Left: NSM members at the October 15 rally; photo by historymike
There has been a visible resurgence this year in the number of racist groups making a bid for power, and I believe that this portends a disturbing trend in American politics. 2005 may become known, among other things, as the “Year of the Racist Right.”
One of the most active groups has been the National Socialist Movement (NSM), which has staged rallies in Yorktown, VA as well as two in Toledo, OH. The first Toledo rally, which was cancelled when police began to lose control of the crowd, resulted in a four-hour riot. The second rally, on December 10, saw a force of 700 officers from local, state, and federal police agencies crack down on protesters; nearly three dozen anti-racist activists were arrested.
The racist right often finds a local disturbance as a means of invading an area. A November 19 rally in Kingston, NY was called by Internet white power podcaster Hal Turner after a black teen assaulted a white teen at the local high school. The first Toledo NSM rally has its origins in a dispute between two neighbors over garbage and graffiti.
Turner’s show has repeatedly advertised an imaginary product called the “Portable Nigger Lyncher.” Here is the text of the parody ad that Turner ran:
“Does the community where you live tend to be getting darker and darker? Are you looking for an evening of entertainment with your friends and family? Well, folks, this is the answer to your prayers. The one and only PNL — Portable Nigger Lyncher. Complete with two ropes and custom hand-tied nooses.”
2005 was also the year that the Minuteman Project was launched, and many people fear that the “Internal Vigilance Operations” and “Civil Defense Corps” will degenerate into vigilante forces of racists and neo-Nazis.
On December 15 US House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) introduced anti-immigrant legislation that would categorize as felons the entire undocumented population; this figure also includes 1.6 million children. The House Judiciary Committee is also debating the efficacy of constructing a border fence in parts of Texas, California, Arizona, and New Mexico to stem the flow of migrant laborers.
One of the ironies of the white supremacist movement is that its extremist members make “traditional” conservatives seem more palatable. More than a few pundits have suggested that money links exist between mainstream conservative groups and the racist extremists; at any rate, the growth of the racist right certainly cannot hurt the GOP.
Finally, as a historian I am always drawn to parallels between the present and the past. Today’s growing white power movement has eerie similarities with the growth of Hitler’s Sturmabteilung (SA), and the fears of terrorism among Americans make the possibility of a domestic vigilante force seem all the more plausible.
This essay also appears on the Clamor magazine website.