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How Charlottesville’s Echoes Forced New Zealand to Confront Its History

A Maori man attacked a statue to raise awareness of his ancestors’ pain. A newspaper covered the story, and a very important reader took action: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Taitimu Maipi, standing in front of a statue of Capt. John Hamilton, a colonial-era British naval commander, in Hamilton, New Zealand, which he vandalized last year., Cornell Tukiri for The New York Times

HAMILTON, New Zealand — An 80-year-old Maori man walked up to a statue of a colonial-era British naval commander one winter morning in 2018, a can of paint and a claw hammer in his hands.

“The red paint was to change the way he looked, and the hammer was to break his nose,” said the man, Taitimu Maipi.

Mr. Maipi’s small act of vandalism in the city of Hamilton, New Zealand, was intended to be a reminder of the pain that white settlers inflicted on the Indigenous Maori people. It ended up forcing a national reckoning over historical memory and cultural identity that paralleled in many ways the upheaval a year before in Charlottesville, Va.

The attack in Hamilton drew extensive coverage in the local newspaper. Residents responded with letters denouncing the vandalism. And the conversation caught the eye of one longtime reader: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

In September, Ms. Ardern announced that the national school curriculum would be changed to require lessons on the 19th-century New Zealand Land Wars, in which British troops killed more than 2,000 Maori.

“I did not see that coming,” Mr. Maipi, a longtime activist, said recently as he stood beside the bronze statue of Capt. John Hamilton, which remains in the middle of Hamilton’s downtown square.

In a different time, the seemingly minor gesture of protest — after the attack, Mr. Maipi stopped by City Hall to leave his contact information and later got off with a police warning — might have been quickly forgotten. But his defiant action came not long after the deadly white supremacist violence in Charlottesville over the planned removal of a Confederate statue.

“I think it’s all connected,” said Aaron Leaman, a reporter for The Waikato Times, which published a series of articles as part of a campaign to bring more of New Zealand’s history into its schools. “I don’t think what happened here could be seen in isolation.”

After Mr. Maipi’s vandalism, some New Zealanders called for the statue’s removal because of the role of Captain Hamilton — for whom the city is named, though he never set foot there — in the deaths of Maori during the Land Wars, which raged from 1845 to 1872.

Those bloody conflicts broke out after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 between the colonial government and the Maori. Disputes over land sales grew into major campaigns to confiscate territory and reinforce British sovereignty.

Community upheaval followed these assaults against the Maori, and more than 100 years later, they still lag on many social measures like income and life expectancy, though the government has worked to close the gap. New Zealand is still paying out hundreds of millions of dollars in settlement claims related to the treaty.

“I just wanted to expose the fact that this statue shouldn’t be here,” Mr. Maipi said. “I wanted to break something,” he added. “I really meant what I did.”

Captain Hamilton, he said, “was a murderer.”

“There’s a lot of pain there for people who were part of those wars,” he added.

“A lot of people were saying this is terrible, destroying public property, and we were saying, come on people, there’s a lot of history behind this, and there aren’t a lot of Maori statues or any kind of acknowledgment of their role,” said Jonathan MacKenzie, the editor in chief of The Waikato Times.

“Clearly, the people reading had little understanding of the country’s past, and what they knew was based on the wrong information,” Mr. MacKenzie added.

While some of the bigoted statements might have been ignored in the past, said Mr. Leaman, the reporter, such views now command greater attention after the massacre at two mosques in Christchurch.

“It’s easy to brush them off as fringe,” he said, “but after Christchurch, we take hate speech more seriously.”

The newsroom decided to work to educate its readership, Mr. MacKenzie said. “We thought, why don’t we do some stories on people who fought on the Maori side of the war; they’d be passed down orally,” he said.

The effort would build on a push by two nearby schools to make teaching of the Land Wars compulsory. Currently, New Zealand history is an elective in school, and the Land Wars aren’t part of the curriculum at all.

“We thought we could really put some pressure on and act as a bit of an amplifier,” Mr. MacKenzie said.

Jonathan MacKenzie, left, the editor in chief of The Waikato Times, and Aaron Leaman, a reporter there. Credit: Cornell Tukiri for The New York Times

The journalists didn’t imagine that the stories would get much notice. But they hadn’t anticipated the attention of a prime minister who keeps an eye on the city of her birth.

