Eugenics as U.S. Nationhood: Situating Population Control in a Settler State

This post is the third in my series examining the U.S. Right’s efforts to alter demographic trends by re-popularizing arguments and ideologies rooted in eugenics. (Read part one and part two.) Today, I continue to discuss the U.S. Right’s coercive attempts to limit the fertility of people of color, an egregious affront to reproductive justice. This segment addresses U.S. initiatives undertaken to limit Native American women’s reproductive autonomy.

In my last post, I discussed right-wing nativists’ efforts to establish a two-tiered citizenship structure, which would institutionalize discrimination against and disenfranchisement of people of color. While this redefinition of citizenship has not gained legal ground, comparable institutions proliferate in the U.S.

image via http://nativeamericansterilization.wordpress.com/

image via http://nativeamericansterilization.wordpress.com/

Indeed, it is important to acknowledge that the United States itselfnot only the structures it creates and upholdsis such a system. Superimposed as it was, and is, on land once shared by tens of millions, this country is a settler colonial state and a necessarily genocidal project: as Cavanagh and Veracini explain, “settlers want Indigenous people to vanish.” In the United States, this aim has been largely (though certainly not entirely) realized, and sterilization has been among the means of effecting it.

The genocidal practices undertaken during the formation of the U.S. are well documented and fairly well known, as are some of those implemented in the 19th and early 20th centuries. More contemporary iterations of the U.S. genocidal project are less widely known, due in part to the widespread misconception that Native Americans have long been virtually extinct.

Between 1973 and 1976, the Indian Health Servicea federal programsterilized more than 3,406 Native American people who could become pregnant. Dozens of those sterilized were under 21, contrary to a moratorium on sterilizing minors. From 1969 to 1974 (coinciding with President Nixon’s term), the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) subsidized a full 90 percent of the costs of these sterilizations (Ralstin-Lewis). Many were sterilized against their will; moreover, a substantial portion of the providers lacked documentation attesting to fully informed consent. As researchers Jane Lawrence and D. Marie Ralstin-Lewis show, the consent forms the patients signed were often incomplete, and many did not indicate that they had a right to refuse the procedure at no risk of losing benefits. Nor is it evident from any of the forms later evaluated by the U.S. General Accounting Office that providers had fully informed their patients of what sterilization entailed. They certainly did not make a compelling effort to overcome cultural barriers in explaining the procedure. Additionally, consent is difficult to ascertain in light of the circumstances in which Native patients found themselves; the dire poverty inflicted by the United States, constant infringements on sovereignty, and concerted efforts to uproot indigenous cultures shape a landscape in which white doctors could coerce their Native patients in highly subtle ways.

Both Lawrence and Ralstin-Lewis also stress the significance of Native Americans’ ability to have children in the face of continuing efforts to exterminate them. Ralstin-Lewis reports specifically on extensive investigations undertaken by Native Americans. Cheyenne tribal judge Marie Sanchez and Northern Cheyenne tribal member Mary Ann Bear Comes Out concluded that in just three years, a full third of the mere 165 women of childbearing age on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation and Labre Mission grounds had been sterilized, “reducing births within this group by half or more over a five-year period” (82). This devastating statistic is representative of what many tribes experienced: a Lakota researcher named Lehman Brightman devoted many years to investigating the sterilizations of Native American women and found that approximately forty percent of all Native women had been sterilized (Ralstin-Lewis).

It would be reductive to attempt to identify the U.S. government’s discrete motivations for reducing the Native American population, which cannot be understood outside the context of settlement and genocide. However, it is worth noting that while many of the arguments put forward for limiting immigrants’ reproductive agency are manifestly inapplicable to Native American populations, some of the explicit justification is the same. Specifically, proponents and practitioners of sterilization frame it as an investment, contending (sometimes implicitly) that when certain people do not have children, the money saved in welfare expenditures will offset the cost of sterilization. The welfare state is a ubiquitous trope in right-wing rhetoric surrounding issues of poor women of color’s reproductive autonomy. Ralstin-Lewis comments, “The noncompliant female body has become the central point of contention for conservative fury about the welfare state” (89).

The conflation of certain bodies with welfare costs, which is inextricable from the degradation of welfare itself, is a means of normalizing and obscuring racism and sexism. The construction of these bodies as burdensome allows bigotry to be couched in ostensibly pragmatic arguments against unnecessary spending. Meanwhile, welfare is seen as objectionable and unnecessary because it is associated with marginalized people. Prejudice is thus woven invisibly through the fabric of public opinion.

This is consistent with Thomas W. Volscho’s thesis that “sterilization racism” is a function of the U.S. having been organized around white supremacy. Volscho uses Cazenave and Maddern’s definition of racism as “…a highly organized system of race-based group privilege that operates at every level of society and is held together by a sophisticated ideology of color/race/supremacy,” theorizing that the hierarchy this produces will give those at the top control over or influence within the institutions determining their reproductive abilities (such as health care providers), while those at the bottom will be subject to the whims of the same institutionsand those of others intended specifically to constrain them (19). (This too is part of the colonial project, which necessitates that those in power be able to manage the bodies of those they subjugate.) The next installment of this series will give an overview of ways in which constraining institutions, including the carceral system, have targeted Black women’s reproductive freedom.

 Share on Twitte Button  Share on Facebook Button

Of Bombs and Wombs: Nativist Myths of Weaponized Fertility

(More Right-Wing Prophecies of White Supremacy’s Decline)

This post is the second in a series examining the U.S. Right’s efforts to alter global demographic trends by re-popularizing arguments and ideologies rooted in eugenics. (Read part one here.) In this post and those to follow, I discuss the U.S. Right’s coercive attempts to limit the fertility of people of color, with a focus on the anti-immigration Right. 

In my last article, I discussed the Right’s fear-mongering narrative that contraceptive use and other exercises of reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy are catapulting civilization into decline. Curiously, there is also a swath of powerful right-wing voices making what appears to be a diametrically opposed argument. They are organized around the perceived threat of population growth, and—like their pro-population growth counterparts—they are deeply invested in regulating exactly which populations are permitted to procreate. In truth, though, these seemingly rival factions are two sides to the proverbial coin, and that coin is eugenics.

Courtesy of peoplesworld, Creative Commons

Courtesy of peoplesworld

Population alarmism, or the notion that high rates of population growth are to blame for poverty, climate change, and a host of other nightmarish global problems, is a well-disguised framework for undermining poor people of color’s reproductive autonomy. Its insidiousness comes from the effective coding of rhetoric surrounding hyperfertility and handout-seeking burdens to taxpayers as references to women of color, particularly poor Black women and immigrant Latina women. The fiction that excessively high birthrates are the source of human suffering becomes a way to mask racism, misogyny, and elitism while still clearly identifying poor women of color as the enemy, the undesirable Other.

It is important to note that not all people who can become pregnant are women; many trans men and nonbinary people can also become pregnant, and they are materially affected by attacks on reproductive health. Of course, such attacks are gendered in their ideology, and in this sense they are attacks on women, which necessarily impact trans women. Therefore, when referring to the logic of limiting reproductive choice, I will use “women”; when referring to actual initiatives to limit reproductive choice, I will use “people who can become pregnant.”

U.S. eugenics are at least as old as Mendel’s laws of heredity, but the pretext of unsustainable population growth for right-wing vilification of women of color’s fertility can be traced back to the emergence of a “new Malthusianism” that gained traction under President Nixon. In 1968, Paul Ehrlich sounded the alarm with his book The Population Bomb (coauthored without attribution by his wife), which argued that the earth was approaching its carrying capacity, and rising population growth would be catastrophic for humans and the environment. Coupled with Cold War anxieties that growing populations would cause resource scarcity, which would give rise to Communism, the Ehrlichs’ arguments helped generate bipartisan support for the suppression and stabilization of population growth. The conflation of the “population problem” and the implicitly racialized “urban crisis” of the mid-1960s further strengthened this support. Derek Hoff writes, “The purported connection between population growth and the urban crisis…injected a fresh dose of racial politics into a population discussion already tainted and racialized via the unfortunate legacy of eugenics” (31).

Right-wing enthusiasm for population control began to wane precipitously, however, when zero-growth efforts became associated with the pro-choice movement (giving way to right-wing resistance from groups like the Population Research Institute and the World Council of Families, which I discussed previously). Additionally, libertarian groups embraced population growth as integral to populist efforts, and the rise of neoliberalism thrust regulation to the political margins. Nonetheless, certain right-wing elements of the zero population growth movement remained.

One such element was the right-wing nativist contingent. 1979 saw the inception of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a virulently nativist organization that began by couching its racist agenda in unscientific environmentalist arguments for shrinking the immigrant population in the United States. According to Priscilla Huang of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), a number of FAIR’s highest positions are held by people with “ties to white supremacist groups,” and the organization has been the recipient of more than $1 million from the Pioneer Fund, whose other grantees include groups that perform “research in eugenics and ‘race science’” (394). FAIR’s founder, John Tanton, has openly embraced eugenics. (Tanton also played an integral role in founding NumbersUSA and the Center for Immigration Studies, which both advance nativist efforts to restrict immigration.) The Southern Poverty Law Center has named FAIR a hate group.

FAIR is not alone in exploiting fears of climate change and resource scarcity to foster anti-immigrant sentiment and shape anti-immigrant legislation, but it is spearheading the charge. FAIR is the largest anti-immigrant organization in the U.S., and probably the most influential. With ample congressional influence and a reported 250,000 members, FAIR cannot be dismissed as merely a fringe group.

Nativist advocates of population control have attempted to square their agenda with the anti-choice philosophies of the Right by claiming, as former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) did in 2007, “If we had those 40 million children that were killed over the last 30 years, we wouldn’t need illegal immigrants to fill the jobs that they are doing today” (Huang, 403). The subtext of this ludicrous assertion is that abortion (that evil of evils) is killing the good children: the White ones.

DeLay’s line of reasoning also smooths over another major break between the anti-choice Right and the population control movement. To right-wing libertarians who seek to shrink government, DeLay (along with those who have made similar arguments) suggests that curtailing immigration and immigrant populations will preserve the integrity of a U.S. libertarian movement by restoring power to the right (read: White) people.

In a memo titled “Latin Onslaught,” John Tanton says that White people’s “power and control over their lives [is] declining” as “a group that is simply more fertile” procreates itself to majority status (Sánchez, 2). As Tanton would have it, big government and a growing Latino voting base are co-conspirators in the effort to rob “real” Americans of the autonomy and supremacy they are due. (“More fertile,” of course, implies more promiscuous, more sexual, more irresponsible—all stereotypes with which women of color are branded. In true eugenic fashion, it also implies innate bodily difference from white women.)

Historically, nativist efforts to quell the perceived threat of Latina women’s fertility have gone far beyond altering immigration patterns. An article by Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas and Taja Lindley at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health explains that coercive sterilizations of Latina/o people who could become pregnant were widespread in the 1960s and 1970s. This abuse, the authors say, was motivated by “[f]ears about over-population, welfare dependency, increased spending for public services, and illegitimate childbearing,” which “fueled stereotypes about both women of color and immigrant women, and led health professionals and State policymakers to intimidate ‘undesirable’ women into agreeing to surgical sterilization.”

In 1978, ten Chicana women who were coercively sterilized at a Los Angeles County hospital (whose obstetric residents had a quota for tubal ligations) over a four-year period went to court seeking justice. While Madrigal v. Quilligan ultimately led to the enactment of important regulations for obstetricians, the ruling favored the doctors who had performed the surgeries, affirming the stereotype that Mexican women tend to have excessive numbers of children and determining that “it was not objectionable for an obstetrician to think that a tubal ligation could improve a perceived overpopulation problem,” or to perform the procedure in compliance with this racialized and politicized theory. (Read Alexandra Minna Stern’s thorough analysis of the politics of Madrigal here.) Latina organizers, including those who bravely went before the court in Madrigal, worked tirelessly to abolish tubal ligations performed under coercion or without informed consent.

Yet Latina women’s fertility remains a target of right-wing attacks. FAIR and its allies continue to argue (falsely) that hyper-fecund Latina women come to the United States in droves to give birth so that their children—derisively referred to as “anchor-babies”—can reap the benefits of big government’s welfare policies. To mitigate this problem, they propose amending the U.S. Constitution to deny citizenship for children born in the United States to undocumented parents, which is currently guaranteed by the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Huang points out that this project, if realized, would create a subjugable second class of “U.S.-born ‘alien’ children…a classification that would apply only to the offspring of immigrant women, the majority of whom are women of color” (401).

The institutionalization of such a racialized classification system would be utterly deplorable. It would undoubtedly visit unspeakable harm on many of the most vulnerable families in the United States; it would erect enormous barriers to access and gut protections for people already deprived of their rights and of recourse. But it would not be unique.

In the next part of this series, I endeavor to problematize the very notion of immigrants to the U.S., which is manifestly premised on racism and exclusion. This installment will discuss U.S. culpability in promoting sterilization as part of the ongoing genocide of Native American people.

 Share on Twitte Button  Share on Facebook Button

From Europe to the United States: Ultra Right Ideology Continues to Gain Ground

Almost a decade ago, in the Spring 2005 issue of The Public Eye magazine, Jérôme Jamin examined the role of the Extreme Right in European politics (It’s worth noting that PRA no longer uses the term “Extreme Right,” as it has become so casually applied in the political discourse. We now generally use “Far Right” or “Ultra Right”). Jamin observed, that “as yesterday’s fascists [had] entered government,” it had become more difficult to identify them as such. With many of these parties participating in ruling coalitions, their public actions did not necessarily reflect their political rhetoric, restricted by coalition partners and, more broadly, by the European Union.

