For many white supremacists, a black president might not be all that bad a thing. Others on the racist right disagree
With the nomination of Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate clinched, large sections of the white supremacist movement are adopting a surprising attitude: Electing America's first black president could be a very good thing.
It's not that the assortment of neo-Nazis, Klansmen, anti-Semites and others who make up this country's radical right have suddenly discovered that a man should be judged based on the content of his character, not his skin. On the contrary. A growing number of white supremacists, and even some of those who pass for intellectual leaders of their movement, think that a black man in the Oval Office would shock white America, possibly drive millions to their cause, and perhaps even set off a race war that, they hope, would ultimately end in Aryan victory.
"He will make things so bad for white people that hopefully they will finally realize how stupid they were for admiring these j------- all these years," "Darthvader" wrote on the neo-Nazi Vanguard News Network (VNN) web forum. "I believe in the motto 'Worse is Better' and Obama certainly fits that description." Another poster on the same thread this summer chimed in with this: "I hope Obama wins because in four years, white people just might be pissed off enough to actually do something. … White people aren't going to do a thing until their toys are taken away from them. So things have to be worse for things to be better."
"Oh man," enthused "Centimanus" on the white nationalist Stormfront website. "I am gleefully, sadistically looking forward to Obama as president. … It will be a beautiful day when the masses look at the paper and truly realize they have lost their own country." Added "Fulimnata": "To the average white man and woman, they could look at Obama and see plain as day that whites are not in control."
Another message, from "TheLastOfMyKind," agreed: "Could it be that the nomination of Obama finally sparks a sense of unity in white voters? I would propose that this threat of black, muslim [sic] rule may very well be the thing that finally scares some sense back into complacent whites throughout the nation." "Actually," said another poster, "if Obama were to win, it would be the best thing that ever happened to the Klan. They would have massive growth." And "TeutonicLegion" said that "a whole bunch of people will join us and find these boards" if Obama becomes president.
The Leaders Weigh In
Figures from the white supremacist establishment seem to agree with the crudely put sentiments of their followers. David Duke, the neo-Nazi and former Klan boss who is the closest thing the movement has to a real intellectual these days, sees clear advantages in an Obama victory in the fall.
"Obama will be a signal, a clear signal for millions of our people," Duke wrote in an essay entitled "A Black Flag for White America" posted to his website this summer. "Obama is like that new big dark spot on your arm that finally sends you to the doctor for some real medicine. … Obama is the pain that let's [sic] your body know that something is dreadfully wrong. Obama will let the American people know that there is a real cancer eating away at the heart of our country and Republican aspirin will not only not cure it, but only masks the pain and makes you think you don't need radical surgery. … My bet is that whether Obama wins or loses in November, millions of European Americans will inevitably react with new awareness of their heritage and the need for them to defend and advance it."
Richard Barrett, head of the Nationalist Movement, a Learned, Miss. -based white supremacist organization, sounded a similar note, telling the BBC: "The uprising of the American people for majority-rule and real-democracy has been building, but, with Obama turning the White House into the Black House, the upheaval will be overpowering." Barrett added, "The cataclysm will wake people up and the despotism will drive people to act, as never before."
"Thomas Dixon Jr.," a Stormfront poster using the name of the racist author who wrote the classic novel The Clansman, put it like this: "As WLP [William Luther Pierce, the late leader of the neo-Nazi National Alliance] would say… 'What is bad for the system is good for us.'" "Obama," added "The Patriot" in the same thread, "would be better for our cause in the long run, no doubt about it."
Other extremists writing on the topic think that having Obama as president would actually be preferable to Republican John McCain, who is widely seen by white supremacists as a sellout, particularly on the issue of nonwhite immigration into the United States.
Paul Gottfried is a professor of humanities at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pa., who has spoken repeatedly at conferences put on by American Renaissance, a racist journal whose editor describes blacks as incapable of sustaining civilization. At the 2008 American Renaissance conference, Gottfried said that he was sure Obama would overwhelm McCain among those attending the conference. "Better a black who is honest about who he is than a conservative who is really delivering the liberal agenda," Gottfried told a reporter.
American Renaissance Editor Jared Taylor had a slightly different take. He believes Obama will succeed as a kind of post-racial president: "I think he's got the right touch, absolutely the right touch… . He's an intelligent and serious man and he realizes that he cannot be a 'black' president." In Taylor's view, whites will vote for Obama because it will make them feel good about themselves. "For many whites, voting for Mr. Obama will be an act of high patriotism. Electing him will prove America is not 'racist,' and many whites believe that rising above 'racism' is America's sacred calling. One must never underestimate the importance to whites of feeling virtuous," Taylor wrote in a July essay, "Why Obama Will Win."
Rocky Suhayda, head of the American Nazi Party, agreed. "White people are faced with either a negro or a total nutter who happens to have a pale face. Personally, I'd prefer the negro. National Socialists are not mindless haters. Here, I see a white man, who is almost dead, who declares he wants to fight endless wars around the globe to make the world safe for Judeo-capitalist exploitation, who supports the invasion of America by illegals… . Then, we have a black man, who loves his own kind, belongs to a Black-Nationalist religion, is married to a black woman… . That's the kind of negro that I can respect," Suhayda told Esquire.
Death Threats and Violence
Yet opinion on the radical right is far from unanimous on the topic of a potential Obama victory. Many more traditional racist extremists believe it would destroy the country and they oppose it mightily.
"Worse is not better. It has already hit rock bottom. The next step is to round up all the whites and put them in concentration camps," wrote "White Shogun" on the Caste Football hate forum. "If you are in the same camp as I am, I will slap you for suggesting that we vote for Obama," he added.
"Obama as president would do tremendous damage to the cause of maintaining the purity of the white race. Liberals would use him as an example to argue in schools, in churches, on TV, etc., 'Why if your daughter married a black, her child could one day grow up to become President – like Obama!" wrote longtime white supremacist Ed Fields in his "segregationist" newsletter, The Truth at Last. "We are not going to vote our way out of this mess… . We should have retained that realization in the 'War Between the States,'" wrote "Ibere" on Stormfront.
Others have more violent hopes. "Well, we all know what happened to the old JFK. I just hope it happens in the timing of RFK BEFORE he can take office," wrote "Johann Steffansson" in July on the neo-Nazi Vanguard News Network.
Some of the most heated and apparently threatening anti-Obama talk appears to be on Internet sites that allow people to post messages anonymously — not on sites run by white supremacists, who seem highly worried about attention from the Secret Service and other officials. One such site, JD Underground, is a list ostensibly devoted to lawyers. It has carried a particularly venomous and long-running thread that started in January. It is entitled, "N----- President."
"I'm hoping someone will do his public duty of putting a bullet through Obama's head," said a poster identified as "Kill Da N----." Another poster suggested "bring[ing] back lynchings" and concluded with a warning: "LOOK OUT N-----. THE KLAN IS GETTING BIGGER!!!!!!" And a third, using the screen name "amerikkkan," said only, "The deep south is making plans."
Even the Southern Poverty Law Center's blog, Hatewatch, has received such anonymous threats against Obama. In April, "unknown" posted this: "ATTENTION, IF OBAMA BECOMES PRESEDANT [sic] I WILL KILL HIM MYSELF MAKE NO MISTAKE ABOUT IT."
Anthony Griggs contributed to this story.