The Waikato Times’s campaign “stood out to me because I know the region well and because it’s a view I’ve held for some time,” Ms. Ardern said in an email to The New York Times.

She announced two months ago that changes to the national curriculum for both primary and secondary schools would be made within the next three years.

Ms. Ardern said the public reaction had been “incredible and far-reaching. I think a lot of that stems from a desire from New Zealanders to know more about their own country’s history, our land and our people.”

Mr. Maipi said that New Zealanders had been better at commemorating foreign wars, like World War I, than they had been at acknowledging local history, because of the cost to the Maori.

“We need to educate the country that this happened; we need to educate our children,” he said. He added: “The story will be told by the children. Unless you tell the children, it will die.”

The newly elected mayor of Hamilton, Paula Southgate, is waiting on a report that will assess the street names and statues throughout the city that might be culturally offensive to the Maori. She expects it to recommend moving the statue of Captain Hamilton.

“If there’s something that’s blatantly culturally insensitive, you need to address it and be respectful about that,” she said.


How Teachers Are Fighting the White Nationalists Brainwashing Their Students

“This will get worse before it gets better.”

By Tess Owen

It used to be much easier to spot a budding Nazi in the classroom, or at least a student racisharboring extremist views, says Nora Flanagan, who’s been a public school teacher in Chicago for over 20 years. You’d just look out for the troubled skinhead kid, maybe wearing steel-toed boots and a swastika pin.

Today, it’s more complex. Flanagan and other teachers say that white nationalism, anti-Semitism and misogyny are creeping into their classrooms, often coded in ironic memes and symbols unfamiliar to most adults. Flanagan says she sees extremist messaging more often and more openly than she used to, but “It’s so much more subtle now, and there are so many more things to watch and listen for.”

For example, teachers described students flashing the “OK” sign in class, which has been co-opted by online white supremacists. Others recalled their students changing their computer backgrounds to images of PewDiePie, a popular YouTuber who’s been accused of trafficking in racism and anti-Semitism. Additionally, a slew of recently formed white nationalist groups cultivate a preppy aesthetic to blend into the mainstream.

“It’s right-wing conspiracy theories,” said Flanagan. “It’s subtle code-speak, it’s the symbols they use in their avatars in our online learning platforms, it’s the links they associate with in their bios.”

So, as classes have resumed across the country, teachers are coming to school armed with the “Confronting White Nationalism in Schools Toolkit” to help them spot extremism in the classroom and then try to address it. Since Flanagan, with the help of another teacher in Portland and Oregon-based nonprofit the Western States Center, put together the 50-page toolkit in April, they’ve fielded over 4,000 requests for copies. Teachers, schools, and organizations from every state, plus 18 countries, including Japan, Austria, New Zealand, and Romania, have requested the $10 guide.

“We are seeing young people with no criminal records, from relatively stable families, getting radicalized — mostly on the internet.”

Other teachers say they’re using contemporary literature written from the perspectives of teen refugees or people of color to fight extremism through instilling empathy in their students.

But recognizing subtle expressions of white nationalism isn’t the only challenge. They’re also having to figure out when a student is being subversive — just “for the lulz” — versus when they’re exhibiting symptoms of being radicalized or becoming violent.

For example: A group of nine middle-schoolers in Ojai, California, formed a human swastika on school grounds. Most of the junior class at a high school in Wisconsin did Nazi salutes in their prom photos. And graduating students from two different high schools in Chicago flashed the white supremacist “OK” sign in their yearbooks

Then there are the students who exhibited anti-Semitic or racist behavior at school and later went on to seek violence. James Fields, from Ohio, was known as the “class Nazi” during high school, and he went on to ram his car into a crowd of protesters during the August 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.

And when it comes to knowing the difference between subversive and violent intentions, the stakes may be higher than ever.

The web’s dark corners

Teachers were already up against rising hate crimes in schools and mass shootings, and the fall semester comes on the heels of mass shootings in Gilroy, California, El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. But with the rise of white nationalist recruitment online and mainstreaming of hateful language, they’re now navigating a more complicated and diffuse threat landscape than in years past.

