They're Not White Nationalists — They're White Supremacists

If you disagree with them, you’re a race traitor, just like me

White supremacist Richard Spencer
Photo Credit: YouTube Screengrab

There was a time when you didn’t run across names like Richard Spencer, Jared Taylor, Jason Kessler, Arthur Jones, and Russell Walker in the press as often as you do these days. Who are these fine, upstanding Americans, you might ask? White supremacists, that’s who.

Richard Spencer is the founder and president of the National Policy Institute, a white supremacy think tank located in Alexandria, Virginia. He was a prominent speaker at the infamous Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last year, during which a counter demonstrator, Heather Heyer, was run down by an automobile driven by James Alex Fields, Jr., another white supremacist who killed Heyer and injured 28 others in the incident.

Jared Taylor is the founder and editor of American Renaissance, an online white supremacist magazine published by the New Century Foundation. He is a former board member of Spencer’s National Policy Institute, and is on the board of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a neo-confederate white supremacist organization that is a descendant of the White Citizens Councils, segregationist groups that terrorized civil rights workers in the South.

Jason Kessler is the main organizer of the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville last year, and a self-described neo-Nazi and white supremacist.

Arthur Jones is the Republican candidate for Congress in the 3rd District in Illinois, a holocaust denier and former leader of the American Nazi Party. He frequently espouses white supremacist views in his campaign.

Russell Walker is the Republican candidate for state representative in North Carolina’s 48th District. He is a proud racist who has referred to President Obama as “genetically inferior,” and features on his website this statement: “Well someone or group has to be supreme and that group is the whites of the world.”

A disturbingly large segment of the media began referring to these loons as “white nationalists” about the time that they adopted the title, “alt-right” and many of them, including former Klu Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, began expressing support for Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. Trump refused to disavow their support, denying several times to CNN’s Jake Tapper that he even knew who Duke was, or knew anything about “white supremacy.”

"Well, just so you understand, I don't know anything about David Duke. okay?” Trump said. “I don't know anything about what you're even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So, I don't know.”

The “alt-right” is simply a mask white supremacists wear to lend legitimacy to their racism. White supremacists believe that white people make up a superior race, and that all other races are inferior. They make their arguments using genetics, morals, and religion to support their sick beliefs, which they use to justify various “solutions” to the “race problem” in the United States, everything from sending all African Americans “back to Africa” to denying anyone who isn’t white basic civil rights.

Until the last couple of years, it was fairly easy to go through your life and never encounter white supremacist views or hear one of their names. With the sole exception of David Duke, who ran for and won a seat in the Louisiana legislature for a single term back in the late 1980’s, white supremacists didn’t run for office because no political party would have them. Their beliefs were consigned to obscure far-right journals and the distant corners of the online world.

Today, a google search of the name “Richard Spencer” will turn up thousands of stories in mainstream media outlets, everything from local television news programs, to GQ magazine, to Bloomberg, to a long story in Inside Higher Ed exploring the dilemma faced by prominent universities like Ohio State about whether to allow him to speak on campus. The Republican Party, to which white supremacists have recently attached themselves, occasionally disavows them, but there they are, running for office on the Republican line across the nation. White supremacists win Republican primaries. They face Democrats for election to office in November.

White supremacists. Not people who disagree with Democrats on the defense budget, or health care, or trade policy. People who believe that blacks shouldn’t be allowed to vote. People who believe that those whose skin is a different color than white are inferior, lesser human beings.  

It wasn’t always this way. Twenty years ago, I was aware of white supremacists and their views, but they weren’t a recognizable part of our national life, or mine for that matter. Then DNA results were published establishing with a high degree of certainty that Thomas Jefferson had fathered the children of his slave, Sally Hemings. As a descendant of our third president, I already accepted that Jefferson fathered Sally Hemings’ children and wrote an op-ed in the New York Times saying so. Slave owners had sex with their slaves all the time. That Jefferson had been one of them hardly came as a surprise. I was invited on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” along with quite a few of my Hemings cousins and decided right there during the show to invite them to accompany me to the Jefferson family reunion at Monticello. It was time they were recognized for who they were: descendants of Jefferson just like the rest of us.

We did just that in May of 1999. Together, we attended the reunion and the family meeting of the Monticello Association, and I began what became a four year campaign to get the descendants of Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson accepted into the family association. The Jefferson reunion received wide coverage that first year. It was on the front pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post. Several of my Hemings cousins and I appeared on the “Today Show” and “Good Morning America.” There was television coverage from as far away as Paris, Helsinki, and Bangkok. 

That’s when the gates of white supremacist hell opened and I got a better look inside than I had ever counted on. It began during the reunion that weekend. As an author and screenwriter, I was a public figure easily reachable online, and as it turned out, by phone. My email in-box filled up within hours.

RACE TRAITOR. That was the subject line on hundreds of emails, almost always in all-caps. I answered call after call on my cell phone from raving white supremacists, screaming RACE TRAITOR, denouncing me for abandoning the white race and sullying the good name of one of our white founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson. The people who called were all men, every single one of them. They were beside themselves with rage. I was a traitor to my family, to the country, and to the white race.

The emails kept coming when I returned home to Los Angeles, and then the letters flooded through the mail slot in the front door. No return address on any of them. About half were composed of letters and words cut from magazines and newspapers and pasted to typing paper. There was RACE TRAITOR, of course, followed in many cases by death threats.

My favorite was one that arrived in an envelope unmarked except for my typed name and address. Inside were two photographs: One was a .45 caliber pistol shot in profile, showing the barrel, trigger, and wooden pistol grip, into which a Jefferson nickel had been embedded. The other photograph was of the same pistol’s barrel in close-up pointed right at me with “YOU’RE DEAD RACE TRAITOR” scrawled in magic marker along the bottom of the photo.

There were more than 100 death threats in the first week, most of them by regular mail, but some by email and on the phone. I stopped keeping count after that. I never called the FBI because I was raised to understand, and trained in the military to believe, that you can count on cowards for one thing: to be too chickenshit to carry through on their empty threats. The death threats petered out after a month or so. My mom and dad and the Army were right. Nineteen years have passed, and I’m still here.

I consider it one of the great privileges of my birth as a Jefferson descendant to have taken the stand I did and become exposed to white supremacy up close and personal. For most white people, white supremacy is an abstract concept. We don’t suffer its effects. But it’s out there, and for Americans of color, and many others, it affects practically everything in their lives.

Voter suppression is real, and it’s a result of white supremacist beliefs. Our current immigration policy is racist and xenophobic and white supremacist at its core. The Jeff Sessions Justice Department’s de-emphasis on civil rights enforcement is a white supremacist policy. Efforts to end affirmative action in admissions at colleges come from a white supremacist urge to cling to power. Right wing attacks on the Voting Rights Act culminating in Shelby v Holder are a result of long-held white supremacist beliefs in the south and elsewhere. Look at where the suit was filed. Look at the states that passed voter suppression laws almost immediately after the decision came down.

Now we have a president who claims not to know who David Duke is, but who can’t wake up in the morning without drawing a white supremacist breath. The Republican Party is fielding numerous candidates around the country who claim white supremacist views. Not the Democrats. The Republicans.

We’re approaching a time in this country when we will have two political parties: The white people’s party, and the Democrats. Impeaching Trump or defeating him in 2020 isn’t going to solve the problem of white supremacy. But voting against the white people’s party and driving their white supremacist followers back into the ratholes they came from is a good start.

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Lucian K. Truscott IV has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist and screenwriter, covering stories such as Watergate, the Stonewall riots and wars in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan. Follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott.