October 2017

Mapping White Supremacy

The road to Charlottesville is a mighty traffic circle—at once our future and our past. It has a driveway into every home—an entryway into every American life. The goal of this issue is to map its ideological and physical expanse. In so doing, we hope to close some lanes or, at the very least, to make a few potholes.

The road to Charlottesville is a superhighway. Like the Beltway that circles our nation’s capital, it is packed with travellers, filled to the point of gridlock. It runs by the Washington Monument, through the Jefferson Memorial, and yes, even into the lap of the Great Emancipator. It is clogged with people like you and me who produce a smog that filters the world around us through the logic of white supremacy.

The road to Charlottesville is a mighty traffic circle—at once our future and our past. It has a driveway into every home—an entryway into every American life. The goal of this issue is to map its ideological and physical expanse. In so doing, we hope to close some lanes or, at the very least, to make a few potholes.

Our “Road to Charlottesville” issue examines the many facets of white supremacy in the United States. It looks at local expressions of racism from Texas to Maine. Time and again, white supremacists have had the ear of local officials. Often, as Packer and Dotson remind us, they have even worn a badge and wielded the gavel, making a mockery of justice in the name of power. The strength of white supremacy lies at this local level, which gives it the flexibility to apply force broadly while denying incidents of white supremacist violence as the product of “bad apples.”

Screenshot (253)
Each dot on the map represents a local expression of white supremacy featured in this issue. You can access the an interactive version here.

Yet white supremacy is much more than a system of locally applied force. It is also a superstructure of ideas providing ready explanations for the uncertainty of lived experience. These ideas oppose Catholics and radicals—anyone who might offer a vision of the world contrary to white power. Even DNA results showing “nonwhite” ancestry are subject to white supremacist explanation and revision. White supremacists at once adopt the banner of “moderates” while rejecting any semblance of equality as anti-white oppression. In a complicated and oft-frightening world, white supremacy offers simplicity and the veneer of in-group security.

In short, through a white-pandering politics and ideology, white supremacists have long rigged our system to their benefit.

Important works by Kusz, Sciullo, and Huber look at the cultural structures enabling white supremacy and attempt to envision a world beyond these forces. Huber, in particular, imagines that sound teaching methods might go a long way towards minimizing the appeal of racism. While historians and activists might note that this is exactly what white supremacists have worked to prevent for more than 150 years, Huber’s essay represents an important reminder that we have the tools we need to defeat racist pedagogies. These struggles over teaching methods and course content are not petty distractions. They are an essential plane of the struggle.

We hope the essays below help facilitate conversations about the ways in which white supremacy touches each of our communities as well as the language we use to describe ourselves and our aspirations. As Americans, racism is embedded in our national fabric, but maybe it doesn’t need to be. Maybe we can tear the garb of inequality and weave together a truly egalitarian garment from the frayed strands. It is, at least, a worthy goal.

Week 1: White Supremacists Down The Street Part 1

Ansley Quiros, “The Road to Charlottesville Runs Through Americus, Georgia”

David Rotenstein, “A 2002 Documentary that Whitewashes History Gets a New Coat in 2017”

Tyler Cline, “Labor Radicalism and Repression in the Woods of Maine”

Week 2: Who’s a Terrorist?: Whiteness and the State

Adrienne Chudzinski, “Labeling Terrorism: Public Responses to Racial Violence”

Tiffany G.B. Packer, Ph.D., “White Supremacist Violence from Greensboro to Charlottesville”

Dr. Lee Bebout and Kenneth Ladenburg, “Nobody’s a Nazi, or Denying Everyday White Supremacy and the Dangerous Lesson of Charlottesville”

Mid-Week 3: White Supremacists Down The Street Part 2

Rhys Dotson, “Hate Behind the Pine Curtain”

Alonzo Ward, “White Backlash in the Land of Lincoln: The Civil War Years”

Week 3: Recruiting Nazis and White Identity

Elodie Grossi, “Hate in the Blood: White Supremacists’ Use of DNA Ancestry Tests”

Sabrina Pischer, “Confederate Pepe: Remembering Confederacy in the Digital Age”

Kyle Kusz, “The Road to Charlottesville: The Role of Popular Culture in Priming Young White Men for the White Right”

Mid-Week 4: Confronting Pedagogies of White Power

Hannah Greene, “Review: Hitler’s American Model”

Nick Sciullo, “True News Moved Us Toward Charlottesville”

Liz Muñoz Huber, “Whose Heritage?: Building Understanding Through Better Teaching”

Week 4: Remembering White Supremacy

Matthew Mace Barbee, “White Supremacy and the Landscapes of Memory in Richmond, Virginia in the 1960s”

Ben Railton, “Segregated Cville”

Maarten Zwiers, “From Traitor to Martyr: Robert E. Lee and the Myth of White Victimhood”

* * *

We here at The Activist History Review are always working to expand and develop our mission, vision, and goals for the future. These efforts sometimes necessitate a budget slightly larger than our own pockets. If you have enjoyed reading the content we host here on the site, please consider donating to our cause.

William Horne, Executive Editor of The Activist History Review, is a PhD candidate at The George Washington University researching the relationship of race to labor, freedom, and capitalism in post-Civil War Louisiana. His research interests include systems of power revolving around concepts of race, labor, incarceration, capitalism, and the state. He is a former high school teacher, barista, and warehouse worker and is an avid home gardener. His dissertation, “Carceral State: Baton Rouge and its Plantation Environs Across Emancipation,” examines the ways in which white supremacy and capitalism each depended on restricting black freedom in the aftermath of slavery. He can be followed on Twitter at @wihorne.

2 comments on “Mapping White Supremacy

  1. Pingback: The Year Since the Election: A Retrospective Series – The Activist History Review

  2. Pingback: How We Remember War: A Veterans Day Special Issue – The Activist History Review

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