I’m sick of white supremacy and Nazis getting free passes to spread hate speech, but as a scholar I’m intrigued as to why this continues to happen.
I have not been blogging a lot about current political issue because eeek the semester is starting next week. Obviously I’ve been following the news with some horror and I condemn white supremacy in all its forms. So even though I’m still knee-deep in syllabus-wrangling, here are some essays I recommend that help get a handle on the cultural context informing these events, til I can weigh in more properly.
First, there’s Kelly J. Baker’s Nice, decent folks, which chronicles Baker’s PhD research on white supremacy movements and the confounding language she continually encountered in other people’s scholarship. Baker reminds us that scholarship is a continually-evolving story, and that scholars choose, on various levels, how to frame the people they study. She noticed that scholars of white supremacy continually framed them as “nice, decent folks” and seemed completely unaware of (perhaps not reflective enough to arrive there?) of the why behind it:
I couldn’t understand how these scholars didn’t realize that Klan members were nice and decent to them because they were also white. Shared whiteness allowed for a certain kind of interpersonal treatment that wasn’t necessarily extended to people who weren’t white. I couldn’t get over how flabbergasted these scholars were by the disconnect between outward action and hateful ideologies. I couldn’t get over how white liberal scholars (yet again) managed deftly to avoid their own white supremacy.
White supremacist groups have been on the rise for nearly a decade, but in the 21st century it is only under Trump that their activity is sanctioned by the executive branch, that their opponents are demonized from the presidential podium, and that their clashes may very well be used as pretext for a severe overhaul of civil liberties.
So. Go read these, and consider sharing them. I’ve got an essay on World War II humor, Nazis, and rationalizing war crimes, too. I hope it doesn’t stay relevant.