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White nationalism: an economic dead-end

Melvin B. Miller | 8/24/2017, 6 a.m.
The spirit of America rests in the credo of the Declaration of Independence. The white nationalists reject that standard. Americans ...
“Well, I could join the white nationalists, but it wouldn’t help me to get ahead.” Photo by Dan Drew

On July 4, 1776, 56 delegates to the Continental Congress assembled and signed the Declaration of Independence that separated the colonial states from England. They thereby consented to the decree that makes America an “exceptional” nation — “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Nonetheless, 41 of the 56 delegates owned slaves and intended to continue to do so. One wonders what similar economic advantage white supremacists gain from their racial hostility.

The Founding Fathers could certainly see the benefit of being independent and free of subjugation by the British. Having had their fill of the taxes imposed by King George III, after the war of liberation the delegates to the Continental Congress reconvened in 1787 to establish a constitution requiring democratic elections and establishing three independent branches of government — legislative, judiciary and executive. That constitution was ratified in 1788 and it still exists today, along with its amendments.

While most Americans are committed today to democracy, one citizen one vote, that was not always the case. The Founding Fathers had no intention of giving everyone the vote. Only white men who were substantial property owners had the franchise. Slaves did not get the right to vote until the 15th Amendment was ratified in 1870, two years after the 14th Amendment gave them the right of citizenship. Women could not vote until the 19th Amendment in 1920.

Even though blacks had the right to vote since 1870, there was no way that the states of the former Confederacy would allow it and lose political control. At the time of the Civil War, slaves constituted 55 percent of the total population of Mississippi and 57 percent of South Carolina. The battle for voting rights continued until passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and efforts to end subtle restrictions continue.

A brief review of the nation’s racial oppression provides some understanding of what American white supremacy organizations fear they will lose. Undoubtedly one of the concerns of the white supremacists is that they believe they own America, but the U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2044, only 27 years away, the majority population of the country will not be white.

When the nation was established, the Founding Fathers had at risk the free labor provided by slaves. When they could not secure that economic advantage they were willing to initiate the Civil War. Today’s neo-segregationists have no benefit to secure of equivalent value to free labor, but the so-called “white privilege” that they have long enjoyed is at risk.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race in employment, education and places of public accommodation. The stagnation of wages over the past decades, even with a rising cost of living, has made working-class whites feel like they are losing ground. The advancement of some blacks in these challenging times has irritated some whites about the prospect of their financial decline in the race for success. Victory for whites was supposed to be assured by white privilege.

The spirit of America rests in the credo of the Declaration of Independence. The white nationalists reject that standard. Americans who abide by the vision of national unity must be prepared to oppose those who bring nothing more than their racial and religious hate and hostility.