When I was a teenager in the 1990s, white supremacist groups in America were relatively fringe: fodder for HBO documentaries tucked away in some backwater town I’d likely never visit or worry about coming across in real life.
For me, this changed in August 2017, when white nationalists lit up Charlottesville, Virginia, with their tiki torches, Nazi flags and fragile masculinity. They called it “Unite the Right.” Three people died ― a counterprotester hit by a car and two state troopers in a copter crash ― and the melee dominated the news cycle for days. I’d never seen anything like it in my life.
That rally felt like the spiritual beginning of an upward trend of brazen racial, anti-LGBTQ and antisemitic vitriol from within the country’s conservative bowels. I see more headlines than I ever have about attempted or executed organized protests from hate groups, like the neo-Nazi-fueled “National Day of Hate.”
We’ve seen increased instances of organized hatred in places like Massachusetts, where Boston has always been reliable for a tidy bit of anti-Blackness.
The largest recent gathering came courtesy of the white supremacist group Patriot Front, which marched about 150 deep in Washington, D.C., on May 14. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, this group was inspired by “Unite the Right” and has made appearances in several states.
Outside of organized gatherings, we’ve seen an overall jump in reported hate crimes nationally in recent years, according to the FBI.
I’ll bet we have more of this to look forward to if we even think of putting Donald Trump back in the White House.
For anyone paying attention, there was a palpable shift in the sociopolitical climate after Trump won the presidency in November 2016: Outraged that the country had the gall to put a Black man in the Oval Office for eight whole years, angry whites rallied to get a reality television star with a penchant for bankruptcy and bragging about grabbing women in the hoo-hah to replace him.
A 2020 study from the Southern Poverty Law Center revealed that hate groups have risen significantly since Trump graced us with his presidential presence. For his part, he did precisely jack shit to stem the tide of these groups’ increased presence: He said, out loud, of the violence in Charlottesville that there were “very fine people on both sides.”
The Trump-and-Monster-Energy-fueled angry whites brought that energy to the U.S. Capitol insurrection on Jan 6, 2021. The attack wasn’t an overt white supremacist gathering, but the Venn diagram of people wearing animal skin and painting the American flag on their faces to commit seditious conspiracy and that of those who hate Blacks, Latinos and Jews probably is a damn near complete overlap.
Trump wasn’t present at the Capitol for the insurrection, but the House select committee that investigated the attack found that he was completely responsible for it. Exactly what message would we send the rest of the planet by putting him back in the Oval Office?
The feeling that we’re going backward after decades of substantial social progress is not your imagination: Barack Obama’s presidency ushered in such a windfall of white fragility and the (misguided) idea whites were losing their grasp on the country that the racists bubbled to the surface like New York City sewage, empowered by the notion that they no longer have to be relegated to the Dell computer in their mama’s basement to disseminate their venom.
Never underestimate the resolve of incels and degenerate losers finding their “true calling” in racism, à la Michael Rapaport’s character Remy in the film ”Higher Learning.” Combine them with a bunch of red-state politicians all but happy to stop pretending to not be racist long enough to suck on the Trump teat and you have a metaphorical Molotov cocktail primed to crash through your metaphorical Black church window.
Lest you think we’ve just Trump to worry about, there’s also Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who announced his 2024 Republican presidential bid in a Twitter clusterfuck with Elon Musk. DeSantis went on such a distinguished run of signing noxious laws in Florida that the rest of the country is convinced the state is now ”The Handmaid’s Tale.”
DeSantis has encouraged a rise of far-right groups in Florida, but he isn’t going out of his way to denounce these groups while happily attacking drag queens because he knows where his bigoted bread is buttered.
Anyone with sense recognizes that there was never, and will likely never be, a true abolishment of racism and white supremacy in America. But egregious displays of hate ring differently: Their very nature foments violence.
The constitutionally mandated right to gather and speak freely means little when tensions inevitably ramp up because a group of people is arguing for the eradication of another group’s personhood, as was the case when a racist ran over and killed Heather Heyer during the “Unite the Right” weekend.
I have made it a point to successfully stay out of handcuffs my entire life. But if I were at an event and some white dude with a swastika tattoo on his bald head yelled the n-word at me, I can’t say I wouldn’t find a rock and that rock wouldn’t find his skull at high velocity ― police presence be damned.
I doubt President Joe Biden stokes quite the ire Obama did considering he’s an old white dude. But the return of Trump would be like a dog whistle for these malcontents, emboldening them to continue ramping up the hatred to “take back” a country they jacked themselves.
Whether or not Trump or DeSantis is a white supremacist is of minimal consequence. If they don’t actively denounce the hatred in their positions of power, they’re arguably worse.
The sad part is I’m not even sure if “potential white supremacist revolution” ranks in the top five of why we shouldn’t even think about putting Trump or DeSantis in the big seat next year. I’ll make it a point to remind you a few more times in this space… but I’m sure they’ll provide many more reasons to remind you on their own.