Print This Post
For almost 30 years, Leonard Zeskind has been researching and writing about the white nationalist movement in America. After years of working in heavy industry and simultaneously organizing white workers and youths against racism, Zeskind in 1985 became the research director of the National Anti-Klan Network, an Atlanta-based organization that was later renamed the Center for Democratic Renewal, where he worked to battle a resurgence of the Klan and white nationalism generally. In the years since then, he has continued researching as an independent scholar whose work has been recognized with a 1998 “genius” fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and several other awards. Sixteen years ago, Zeskind began work on what became an authoritative book on the last 30 years of the white nationalist movement. On May 19, the book — Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream — was published to good reviews. Not long before publication, Zeskind sat down with Hatewatch to discuss some of the views he has developed over the course of a lifetime observing the American radical right.
You’ve spent decades doing anti-racist work and tracking the white nationalist movement. How did you get started in this, Lenny?
While I was studying in a bar mitzvah class, we read Black Like Me [a 1961 book by John Howard Griffin detailing his harrowing experiences as a white man disguised as a black man], and the local NAACP president spoke at the synagogue the Friday before my bar mitzvah. So it was part of my life in the Jewish community.
Eventually, I came to understand that white people needed to address the problem of racism in other white people. So I got involved in trying to organize the younger white people in the working-class neighborhood I was living in. I spent 13 years in heavy industry, working as a grassroots organizer.
I started paying attention to the resurgence of white supremacist activity in the 1970s, around ’77, ’78. I started reading racist publications and helped put out a little magazine with a small group in Kansas City starting in 1982. But the real moment of transformation for me was in 1984 when I found a picture of Bob Weems as chairman of the Populist Party [a far-right party started by anti-Semite Willis Carto and others that year]; at the same time, I was looking at another picture of Weems leading a meeting of the Klan. The following year, I became a paid professional in the field [at the Anti-Klan Network], rather than an unpaid volunteer.
Before we get into some of the details, how is your book different than others that have traced much of the same history?
I tried to write about the white nationalist world as a movement in which the organizations meant less as individual organizations and more as springboards for the interaction of all these groups’ different tendencies and ideologies. I tried to describe how the movement developed a political identity and self-consciousness. To the extent that it does that, it grows.
One of the things that became evident to me is that much of the language and many of the concepts we tend to use have lost whatever analytical power they once had. One idea that isn’t helpful is the untested assumption that economic distress, direct and unmediated, drives the tendency towards racism and white supremacist organizing. If you look at the votes [former Klan leader] David Duke got in 1990 and 1991, they came from ordinary middle-class white people — not just those who were the most poverty-stricken. More, the concepts of left and right have lost a lot of their explanatory power. Who’s on the left, who’s on the right, in Russia and Eastern Europe today? I can’t tell. ( continue to full post… )
Print This Post
The apple may have fallen quite far from the tree in the case of notorious South African white supremacist Arthur Kemp, who in recent years has become a key transnational player in both the far-right British National Party (BNP) and the neo-Nazi National Alliance in the U.S.
Someone identifying himself as Kemp’s 16-year-old son, using the moniker “Stephan Kemp,” has been taking the elder Kemp to task for being a “racist ass” and a lousy father on the anti-hate blog Lancaster United (motto: “taking on the BNP and the other riff-raff on the far-right”).
The first comment from Stephan Kemp appeared last September, relevant to an article on the controversy that erupted when the BNP began recommending its members read Kemp’s pseudo-history tome, March of the Titans: A History of the White Race. At grueling length, the book claims to document the history of “white race” from 35,000 B.C. through the 20th century, and credits whites with virtually all cultural and scientific advances, anywhere, ever.
A cozy bedtime story it’s not. Hence Stephan Kemp’s complaint:
“I remember almost every night when we would ask for a bedtime story (when most NORMAL fathers would read their children a normal book) he [Arthur Kemp] would instead tell us stories about how the white race was all supreme and then read us chapters from his horrible book “March of the White Titans” [sic]. Well, Dad, if you ever read this or even hear about it I just wanted to let you know that I HATE YOU!! You have no idea what I went through at school because of you, you twisted my mind and made my entire childhood a horrible misery. You will never understand what you have done to me.” ( continue to full post… )
Print This Post
Kyle Bristow, the former chairman of the Michigan State University chapter of Young Americans For Freedom, is no stranger to erratic behavior. But the MSU junior exhibited a particularly strange emotional schism last week, rhapsodizing about bald eagles one minute, and then branding the national leaders of YAF “cowards” the next.
Bristow’s wild mood swings began last Sunday, February 24, when he announced that he was resigning his MSU-YAF post in a rambling and egomaniacal, but generally upbeat letter that concluded with Bristow graciously “passing the torch of freedom to the next generation of YAF leaders.” Then, on Thursday, February 28—the day after YAF founder William F. Buckley died—Bristow published a bitter screed on the website of the racist magazine American Renaissance. It was titled, “Why Jared Taylor Cannot Speak at MSU.” ( continue to full post… )
Print This Post
Nick Griffin (right), the head of the whites-only British National Party (BNP), will speak on three American college campuses in late October. That news comes courtesy of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a U.S. hate group that has described blacks as “a retrograde species of humanity.”