Experts are warning the 2020 election is likely to usher in a new wave of hate and extremism, and this will play out online and across social media where teens spend a large portion of their time.

“We are working to implement programs of understanding and multiculturalism, but what are the kids seeing in their daily lives?”

Far-right extremists have, meanwhile, made no secret of their desire to radicalize young people online. Andrew Anglin, who runs the neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer, has said he hopes to target the “ADHD demographic,” age 11 and up. “It doesn’t make sense to target anyone but young people,” Anglin said on a podcast three years ago.

2017 study by James Hawdon, director of the Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention at Virginia Tech, found that 70% of Americans aged 15 to 21 were exposed to extremist messages online (which spiked around the 2016 election), compared to 58% in 2013.

“We are seeing young people with no criminal records, from relatively stable families, getting radicalized — mostly on the internet,” said Brian Levin, who leads the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. “The youngest cohort is the most diverse and diversifying, and white nationalism has become a counter-culture response to this diversity.”

The increase in online extremist messaging coincided with a steady rise in reported hate crimes and anti-Semitic incidents at schools. According to the FBI, there were 340 reported hate crimes at K-12 schools in 2017 compared to 158 in 2013. The Anti-Defamation League says the number of anti-Semitic incidents at K-12 schools jumped by 94% between 2016 and 2017, from 235 to 457. Last year, that dipped slightly, but it was still high: The ADL counted 344 incidents in 2018.

All this leaves educators and school administrators feeling outmatched in influencing students who could be vulnerable to radicalization — and in developing constructive ways to fight it.

“We are working to implement programs of understanding and multiculturalism, but what are the kids seeing in their daily lives?” said J, a social studies teacher at a middle school near Portland, Maine. J requested that his name be withheld for this story so that he could speak candidly about his students. “What their friends and social media are teaching them — that’s a powerful opponent.”

So Flanagan and others put together the “Confronting White Nationalism in Schools” toolkit. The pamphlet offers a range of different scenarios, which Flanagan said were drawn from real-life experiences with students.

In one example, a student in a U.S. history class turns in a research paper containing a citation to writings by white nationalist Richard Spencer.

According to the toolkit, teachers should first meet with the student to find out more. Bearing in mind that Spencer writes about history and purposely dresses up his hateful ideas in pseudo-academic language, did the student stumble across his writing and not understand his viewpoints?

If that’s the case, the toolkit proposes that a teacher put together a workshop to help kids learn how to vet source material for bias. If the problem happens more than once, school administrators are advised to work with the school librarians to develop online research guides.

But if the student appeared to cite a white nationalist like Spencer deliberately, the pamphlet suggests that the teacher ask the school counselor whether the student had aired grievances that could explain why they’d be susceptible to being radicalized.

“The early adolescent brain is a sponge, and that is good for some things, but it also means that these kids are absorbing negative language and ideology.“

Hawdon thinks that teachers should try a sympathetic approach in those scenarios that looks at the root cause for why a student could be a soft target for such ideas.

“There’s a sense of economic and social vulnerability that we see with kids expressing support for this,” said Hawdon. “Any attempt to combat this without a nuanced understanding of why kids are feeling this way can lead to a backlash — and make them more entrenched in their beliefs.”

White power movements have previously been associated with economic hardship, but Flanagan isn’t so sure there’s as much of a correlation today. “Historically we’ve looked at kids who are economically disadvantaged,” said Flanagan. “But I’ve seen just as much from kids from privilege, who maybe feel like they’re losing some of that privilege and cultural ground.”

Mainstreaming hate

The normalization of hate poses another significant challenge to educators. J, the middle school teacher from Maine, says he’s especially perplexed by the way white nationalistic language has seeped into the mainstream.

For example, J said he had a few students who were setting images of YouTuber PewDiePie as the backgrounds on their school computers. PewDiePie, who has 100 million subscribers, has often found himself having to apologize for peddling anti-Semitic or racist tropes in his videos.