From May 22nd to the 25th this year, European parliamentary elections were held across Europe, and the same troubling questions came back to the fore. Parties of the Right with strong anti-immigrant and anti-Europe policies have flourished across Europe. Some of these parties have direct ties to the Nazi party, and many more use the same imagery. The Front National and the Danish People’s Party won the largest share of the vote in France and Denmark, respectively, by seeking to present themselves as mainstream. This mainstreaming has parallels in the U.S., with individuals and organizations with racist, sexist, and homophobic views seeking—and often gaining—mainstream credibility.

Marine Le Pen

Marine Le Pen, the new leader of Front National

Thanks to the new leadership of Marine Le Pen (daughter of former Party leader Jean-Marie Le Pen), Front National has been pulling off major upsets in French politics. The change in leadership from father to daughter allowed the party to distance itself from the controversial views of Jean-Marie, a man with a history of Holocaust denial, antisemitism, and racism, and who recently suggested that ebola could be the solution to population control and European immigration. Despite all this, the party now presents itself as moderate, having been through a process of “detoxification.” (Marine Le Pen took a political rival to court for calling her a fascist.) Success in the elections will only further the Front National’s move toward the mainstream. Having won 25 percent of the vote, they are now the largest French party in the European Parliament.

Winning an even higher percentage of their country’s vote, the Danish People’s Party became the largest Danish party in the European Parliament, doubling its number of seats. Its campaign relied on anti-immigration policies and racist statements, largely directed against Muslims. Party candidates have specifically argued against Muslim immigration, going so far as to suggest a ban on immigration from Islamic countries.

Among the other parties, Golden Dawn and Jobbik (of Greece and Hungary, respectively), stand out as examples of the Far Right’s rise in Europe. While it hasn’t achieved the electoral success of some of the other groups, Golden Dawn’s rise, in particular, shows that even clearly Nazi-inspired symbolism can win votes. From violent attacks on immigrants by likely supporters, to racially discriminatory welfare programs, and even to readings of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in the Greek parliament, you don’t even need to see their clearly Nazi-inspired rallies, logo, and flag to recognize the worrying similarities to Nazism. Golden Dawn only received 9.4 percent of the vote, but the party is now the third largest Greek party in the European Parliament.

A similar party in Hungary, called Jobbik, did not gain new seats in the elections; having received 14.7 percent of the vote, however, it’s certainly not on the decline. The party is clearly anti-Semitic (at one point asking to “tally up people of Jewish ancestry”), anti-Roma (suggesting Roma individuals be forced into camps, possibly for life), and anti-LGBTQ (proposing a similar “gay propaganda” law to the one recently passed in Russia).

There were many more smaller parties on the Ultra Right that won their first seats, including the National Democratic Party of Germany, a neo-Nazi party, whose new Member of the European Parliament has a laundry list of offensive comments, including calling Hitler “a great man.”

In the nine years since Jamin’s article, the Ultra Right has succeeded and thrived in becoming a considerable force in European elections, but it is still suffering from a self-imposed identity crisis. A recent Guardian article asked when it is appropriate to describe these parties and individuals as fascists. Controversial comments by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, referring to the Front National as a fascist party, have only added to the confusion over identifying the Ultra Right as such, especially when the parties in question are appealing to a quarter of voters, and whose policies don’t always reflect their racist ideology as much as they used to (at least explicitly).

To a certain extent, the two- party system in the U.S. has prevented Ultra Right groups from gaining traction here. Nevertheless, there are links between the Ultra Right in Europe and organizations on the Ultra Right in the U.S.  Moreover, strategies aimed at mainstreaming these dangerous ideologies should be cause for concern here, as well.

For example, National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown traveled with a group of French activists, including an ex-Front National candidate, and a top adviser to Marine Le Pen. The British National Party has clear links with the American Third Position (now the American Freedom Party), a group listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a White Nationalist group.

Pat Buchanan

Pat Buchanan

Other U.S. groups have been broadly supportive of the Ultra Right in Europe. David Duke, the former KKK Grand Wizard, celebrated the election victories of Ultra Right parties in Europe as “a small step forward to saving the world from Jewish supremacism.” Influential conservative leader and former White House communications director Pat Buchanan even wrote an article that broadly supported the election result, and has consistently either supported White Nationalist groups, or been supported by them.

Finally, White Nationalist ideologies have found their way into U.S.-based organizations (many of which try to brand themselves as “mainstream”).  From panelists at CPAC from a White Nationalist group, to a North Carolina congressperson appearing on a White Nationalist radio show, to Iowa congressman Steve King defending author Peter Brimelow (profiled by the SPLC as a White Nationalist), there is substantial overlap between the Right of the Republican party and elements of the Ultra Right, including White Nationalist movements. It should not come as a surprise, therefore, that elements of the White Nationalist movement are even demanding credit for the GOP’s similar strategies and policies.

The Ultra Right in Europe has gained ground, in many places displacing established parties by a considerable margin. Parties that were previously considered fascist, alongside younger parties with Islamophobic and racist immigration policies, have pushed their way toward success by seeking to mainstream their public reputation, if not their core ideology.  In the United States, the electoral system may be less likely to allow parties of the Ultra Right into formal power, but their ideologies still have currency within swaths of the GOP.

 Share on Twitte Button  Share on Facebook Button

 

Mass Shooters Have A Gender and a Race

A Closer Look at White Male Privilege

Although White males made up 69.2% of those arrested in 2011 for urban violence, Black men still account for the majority of the prison population, more than six times as likely to be incarcerated than White men. Black men are also subjected, according to Lawrence Grossman, former President of CBS News and PBS, to media stereotyping where TV newscasts “disproportionately show African Americans under arrest, living in slums, on welfare, and in need of help from the community.” However, men of color do not represent the majority of school shooters or mass murderers.

NRA-1-articleLarge

Recent studies reveal that most school shooters are White males, with 97 percent being male and 79 percent White. Over the last three decades, 90 percent of high school or elementary school shootings were the result of White, often-upper middle class, perpetrators. These shootings are a direct reflection of White male privilege and the consequences that occur when groups like the NRA control influential conservative leaders.

Before his May 23rd premeditated killing spree, Elliot Rodger posted a YouTube video saying his intention was to “slaughter every single spoiled stuck up blonde slut I see” inside a sorority house, because they “all would have rejected [him] and looked down upon [him] as an inferior man if [he] ever made a sexual advance towards them.” These chilling comments cannot be simply regarded as nonsense from a “madman,” because they actually represent the deeply entrenched manifestation of our misogynistic society. Furthermore, the case of Elliot Rodger exposes the prevailing intersection between gender and race of gun violence.

