“White Nationalism”? In the United States? Really?

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White Nationalists

Steve King’s most recent fit of stupidity, in conjunction with an overtly white nationalist president, have brought more attention than usual to the idea of “white nationalism.”

We need to define our terms. “White” in this context apparently usually means, in the United States, persons who are phenotypically, and therefore presumptively genetically, mostly descended from persons who came here from Europe, as distinct primarily from two other groups, either those whose ancestors had lived here for thousands of years before Christians invaded from Europe, people we call “Native Americans,” or those whose ancestors came here from Africa as slaves, or “African Americans.”

These definitions contain within them strong suggestions for why, in the United States, the concept of “white nationalism” is a bad joke. To begin, again, people who do not count as “white” had been living in “the Americas” for thousands of years before any “white” people showed up. The white people could only make claims to land in “the Americas” by shoving the Natives who were already here aside, whether by disease or firepower matters little.

No moral justification of the European invasion of “the Americas” is possible. Christians like to offer the idea of converting the poor, benighted Natives to Christianity, but that logic only works if one is the sort of Christian who is willing to accept the practice of forcing religion onto people who are at best uninterested, at worst, unwilling. That there are plenty of such Christians around lends the position zero moral force. “White nationalism” must rest, then, on the brute claim that might makes right. Might is certainly why any “white” person in the United States can live at all comfortably where s/he does now, but it is still a claim that has zero moral credibility.

As an aside, let us note that this means that “white nationalism” is only possible, in “the Americas,” because of Christianity.

Not long after Christians invaded “the Americas,” they began to import Africans as forced labor, as slaves. The English were the champs at early European colonization of “North America” and quickly adopted the practice of buying Africans as slaves. Slavery existed in the United States from 1619, well before the founding of the republic, until 1865, when we finally abolished it after what is still the most deadly war for U.S. citizens we have ever engaged in.

Need one say that slavery, like stealing land from Natives, will admit of no moral justification. Slavery in the United States existed mostly in what we now call “the South,” but it had its effects throughout the country, as the people at “the North” made their livings providing naval stores and services such as banking and insurance to the participants in the slave trade and the trade in the agricultural commodities the slaves’ labor produced, reaping large fortunes for their owners, none of which inured to the slaves, need one point out.

So the United States consists of land stolen from Natives and made valuable by slave labor.

And you want to claim “white nationalism”? As a hypothetical, let’s posit a “North America” that was devoid of inhabitants when the English showed up, free for the taking without depriving any existing inhabitants of anything. Let us further posit that those English settlers had never purchased a single African slave. Some political entity roughly corresponding to the modern United States might still exist here, but it likely would have far less wealth as the result of having to rely entirely on the labor of Englishmen and whatever other European immigrants chose to show up.

In that case, of course, there would be no need for “white nationalism” because there would never have been any need to create “white” people. “White people” is just a pathetic prop for people who have nothing better to be proud of, so they have to lean on the supposed superiority of their skin color, which is a slender reed indeed.

“White nationalism” in the United States is just a bad joke.

Written by

Uppity gay, Buddhist, author, historian.

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