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The “Soft” White Nationalism of De Facto Segregation

June 6, 2019

NYTimes columnist Charles Blow wrote a powerful op ed piece in today’s paper titled “It’s All Rooted in White Panic”. The premise of the article is summarized in these two paragraphs:

Everything that has happened during recent years is all about one thing: fear by white people that they will inevitably lose their numerical advantage in this country; and with that loss comes an alteration of American culture and shifting of American power away from white dominance and white control. White people don’t want to become one of many minority groups in America and have others — possibly from Asia, Latin America, Africa or the Middle East — holding the reins of power, and dictating inclusion and equity.

This is manifested in every issue you can imagine: the Confederate monuments fight, opposition to Black Lives Matter, intransigence on gun control, voter suppression laws, the Muslim ban, the hard line on asylum seekers coming across the southern border, calls to abolish the visa lottery, the defaming of majority black countries, efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade, the addition of a census question that could cause an undercount of Hispanics, the stacking of the courts with far-right judges (the vast majority of whom are white men). You name it, each issue is laced the white panic about displacement.

Later in the essay, Mr. Blow writes about “soft” white nationalists, who he describes as using “…stigmas and statutes as their weapons, those who have convinced themselves that their motivations have nothing to do with American racism and everything to do with American culture.” The phrase “‘soft’ white nationalists” resonated with me, and led me to leave this comment:

“Soft” white nationalism has been with us for decades. How else can one explain the persistent segregation in housing patterns, the resultant segregation of schools, and the resultant divide in incomes between people of color and whites?

The “individual fruits of the poison tree” come from the root reality that many whites have no contact with people of color and see them only through the lens of the news they watch and read. One of the benefits of racial and economic integration is that we get to know each other better on an individual level and gain an appreciation for each other’s challenges. As long as the “soft” white nationalism of de facto segregation remains in place we will continue to struggle with mutual understanding and racism will persist.


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