There is a pattern in these school shootings that has been coined as “suicide-by-mass-murder,” and seems to be an almost-exclusively young-White-male phenomenon. Michael Kimmel, a Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Stony Brook University and founder of the academic journal Men and Masculinity, has been conducting research on the intersection between race and gender of American school shooters, and observed that “victims of [young men of color] are usually those whom the shooter believes have wronged him. And it rarely ends with his suicide. .. White men, on the other hand, have a somewhat more grandiose purpose…’If I’m going to die, then so is everybody else,’ they seem to say. Yes, of course, this is mental illness speaking: but it is mental illness speaking with a voice that has a race and a gender.”

This “suicide-by-mass-murder” is a reflection of a combination of both White and male privilege—the ideology that White males have social, economic, and political advantages granted to them solely on the basis of their sex and race. In Elliot’s case, he believed he, as a White heterosexual male, was entitled to women and sex, and that their disinterest was “an injustice, a crime.” Misogyny is still alive and well in American society, provoking many men to still believe that women owe them obedience and adoration. Manhood and masculinity are defined and shaped from the early years of when a father or sports coach tells a boy to stop crying and “Man up, you sissy!” Boys become ‘men’ and gain respect from their peers when they lose their virginity or win their first fist-fight. Pop culture and movies drive home these not-so-subtle themes to young male audiences, teaching them that masculinity revolves around having a nice car, violently punching the bad guy, and saving the girl who would be nothing without their hero.

On top of all of this is the additional element of White privilege, furthering the notion that White males, as society tells them, are the alphas. These two elements combined invoke a sense of entitlement to jobs, education, power, and women. This embedded privilege within White American men becomes dangerous when they don’t get from women what they’ve been told they deserve or are entitled to. In many cases, this leads to incidents of domestic violence or rape. In cases where the man also suffers from mental illness, as was the case with Rodger, the feelings of worthlessness and suicidal thoughts drive a desire to reassert his presence and power above women before dying, by doing something catastrophic that will garner media attention.

White male privilege is evident, but it is not something that is often pointed out or discussed. Perhaps it is easier to notice the disadvantages of racial minorities or females rather than the advantages of White males. Perhaps it is because they are taught not to recognize it because of the guilt or consequent self-doubt that comes with societal privilege. Nevertheless, as a result, school shootings are increasingly frequent and studies continue to reveal the correlation between guns and race and gender.

In the wake of the Elliot Rodger shooting, in which he allegedly exacted retribution against women for paying him no romantic interest, Congress passed a bill on May 29th that aims to increase funding for criminal background checks in a 260-145 vote. This is the only gun control legislation that has been considered since the 2011 Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, after powerful lobbyist organizations like the NRA cast any opposition to gun violence as opposition to gun ownership and successfully lobbied against gun control laws. In fact, at the behest of the NRA, Congressional Republicans passed a law in 1996 that prevents the Center for Disease Control and Prevention from using federal funding to research the effect of guns. Republicans are now targeting the National Institutes for Health for funding research on public health issues of guns.

If change is to come about, schools and parents should start facilitating conversations about race and gender in the 21st century, because our society is not past racism or sexism yet. Or perhaps we should start with illuminating how the NRA, with 5 million predominantly White male members and $205 million in annual revenue, blocks most of the attempts for gun control legislation for their own agenda purposes. 47 percent of males and 33 percent of Whites in America own guns, while only 18 percent of non-White Americans possess firearms. Rick Ector, a NRA-credentialed Firearms Trainer, readily admitted that “the NRA has not made any significant progress or inroads towards increasing the number of black people in the organization and its annual conventions. By my own personal accounting, I met twelve black persons in attendance at the conference in St Louis.” There were 86,000 total attendees at the conference and they were primarily older white men, “the gun-loving sector of American society,” as The Economist describes. 

The NRA’s lobbying efforts to support gun ownership truthfully supports White male privilege in America as well. It’s not enough that economic, social, and political inequalities exist in society. It’s not enough that Congress, as it did on April 9th, block the Paycheck Fairness Act for the third time so that women can continue to receive a lower wage than men. Americans must also own guns so that people can protect their White male privileges and, consequently, allow for anyone to wield these weapons and punish others when these men do not get what they are promised by society.

Please refer to Guns and Racism: The Critical Issue We’re Not Allowed To Discuss for further information.

 Share on Twitte Button  Share on Facebook Button

Frazier Glenn Miller & The Ongoing Trend of Former-Military Neo-Nazi Murders

Military Veterans and the White Separatist Underground’s Cult of Violence

image via Mike Fox and NBC News

image via Mike Fox and NBC News

The recent murders at two Jewish institutions in Kansas City—apparently committed by former Nazi and Klansman Frazier Glenn Miller—unfortunately come as little surprise, as it was at least the third such incident in the United States in the last five years alone. In 2012, Nazi skinhead Michael Wade Page murdered six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, and in 2009 Holocaust denier James Von Brunn murdered a guard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.

All three perpetrators fit a very specific pattern: military veterans; involved in White nationalist politics for years; felt (apparently) their lives were at an end; decided to go out and murder unsuspecting civilians at the very public institutions which their politics had always targeted.

Miller is 73 and has emphysema. Von Brunn was 88 and died soon after the shooting. Wade was only 40, but committed suicide rather than surrender at the murder scene.

Unfortunately, this trend looks like it will continue into the future. Each of these men were products of a political environment that praised violence and glorified death. And so it seems safe to assume that as long as the violence-driven White separatist and White supremacist political underground remains, at least some of their activists can be expected to end their lives in such a manner in the future.

Frazier Glenn Miller

The ideology of White supremacy that Miller embraced has historically been intertwined with the use of institutional violence, from the genocide of Native Americans and American slavery to the lynchings of African-Americans. The Ku Klux Klan, often aided by local police, resisted the Civil Rights Movement with intimidation and murder. But even after the battle to defend segregation was lost and most Southern police agencies distanced themselves from the Klan, White separatist and supremacist groups have continued the open use of violence—only now without institutional backing—against religious, racial, and sexual minorities.

In recent decades, White nationalists moved from being pro-government, patriotic Americans—in the 1940s, one could support Jim Crow segregation at home and still fight the Nazis abroad—to being anti-system, right-wing revolutionaries. Bolstered by the Nazi skinhead subculture that exploded in the 1980s, this change from pro- to anti-system helped foster an ongoing culture of extreme violence. For such a small political movement, its members commit a fantastic number of violent criminal acts, which have included political assassinations, murders in public and domestic settings, and bombings which seek to inflict mass casualties. All of this is a microcosm of the violence praised by the historic fascist movement and its philosophical valorization of the “act”—as well as its practice of “total war” and racial genocide.

