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Image: Elvert Barnes

Reading List August 11, 2019

Essential Reads on White Supremacy

It's what our country was founded on—and it will take more than voting out Trump to dismantle it.
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Two year ago today, white nationalists began to descend upon Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest the removal of a Confederate statue. With flags bearing swastikas and Confederate crosses, the Unite the Right rally sparked a large counterprotest and ended with the death of Heather Heyer.

From the alt-right to antifa, today’s reading list brings you pieces from our recent archive that analyze the social movements that created and reacted to Charlottesville—with many of the essays being especially poignant in the wake of the white supremacist attack in El Paso, Texas.

What joins all of them, however, is the recognition that the United States was built on white supremacy and is not a new force. As Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz writes in her contribution, “when extreme white nationalists make themselves visible, they are dismissed as marginal, rather than being understood as the spiritual descendants of the settlers.” And a brand new piece from Mark Tseng-Putterman goes one step further and asks: if white supremacy is a core part of this country’s poisoned DNA, then was the El Paso shooter really a terrorist?

—Rosie Gillies


The Armed and Anxious White Psyche
by Mark Tseng-Putterman

“The label of terrorism fails to capture that recent white supremacist violence is not ideologically opposed to the U.S. nation-state. It is less a foreign ideological strain than it is a founding DNA.”

• • •

The Descent of Democracy
by Khalil Gibran Muhammad

“White supremacy is not a new problem. Even if Hillary Clinton were in office, the tiki torch-bearers would have still gathered in Charlottesville.”

• • •

The Book that Explains Charlottesville
by Marshall Steinbaum

“The University of Virginia has long been a bastion of white supremacy and white-supremacist-validating scholarship—and ideologically-motivated private funding across academia is available for ‘scholars’ who espouse a particular brand of propaganda.”

• • •

Statue Mania
by Jonathan Beecher Field

“Those of us who live in towns free of Confederate memorials should resist rushing to congratulate ourselves—the majority of Confederate monuments were manufactured in the North, and Yankee businesses profited considerably.”

• • •

White Supremacy Has Always Been Mainstream
by Stephen Kantrowitz

The Charlottesville protestors who objected to the removal of a Confederate statue were mostly men. But women helped erect many of them

• • •

What White Supremacists Want
by Bonnie Honig

“One of the things that drew the alt-right marchers to Charlottesville was the desire to enjoy public life. The Unite the Right organizers noted the importance of coming out, being seen, working together in real life.”

• • •

Notes for Antifa from a Former “Terrorist”
by Amitai Etzioni and Mark Bray

Is antifa playing into the hands of the right? Etzioni thinks so, and argues that violent campaigns are less likely to succeed than nonviolent ones. But Bray disagrees and says that preemptive self-defense is necessary: “it’s not a matter of if white power will get violent, but when.”

• • •

Dying of Whiteness
by Jonathan M. Metzl

White supremacy is a two-headed beast. It not only kills immigrants and people of color, but eventually kills white people too.

• • •

What White Supremacists Know
by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

“White supremacists are not wrong when they claim that they understand something about the American Dream that the rest of us do not—indeed, the origins of the United States are consistent with white nationalist ideology.”

• • •

#Milosexual and the Aesthetics of Fascism
by Daniel Penny

“Milo is singular: an alt-right pundit with a high-femme persona who is nonetheless embraced by a political bloc contemptuous of homosexuals and feminine men.”

• • •

The Pacifist Roots of an American Nazi
by Ben Goossen

Ingrid Rimland was a pioneering voice of the neo-Nazi Internet. She was also raised Mennonite, a peaceful religion with a long history of celebrating white “ethnic” identity.

Our weekly themed Reading Lists compile the best of Boston Review’s archive. Previews are delivered to members every Sunday. Become a member to receive them ahead of the crowd.

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