Cries of white nationalism and white supremacy have unfortunately become synonyms for “disagree with some aspect of immigration policy” or “criticize a person who is not white”, and this is not terribly helpful for any discussion of the concepts.
I don’t know a whole lot about Richard Spencer, and I hesitate to bother reading anything the mainstream media has to say about the man. I watched this video of Spencer talking to a Huffington Post “reporter”, who appears to be really frightened of Nazis. For the most part, these are Spencer’s own words. I don’t know what was cut from the discussion, but I found the video on Spencer’s Twitter feed, so I will assume he found it at least reasonable.
Spencer talks about an ethno-state akin to Israel and I think that’s at least a nominally useful idea – the fact that the Jewish people want a formal state that belongs to them is no way an assertion of Jewish supremacy. The whole idea of supremacy requires a hierarchy – supremacy over what/whom? The assertion that something has inherent value is not a hierarchical claim – lots of things can have value and they don’t need to be ranked in order to have that value. You don’t have to think vanilla ice cream is better than chocolate ice cream to like vanilla.
And if you think that example is a racial micro-aggression, you’re right. Please go and sign up for slavery now. Slavery is perfectly legal in the United States, by the way. Go and read the 13th amendment.
But even if you do think vanilla ice cream is better than every other flavor, it still does not follow that declaring the supremacy of vanilla means no other flavor can be tolerated or made or enjoyed by other people. There are lots of curious philosophical implications of supremacy and nationalism, and it’s both interesting and worthwhile to ask the questions and seek the answers these ideas invoke. This is the very essence of the free speech argument: it is not just permissible, but essential that we question our ideas, thought processes and conclusions.
Before we get to supremacy though, I’d like to start with the idea of nationalism. I am not the slightest bit appalled by the idea of white nationalism, nor do I think it has any necessary logical relationship to white supremacy. The question seems pretty simple and straight-forward to me: is there something inherently valuable about any human culture that might warrant its preservation and continuation?
What I find almost amusing in discussions of white supremacy and nationalism, from both the right and the left, is the failure to discuss the fact that white people and white cultures are not all the same, and where you rank as a white person relative to other white people matters to white people. When Spencer talks about a white ethno-state, what white people is he talking about? Lithuanians? Italians? Caucasians? Which white people? When this wingnut sociologist talks about evil white families who want the best for their evil white children, what families is she talking about? Norwegian ones? Spanish ones? Basque ones?
Do all white people look alike, or something? Can’t tell them apart? They’re all the same anyways?
White people can be ranked according to two basic measures: biology and culture. Biologically, the whitest of the white people are the Finns. They sit atop of the biological whiteness hierarchy with their pale blue eyes, translucent white skin and platinum hair.
After the Finns come the other Nordics, also blonde. Then we stagger down the European peninsula until we get to the dark skinned, dark-eyed but still technically white people of Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean. It’s almost as if whiteness were a biological adaptation to available sunlight or something, and not some nefarious plot to embody hatred and privilege.
But I digress.
Hungarians are basically gypsies and gypsies are not white. No one knows what gypsies are. It’s why we don’t like them. The swarthy folks of Italy, Spain and Portugal get to squeeze into the white frame because they share enough culture, but really, we Nordic and Saxon whites are just being polite. The light skinned, light haired whites are Kings and Queens of the white privilege castle.
I’m being facetious here. My point is that there are distinct cultures within the racial category of white, and those cultures are reflected in a biology that is not culturally dependent. The Finns are not gorgeous white blondes because they have a superior culture. Finns can’t afford to block the scant sunlight they are exposed to with melanin in their skin! Hence, they are white.
But Finns do have a distinct culture that has developed and evolved over centuries. Finns have a language, a narrative history, music, art, beautiful crystal and Nokia phones! They are also among the very best mathematicians in the world. Is there something inherently valuable in Finnish culture worth protecting and conserving? Is something of value lost to the world if the culture of Finland is overrun with foreign ideas, concepts, religions and languages?
These are not new questions! The story of the Tower of Babel in the Bible is a story about preserving, valuing and separating the various languages and cultures of the Mesopotamia.
Culturally, it’s not as easy to rank white ethnicity. The British sit astride the heap, which is why their Royal Family continues to engage and enchant people around the world. But after the British? The Germans have been casting their lures into the cultural supremacy waters for some time, but have never managed to snare the stubborn Saxons. This story played out in the formation of the Americas, too. The US was very nearly a German speaking nation, but went for tea, crumpets and English, in the end.
Pretty much all the European cultures have some claim to art, music and language, but once you’re past those accomplishments, we are again left with the economically productive nations of the northern continent, supported by the haughty but decidedly less wealthy, swarthy players. It’s a bit unfair to lump the Eastern European nations into the poor cousins basket, as they were under the thumb of socialists and communists for so long, and nothing rapes a bank balance quite like an ideologue with ideas about his claim to your wealth.
When we lose an aboriginal language, say, we are said to have lost something inherently valuable. The loss of a human achievement, accumulated over great spans of time, like language, is seen as something that diminishes us all. Why would the race of the speaker be a factor in evaluating that loss?
If there is something inherently valuable in unique human cultures, why is the loss offensive when the culture is white, but tragic when it is not? In the alternative, why would we celebrate the loss of some cultures, and mourn the loss of others?
Because the culture is bad, evil and needs to be stamped out.
Never mind that the culture provided the world with pretty much every modern technical achievement.
It’s one thing to declare all cultures null and void against the forces of history, and to not care if any particular culture gets wiped out. It’s another thing to care if a specific culture dies out, and yet another to actively work towards that end.
Test my logic here. If supremacy is a synonym for dominant, and the opposite of dominant is submissive, are the people who hate and despise white culture submissive?
To what are they submissive?
Allah help me, I don’t think I like the answer to that one.
Lots of love,