The narrative about white supremacy is dangerous and the voices promoting it are getting louder. The issue even came up at President Joe Biden’s CNN town hall on Tuesday. As such, society must draw a very distinct box around the beliefs that characterize the white supremacist ideology. Let’s start with what white supremacy is. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) (emphasis mine):
White supremacy is a term used to characterize various belief systems central to which are one or more of the following key tenets: 1) whites should have dominance over people of other backgrounds, especially where they may co-exist; 2) whites should live by themselves in a whites-only society; 3) white people have their own “culture” that is superior to other cultures; 4) white people are genetically superior to other people. As a full-fledged ideology, white supremacy is far more encompassing than simple racism or bigotry.
Using this definition, here are several things white supremacy is not: It is not a belief in the principles of America’s founding documents. Nor is it a policy preference for lower immigration or a border wall that people of all races may share. It most certainly is not an animating feature of supporting President Donald Trump or believing that there were irregularities in the 2020 election. The further we get from the election, the more information we get that confirms prior suspicions. For example, an infamous Time article revealed “a conspiracy unfolding behind the scenes” to influence the election. The boasting of the players is astonishing, given the concerns so many Americans had already voiced.
Considering the fact that white supremacy, as defined above, is a horrific ideology that deserves universal scorn, this clip from the CNN town hall is more than unsettling. In an obviously scripted and pre-approved question, University of Wisconsin professor Joel Berkowitz mentions the January 6th riot at the Capitol, giving the obligatory declaration along the lines of “Orange Man Bad and so are his voters.” Then Berkowitz said he was concerned about ongoing threats to our country from white supremacists and conspiracies that align with white supremacy.
President Biden says White supremacists are the greatest domestic terror threat in the US: "It's complex, it's wide-ranging and it's real." #BidenTownHall https://t.co/P1CFPNzLBl pic.twitter.com/dygwnLuXe1
— CNN (@CNN) February 17, 2021
President Biden’s response was alarming for several reasons. First, he said he got involved in politics because of civil rights and opposition to the KKK. The Klu Klux Clan Act became law under President Ulysses S. Grant. By 1972 when Joe Biden entered office, the KKK had been decimated by consistent prosecution through the early 20th century, culminating during the civil rights movement. The same civil rights movement he lied about marching with during his 1987 campaign. The only members of the KKK Joe Biden likely ever met were in his own party in Congress, where, according to his own words, he worked with segregationists.
Biden said he didn’t want his children growing up in a “racial jungle” in debates about segregation and busing. In his speeches supporting the 1994 crime bill, he dismissed the idea that disadvantages future criminals face while they are growing up could excuse crimes, derided rehabilitation programs, and talked about a generation of “predators.” He was unapologetic and defended his support of the bill until after the riots this summer. The list of his most prominent racially insensitive comments since 2007 is too long to post. Biden’s interest in civil rights seems to be characterized by the soft bigotry of low expectations more than anything else.
Biden’s assertion that white supremacy is the most significant domestic terror threat and is “complex, wide-ranging and it’s real” relies on claims that are not in evidence. If this is true, every American deserves more information. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) claimed to track 124 white supremacist groups in 2020 but only identified 27 by location on its current map. That carries the potential for a few thousand adherents out of about 340 million Americans. Wide-ranging?
Nothing in this article excuses any of the groups listed or endorses their behavior, point of view, or activities. It clarifies their core beliefs. On the most comprehensive list I can find of people arrested at the Capitol riot, the coverage identified only four as white supremacists. Some are members of two specific militia groups monitored by the ADL. The ADL classifies the Oath Keepers as an anti-government group that will accept anyone, but that actively recruits former first responders and members of the military. The ADL characterizes the Three Percenters as a loose anti-government association that is not white supremacist, though it harbors anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments in some isolated groups. ADL also notes the group’s online presence has decreased significantly since 2016.
Several of those arrested after the Capitol riot were members of the Proud Boys. The ADL characterizes the Proud Boys’ ties to white supremacist groups specific to events where antifa is likely to counter-protest. The group seems to be a self-appointed security force that opposes Marxism and is willing to use violence to make the point. Much of their violent behavior has centered in the Pacific Northwest, where antifa is very active. The group has essentially splintered and dissolved after the Capitol riot when it came to light that its leader was once an FBI informant.
The vast majority of those arrested after the Capitol riot seem like regular Americans with jobs, businesses, and families who got caught up in the emotion of the moment. Many apologized or expressed shame in press reports. Media coverage identified some of them as followers of QAnon. The best I can tell, the people who followed Q fell victim to a disinformation operation run by someone with knowledge of the government and how it works. Q took advantage of gaps in real stories — like Jeffery Epstein’s alleged sex-trafficking ring and all of his ties to wealthy and powerful people — to enthrall people in a grand conspiracy. A curious media would be more interested in who the supposed Q really was and what his or her motives were rather than in those who fell for it.
Anyone who still believes Q’s complete lies about “the plan” after the horrific events of the 6th needs help, not continued derision. You pull people out of a cult if you care. You don’t turn them into thought criminals and target them.
Biden also made a most unbelievable and unconscionable comment:
And you see what’s happening in the studies that are beginning to be done, maybe at your university as well, about the impact of former military, former police officers, on the growth of white supremacy in some of these groups.
That’s a counterproductive way to promote unity and healing. It is also some amazing rhetoric from the leader of the party that chided Republicans for not caring about law enforcement after the riot. The party that turned Officer Brian Sicknick’s death into a PR event, even though the story that a rioter beat him to death with a fire extinguisher has been debunked. It is not even clear he died in the line of duty on the 6th.
Now, President Biden is throwing suspicion on the people who secure our communities and defend our liberty. You don’t just become a white supremacist upon leaving law enforcement or the military. One might add that both are very diverse organizations. Is this kind of accusation meant to divide them internally as well? Someone should ask President Biden to cite his sources. He should also be asked precisely what he is trying to accomplish. The broad application of a term like “white supremacy,” which everyone should narrowly define, is both dangerous and wrong. Americans of good conscience should demand the media and our political leaders stop it immediately.