Patriot Front hosted a rally at the National Memorial in Washington, D.C. on May 14. Dressed in casual khaki pants, the group is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “white nationalist hate group.”
But this is not the first time that a white supremacist group has paraded itself around in the capital city. In fact, there is a long history that shouldn’t be treated hospitably.
In 1990, a District Court judge granted the Ku Klux Klan permission to hold a rally. The group was given a permit to gather at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, October 28. They walked down Constitution Avenue.
There was also a Ku Klux Klan parade held on August 8, 1925, where tens of thousands gathered. “Phantom-like hosts of the Ku Klux Klan spread their white robe over the most historic thoroughfare yesterday in one of the greatest demonstrations the city has ever seen,” reported The Washington Post the following day.
Last week, flanked by police officers on bicycles and a few counter-protesters, the men marched from the National Mall to Judiciary Square before packing up their signs and leaving. The group was formed after the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. So, I knew where they were coming from: white supremacy – same source, different day.
“Whiteness is a dangerous concept. It is not about skin color. It is not even about race. It is about the willful blindness used to justify white supremacy. It is about using moral rhetoric to defend exploitation, racism, mass murder, reigns of terror and the crimes of empire,” Chris Hedges wrote back in 2017 when discussing “James Baldwin and the Meaning of Whiteness.”
Also in 2017, the FBI reported that white supremacists posed a “persistent threat of lethal violence” with their actions, resulting in more deaths than any other category of domestic terrorists since 2000.
I often wonder about these yet-to-be-united states and how on earth its citizens allow these terroristic displays to continue. Most media outlets focused on the jokes lobbed at Patriot Front by a cyclist, Joe Flood. But there is nothing funny about what this group and others like them represent.
“One of the United States’ most visible white supremacist groups, Patriot Front participates in localized “flash demonstrations” across the nation,” the Anti- Defamation League reports. “While claiming loyalty to America as a nation, Patriot Front seeks to form a new state, one that advocates for the ‘descendants of its creators,’ scilicet white men.”
What’s comical about that? These are intimidation tactics used to maintain economic, political and social dominance. Theirs is a history and heritage of hate.
The members of Patriot Front believe that “this land is their land” solely. Do you know what their ancestors have done in support of this flawed belief? Well, your children won’t if Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has his way.
Race and the belief in white supremacy are tools of social control. They also produced the strange fruit of lynching, with some scholars finding links to current cases of police brutality.
Racial disparities in the criminal justice system and law enforcement — from police stops to police shootings — have been well-researched and documented.
The claims, “I feared for my life” and “I feel threatened” often resulted in the death of an unarmed African American. Yet, it is this minoritized group that has taken irrational responsibility for normal behaviors like ringing a doorbell, jogging, reading and sleeping.
It is in our collective normalization of being under what Toni Morrison calls the “white gaze” and submission to the social supervision of those racialized as white that Jordan Neely was choked on the F train in Manhattan, New York. Afterwards, his alleged killer, Daniel Penny, was not immediately detained and initially unnamed by the media until there was public scrutiny and outrage.
Neely is dead because he was making a racket about being hungry. Perhaps if he had worn a pair of khakis and asked nicely then he would still be alive.
The “politics of respectability,” an idea which first appeared in Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham’s Righteous Discontent: The Women’s Movement in the Black Baptist Church, 1880-1920, says that African Americans must self-police their bodies to gain the respect of people racialized as white.
“They felt certain that ‘respectable’ behavior in public would earn their people a measure of esteem from white America, and hence they strove to win the black lower class’s psychological allegiance to temperance, industriousness, thrift, refined manners and Victorian sexual morals,” Higginbotham writes.
This was their solution to white supremacist violence and terrorism after centuries of enslavement and during the very real presence of the Ku Klux Klan, America’s first terrorist organization. They thought that they just needed to convince those racialized as white of their morality and ability to culturally assimilate.
But the goal of white supremacy is not acceptance or assimilation of other cultural groups but annihilation. When white supremacists come to town, they are not throwing out candy during these parades but rather offering not-so-subtle reminders that they are here to stay.
And you know what that means if you are familiar with America’s history.