The acceptance of colonization as inevitable does not exist in a moral vacuum. For many scholars, the question of colonization’s perceived inevitability may seem like a moot point: historians long ago demonstrated that the success of colonization was by no means guaranteed, and rehashing old arguments simply distracts us from less superficial explorations of the past. If we choose not to engage with public discussions of colonization’s perceived inevitability, however, we effectively allow a pillar of racial power in the United States to remain standing.
It might seem that memory and heritage have lost their power to excite political action and are no longer the medium through which white supremacy is asserted. Yet Lost Cause mythology has never gone away and maintains its firm grip on the thoughts and emotions of many white Americans.
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.
American exclusion and criminalization of non-white people proffered a blueprint to Nazis, who engaged intimately with it in the hopes of carrying it out to its logical extent: an openly racist legal system that systematically drove out the so-called racially decrepit to foster a pure Aryan state.
While white supremacists seek confirmation of their personal racial inheritance, they are often confronted with what they regard as deeply discrediting information, such as mixed-race ancestry. This new type of genetic information creates what we call a genetic stigma—a significant gap between the person’s prior conception of themselves and the way others in the broader community perceive them.