In sixth grade, I got into a fight with another student at school. The counselor who called my mother to come pick me up wasn’t aware that I knew, but the girl I’d had the fight with was her goddaughter. When my mother arrived to pick me up, I sat listening to the counselor regurgitate the story her goddaughter had told her, saying that I had started the fight by pushing the other child, adding that she had witnessed me push the girl. As soon as she finished talking, I immediately said, “Ma, she’s lying! She wasn’t even there.”
The counselor sat stunned and said, “Excuse me! You don’t ever say an adult is lying.” My mother, always a straight shooter asked, “Ms. Johnson, you said you saw LaSha push the other girl first, right?” The counselor told her that she was monitoring the playground and ran over to break up the fight as soon as she saw the kids gathering around. “Well, you are lying,” my mother retorted. The counselor’s jaw dropped.
I’ve never understood euphemisms. Saying, “She’s not telling the truth,” to preserve the counselor’s ego never crossed my mind. Lying on me, a child whom she had power over and thus a responsibility to, hurt me. Putting roses on garbage cans has never been my thing.
That’s why when I first read the Los Angeles Times refer to racists and white supremacists as a “new political movement, the Alternative Right, or Alt-Right,” my eyes nearly rolled out of my head. The fact is, racist white people believing “that all men are not created equal” is nothing new. And arguing that Black and other people of color don’t deserve basic civil — or even human — rights is hardly a political movement. Yet, the media continues to legitimize what amounts to racist propaganda meant to incite violence against marginalized groups, lending it credence with coded language like “ideology” and referring to its peddlers as “intellectually and rhetorically sophisticated,” as opposed to Neo-Nazis and the Klan.
The notion that people with degrees from prestigious institutions, flexing their vocabularies and writing skill to express the same reprehensible rhetoric that cross-burners have for over a century, represents some sort of intellectual superiority and sophistication worthy of acknowledgement by the masses is both unethical and cowardly. The newly dubbed “Alt-Right” or “white nationalists” are no more respectable than their Klan predecessors. Big words and a more public infiltration of Washington by covert racists — because we can stop pretending that the floor of the U.S. capitol hasn’t held hundreds of overt racists since racism became less acceptable to speak about — are no more palatable for Black people than a gang of armed white men banging on our doors at night in search of their next lynching victim.
When “White nationalists dress up and come to Washington,” their expensive suits look like Klan robes to me.
When a conference in the Ronald Reagan Building (a building that was a block from my job) is sponsored The National Policy Institute, a non-profit “dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States, and around the world,” that sounds like David Lane’s terrorist group The Order and their infamous 14-word slogan, “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children.”
“Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” is nothing but a modern “Heil Hitler!” And when a major national publication tweets a picture of a vile racist posed in black shades like some 2016 version of the Terminator with the caption, “Meet the new think tank in town: The ‘alt-right’ comes to Washington,” it’s clear that media is complicit is this public relations campaign to convince the masses that the briefcase is less offensive than the burning cross.
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) November 20, 2016
Neutral articles explaining the distinction between white supremacy and white nationalist ideology from premiere news organizations are an invaluable tool in drumming up support for a movement that should be condemned harshly and blatantly at every opportunity. This same “hear them out” attitude is part of what catapulted Donald Trump from reality TV star to president-elect, one who thought nothing of appointing a white nationalist as his chief strategist. It’s the same benefit of the doubt Bernie Sanders afforded Trump’s supporters, arguing that their love of Trump was motivated by self-interest rather than racism, as if the two are mutually exclusive.
That it’s more offensive to call racists just that, despite whatever efforts they make to rebrand themselves as simply committed to the preservation of their race — never mind that declaring your allegiance and commitment to the dominant race is pretty definitive of racism — than it is to continue offering them a platform to spread their hate speaks volumes about the ways in which this country will continue to find innovative ways to support and affirm white supremacy. No, this isn’t just some movement of young, well-dressed elites with opposing political views. Call it what it is: Good ole American racism.