“PewDiePie is funny, in the 13-year-old humor kind of way, and not everything he does is bad,” J said. “But then he slips in white supremacist statements as if they are facts, and the 13-year-old audience just absorbs it. The early adolescent brain is a sponge, and that is good for some things, but it also means that these kids are absorbing negative language and ideology.“

J said he tried to explain this to his students, with mixed success. “One of the students was polite about it, the other was belligerent,” J recalled. “The next day there was a “Sub for PewdDiePie” sign on the door of my classroom.” J said the sign also said something along the lines of “We can’t let the Indians win.”

Another social studies teacher, who asked to be identified as “L” to allow her to speak candidly about her experiences, was teaching at a rural middle school in Appalachian Ohio until recently. At times, she said, the Trump campaign reared its head in her classroom.

“Even though that community was fairly homogeneous ethnically, there was a sizable population of migrant farm workers who would come for the fall to work on farms, and their children not only worked as well but also attended school,” said L. “We did have some students parroting their parents — or perhaps Trump outright — in chanting things like “Build the wall.”

For L, who now works at a diverse school in Columbus, Ohio, it’s about addressing an incident head-on. “Whenever I encounter xenophobic, racist, misogynist thinking with my students, I try my best to firmly call it out and then have a frank discussion about it.”

An English teacher from a mostly white rural school in Vermont, named “C,” who also requested her name be withheld because of the sensitive nature of the topic, said she noticed a couple students wearing “white lives matter” badges to class. In response, she turned to “Teaching Tolerance,” an Alabama-based magazine launched in the 1990s by SPLC which takes on the thornier culture-war issues facing educators today, including extremism. It also recommends texts for teachers to use in class.

“There is a near-universal consensus among my colleagues and friends: This will get worse before it gets better.”

C’s favorite texts include “The Hate U Give,” by Angie Thomas, which is about a black teenage girl from a poor neighborhood who finds herself embroiled in a national story involving an officer-involved shooting; and Mohsin Hamid’s “Exit West,” a young-love story that explores immigration and the refugee crisis.

Some state lawmakers have also been trying to find ways to address the reported uptick in hate crimes and anti-Semitic incidents at schools in their jurisdictions.

In 2017, lawmakers from 20 states pledged to pursue legislation to get laws requiring schools to teach about the Holocaust on the books. Today, at least 12 states mandate some form of education about the genocide, and about half of those laws were signed since 2016.

Flanagan wants to see this issue elevated to the level of national conversation. “There is a near universal consensus among my colleagues and friends: this will get worse before it gets better.”

Cover: A video from the German neo-Nazi music band Lunikoff is seen on the website of YouTube August 27, 2007 in Berlin, Germany. German government officials have called for an investigation into YouTube for allowing right-wing groups to use the Internet platform for disseminating neo-Nazi material. (Photo Illustration by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)


Guns Don’t Kill People, Settlers Do: The Second Amendment and the Myth of Defense


“Our nation was built and civilized by men and women who used guns in self-defense and in pursuit of peace.” – Ronald Reagan
“If you are coming to the idea of resistance as a resolute no to the Empire, then armed self-defense is as much a yes to liberated life as the yes of community gardens.” – Ashanti Alson
Many of the households where I grew up in rural Missouri have at least one good hunting rifle in their collections of firearms. Every November, most families here-usually the father and son, but sometimes the father and daughter-will go deer hunting, not only for sport but also for the meat it provides households. They will often say hunting is the reason they own firearms.

Several years ago, I was invited to go target shooting at the property of a long-time acquaintance. He was proud of his expansive and comfortable set-up: he owned several dozen acres of land in the country with a nice three-bed, two-bath home and a stable income to support it all. His property, in other words, allowed him to be a gracious host for friends, neighbors, and acquaintances looking to shoot guns, improve their marksmanship, and build community and comradery.

When I arrived, there were 15-20 men armed to the teeth, strutting around with ARs slung tightly around their chests and handguns of various calibers holstered on their belts. Their wives were inside preparing food and tending the kids. As the men-some dressed in army surplus gear, others still wearing their work clothes-blasted away at various targets, the property owner began talking to me about why he loved his home(stead) so much. It was, in his words, “out in the sticks, good and far away from all of that inner-city mayhem.” After showing me a sample of his extensive gun collection, spread out before everyone on the tailgate of his truck, he continued his white-to-white conservation with me:

“Yeah, I have all this firepower because I gotta protect my property and family when, you know, shit hits the fan, and all them inner-city people dependent on government hand-outs are left high and dry and start coming out here where the pavement meets gravel looking to loot food and other things.”