Miller played a central role in this shift towards revolutionary Far Right militancy. Originally a member of the White nationalist National States Rights Party, he later joined the neo-Nazi National Socialist Party of America, with whom he took part in the Greensboro Massacre of five left-wing, anti-racist protestors. He then formed the Carolina Ku Klux Klan, which morphed into the White Patriot Party (WPP), described by Leonard Zeskind as a “hybrid organization [which] grafted uniformed paramilitarism and Naziesque ideology onto its roots as a white-robed Klan group.”* This was part of what is called the “Nazification of the Klan,” when Nazi and Klan groups overcame historical divisions and grew closer in ideology and collaboration.

Miller has described himself as “ultra Right plus a million miles.” His party’s platform was “Southern independence. The creation of an all-White nation within the one million square miles of mother Dixie. We have no hope for Jew York City or San Fran-cissy-co and other areas that are dominated by Jews, perverts, and communists and non-White-minorities and rectum-loving queens.” The group’s prerecorded phone messages included “the simulated voice of a black man being lynched.” This approach proved quite popular: by 1985, Miller claimed the WPP had 2,500 members, and they held public marches with hundreds of members dressed in camouflage uniforms and black berets. In 1984, Miller ran for North Carolina governor and received 5,000 votes.**

A member of the U.S. Army’s Special Forces, Miller retired from the military in 1979, but used his military background to recruit soldiers and accumulate an arsenal that included anti-tank rockets. He received $200,000 from the underground White nationalist terror group The Order (Brüder Schweigen), and was involved in a plot to kill Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center. (Meanwhile, former members of the WPP were arrested in a triple murder in a gay bookstore in 1987.)

That same year, Miller was arrested, fled underground, and issued a “Declaration of War” against the federal government. Caught shortly thereafter with a cache of weapons, he flipped, testifying against his fellow White nationalists in the Fort Smith sedition trial. Released after serving three years in prison, he kept a relatively low profile until recently, as he had been shunned by his former colleagues as a snitch. But apparently his political views had not changed. After his arrest in Kansas City, Miller yelled “Heil Hitler!” at a television crew from the back of a police car. Although we don’t know his motives yet, he seems to have surrendered peacefully and knows he’ll probably serve the rest of his life in prison.

James Von Brunn

A Navy veteran, Von Brunn had links to antisemitic groups going back to the 1970s, and was connected to various figures in the White nationalist movement. In 1981, he brought a shotgun into a Federal Reserve meeting, hoping to kidnap board members and read a televised speech; he served eight years in jail for the crime, though he blamed the “negro jury” and “Jew judge” for the sentence. Telling his ex-wife he was planning to go out “with his boots on,” in June of 2009 Von Brunn went to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and murdered a guard. Wounded at the scene, Von Brunn died of natural causes six months later.

Michael Wade Page

Page served in the Army in the 1990s before being discharged for “patterns of misconduct” (alcoholism). He was somewhat unusual in that he apparently became involved in Nazi skinhead activities not as a teenager, but rather when he was almost 30. A “patched-in” member of the Hammerskins—an international racist skinhead organization whose reputation for violence is notable even among skinheads—he played in racist bands before life turned sour as the 40 year old as he lost his job, his girlfriend left him, and his house was foreclosed on.

In 2012, he opened fire at a Sikh temple and murdered six unarmed worshippers before he shot himself in the head after he was wounded by a police officer during a gun battle.

And there are many others who fit the profile a little less precisely. For example, former Marine J.T. Ready was an anti-immigrant activist who formed two armed vigilante border patrol groups in Arizona. A recent member of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement, in 2012 he murdered four people in what was apparently a domestic dispute and then killed himself.

The military background of each of these men is unsettling, as it provides weapons training and sometimes combat experience. Veterans are known to suffer from high rates of domestic violence, suicide, and mental health problems. But veterans come in all political stripes, and it’s the simmering violence in the White separatist and supremacist milieu that’s clearly the spark.

Action Over Thought – More To Come

The Nazi and Klan political environments cultivate a cult of the warrior, often draped in Viking imagery which praises soldiers who go to Valhalla. It promotes action over thought, and a deeply patriarchal mindset that attacks Jews and non-Europeans and accuses them of weakness, disease, and of diluting a strong White identity.

Having spent years immersed in these narratives, and facing the end of their lives, some longtime militant Far Right activists are choosing violent ends—even if their supposed warrior deaths turn out to be cowardly assassinations. They seek soft targets and murder unsuspecting—and usually unarmed—civilians.

Unfortunately, there seems to be no shortage of Millers, Von Brunns, and Pages. In recent years, the White separatist violence of past decades has simmered down. Klan groups are declining, as the less-explicitly-bigoted Patriot movement is in ascendance. The skinhead culture has lost its youthful cache, and most of the prominent Nazi skinhead groups have collapsed. But the ultra-violent culture these men thrived in during their prime still retains its mental hold on thousands of aging, troubled men. We should brace ourselves for more of them to take the same path out when they decide their lives are at an end.

However, one thing that could be done to lessen these scenarios would be to support the work of “transitioning out” programs, which help neo-Nazi and similar activists escape the political scene they often are trapped in. Those wishing to exit are often threatened by their colleagues, and need help removing White supremacist tattoos, finding jobs, moving themselves and their families to safe locations, and establishing new social networks. The lack of availability of these programs often leads disenchanted militant Far Rightists back into their established social and political networks, which—in the cases looked at here—can have tragic results for both themselves, their families, and their victims. Groups like One People’s Project (onepeoplesproject.com) and Life After Hate (lifeafterhate.org) are open to help those wishing to exit these politics and start new lives.

* Leonard Zeskind, Blood and Politics (New York : Farrar Straus Giroux, 2009), 131.
** Cited in James Ridgeway, Blood in the Face, second edition (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1995), 118–19.

Related:

SPLC has published several phone calls between the head of their Intelligence Project, Heidi Beirich, and Frazier Glenn Miller. You can see all of them here.

Dr. Ben Carson, the Right’s Latest Great Black Hope

Dr. Ben Carson, speaking at the 2013 Values Voters Summit

Dr. Ben Carson, speaking at the 2013 Values Voters Summit

In 2004, then-Senator Barack Obama burst onto the national political scene with his stirring speech at the Democratic National Convention. Since then, the GOP has been in search of a “Great Black Hope” to counter Obama’s supposed racial appeal to Black voters. From Alan Keyes to Herman Cain, various Black candidates have been floated in hopes that they held the keys to a GOP victory among Black voters (and promptly shunted to the side once they prove otherwise).

