To be sure, Trump and Ramaswamy would say that their comments had nothing to do with race — and that to suggest otherwise is, itself, racist. But in this stew of falsified meanings, “white nationalist” is conflated with being a white patriot and allows any hint of racism to become an insult against white nationalists for no reason. Racism, to this way of thinking, can only be unequivocal, naked hatred. And by playing these puns, they separate their politically necessary contempt for outright racists from a calm and deliberate tolerance of intolerance, a tacit acquiescence to racial hierarchy—a misunderstood view of the history of racial contributions to humanity and the vaunted legacy. of the founders of this country.
But that distinction cannot be made here. It is tortured logic and it will lead to ridiculousness.
Last week, Ryan Walters, the superintendent of public schools in Oklahoma, was asked how teaching students about the 1921 Tulsa massacre could be done without violating the state’s ban on teaching what it calls critical race theory. Walters replied:
“That does not mean that you do not judge the actions of individuals. Oh, you can. Absolutely, historically, you should. – This was correct. This was wrong. They did it because of that.’ But saying it was inherent because of their skin is where I say that’s critical race theory. You say that race defines a person.”
Let’s be clear: White racists attacked and destroyed the Black community in Tulsa called the Greenwood District, also known as Black Wall Street. And that community was attacked because it was Black.
I guess Walters’ argument, weak as it is, hinges on the word “inherent.” And no, white people are not inherently terrorists or racists. No people are. But, there were white men who were terrorists and racists and wreaked havoc and destruction in this country. Indeed, there was a period in our country, certainly up to the Jim Crow era, during which many white Americans were at least inculcated into, if not participating in, racial terrorism — can anyone deny that about a murderous mob descending on a flourishing Negro? Tulsa neighborhood?
Racism was preached in church. Police were part of the racial terror. Elected officials have advocated resistance to racial equality. People sold and mailed postcards of lynchings.
And white nationalism became central to white power and white politics. The rise and maintenance of segregation was rooted in a white nationalist impulse. The growing popularity of hate groups today is due in part to the introduction of white nationalist ideas.
When Fox News fired Tucker Carlson, the Southern Poverty Law Center noted that he “repeatedly offered a platform to white nationalists” and “expressed fringe racial grievances in an apparent effort to give them greater cultural significance.”