It was clear he wanted me to understand that he had guns to defend against, in his eyes, Black people coming to loot his home in the event of a “societal collapse,” and that he’d be ready with an arsenal of firepower to repel them. That is, gun ownership for him was about using violence to defend his property-as-whiteness from racialized populations whom he recognized were deliberately excluded from the formal economy and corralled in inner-city ghettos. His guns were the lynchpin for maintaining this line between the “good guys” like himself-the productive worker, the property holder, the respectable law-abiding citizen-and a zombified surplus population marked for death. This metaphor is telling: of all the firearms he showed me that day, he was most proud of some recently purchased specialty ammunition with the tagline: “Supply yourself for the Zombie Apocalypse.” Guns and zombie rounds animated the fantasy of defending whiteness by mowing down a racialized surplus humanity on the gravel roads of rural Missouri.

I heard this fantasy many times growing up in such hyper-masculine spaces, in which it is taught that the man of the house has to be prepared to defend his home(stead) from perceived criminal (racial) threats and maintain order in his home . True men are providers and protectors; anything less, and you’re an emasculated loser. In this way, the property holder was simply being a good patriot and male leader by preparing for the moment when, in his eyes, he would use guns in self-defense against the racialized poor. From this perspective, all the patriots out there that day sharpening their firearm skills claimed to be doing so for reasons of self-defense. Each saw himself as a Josey Wales , John Wayne, or Dirty Harry, or (more recently)  American Sniper or Rick Grimes, neutralizing racialized criminal threats encountered on the Indian frontier or spilling out from the Black ghetto.

People will often say hunting is the reason they own firearms, but the underlying structural reason, whether acknowledged or not, has more to do with white settler fears of racial rebellion. Indeed, the NRA-the most politically influential gun organization-isn’t powerful because it has a lot money to spend, but rather because it markets gun ownership as a means of reinforcing white settler sovereignty. Gun ownership is about staving off the loss of the white settler’s power, honor, and privilege, which the global economy no longer respects and the state, it is believed, tramples in its accommodating of the marginalized. Despite the rhetoric, gun ownership has never been about hunting or defending democracy against authoritarianism, which white settlers are ready to embrace if it maintains their power.

In other words, the fear of the dispossessed challenging their subjugation drives gun ownership and gun culture among white settlers in the United States-not hunting, a tyrannical government, or, as I argue, reasons of self-defense. American gun ownership has its structural roots in the desire to uphold and reproduce colonial and racial hierarchies and to maintain the power and benefits received from such hierarchies, putting guns in the hands of white settlers with fantasies of nostalgic redemption through violence. Make America Great Again, indeed.

At its core, then, gun ownership for white settlers is about using tools of violence to defend the political category of white settler sovereignty, which is to say, using guns to harm, kill, or terrorize colonized and racialized people in order to keep them unfree-as their freedom means the dissolution of these categories of power and honor. Historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s recent book Loaded (2018) argues that the history of the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms was fundamentally the state-granted right of settlers to arm their households and form voluntary militias in order to seize Native land and/or police enslaved Black people. Gun ownership today maintains what Dunbar-Ortiz contends was the founding vision of the settler state to distribute its monopoly of violence to its settler-citizens in order to carry out campaigns of dispossession and secure white property against threats of rebellion:

“Settler-militias and armed households were institutionalized for the destruction and control of Native peoples, communities, and nations. With the expansion of plantation agriculture, by the late 1600s they were also used as ‘slave patrols,’ forming the basis of the U.S. police culture after enslaving people was illegalized.”

In fact, joining a militia was less of a right than a requirement of settlers; in some cases, particularly at the state level in the South preceding the Constitution, service in the militia or arming one’s household was required by law. Dunbar-Ortiz explains this history:

“European settlers were required by law to own and carry firearms, and all adult male settlers were required to serve in the militia. Militias were also used to prevent indentured European servants from fleeing before their contracts expired, in which case they were designated ‘debtors.’ [. . .]. In 1727, the Virginia colony enacted a law requiring militias to create slave patrols, imposing stiff fines on white people who refused to serve.”