The latest in this parade of short-lived political celebrities is Dr. Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon and former head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins. Carson’s celebrity status has been on the rise since he lambasted the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or “Obamacare”) in front of President Obama at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast. Since then, Carson has become a sought-after speaker on the conservative political circuit, including the 2013 Values Voters Summit, and both the 2013 and 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) convenings. Carson received a warm welcome at CPAC 2014, where he delivered a well-attended and well-received speech, landing him in third place in CPAC’s straw poll of possible 2016 presidential candidates. (Carson received 11% of the CPAC vote,  just shy of Ted Cruz’s also 11% second-place finish and well behind winner Rand Paul’s 31%. Carson received 4% of the straw poll vote at CPAC 2013).

Part of Carson’s appeal is his validation of the GOP base through the use of fear-mongering and persecution fantasies validates the GOP base At CPAC 2014, Carson took the opportunity to revisit his controversial comments at Values Voters 2013, where he declared the Affordable Care Act:

The worst thing to happen in this nation since slavery… It is slavery in a way, because it is making all of us subservient to the government, and it was never about healthcare. It was about control.

Carson’s CPAC 2014 speech mocked the “PC police” for allegedly misrepresenting his remarks at Values Voters, as well as his March 2013 comments which implicitly equated being gay with pedophilia and bestiality (The comments touched off a media firestorm that culminated in Carson withdrawing as commencement speaker at the Johns Hopkins 2013 graduation ceremonies). “Of course slavery is worse [than Obamacare],” he scoffed, and anyone who believes “Carson said gay marriage and bestiality are the same thing … is a dummy.” He described criticism of his comments as tactics taken from “the principles of Saul Alinsky” and the only resort of people who have only “ideology” and “cannot argue the actual facts.”

Among his other red-meat rhetoric at CPAC, Carson denounced “extra rights” for LGBTQ people; lectured “minority communities” on the “need to learn how to turn over [a] dollar … and create wealth” and “not [be] a victim”; touted self-determination and faith in God as the keys to “mov[ing] up”; and my personal favorite: declared that America “is about to sail off Niagara Falls, and we’re all going to be killed.”

Perhaps the most intriguing parts of Carson’s comments were his hints at plans for a more overt political role, and further efforts at organizing and recruiting Black conservatives. Carson urged attendees to sign a petition against the ACA, created by Newt Gingrich’s American Legacy PAC— part of a “Save our Healthcare” campaign with Carson as the chair and public face of the project. (See Media Matters on the extremely dubious finances of the American Legacy PAC.)

Carson also announced the imminent launch of a Black conservative digital magazine, which will offer a “different point of view … [not] about being a victim [but] about how we use our collective intellect and our resources to move up.” The magazine will be backed by the Washington Times, where Carson has been a weekly columnist since July of 2013.

Further indication of Carson’s rising celebrity: the “National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee.” Founded by Black conservative Vernon Robinson, the PAC works to raise money and support for a potential 2016 presidential run by Carson (the PAC may also need to convince their would-be candidate to run, as Carson has repeatedly denied having any plans to do so). Last week, the PAC reported in a press release that it had raised $2.8 million in contributions from “nearly 47,000 individuals” in its first six months of operation, “outpacing similar efforts designed to draft other high-profile candidates into the 2016 presidential race” (namely, the Ready for Hillary PAC).

Robinson has argued that Carson is “the only guy who can broaden the GOP base, get 17 percent of the black vote, get a healthy number of Hispanic voters, while still staying true to conservative ideals”— and therefore the only candidate who can defeat Hillary Clinton, because 17% is, by his calculations, the percentage of Black voters the GOP needs to persuade to make a Democratic presidential win “mathematically impossible.”

It’s clear from such reasoning that race is a huge part— if not the primary reason for— Carson’s appeal to conservatives.  As I’ve written elsewhere for PRA, he and other Black conservatives give the political Right a convenient, “color-blind” cover for its racism, homophobia, and historical revisionism. Words that out of Paul Ryan’s mouth are lambasted as racist—such as his recent comment about “inner cities” having a “culture problem … of men not working”—get a very different reaction when Black conservatives (or, to be fair, even President Obama) make similar statements. And, of course, there’s the obvious usefulness of a famous world-class surgeon as the face of opposition to the first Black president’s healthcare reform.

Carson and other Black conservatives are also useful to the conservative establishment for the bootstrapping narratives they often tell about their own personal histories. In his media appearances, Carson frequently speaks of his upbringing by a single Black mother who, despite being poor and functionally illiterate, accepted “no excuses” about his education. Carson cites this “no excuses” attitude, coupled with faith in God, as the reasons for his considerable accomplishments.

Similar stories can be heard from Black conservatives like Star Parker, whose authority and appeal rests on her history as a single mother on welfare who found God and swore off “dependency” on the government (which she describes as leaving “Uncle Sam’s plantation”). Senator Tim Scott regaled the CPAC audience with his often-told story of being a “poor kid growing up in a single parent household” who nearly failed out of school before turning his grades and his life around when he found a mentor who taught him that “you can think your way out of poverty” (the takeaway: Scott’s “Opportunity Agenda,” which promotes “school choice”).

These personal accounts of rising from poverty, ostensibly through sheer effort and positive thinking alone, are touted by Black conservatives and the conservative establishment as embodied proof that GOP ideology is somehow pro-Black, and that racial disparities have nothing to do with institutional racism or any systemic injustice. When Carson and other Black conservatives speak before overwhelmingly white audiences like CPAC’s, they serve as living rebukes— and often offer literal rebukes, as Carson did— to Black Americans and minority communities for failing to make it as they have done. Unsurprisingly, such rhetoric falls flat with the majority of Black voters.

Nor has the political hype around these Black GOP stars materialized into serious campaigns for national office. Carson has generated buzz and considerable money as a potential candidate despite his zero political experience at any level of government. And there lies the true utility and appeal of Carson and the Great Conservative Black Hopes who have come before him: Not in their potential to win votes or elections, but rather in how they validate and energize the base. If Carson does choose to run for president in 2016, his campaign is unlikely to last long, much less be a serious contender. But in the meantime, his rising star continues to provide credence to racist GOP ideology and opportunities for PACs with dubious finances to cash in.

“Zero Tolerance” for Silenced Histories: Neglecting Civil Rights Education in Schools

photo credit: Standing On My Sisters' Shoulders

photo credit: Standing On My Sisters’ Shoulders

It’s been a busy few weeks for education policy in America. (Then again, when is it not?)  Just last week, the College Board announced changes in the SAT to make the test a better assessment of school curricula and predictor of college success.  Mayor Bill DeBlasio and charter school champion Eva Moskowitz continued to butt heads over the role of charter schools in New York City.  The Center for American Progress released a new report, Beyond Bullying, focusing on LGBTQ students and the school-to-prison pipeline. And with the snow beginning to thaw and spring right around the corner, teachers and students are gearing up for a new onslaught of high-stakes testing designed to ensure “accountability” and “achievement.”

