Click to go to the Subscriber Log In Page
Go to menu with buttons for all pages on BC
Click here to go to the Home Page
Est. April 5, 2002
Apr 02, 2020 - Issue 812
Bookmark and Share
This page can be shared

Rage in the Heartland
By Dr. Elwood Watson, PhD
"In our dealings with many White people, even
those with generally good intentions, the forces
of White denial, White fragility and, yes, White
supremacy tend to surface unrelentingly."

Many segments of social media were whipped into a frenzy in 2017 when The New York Times (NYT) published a controversial profile of Tony Hovater titled: A Voice of Hate in America’s Heartland.

That’s because the young millennial family man from the heartland is a self-avowed White nationalist and neo-Nazi. The newspaper of record wrote the following about the far right-wing extremist from New Carlise, Ohio:

  • On Facebook, Mr. Hovater posted a picture purporting to show what life would have looked like if Germany had won World War II: a streetscape full of happy white people, a bustling American-style diner and swastikas everywhere.”

  • His fascist ideal, he said, would resemble the early days in the United States, when power was reserved for landowners.”

Many readers of the widely recognized vanguard of journalism (including me) were surprised, and in some instances outraged, by the NYT portrayal of Hovater as just another regular American among an increasingly accepted movement of White nationalists.

Some thought the article appeared disturbingly sympathetic to a blatantly unapologetic racist. Others viewed the profile as problematically ambivalent towards Hovater’s ardent and unabashed White supremacist views.

The article prompted a tidal wave of reaction from the political, cultural and religious spectrum. Many readers lambasted the NYT reporter, Richard Fausset, as well as the newspaper’s editorial staff for publishing such an uncritical assessment.

That’s mainly because Hovater is not racially discreet — far from it.

To the contrary, he harbors deep racial and religious hatred, despite his empty denials. He strongly advocates for a nation where people are segregated based on racial pigmentation.

The New York Times editors believed Fausset’s article fell short of the esteemed newspaper’s centuries-old journalistic standards, to which the besieged reporter ultimately conceded.

Readers Accuse Us of Normalizing a Nazi Sympathizer; We Respond

We have asked our national editor, Marc Lacey, to respond to feedback on our recent profile of a white nationalist.Readers Accuse Us of Normalizing a Nazi Sympathizer; We Respond

We have asked our national editor, Marc Lacey, to respond to feedback on our recent profile of a white nationalist.

Winds of Intolerance

As a society, we have evolved to a level where views that would have been seen as socially acceptable as late as the 1950s, or even early to mid-1960s, are no longer embraced by most people — at least in the public sphere.

That being said, we have witnessed ugly changes on this front as the Trump presidency has continued to trample on the morals, values and norms of liberal and progressive America.

Indeed, the winds of intolerance have been blowing dangerously hard.

However, the unfortunate truth about Whites for many people of color is obvious, especially for Black Americans like me:

We know all too well that hidden racism and biases of Whites are always bubbling just beneath the surface.

In our dealings with many White people, even those with generally good intentions, the forces of White denial, White fragility and, yes, White supremacy tend to surface unrelentingly.

The fact is that more than a few Whites, including some who identify as liberal or progressive, harbor negative or ambivalent attitudes about Blacks and other non-Whites.

What is more troubling is that many liberals — particularly those of the supposedly racially progressive persuasion — too often overlook, excuse or normalize White supremacy while, at the same time, passionately denying that they possess such racist attitudes.

The racial hypocrisy of Whites remains extremely troubling.

Admissions field still coming to terms with Varsity Blues scandal.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- More than six months after the Varsity Blues scandal broke, those who work in college admissions are…

Sobering Reality

It’s sadly ironic that some of the same Whites who don’t hesitate to utilize all the advantages inherent with being White — as evidenced, for example, by the “Varsity Blues Scandal” (article above) — are reluctant to call out or acknowledge deeply embedded systemic racism.

The article, by Inside Higher Education, describes, “An admissions system that many outside of the academy’s ivory towers have come to believe locks in inequities and denies underprivileged students the opportunities that are lavished upon the wealthy and powerful.”

This systematic racism has deeply pernicious effects on the lives of many people of color and often results in forced gentrification, police brutality, subprime lending, failing educational systems, deplorably inadequate health care, shorter life expectancy, and other social maladies.

These are often the same supposedly enlightened White people who usually remain silent when a relative, neighbor or co-worker makes a disparaging remark about a certain ethnic or religious group.

These are the same White men and women who read the New York Times article cited above, then revel in shock and disgust while simultaneously failing to realize that they share similar attitudes.

The sobering reality is that it’s crucial, in fact imperative, to acknowledge the fact that White supremacy can be varied and multifaceted.

White supremacy can be subtle, sly, seductive, reductive and unsuspecting to those possessed with it.

White supremacists represent all walks of life, including:

  • Your neighbor,

  • Your co-workers,

  • The law firm partner,

  • The tenured college professor,

  • The person at the local gym or hot yoga studio,

  • Your minister or other religious leader,

  • The barista at the coffee shop,

  • The k-12 teacher (public and private schools alike),

  • Your fellow church member,

  • The owner or manager of the book store and restaurant,

  • Your in-laws and certain relatives,

  • Your college students,

  • The businessman or businesswoman,

  • The medical doctor, and so on…

Yes, White supremacists are visible in every aspect of society, regardless of whether they openly display and advertise their bigotry or conceal it in the safe confines of like-minded humans.

White-Supremacist Violence Is Terrorism

For much of the past 50 years, white-supremacist groups were largely relegated to the fringes of American society…

Final Thoughts

In the parlance of Keepin' It Real: Essays on Race in Contemporary America (my latest book), too many White people — in particular, progressive and liberals — are living under false assumptions regarding racism.

White folks think they are immune from any semblance of racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and other related prejudices simply because:

  • They don’t keep a KKK white sheet and hood in their closet, or a swastika in their drawer,

  • They don’t openly espouse racial or ethnic slurs in public, and

  • They would never consciously consider overtly mistreating a person of color (or other similar examples).

Such a congratulatory, self-righteous mindset can be dangerously misguided. This is especially true from the viewpoint of Blacks and other people of color who are subjected to a multitude of microaggressions from Whites every day — whether implicit or explicit, intentional or unintentional, conscious or unconscious.

It would behoove some Whites who express outrage by what they see as periodic racial , religious and xenophobic injustices to do some deep ruminating and serious soul searching about their own thoughts and actions.

As Josh R. Allen, president of the Brookings Institution, wrote last week in The Atlantic (article above):

  • For much of the past 50 years, white-supremacist groups were largely relegated to the fringes of American society, where they continued to survive, if not thrive, as a shameful artifact of history.”

  • Yet today they are finding a geopolitical landscape that has grown permissive, or even supportive, of their rhetoric and activities — and we need to do more to combat them.”

Thus Whites should take the time to ask themselves this question:

  • Am I really that much different than the extremist right-wing bigots I so readily denounce, like the self-avowed neo-Nazi profiled in the NYT article above?

Many White Americans might not like the answer.

But the hard truth is that Whites must ultimately come to grips with where they stand regarding their system of morals and values related to racial issues.

And those Whites who genuinely consider themselves to be anti-racist must increasingly walk the talk, not the other way around. Guest Commentator, Dr. Elwood Watson, PhD is a Professor of History, African American Studies and Gender Studies. He is also a prolific writer, author and public speaker. His latest critically-acclaimed book, is Keepin' It Real: Essays on Race in Contemporary America. Contact Dr.Watson and BC.
Bookmark and Share
This page can be shared




is published every Thursday
Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
Managing Editor:
Nancy Littlefield, MBA
Peter Gamble

Ferguson is America: Roots of Rebellion by Jamala Rogers