title: The New White Nationalism in America: It’s Challenge to Integration
author: Carol M. Swain
publisher: Cambridge University Press
publisher: Cambridge University Press
Hi out there in the cybernet, I borrowed The New White Nationalism in America: Its Challenge to Integration from Robarts Library at the University of Toronto.
Carol M. Swain is an African-American professor of law at Vanderbilt University who has written a number of books about issues pertaining to race and class in the United States. The New White Nationalism is a major book of analysis of the subculture of white supremacists and their struggle for legitimacy in American political discourse. The other major recent book that focuses on this subject matter is Blood and Politics by Leonard Zeskind, a heavy book that surveys the history of the American white power scene. Swain’s text is not a history, but rather a detailed analysis of the White Nationalist movement as a subset of the overall white power subculture. Swain describes the movement's rhetoric, their methods of disseminating their ideas, and the socio-political conditions that underscore their activity and lend them appeal.
The first section of Swain’s text is fairly up to date in its detail regarding the white nationalist scene, noting such relatively recent entries into the movement as the American Renaissance website and magazine (which made headlines recently due to it being favorite source of information for Jared Lee Loughner, the man who shot Senator Gabrielle Gifford and killed a number of bystanders at a Safeway parking lot in Tucson AZ in January 2011). Swain’s survey of the scene and the varieties of White Nationalist rhetoric is remarkable now, as that movement has experienced considerable growth since Obama ascended to the US presidency. Swain’s studies focused on the movement as it existed and developed through the 1990’s, and what is noteworthy to a 2011 reader of her text is that much of the ideas she attributes to these extremists are easily found, albeit in the form of more temperate rhetoric, in mainstream cable news.
This drift - from the cultural margins to the centre - of nativist and white supremacist ideas, has its roots in some of the shifts that marked the ‘NEW’ White Nationalism Swain identifies in her work. Such changes included the alterations the media savvy, ex-KKK leader, David Duke made in his public image during the 1980s and 90s. Duke progressed towards becoming a mainstream political figure by softening his racist rhetoric to be palatable for more politically moderate audiences. Duke was the vanguard of a sector of the white power scene that eased off the use of violent and apocalyptic language without divesting itself of its racist ideals. Furthermore, the New White Nationalists invested much of their energy on challenging Affirmative Action, a contentious government program that even many moderate whites feel is a government mandated form of “reverse” discrimination. The entire second part of Swain’s text is devoted to discussing popular, and White Nationalist, views towards Affirmative Action, and to analyzing the effects of the program during the 1990s. Swain acknowledges that the program is, indeed, problematic and aspects of it should be reconsidered especially when it is a key issue in garnering support for the White Nationalist cause.
Swain’s text is varied in its presentation of details regarding her subject matter. She includes transcripts of interviews conducted with White Power leaders, and even includes many of her own memories and reflections throughout her text, punctuating her chapters with anecdotes during which she recalls confronting an issue of race. Much of the final section of her text, titled ‘Remedies’ is a discussion of how she believes that religion has the potential to heal the rift between races. While this may sound somewhat naive as a solution, Swain presents some insightful arguments in favour of her position and, unlike many of her subjects of study, she is not a zealot. Swain presents a vision of religion induced racial harmony as a possible pathway to improvement that may be combined with other possible solutions.
The information Swain presents in The New White Nationalism in America is accompanied by a number of charts and diagrams representing statistics such as the numbers pertaining to hate groups. The book also contains a number of appendices containing statistical analysis of college enrollment by race in the United States or arguments pertaining to issues such as hate crime legislation or reparations for slavery. Finally the text ends with the kind of structured bibliography I am most fond of, where sources are listed by type, and books are listed separately from journal articles, and from interviews. Swain’s text is notable for treating White Nationalism as a serious, ongoing social presence, and not as an odd vestige of a white supremacist past, or as a strange fringe movement. The New White Nationalism is an excellent resource in the study of the contemporary racist radical right-wing in the United States.