Many leading advocates of school choice and education “reform” are actually well-established right-wing players whose other political priorities—including anti-unionization efforts, regressive tax policies, and cuts to welfare—demonstrate little interest in defending public institutions or promoting racial justice.  Yet by using people of color as the spokespeople for privatization campaigns, these reformers can claim to be strengthening public schools and combating inequality even as they advance a pro-privatization agenda that is fundamentally at odds with commitments to racial and economic justice.

For example, as Political Research Associates’ fellow Rachel Tabachnick and others have documented, the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) has been a vocal advocate for vouchers and private school choice in Washington, D.C., Louisiana, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.  Its founder, Howard Fuller, previously played a pivotal role in establishing a voucher program in Milwaukee.  The resulting voucher and corporate tax credit programs have helped redirect millions of public dollars from public schools to private schools.

People for the American Way has described BAEO—which was established in 2010 and receives major funding from both the Walton (i.e. Walmart) and Bradley Foundations—as “better known for supporting education privatization and affirmative action rollbacks than empowerment of the African-American community or low-income families.”  Indeed, the promise of the education reform movement to “close the achievement gap” and “end educational inequality” is disingenuous at best and empty and pernicious at worst when considering the role of its primary funders in perpetuating racial, economic, and gender inequality.

A few other recent news stories, however, have suggested ways to engage with substantive questions of racial justice in public schools.  President Obama, for example, recently announced “My Brother’s Keeper,” a new initiative that, while far from perfect (particularly in its neglect of female and LGBTQ students), is designed to support young men of color and intervene in the school-to-prison pipeline.

Additionally, the Southern Poverty Law Center just released an updated version of Teaching the Movement, which evaluates civil rights education across the United States. The report serves as a powerful reminder that improving public schools must go beyond debates over high-stakes testing, reading comprehension, and complex fractions.  Unfortunately, the report also makes clear that we still have a long way to go.

The authors note that some states have made important improvements to their curricula since the report was first released in 2011. Still, 20 states still scored a big red “F” according to the SPLC’s criteria, and an additional 14 states still earned a “D.”  As the report’s authors state bluntly, “We remain concerned that students are likely to remember only two names and four words about the civil rights movement: Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and ‘I have a dream.’”

While education reformers remain hyper-focused on test scores and “achievement,” SPLC’s criticism regarding a lack of civil rights literacy is about far more than just getting 11th graders to ace the Advanced Placement U.S. History exam.  In his introduction to the report, Henry Louis Gates Jr. describes, 

“All of us are aware of the pressures our teachers and children are under to keep pace with the world’s students in science and math, but without a steep grounding in our history, what will rising generations have to pivot from? What will inspire them to remake their world with the confidence that comes from knowing it has been done before?”

Too often, debates over public education sidestep discussions of how schools can teach students not only to master Common Core standards, but also to be active, thoughtful, justice-driven members of society. Quoting civil rights historian Taylor Branch, the report offers one response: “If you’re trying to teach people to be citizens, teach them about the civil rights movement.”  Notably, Branch does not mention suspensions, high-stakes testing, or Teach for America as citizenship-building.  In the conclusion to Teaching the Movement, the report emphasizes just how high the stakes are: “When students learn about the civil rights movement, they learn about the democratic responsibility of individuals to oppose oppression and to work for justice. We gloss over the civil rights movement at our own peril as a nation working to achieve equal opportunities for all citizens.”

Meanwhile, as reformers lament a (non-existent) decline in test scores and wax nostalgic about the 1960s when American students “were so much smarter,” they obscure critical gains in public education access for students of color since the end of Jim Crow-era segregation and the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board decision.  Even after Brown in the 1960s, Black students in the United States often still found themselves in segregated, woefully underfunded classrooms.  “At the same time,” the report notes, “the very school districts that Brown desegregated have now re-segregated”  While some charter schools have managed to raise test scores, they may contribute to the resegregation of public schools, while also pushing out ELLs, students with disabilities, and others.

Ultimately, our failure to prioritize civil rights education in American classrooms is not an isolated problem.  Rather, it reflects a much broader and arguably misguided discussion about what constitutes racial justice within public education.  We talk endlessly about the “achievement gap,” but we do far less to fight back against efforts to ban ethnic studies in Arizona and elsewhere.  Many charter schools—the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) being the most well-known—place a heavy emphasis on character development and strict discipline policies. But as we debate discipline and “zero tolerance,” we neglect the shoddy teaching of the Civil Rights Movement and other substantive discussions of curriculum.  In doing so, we fail to make schools critical sites of intervention against a history of oppression and injustice, prioritizing “grit” and “zero tolerance” over the too often hidden histories of people resisting, dreaming, and building toward a better future.

The Adoption Crunch, the Christian Right, and the Challenge to Indian Sovereignty

While the demand for adoptable babies is increasing in the United States—driven in large part by evangelical Christians—the number of babies available for adoption is declining. Adoption agencies are now targeting tribal nations as a potential new source of babies to adopt, and forming alliances that threaten to undermine the sovereignty of Native American nations.

photo credit: The Post and Courier

photo credit: The Post and Courier

**This article appears in the Winter 2014 issue of The Public Eye magazine.**

On September 23, 2013, a child-custody battle that was nearly five years in the making came to its conclusion in Oklahoma when an Army veteran from the Cherokee Nation, Dusten Brown, handed over his daughter, Veronica, to Matt and Melanie Capobianco, a White couple from South Carolina who had raised her for the first two years of her life.1

Brown gained custody of four-year-old Veronica in December 2011, after a South Carolina court ruled that the adoption process had violated federal Indian law. Brown’s attorneys also argued that Christina Maldonado—Brown’s ex-fiancé and Veronica’s biological mother, who is Latina—had deliberately concealed plans to let the Capobiancos adopt her.2  As the custody decision was reversed following a 2013 Supreme Court ruling,3 and Veronica was tucked into the Capobiancos’ car to return to South Carolina, the scene was broadcast across national and social media to two polarized camps.  Read More

White Supremacist “Analyst” on Cable News’ Coverage of Zimmerman & Dunn Trials

Taaffe CNN1 The trials of both Michael Dunn and George Zimmerman have brought national attention to Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law. Media coverage of the trials has also proven to be an enormous boon for certain white supremacists, who have managed to use mainstream news outlets as a platform for bigotry.  Nowhere is this more evident—and disturbing—than in the case of Frank Taaffe.