These state laws fed into the Second Amendment to enshrine the imperative of gun ownership at the federal level. Requiring participation in counterrevolutionary violence was thus written into the law directly. Today this duty to defend settler dominance continues not through state laws requiring militia membership but through informal gun ownership. The Second Amendment deputized settlers to use violence to steal land and people-in short, to expand empire.

Building on Dunbar-Ortiz’s analysis of the Second Amendment, I want to suggest that we understand gun ownership as a material practice through which white settlers engage directly in the work of counterrevolutionary violence that consolidates and maintains U.S. liberal democracy. It is a way of strengthening settler democracy that promises empowerment and redemption. Firearms are the tools and symbols of a larger counterrevolutionary policing that binds settlers together despite contradictions of class in their mutual support of upholding colonial and racial hierarchies. Through gun ownership of today-what was, earlier, participation in militias-the white settler defends the state that in turn ensures his sovereignty and superiority.

In this way, the settler state depends on deputizing its settler-citizens to be the police of dispossessed populations, just as the settler relies on the state upholding his rights of property, or his “pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.” This is why gun ownership is seen as fundamental to liberal freedoms. The Second Amendment is upstream from the other amendments precisely because counterrevolutionary policing maintains the public order of civil society in which liberal freedoms can flourish.

There are three conclusions, then, I would like to discuss that follow from the claim that Second Amendment-sponsored gun ownership in the United States is counterrevolutionary violence harmonizing intra-settler relations. The first is that self-defense belongs to the oppressed and never to the oppressor. From a structural prespective, there is no such thing as white settler self-defense. The second is that gun culture from the 1960s onward serves as an important site at which settlers organize politically across class and gender lines to protect whiteness in response to marginalized peoples’ demand for freedom and neoliberalism’s attack on labor. The third is that the practice of community self-defense among those targeted by colonial violence radically undermines the ideology of white victimization through which counterrevolutionary violence is legitimated.
Guns and White Victimization

Perhaps the best example of how counterrevolutionary violence is coded as white settler self-defense is the now iconic Gadsden Flag. From its inception during the American Revolutionary War to its revival and proliferation in right-wing gun culture in the years following 9/11, the Gadsden Flag, with its image of a rattlesnake and phrase “Don’t Tread on Me,” illustrates how the effort to maintain white settler power in the face of marginalized peoples’ demand for freedom is branded as self-defense. The coiled rattler signifies a defensive and victimized position, but one that is deadly if provoked. The Gadsden Flag serves as an important symbol for those identifying as patriots, law-abiding gun-owners, and defenders of the Constitution because it supports a larger ideology that holds that white America is under attack by minorities (and the federal government taken over by minorities in the post-Civil Rights era) whose commitments to equality have turned into the discrimination against, exclusion of, and attacks on whiteness.

Some of the earliest versions of the Gadsden flag, as many patriots will mention, is Benjamin Franklin’s drawing of the colonies as a snake divided into sections underwritten by the ultimatum of “join, or die.” Yet the tyranny the colonies were fighting against wasn’t simply taxation without representation, but more broadly the right to expand its own empire rather than remain merely another exploited colony-to form a state strong enough to defend the colonists’ pursuit of wealth from Native and Black rebellion. Indeed, Jefferson makes this clear in the Declaration of Independence when he argues that the Crown had prevented the colonies from clearing the lands west of the Appalachian Mountains of “merciless Indian savages” and encouraged slave insurrection in the colonies.

The rattlesnake represents a white settler body politic that feels continuously threatened and anxious about defending its power over conquered and subjugated populations. It claims to take up a position of self-defense when this position is actually one of stopping the efforts of marginalized people to free themselves from structures of violence. The fetish of Franklin’s coiled rattler as the iconography of settlers coming together through counterrevolution suggests there is unity and strength precisely through this position of shared white victimization. If disjointed by cleavages such as class or gender, they will be overrun by the dispossessed, but if unified in their mutual opposition to the dispossessed, white settlers will flourish despite such intra-settler contradictions.

