For those who did not see the news reports back in January 2015, there was a recent stir of controversy around a billboard near Springville, Alabama, that stated: “Diversity means chasing down the very last white person. #white genocide.” So far, no one has claimed responsibility officially for the billboard. Yet this statement of racial segregation has been associated with a known white supremacist group, the White Genocide Project. One of their other slogans being, “Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white,” which was found on another billboard in Birmingham.
Now, on the face of this controversy, it would seem to be a very isolated case involving a minority group of individuals who express extremist racial prejudices. Or does it? The truth being that this #WhiteGenocide is not just on a couple of billboards, but has become a trending Twitter hashtag. It has become a space where people discuss how terms such as diversity, tolerance, anti-racism, and multiculturalism are in fact “code words” for anti-whiteness. The movement in itself speaks to a literal white genocide happening in Western countries, as nonwhite immigrants supposedly overtake white European cultures. Whiteness is facing an insidiously designed and inevitable extinction. At least, that’s the overall message. Granted, this argument of white genocide is not at all unprecedented. It immediately recalls what happened with affirmative action and the moral panics of reverse discrimination, for example. Here are a few tweets from the #WhiteGenocide:
CzarofFreedom: It is easier 2 blame #WhitePeople & make excuses for being a loser than 2 take responsibility & overcome life’s challenges. #WhiteGenocide
Trainspotter001: All races practiced slavery. The only thing unusual about whites is that we were the ones to end it. #WhiteGenocide
br549q: #Diversity means Whites (Europeans) can not exist anywhere. It’s #WhiteGenocide
This is a very interesting reaction, because it seeks to paint movements for racial equality as socially unjust. While some individuals might be expressing extreme or minority opinions, the #WhiteGenocide movement reflects how whiteness is being currently discussed. We saw it as well with #AllLivesMatter, which sought to discredit #BlackLivesMatter as a racially divisive hate campaign. It distorted the whole purpose of #BlackLivesMatter as though it were promoting black supremacy when in reality, the hashtag was intended to bring awareness to the violence against blacks and the invalidation of their very lives. These pro-white movements are taking on eerily similar tactics to advocate justice for whites. They are writing a narrative of white persecution and even oppression under the alleged threats of undocumented immigration in Western countries, multiculturalism, the prevalence of Islam, miscegenation and desegregation, and white guilt and self-hatred.
Basically what we’re facing is serious distortion of what exactly social justice means in this supposedly post-racial and post-racist world. It’s not just in the social media spaces. Look to Donald Trump’s racist comments about immigration from Mexico, or the contested Confederate Flag as symbolic of white supremacy. Although puzzling to see still such strong national pride over a flag that historically represented not only the right to own slaves but also represented violent secession from the United States, the point is that these issues have been re-framed as problems of personal freedom, the freedom of speech in particular. Freedom of speech and the phrase “all lives” have been twisted into becoming their own code words for legalized racism and pro-whiteness respectively. This freedom is not freedom at all, but rather privilege. It is taken for a right to silence others, a right to hatred, and a right to racism.
This white survival mentality might sound reasonable to some, but it does not account for the reality. There is a real difference between eradicating white people and dismantling whiteness. Whiteness is not just skin color, it is an idea of power. We can turn to history and we can see this idea put into practice in the wholesale enslavement of entire peoples, the total invasion and eradication of entire cultures. We can turn to the present and we can see it in the mass incarceration of people of color, the (un)lawful deprivation of essential resources and services to neighborhoods and communities just struggling to survive, and the educational gaps as children of color are denied their own histories and their own cultures. That is the true genocide going on. That is what we are fighting against.
There are white people who might say, “Long live whiteness.” There are also white people who want to be allies in the struggle for others different from themselves, who are not gripped in the throes of hatred and ignorance, and who instead put their humanity first before skin color. Conversations like #WhiteGenocide seek to divide us, to breed a special kind of hate right down to our very biology. These conversations are the reason why movements like #BlackLivesMatter still matter, movements that actually seek out solidarity. It is a solidarity that transgresses all racial boundaries, and one that embraces our differences rather than pushes them away. It is a solidarity where being tolerant, diverse, and multicultural doesn’t mean having to respect another’s racism. Rather, it means uniting against injustice, because an injustice against one is an injustice against all.