October 21, 2016


The New White Nationalists? (Kelly J. Baker, October 20, 2016, religion & Politics)

There's a 1920s Klan pamphlet, The Menace of Modern Immigration, that is worth recalling in the lead-up to the current presidential election. Written by H.W. Evans, the second Imperial Wizard of the second incarnation of the Klan, the cover features a dragon with horns, fangs, and sharp claws vomiting people, instead of fire. A steady stream of immigrants, dressed in supposedly ethnic fashion, flows out of its jaws.

Evans wrote that America was founded by white Protestant patriots "with an inherent, kindred reverence for rightly established institutions." Immigrants, he sounded the alarm again and again, would destroy everything that white Protestant men held dear: America, religion, traditional norms of femininity, masculinity, and patriotism. For the Klan, immigrants proved dangerous because they could change not only the demographics, but also the culture of America. If the nation were to remain white and Protestant, immigration could not be allowed. Much of what the Klan feared was the demise of the power and privilege of white Christian men.

"God," Evans wrote, "never imposes insuperable burdens and obstacles upon his children." God, then, would allow the nation to survive the perils of immigration. The nation did survive, but the 1920s Klan did not.

So when Donald Trump announced his presidential campaign in a speech laced with hostile remarks about immigrants, I found the sentiments both surprising and familiar. My 2011 book, Gospel According to the Klan, analyzed the group's appeal to Protestant America. The subset of the Klan that I studied fell apart by 1930, but blaming immigrants for the nation's woes continued long after their demise. While the Klan is only one of many movements to capitalize on this anxiety, it felt like Trump was taking cues from them, dressing up the old intolerance of immigrants for modern audiences. Where the 1920s Klan sought legal obstacles against immigration, Trump peddles a literal wall against immigrants.

It shouldn't surprise us, then, that the Republican nominee finds support for his position from avowed white supremacists. Former Klan Imperial Wizard David Duke hopes that Trump's campaign will open the door for public acceptance of his white nationalism. White supremacist groups, which generally don't endorse presidential candidates, have thrown support behind Trump. But some of the most vocal support, especially in online forums, comes from the nascent "alt-right" movement. Rosie Gray of Buzzfeed reports, "Trump is a hero on the alt right and the subject of many adoring memes and tweets." This movement, she continues, is "white supremacy perfectly tailored for our times."

Posted by at October 21, 2016 9:53 AM