Griffin, whose white supremacist party angrily opposes immigration and especially Muslim immigration, will speak at Clemson University on Oct. 24, Texas A&M on Oct. 25, and Michigan State University on Oct. 26. According to the anti-racist YAF Watch blog, the Michigan State chapter of Young Americans for Freedom is sponsoring Griffin’s visit to MSU. The Southern Poverty Law Center lists the MSU chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, which has also hosted other extremist speakers, as a hate group. It is unclear which campus organizations are sponsoring Griffin’s lectures at Clemson and Texas A&M. ( continue to full post… )
Print This Post
In recent years, globetrotting white supremacist financier and organizer Preston Wiginton has appeared at racist skinhead gatherings (he won a “strongest skinhead” contest at Hammerfest in 2005); co-sponsored lectures with hate groups like the Council of Conservative Citizens and the Michigan State University chapter of Young Americans for Freedom; rallied racist skinheads in Russia (where he lives part of the year in an apartment rented from ex-Klan boss David Duke); and been denied entry to the UK to address a festival put on by the neo-fascist British National Party. ( continue to full post… )
Print This Post
Notorious South African white supremacist Arthur Kemp has added a new project to his portfolio of transnational activism. In addition to writing for white supremacist publications and running a prominent website for British racists, he has opened an online bookstore featuring reprints of previously impossible-to-find racist tracts from times gone by.
According to its website, Ostara Publications (which Kemp founded in 1999 as a means of distributing his own white supremacist screeds) was “developed in response to anti-white discrimination the world over” and “intends to be the world’s primary Eurocentric resource.” ( continue to full post… )
Print This Post
Saul Anuzis, leader of the Michigan GOP until last year, announced earlier this week that he would be challenging Michael Steele for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee (RNC). Anuzis had made a failed but significant run against Steele, the party’s first black leader, for the same post in 2009.
Writing about his hopes for the RNC, Anuzis, an avid Twitter user and blogger, especially emphasized his tech-savviness at online social networking as an asset for making electoral gains for the party. What Anuzis didn’t mention was the kind of contacts he cultivated offline in Michigan, in particular his vocal support of the right-wing extremist Kyle Bristow. Bristow led the Michigan State University campus branch of Young Americans For Freedom (MSU-YAF) and was so virulent in his politics that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) began listing it as a hate group in 2006. Bristow also served as a Republican precinct delegate.
Bristow’s MSU-YAF engaged in extensive racist activities. One of its first stunts was presenting a 13-point agenda that would have established a “Caucasian caucus” at MSU and, in turn, eliminated all student government representation for practically every other non-white, non-heterosexual, non-male or non-Christian student group at the university. Bristow was on record saying, “Homosexuality kills people almost to a degree worse than cigarettes. … these [pro-gay rights] groups are complicit with murder.” MSU-YAF sponsored a “Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day” contest, held a “Koran Desecration” competition, jokingly threatened to distribute smallpox-infested blankets to Native American students, and posted “Gays Spread AIDS” fliers across campus. Bristow’s YAF also brought several extremists to speak at the MSU campus, including Holocaust denier Nick Griffin, leader of the whites-only British National Party (for more on YAF, read here). ( continue to full post… )
Print This Post
It should surprise no one that former hate group leader Kyle Bristow has self-published a white nationalist novel that features the graphic assassination of a character based on a prominent Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) figure. After all, Bristow has an ax to grind with the SPLC and first attained notoriety for promoting a video game centered on killing Mexicans.
What is somewhat surprising are some of the names that appear among the dozen gushing blurbs praising the violently racist novel, White Apocalypse. ( continue to full post… )
Print This Post
Fresh off American Renaissance’s embarrassing debacle last week in which it was forced to cancel its biannual confab of academic racists and other extremists, one of the white nationalist group’s members has proposed a solution that can circumvent nervous hoteliers in the future.
Chicago lawyer and American Renaissance member Reilly Smith, writing in the current issue of American Renaissance’s magazine, says that he and three others formed Chicagoland Friends of AR a few years ago, and he provides tips on how like-minded people who wish to be “free from the chains of racial orthodoxy” can do the same in their communities.
Smith’s piece was penned before American Renaissance was forced to cancel its three-day conference scheduled last weekend in Washington, D.C. when a hotel pulled the rug out from under its reservation. He sees American Renaissance clubs as supplementing, not replacing, the conferences that have been held since 1994. But in light of what happened last week, plus the troubles that have dogged other white supremacists trying to book hotel meeting rooms, Smith may have described the future of American Renaissance. ( continue to full post… )
Print This Post
According to an E-mail sent today and signed by Jared Taylor, head of the white nationalist American Renaissance, the group will not be holding its 2010 conference. The conferences are usually a major hit in white nationalist circles and feature as speakers prominent white supremacists, academic racists and other extremists from around the world.
In the past few weeks, anti-racist activists had already persuaded two Washington D.C.-area hotels to cancel their contracts with American Reniassance. Taylor’s E-mail claims that the third hotel scheduled to hold the event, the Four Points Sheraton at the Manassas Battlefield, cancelled because “Hostile callers phoned the hotel and threatened employees with death.” A hotel representative refused to speak on the record about what led to the cancellation but did verify to Hatewatch that the event was cancelled.
Meanwhile, one of the participants scheduled to speak at American Renaissance, Nick Griffin, who has denied the Holocaust and heads the racist British National Party, was disinvited from a speaking engagement at Kenyon College in Gambler, Ohio. Griffin was asked to speak at the campus by Taylor Somers, a student and head of the Robert A. Taft Society there.
Somers put out a statement apologizing profusely for the invite and thanking his fellow students for showing “we were on the wrong course.” Somers promised to “embark on a path of radical self-examination” and claimed “I’m not a bigot, fascist, or totalitarian, but rather, perhaps, more of a contrarian.” “The Taft Society will exercise better and more sensitive judgment with regard to who we bring to campus,” Somers promised.