The Rise of White Nationalism in America

By Erika Shannon

January 22, 2021

The recent attack on America’s Capitol has certainly confirmed what many have worried for a long time – that white supremacy is on the rise here in the U.S. With recent events, it can be seen that this is a fast-growing problem. These far-right extremists are often disillusioned Trump supporters who want nothing more than to create chaos and for Trump to remain in office, even though he lost the election fair and square. One of the problems is that we live in a world of social media heresy, where people are able to get others worked up with a few keystrokes and the click of a button. In fact, Facebook in particular is often used by right-wing extremists as a way to recruit, and sometimes train, new members. While social media websites attempt to take down groups or pages with white supremacist or extremist views for fear that they may be used to incite violence, it is impossible to make sure that people with these views do not find their way onto social media and share their hate-filled opinions. There are people who feel that occurrences like this are indicative of a free speech violation; however, it is legally up to websites to create their terms of use and handle violations as such. One thing that’s clear is that when people are given a platform to express hate, other like-minded individuals will find them; because of this, something must be done to ensure that they are unable to recruit new members or incite violence.

A burning question for many is who are these people? Often times, they are those you would least expect: your neighbor, mailman, doctor, or barber. People of all ages are involved with the white nationalist movement. Many members are associated with the alt-right and have conservative ideals. According to research by the Institute for Family Studies, white people with no college degree make up a large chunk of these white nationalists. This suggests that members of these hate groups are less educated, which means that education may be a powerful tool for fighting racism in America. Their research also indicates that white males in the lowest income group ($0-$29,000) are more likely to have a strong sense of white identity and solidarity. The research by IFS also shows that while a large chunk of white nationalists are 65 and older, there is not a huge age gap; this means that the amount of white nationalists across age groups is fairly uniform, and it can be inferred that children of white supremacists are being taught white pride ideologies by their parents.

The reason why people get involved with white supremacist groups is not exactly clear-cut. The attitude carried by members of these groups is one of superiority. Often these extremists have a strong sense of white identity, as well as a sense of white victimization for fear that they will one day no longer be the majority. According to the US Census Bureau, all racial and ethnic minorities are growing faster than whites here in America. By 2044, it is projected that the white non-Hispanic population will no longer be the majority. With that looming fact, there should be no surprise that white nationalists are coming out of the cracks to regain a sense of power. Other reasons for people becoming white nationalists can include a desire to feel significant, a need to blame their lack of success on another race, and of course, a sense of belonging among their white nationalist group members. These reasons seem to overlap with reasons why young men would join a gang, and to put it bluntly: white supremacist groups in America ARE gangs However, without the threat of police violence looming over them, gangs of white supremacists feel brave and emboldened enough to march our nation’s capitol with their faces exposed, and the names of their family business proudly emblazoned on their clothes. This boldness is what we, as American citizens, have to worry about. Members of white nationalist groups have a skewed view of the world, in which they are the biggest victims in society. With that mentality, we cannot be sure what they are capable of carrying out in order to give themselves a sense of significance and power. With hate crimes on the rise over the past decade, it is clear that more effort must be put forth to put a stop to the spread of white nationalism in the U.S.

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