the murder was done to further a political motive of “violent white supremacism and exclusive nationalism most associated with Nazism and its modern forms.”17

 


What happened to Martin Luther King’s dream?

The experiences of the USA and the UK are fundamentally linked. The Washington Post’s Karla Adam affirmed that Jo Cox’s murder “carried added international resonance as hate groups and others in the United States say they are energized by the presidential victory of Donald Trump and his America-first campaign rhetoric.”18 How do we explain this new rise of white supremacist ideas in the political sphere? Fear and anger are widely spreading and they manifest themselves in hateful and violent actions. In fact, extreme ideologies respond to society’s anxieties and uncertainties. This is what the KKK did in the post-war USA, when immigration and postmodernity were highly frightening for the population. It’s been suggested that the KKK “provides a lesson from history. It is a history not only of racial violence but also of an inherently newsworthy group that […] used media to generate a public platform, to normalise its views and to help orchestrate a racial nationalism.”19 Sounds familiar? If so, we should reconsider the words of Martin Luther King and their deep meaning. We should learn from our mistakes and consider history as a valuable part of our present, if we want to fully pursue the dream of social equality.

 


1 Oxford Dictionary. Available at: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/us/white_supremacy
2 MYRE Sabrina (2015) Fusillade de Charleston : qui sont les suprémacistes blancs aux États-Unis, Jeune Afrique. Available at: http://www.jeuneafrique.com/237920/societe/fusillade-de-charleston-4-cle...
3Ibidem
4 RICE Tom (2016) “Linking Trump to the Ku Klux Klan risks boosting a rump organisation”, The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/28/trump-ku-klux-klan...
5 MYRE, Op.Cit. 2
6 BERMAN Mark (2014) “The current state of white supremacist groups in the U.S.”, The Washington Post. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/12/30/the-curren...
7Ibidem
8 OSNOS Evan (2016) “Donald Trump and the Ku Klux Klan: a history”, The New York Times. Available at: http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/donald-trump-and-the-ku-klux-kla...
9Ibidem
10 RICE, Op.Cit. 4
11 OSNOS, Op.Cit. 8
12 RICE, Op.Cit. 4
13Ibidem
14 ADAM Karla (2016) “‘White supremacist’ convicted in slaying of British lawmaker Jo Cox”, The Washington Post. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/white-supremacist-convicted-in-slay...
15 MANDHAI Shafik, “White supremacist guilty of killing British MP Jo Cox”, Al Jazeera. Available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/11/white-supremacist-guilty-killing-b...
16 ADAM, Op.Cit. 14
17Ibidem
18Ibidem
19 RICE, Op.Cit. 4

 

MR – Research Assistant at CIPADH 

 

Webography

ADAM Karla (2016) “‘White supremacist’ convicted in slaying of British lawmaker Jo Cox”, The Washington Post. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/white-supremacist-convicted-in-slay...

BERMAN Mark (2014) “The current state of white supremacist groups in the U.S.”, The Washington Post. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/12/30/the-curren...

BUMP Philip (2016) “For decades, the Ku Klux Klan openly endorsed candidates for political office”, The Washington post. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/02/29/for-decades-th...

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1957) “I Have A Dream Speech.” In: YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vDWWy4CMhE

MANDHAI Shafik, “White supremacist guilty of killing British MP Jo Cox”, Al Jazeera. Available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/11/white-supremacist-guilty-killing-b...

MYRE Sabrina (2015) Fusillade de Charleston : qui sont les suprémacistes blancs aux États-Unis, Jeune Afrique. Available at: http://www.jeuneafrique.com/237920/societe/fusillade-de-charleston-4-cle...

OSNOS Evan (2016) “Donald Trump and the Ku Klux Klan: a history”, The New York Times. Available at: http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/donald-trump-and-the-ku-klux-kla...

Oxford Dictionary. Available at: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/us/white_supremacy

RICE Tom (2016) “Linking Trump to the Ku Klux Klan risks boosting a rump organisation”, The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/28/trump-ku-klux-klan...

 

Category: