By Elpida Bograkou, S.A.F.I.A. Research Team – United States
“Trump’s relationship with the far-right – an unruly grouping which includes opponents to illegal immigration, free trade, police reform, political correctness, miscegenationn and mainstream Holocaust scholarship – will partly define his administration”, Rory Carroll writes in the Guardian (2016). The rise of white supremacist or, as called by others, alt-right, fascist, neo-Nazi movements in the United States, and Europe as well, is indeed alarming and many are those who wonder what will the Trump election mean and where will it lead (Al Jazeera, 2016). Donald J. Trump’s racist rhetoric and extreme views on who, and of which descent, deserves to be part of America revived and brought forward, once again, the ideologies of the white supremacist groups in the US (Baker, 2017). Members of the KKK, one of the most prominent US white supremacist groups, saluted Trump’s win and soon validated their presence. As depicted in Christopher Caldwell’s article in the New York Times Richard Spencer, leader of a alt-right group, gathered his men and during Thanksgiving Day “Hailed Trump” with Nazi salutes (Caldwell, 2016)
However, United States have always struggled with the existence of such groups (Pearson 2015, Baker 2017). A nation that seems so eager to promote democracy, peace and security all over the world but unable to uphold its liberal front since racist ideologies are a constant variable throughout the American society (Pearson, 2015). Nowadays, the ideology of white supremacy is portrayed by other labels such as the alt-right. Many have tried to separate the two movements but is seems that the alt-right is simply a transformation of the white supremacy movement (Carroll, 2016).
At this point, it is of great importance to clarify what exactly white supremacy means. Mitchell Berbrier (2008) distinguishes the white supremacy ideology in two types. The first one is referring to endemic white supremacy and as Berbrier states, it is the form of that is “so historically infused into Western culture and embedded into social structure that to speak of “society” in the U.S., European, or postcolonial context is, practically, to speak of white supremacy, as well as “racism,” “white privilege,” and “Eurocentric domination” on a global scale (2008, para. 2). Taking into consideration the endemic nature of this ideology it is not difficult for us to understand why these groups continue to validate their existence every day. The second type is referred to as activist white supremacy. This type “involves active white supremacists who overtly proclaim, in one way or another, that there exists a distinct race of people (“whites”) who have a special place in humanity, are in many ways superior to nonwhites, and require segregation to avoid social, cultural, and biological contamination by nonwhites” (Berbrier 2008, para. 6). The Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, Aryan Brotherhood, Christian Identity, Skinheads, and other groups belong to this second category.
The history of the US society with the white supremacist groups goes as far back as before the American Civil War. White supremacy was dominant in the US even after the American Civil War and it also persisted for a prolonged period of time after the Reconstruction Era. Keeping non-whites in the state of slavery was a form of manifesting that only the white have the privilege to be free. This discrimination against other ethnic groups and identities lead to the Civil Rights Movement. As mentioned above there are, even though we live in the 21st century, supremacist groups in the United States. The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) is the group mostly associated with the white supremacist movement. Most groups are based on the concept of preserving genetic purity, and they do not focus solely on discrimination based on skin color. The KKK’s reasons for supporting racial segregation are not primarily based on religious ideals, but some Klan groups are openly Protestant. The KKK and other white supremacist groups like Aryan Nations, The Order and the White Patriot Party are considered anti-Semitic.
Bearing all the above in mind one can easily understand why Trump’s polemic rhetoric against Black, Latino and Hispanic minorities attracted the attention and support of white supremacist leaders and their followers. Trump’s campaign line “Make America Great Again” was immediately connoted with “Make America White Again” (Baker, 2017). It is no wonder why during the election campaigns more and more people embraced the racist ideology. Donald J. Trump, successfully, fed on his peoples’ cry for help and blamed the immigrants and minorities for the social inequalities and lack of opportunities white Americans have. This caused a tension throughout the societal matrix. Hillary Clinton, during her campaign, devoted a speech to the alt-right phenomenon, calling it simply a new label for an old kind of white supremacy that Mr. Trump was shamelessly exploiting (Caldwell 2016). The alt-right is not large movement but the popularity it is gaining in the early days of the Trump era tells us something important for the way the country is changing. The United States are becoming more conservative and more narrow-minded. It seems that the country has become more introverted and people are asking from the administration to stop focusing on the global role of the US but rather focus on offering its people opportunities and hope for the future (Baker 2017). Many argue that appointing Steve Bannon, former head of a website linked to the alt-right, as his White House chief strategist gave even more power to these groups. It seems that Trump is silently advocating in favor of such ideologies (Al Jazeera, 2016).
One of the most immediate consequences of Trump’s oratory was the rise of hate crimes against minorities. According to the FBI database (www.fbi.gov) and Hate Crimes Statistics in 2015, crimes based on bias (such as religion, race, ethnicity and by extent gender, disablity and other) increased by 6.8% to a total of 5,850 incidents throughout the year. While crimes targeting Muslims grew by the highest amount (67%), incidents of hate against Jewish, black and LGBTQ people all increased last year as well. Tension, however, is also observed between whites, human rights activists, that support diversity and work to protect minorities.
To conclude, if we were to sum up the societal changes that are currently set in motion in the US the major issue that we would have to focus on would be the inflation of racist and white supremacist beliefs and dogmas. America has faced, as many parts of the world, with a cultural crisis that results in moving toward a more redneck type of society. The democratic values and multicultural spirit of the States have been replaced with xenophobia and fear for other cultures. This justifiably leads to anger, an anger that was, unfortunately, epitomized in the election of Donald J. Trump as the new President. The question one should ask is whether America will be great again or whether this this political extremism will have a negative effect in America’s global role and generate racial conflicts and help build a platform for the establishment of more alarming groups as the aforementioned.
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