The Alarming Rise of White Supremacy in America
The violence in Charlottesville didn’t originate in a vacuum.
Are American Jews controlling and manipulating non-white people in order to bring about the extinction of white America? The very question is ludicrous, yet for a growing number of Americans the answer to this offensive inquiry is – shockingly – a resounding yes.
Long noted by law enforcement officials, the rise of disparate groups of American neo-Nazis, white supremacists, white nationalists and other racist and anti-Semitic groups burst into public consciousness during the recent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Opposed to all minority groups in the US, these various haters seem to reserve special ire for Jews.
Thus, on Friday night, August 11, 2017, as Jews around the country were celebrating Shabbat, the University of Virginia witnessed a scene that could have come straight out of a 19th century pogrom. A motley group of neo-Nazis and white supremacists marched through the university’s campus waving torches and chanting “Jews will not replace us” and “blood and soil” (an English translation of the Nazi-era slogan “blut and boden”). Marchers carried banners with swastikas; one sign declared “Jews are Satan’s children”.
The next day, as white supremacists gathered in the city of Charlottesville, they chanted “Jew, Jew, Jew” and mocked Charlottesville’s Jewish mayor. Former KKK leader David Duke addressed a large crowd, warning “the American media, and the American political system, and the American Federal Reserve, is dominated by a tiny minority: the Jewish Zionist cause”.
Since 2014, the number of hate groups has increased 17%.
Several factors in recent years have contributed to this obsession with Jews among American extremists. One is the overall rise in the number of hate groups in the United States. Since 2014, the number of hate groups has increased 17%, to 917 hate organizations, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Another factor in the singling out of Jews among white supremacist is an evolution in some groups’ ideology. According to the Anti-Defamation League, in the past white supremacy in America was concerned with subjugating African Americans and other non-whites. Within the past generation, however, white supremacy in America has evolved into a philosophy of supposed white victimhood.
This was given chilling voice by white supremacist David Lane, who murdered the Jewish radio host Alan Burg in 1984: “We (white supremacists) must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” His alarmist slogan has become a rallying cry for white supremacists, recasting racism as an urgent campaign to save white children from Jews and other minorities.
James Fields Jr., who rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters in Charlottesville, killing Heather Heyer and injuring many, has been involved with a neo-Nazi group called Vanguard America. Its goal is to fight “the international Jew”. The month before the Charlottesville rally, this abhorrent group said, “Those behind the subversive elements eroding our culture often have something in common. Jewish influence is prevalent, invasive, dangerous.” Jason Kessler, who organized the Charlottesville rally, has opined that Jews escaped Nazi Germany in order to “erode Western values”.
According to the FBI, Jews are the number one target of religious hate crimes in the United States.
According to the FBI, Jews are the number one target of religious hate crimes in the United States. Over half of all hate crimes in America are committed against Jews. In 2014, the number was 57%. (In contrast, Muslims, long a target of racist hate crimes, suffered 16% of hate crimes that year.)
Even after the carnage in Charlottesville, far-right extremist groups are feeling newly emboldened. “We achieved all of our objectives” in Charlottesville, explained Matthew Heimbach, a founder of the neo-Nazi group Nationalist Front which tries to be an umbrella organization for far-right hate groups. “We showed that our movement is not just online, but growing physically. We asserted ourselves as the voice of white America. We had zero vehicles damaged, all our people accounted for, and moved a large amount of men and materials in and out of the area. I think we did an incredibly impressive job.”
Richard Spencer, the “Alt-Right” leader and one of the organizers of the rally, echoed his words: “We’re going to be back here and we’re going to humiliate all of these people who opposed us...We’ll be back here 100 times if necessary. I always win.”
Faced with this hatred and virulent anti-Semitism, what can ordinary citizens do? Here are four suggestions to help resist the increasing onslaught of extremist hate.
Speak out. It can feel awkward to talk about sensitive topics, but it’s crucial that we signal that hatred, bigotry and anti-Semitism are unacceptable. Elie Wiesel put this eloquently in his acceptance speech when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986: “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”
Form alliances. Reach out to other communities and groups who will support us and speak on our behalf. Support local community organizations that form bonds with others. Remember, we’re stronger when we stand together than when we’re alone.
Stay informed. Groups such as the Anti-Defamation League and other human rights organizations can help you stay abreast of what’s happening in your community and can offer ways to get involved locally to help combat hate.
Strengthen your own Jewish identity today. Sign up for a class at your local synagogue or JCC, commit to taking on a piece of Jewish observance, reach out to other people in your local Jewish community. The best answer to those who hate us is to be proud of who we are. As some people battle to weaken America’s Jews, let’s stand up and wear our Jewishness with pride, building ever more vibrant, thriving Jewish communities. This isn’t something anyone else can do for us: it has to start with each one of us.