This fear of insurgency-from-below justifying the use of counterrevolutionary violence helps explain the emergence and proliferation of right-wing gun culture in the years following the 1960s to the present. As theorist Sylvia Wynter has argued, the global anti-colonial rebellions of the mid-20th century that empowered and inspired national liberation struggles in the United States sent shocks throughout the white-settler body politic. These rebellions ended in the settler state granting concessions to colonized and racialized groups in the form of civil rights legislation, the dismantling of legal forms of racial apartheid, and the overall turn away from overt, codified forms of white supremacy to new forms of colorblind racism. Black, Brown, and Native militancy terrified settlers, compelling concessions as a means to pacify their militant struggle.

It was these attempts of federal government to conditionally include marginalized groups that led white America, using a zero-sum logic, to feel betrayed and abandoned. As a result, white middle- and working-class settlers gave up defending the welfare state as long as it was also going to include nonwhites. In this moment when the state seems to accommodate nonwhites-an act that failed to respect, in the eyes of white America, the colonial and racial divisions binding together settlers-gun ownership became much more meaningful for white settlers looking to hold the line of these divisions where the state had, it was believed, given up doing so.

During Obama’s presidency, this fear that the state had abandoned white settlers by catering to marginalized people had a resurgence. Gun purchases were at an all-time high and patriot community-building became widespread, which is to say, gun ownership and patriot communities were seen as necessary measures for saving the original and founding vision of a white settler republic from a federal government that was believed to have sided with the very people whose demands for equality would unravel the sovereignty and power of white settlers.

Militias such as the Oathkeepers and Three Percenters emerged during these years and embodied the view that it is the job of “true patriots” (white male settlers) to save white America from a state that has gone rogue in its perceived embrace of “open-borders” multiculturalism. The Constitution and the Second Amendment are sacred for such groups because they authorize freedom-loving citizens to form militias to restore the founding colonialist vision of the United States.

For all the wrong reasons of preserving their power, such groups actually have a perceptive understanding of the Second Amendment as a law authorizing counterrevolutionary violence. For them, guns are not about hunting or even self-defense, but about the right to ensure colonial and racial rebellion is controlled and that state power is recaptured in ways that it abandons neoliberal multiculturalism for more direct forms of settler-colonial white-nationalist capitalism. Indeed, it is not surprising that Oathkeepers and Three Percenters show up to police Black rebellions or put down antifascist counterdemonstrations. They see themselves as an extension of the police, the National Guard, and border patrol. Like the KKK of yore, these militias, filled with current and former police and military, believe they fulfill the original function of the state-under the Obama years seen as liberal and weak-in putting down racial rebellions. Gun culture, then, serves as a symbolic yet very material compensation for the state’s support of neoliberal multiculturalism and the dismantling of welfare capitalism. Just as credit is offered in place of decreased wages, gun culture supplies compensatory ammunition to bolster the value of whiteness in the face of deindustrialization, increased intra-settler inequality, and globalization’s attack on U.S. nationalism.
Arming the Police, Arming White Supremacy

It is important not to forget that support for counterrevolutionary violence extends far beyond patriots and right-wing gun culture. Liberals who call for gun regulation but fully support the police and militaryand their work of upholding mass incarceration at home and imperial violence abroad support the same structures of violence celebrated by the gun-nuts such liberals love to disparage and against whom they define their commitments to nonviolence. The difference is a choice between a monopoly of state violence in repressive state apparatuses or the distribution of state violence among individual settlers and citizen militias. In other words, patriots believe the violence should be democratized and liberals believe it should be concentrated in the hands of state institutions. While one wants to stand alongside the police and military, the other wants the bloody work to be accomplished without getting their hands dirty. Avowed and disavowed to varying degrees, both support counterrevolutionary violence to protect settler democracy. In this way, liberals, despite their pacifist posturing, are not any less supportive of colonial violence than their gun-nut counterparts because they call for a strengthening of the settler state and a disarming of the populace, which will only make marginalized people more vulnerable to killings and incarceration.

