University of Vermont Professor Robert S. Griffin Offers Defense of White Nationalism
With his two latest books, an academic at the liberal University of Vermont offers a full-throated defense of white nationalism.
by T.K. Kim
One Sheaf, One Vine: Racially Conscious White Americans Talk About Race
By Robert S. Griffin
Bloomington, Ind.: 1st Books Library, 2004, $12.50
Living White: Writings on Race, 2000-20005
By Robert S. Griffin
Bloomington, Ind.: Authorhouse, 2005, $18.49
On a fall day in 1997, Robert S. Griffin, a tenured professor at the University of Vermont, drove up a dirt road outside a remote town in West Virginia to meet the man who inspired Timothy McVeigh. That man was William Pierce, then head of the neo-Nazi National Alliance and author of The Turner Diaries, an apocalyptic race war fantasy that McVeigh used as a partial blueprint for the Oklahoma City bombing.
Griffin spent a month at the National Alliance compound, interviewing Pierce for his 2000 biography of the neo-Nazi leader, The Fame of a Dead Man's Deeds. In it, Griffin allowed Pierce to present an almost entirely one-sided justification of his racist beliefs. The National Alliance isn't a violent hate group, Pierce explained; it's a group "dedicated to the welfare and progress of our people." Griffin portrayed Pierce more as a scholarly guardian of European cultural heritage than a racist advocate of mass murder who once said that Jews should be herded into "10,000 railroad cattle cars" and sent to the bottom of an abandoned coal mine.
The kid-glove treatment of Pierce made Griffin a hero to white racists. It also raised the question of why a seemingly respectable professor would write a book so blatantly uncritical of a notorious figure like Pierce. Many critics openly wondered if Griffin himself was a closeted white nationalist.
In interviews after the biography was released, Griffin utterly dismissed the possibility. "I am simply a conduit," Griffin told the Village Voice in 2000. "If you want to see what he says, where he comes from, here it is. Do I agree with him? No."
Now, in the aftermath of Pierce's 2002 death, Griffin revisits the well of what he terms "racial consciousness" with One Sheaf, One Vine, a 2004 collection of interviews with white nationalists across the country, and Living White, a 2005 collection of excerpts from both Dead Man's Deeds and One Sheaf, One Vine, plus additional essays on white supremacy.
In his latest self-published literary offerings, Griffin drops any pretense about his true motivations. He writes in Living White that while he cares about black people and the wellbeing of "everyone living on this planet," the book is "about white people, and it is for white people."
The chapters that follow contain Griffin's essays on white identity and the insights he has derived from his "research," which apparently consisted of his time with Pierce, who he calls "the brightest person I've ever been around," and numerous interviews with other "racially conscious" white Americans.
A self-described former libertarian, Griffin spends the bulk of the first few chapters of Living White detailing his gradual journey into becoming a white nationalist as he met with hundreds of supportive white racists after his biography of Pierce was published. It was a time, Griffin says, when he was struggling to come to terms with his own racism.
"I had the gnawing sense in those years that I wasn't living consistently enough with the person I truly am," Griffin writes. "I wanted to live my life, and I wanted to be happier than I was."
Griffin relates that although he grew up in Minnesota, many of his relatives resided in rural Georgia, where his father was from. He recalls how his father was the victim of ridicule in the north because of southern stereotypes.
As Griffin tells it in his book, when he finally visited his relatives in Georgia after college, he discovered that white southerners are in reality "decent" and "good" people. In Living White, he draws a direct parallel between the way in which elitist northerners denigrate white southerners and his perception of how mainstream society demonizes white nationalists, who he argues are also decent and good.
"Now I realize that I was taught by many sources, including my teachers, to have disdain for my own," he writes. "I have found it increasingly remarkable that advocates for white people, and even people who speak of whites without denigrating them, are viewed by other whites as illicit, and even more, scary."
As the essays in Living White proceed, Griffin's admiration of white supremacist groups becomes more and more open. In one essay, he criticizes Carol Swain, the black author of a book called The New White Nationalism in America: Its Challenges to Integration. He attempts to undermine Swain's ideas -- which include her dubious advocacy of opening a dialogue with the white supremacist right -- by defending the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC), a hate group formerly run by Matt Hale, now serving 40 years in federal prison for soliciting the murder of a federal judge.
"Matt Hale says that the Church of the Creator does not welcome people who are irresponsible, and that college students are the bulwarks of his organization," Griffin states. "Swain doesn't expend any energy taking on that."
Of course, Griffin fails himself to expend any energy taking on Hale's claims about WCOTC members. He glaringly omits any mention of Benjamin Smith, who was extremely close to Hale and who in 1999 went on a shooting spree aimed at Jews and non-whites that left two dead and nine wounded. Smith shot himself in the head as police closed in.
Instead, Griffin spends a great deal of time describing how the mass media oppresses white nationalists.
Griffin's persecution complex similarly serves as the backdrop for One Sheaf, One Vine, which features one white nationalist after another expounding upon his or her perceived oppression by mainstream society, and particularly by Jewish-controlled media outlets and institutions.
The interview subjects speak at length about how they have been made to feel guilty and inferior for being white and how being white has become a detriment in today's multicultural society. They include a former newspaper reporter who complains that he was unfairly passed over for positions because of affirmative action policies and a college student at the University of Texas who blames the media as the indirect cause of the rape of one of her white friends by a black man.
"From that experience, it wasn't that I learned that all blacks are bad," the woman says. "What I learned is that this culture and the media and everything inhibit your instincts and your common sense to where you don't want to say, 'No, Casey, going off with a carload of black guys is not a good idea.'"
The centerpiece of the book is a chapter titled "News Without Jews," which revolves around an interview with Alex Linder, the operator of the virulently racist Web site, Vanguard News Network. The notion of a Jewish boogeyman is on full display as Griffin provides Linder with an unfettered venue to explain his racist roots and vent about mainstream news outlets like Newsweek, which Linder describes as "just Jews lying about reality and I hate people who lie about reality."
Linder repeatedly plugs his Web sites and makes bold proclamations such as, "We aim to destroy Jewish control of the United States." Jews, he adds, are fighting "us as a race and most people aren't conscious of that."
Just as he failed to challenge Pierce, Griffin makes no attempt to challenge those he profiles in One Sheaf, One Vine. The book more or less devolves into a 162-page forum for racists to moan about how difficult their lives are and how they are being oppressed.
Both Living White and One Sheaf, One Vine are blatant attempts to present white supremacists in a sympathetic light as a way to bolster arguments against a multicultural society. Griffin's true colors are now on full display.