(Read the Arabic version of this article here.)
Even before the horrific killing of 50 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand last Friday, news stories about the growing dangers of white supremacist movements were trending in the US media. Monitoring groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), as well as law enforcement agencies, had warned that the leading perpetrators of terrorism in the United States are white nationalists and affiliated right-wing extremist groups. This news is not palatable to many Americans, among them President Donald Trump, who does not think white supremacy groups are very large or influential. It’s not surprising that Trump would minimize the impact of white supremacist ideologies, discourses, and actions, though: his primary base of support is steeped in this toxic brew of hate and fear. Trump dares not alienate them by giving any credence to what is becoming increasingly clear: America has a serious domestic terrorism problem, and its face is white and male.
A recurring theme in white terrorists’ discourse, most recently illustrated in the 74-page rant of the Christchurch killer, is that white people are facing a cultural genocide and that non-whites are actively scheming to replace them. The hundreds of white men who marched into the night with torches in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017 shouted “You will not replace us!” Fears of a “great replacement” of whites by non-whites, Muslims, Jews, and leftists are rampant not only in the United States, but in Europe as well. White terrorists’ fears are a form of collective paranoia: Whites still comprise over two thirds of the US population, and immigration from Mexico and Central America has actually been dropping for years.
In Europe, the rise of white supremacist groups seems to have coincided with the arrival of tens of thousands of refugees from Syria and Iraq in 2011. Initially seen by European governments as a humanitarian crisis of immense proportions, the arrival of thousands of Arab Muslims escaping chaos in Syria and Iraq is now framed as an intentional invasion in the discourse of the right in Europe and the United States. In Hungary, Viktor Orban’s government owes its power to irrational fears of outsiders, be they Muslims or Jews, infecting the purity of the nation. And as we saw in 2011, the madman Anders Breivik felt more than justified in murdering dozens of young people in cold blood to prevent a dilution of whiteness in Norway. In the United States, Donald Trump and others have characterized immigration across the southern border as an invasion, and have responded accordingly by weaponizing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) and Customs Border Protection (CBP) as quasi-military forces taking ever more extreme measures to stem the tide of Latino (non-white) immigration. And in the United Kingdom, the ongoing Brexit fiasco is also rooted in white fears of being overrun by the dreaded “other.” Those who voted to leave the European Union voiced nationalist sentiments and concerns about the UK being invaded by non-whites, primarily Muslims.
Add to the rising tide of white paranoia the global reach of social media and “dark web” communities like 8-Chan, the atomization of society in Europe and the United States, and easy access to assault weapons, and you have all of the toxic ingredients for the bloodletting last week in two mosques in New Zealand. To her great credit, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has acted swiftly to ban assault weapons less than a week after the carnage, and has sent a clear message to Muslims (whether immigrants, citizens, or refugees) that they are welcome in and part of New Zealand. The contrast between Donald Trump’s tacit support of white terrorism and Ardern’s compassion and outrage could not be clearer.
Americans are stunned to see a government take immediate and unequivocal action in the face of gun violence. Despite the hundreds of mass shootings in the United States, most committed by deranged white men using assault rifles, there is no way that the will of the American people—who are decisively in favor of gun control and the outlawing of assault weapons—is going to be translated into the sweeping reforms that Ardern’s government enacted less than a week after New Zealand’s worst mass murder.
While some pundits are wondering if America is exporting its unique brand of white nationalist terror to the rest of the world, it’s more likely that similar dynamics are at play in multiple locations of our globalized world. If one digs deeper into white nationalist ideology, one finds it is based not on hate and anger alone, but rather, on fear and ignorance as well. Ultimately, the battle lines are not those between whites and non-whites or Europeans versus non-Europeans, but rather, between the world’s haves and have-nots. Neoliberal capitalism, now a global force that erases the distinctions between the local and international, the public and the private sectors, has greatly increased the numbers of the “wretched of the earth.” Europeans and Americans have benefited tremendously from the intertwined legacies of conquest, invasion, colonial rule, slavery, and neocolonial exploitation that devastated Latin America, Africa, and much of Asia. Whites are not in danger of replacement, but rather, of a long-overdue critical reckoning with the many negative repercussions of global capitalism, which has now taken on a virulent form that threatens the very survival of life on planet Earth. Responsible politicians and political parties should direct public attention to this danger, rather than scapegoating non-whites and non-Christians as menacing invaders.