This is a view that has the audacity and class privilege of asking marginalized people targeted by state violence, and its extended forms of vigilante violence, to appeal to the same state for protection. While patriots take up actual weapons to target marginalized people, liberals weaponize gun control policy to the same ends of putting people of color in body bags or cages. The only gun control that would reduce gun violence would be disarming the police, the military, domestic abusers, and anyone with ties to white nationalist and misogynist political groups, along with demilitarizing schools and campuses. Whether they are appealing to the Second Amendment or asking people to trust the authority of the police and military, white settlers on the Left or Right demonstrate that the violence they commit, fantasize about committing, or have no problem with the police and military committing for their protection is necessary for their redemptive vision of liberal democracy. It matters not if this vision is a return to when liberal democracy more forcefully upheld colonial and racial hierarchies, or some future point at which this violence and policing ensures genuine equality of opportunity for people believed to be formerly colonized and enslaved.
Community Self-Defense

While it may be easy to oppose right-wing white victimization and liberal support for state violence, it’s still very hard for many to accept the premise that marginalized peoples, those targeted by such violence, have the right to use any means necessary to defend themselves and their communities. Yet we have to see, as Malcolm X made very clear, that the only people who have the moral authority to lay claim to the use of force as a means of self-defense are the people targeted by colonial violence in first place. The struggle to get free, gain control over one’s life, and have a say in the governing of one’s community is always a struggle of self-defense rather than aggression or provocation. The meanings of self-defense in settler society are purposely inverted to legitimate counterrevolutionary violence and to discredit the self-defense actions of communities struggling to get free.

Robert Williams emphasized this point over and over again while organizing armed community self-defense to protect the Black community against KKK violence in Monroe, South Carolina in the 1960s. In Negroes with Guns , Williams explains:

“The Afro-American militant is a ‘militant’ because he defends himself, his family, his home and his dignity. He does not introduce violence into a racist social system-the violence is already there and has always been there. It is precisely this unchallenged violence that allows a racist social system to perpetuate itself. When people say that they are opposed to Negroes ‘resorting to violence’ what they really mean is that they are opposed to Negroes defending themselves and challenging the exclusive monopoly of violence practiced by white racists.”

When a relationship between people is asymmetrical, meaning it is structurally impossible to rectify or reconcile, the violence that defends this power imbalance appears legitimate while anything that would take power away from the oppressor or build power for the oppressed registers as illegitimate and irrational violence.

With the same force, then, that we can acknowledge the illegitimacy of the notion of white settler self-defense, we should recognize the legitimacy of marginalized peoples’ right to self-defense. As theorist Chad Kautzer argues, “our understanding of self-defense must, therefore, account for the transformative power of self-defense for oppressed groups as well as the stabilizing effect of self-defense for oppressor groups.” What this looks like is, on the one hand, disempowering, delegitimizing, and disarming institutions of white settler violence such as the police, patriot, and other white-nationalist gun culture groups, and on the other, using a diversity of tactics to create and maintain community self-defense networks among marginalized communities. Community self-defense, as a theory and praxis, can help produce identities, relationships, and habits necessary not only to deter and prevent violence and build/protect power, but also to delegitimize the ideology of white victimization so crucial to white settlers’ use of violence to defend their power. This framework reveals who is fighting a war of counterrevolution and who is fighting a war of liberation, whose fight is legitimate and whose is illegitimate.

In this way, community self-defense helps clears the way for matters of seeing where allegiances lie in a war that has been ongoing for over 500 years. For those picking up a gun to defend property that sits on stolen land and that has value through an economy built by and through stolen people, it becomes clear they are arming themselves to kill and die for colonialism and anti-Blackness. For those calling for peace between the oppressor and oppressed, community self-defense forces their hand, exposing where their allegiances actually lie: in support of colonial and racial violence. For those told that their struggle to exist, to be free, to control their own lands and bodies is irrational and illegitimate, they prove through community self-defense that it is irrational, let alone careless, to think that the structures of violence holding them captive or targeting them for elimination will be destroyed through peaceful negotiation and compromise.
This was originally published at Pyriscence .

Trump Isn’t Special: All US (united snakes) Presidents Support White Supremacy

William C Anderson, author of a recent article titled, “Using Patriotism to Deflect Racism is a Deadly Mistake,” said “the Oval Office is quite familiar” with white supremacists like Donald Trump. “It misses the point to say things like, ‘Trump is disrespecting the office or lowering the standard of the presidency,’” said Anderson, “when this has always been a white supremacist position.”

source: Trump Isn’t Special: All US Presidents