Taaffe (who is also a neighbor and close friend of Zimmerman) has established himself as the most visible and vocal supporter of both George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn in cable news network coverage of the trials. Despite repeated revelations of Taaffe’s white supremacy activities, he continues to appear as a regular guest analyst on CNN’s HLN shows, including Nancy Grace’s coverage just this past week. His success in mainstreaming extremism should be a warning call.

 “Standing Our Ground” and The White Voice Network: Who is Frank Taaffe? 

Taaffe HLNTaaffe’s white supremacist “credentials” are extensive. Beginning in August of 2013, Taaffe hosted a weekly show on The White Voice Network, which describes itself as “media, news, and information for White people against White genocide.” Taaffe’s program is aptly named “Standing our Ground,” and is co-hosted with the author of the “Save White People Handbook,” Joe Adams. The Network’s guest list has included Tom Metzger, who founded White Aryan Resistance and who was praised by Joe Adams for his work against “niggers” and Jews.

Hosts and guests on The White Voice believe they must be proactive in defending themselves against the white genocide efforts of “niggers and mud people,” as Joe Adams describes in Episode 76.  In that same episode, guest Tom Metzger warns that the “nonwhites are getting more brave and bold all the time.” Frank Taaffe’s remarks have been similarly offensive, as evidenced by this short clip from Episode 8 of “Standing Our Ground,” which has since been scrubbed from the White Voice Network’s website.

**WARNING: Strong language**

Clip from “Standing Our Ground” episode 8, October 3, 2013

Transcript:

Caller: I think I did use the name Oprah Winfrey, so would Oprah Winfrey qualify as a nigger to you?

Joseph Adams: To me she wouldn’t.

Frank Taaffe: I think she is.

Joseph Adams: Frank you go first, then.

Frank Taaffe: “Yeah, she’s a nigger because she keeps spewing out all that bullshit. She goes over to Switzerland and she says that the lady didn’t want to share a handbag because she thought that she couldn’t afford it, and she keeps just doing what she’s doing. She keeps stirring the pot. She keeps trying to promote her boy Obama. You know, Obama could do no wrong. You know, it’s birds of a feather, they flock together and stick together, and to me, she’s a nigger. Oprah Winfrey’s a nigger. She’s a nigger.”

White Voice Programming and Stand Your Ground 

In addition to Taaffe’s show, The White Voice Network includes a slate of other podcasts, including their new program, “Traditionalist Youth Hour,” hosted by Matthew Heimbach, Matt Parrott, and Thomas Buhls. All three are affiliated with the Traditionalist Youth Network, and Buhls is also a coordinator for the Knights Party Veterans League of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).

Heimbach is a 2013 graduate of Towson University, where he founded Youth for Western Civilization, a white nationalist organization.  According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Heimbach has taken a turn to the Hard Right since graduating, so much so that he was booted out of the League of the South for participating in Klan and neo-Nazi gatherings.  (Heimbach had been given an award by the League of the South at their 2012 conference in Montgomery, where Heimbach and his friends spent their evening hours “flagging” locations, or taking pictures of themselves with Confederate flags. These landmarks included the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. pastored, and the Southern Poverty Law Center, described by the group as planning “white genocide.”)

The baby-faced, constantly smiling Heimbach has told ABC News that he considers himself a racist.  In an interview with the National Socialist Movement, Heimbach described himself as a Christian nationalist with a “spiritual calling.”  He also described the United States today as a sick and dying society comparable to Germany in the ’20s and ’30s.  Heimbach explained that fiery faith is crucial as a motivation, stating, “I wouldn’t die for tax cuts for the rich.  I’m not going to die about what road they’re going to build through our county.” He continues, “But I will die for my faith.”  He cites Francisco Franco as the best example of a leader for the Christian Nationalist Movement.

It was Heimbach and his White Student Union that caused the widely-reported commotion at CPAC in 2013, as he and others affiliated with the Union shouted out in defense of slavery and segregation during a session on GOP outreach to minorities. 

Networks, Cable News, and the Mainstreaming of Extremism 

In recent months, Mariah Blake has written several articles [see here, here, and here] about Taaffe’s background on Mother Jones. Blake noted that Taaffe was invited by HLN to “weigh in on legal and technical aspects of the Zimmerman case, from the implications of witness testimony to the meaning of forensic evidence” and was given a platform to counter forensic experts and medical examiners.  In fact, one of Taaffe’s “Standing Our Ground” shows was live broadcast while Taaffe was in a limo on the way to Headline News Studio. Despite Blake’s revelations about Taaffe’s white supremacist activities and his criminal record, he has continued to be featured as an analyst on HLN’s Nancy Grace Show, appearing as recently as this past week.

Meanwhile, in his podcasts for The White Voice, Taaffe makes no effort to hide his supremacist beliefs in regards to Trayvon Martin, Michael Dunn, and Stand Your Ground laws: In one episode of “Standing Our Ground,” Frank Taaffe tells a black caller to the show, “Listen up, negro.  You got your justice.  It’s the Trayvon Martin Foundation and they’re reeling in the big bucks.”  Taaffe continues, “Listen to me, man.  We did our best in the South, and the South will rise again.  Okay, you want to come on down.  Make sure you remember this is Florida.  You come on vacation, leave on probation, and you’re back on violation.” Taaffe CNN2

Media Matters reported in 2013 that Taaffe’s media footprint has also “included ABC News, CNN, NBC News, Fox News, CBS News, MSNBC, and CNN-spinoff HLN” and “more than 60 separate primetime appearances on HLN alone.”[emphasis added]

Ultimately, we must recognize that Taaffe’s successful transformation into a “mainstream” media fixture is not an isolated problem.  Both current and former members of the League of the South can now claim the title of “media superstar,” as documented in Nullification, Neo-Confederates, and the Revenge of the Old Right. The mainstreaming of extremism is a widespread and deeply disturbing. Those committed to advancing racial and social justice would be wise to pay attention to the voices and ideas being given legitimacy every day on network news.

Profiles on the Right: Ryan Bomberger

Ryan Scott Bomberger Photo credit: Penny Starr, CNSnews

Ryan Scott Bomberger
Photo credit: Penny Starr, CNSnews

At the Family Research Council’s 2012 Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., where he was a featured speaker, Ryan Bomberger opened his remarks by saying “I’m as Black as Obama.” He explained that his biological mother was raped, became pregnant, chose to carry him to term, and put him up for adoption. He was accepted into a large family with White parents and other multicultural, multiracial adoptee brothers and sisters.1

Bomberger and his wife, Bethany, cofounded The Radiance Foundation in Atlanta, GA, in 2009. They both earned graduate degrees from Pat Robertson’s Regent University, and Ryan was Regent’s alumnus of the year in 2012. The Radiance Foundation is now based in Virginia Beach, VA, where Regent University is located.

Bomberger, who earned an MA in communications, is the “chief creative officer” at Radiance. His use of social media is highly sophisticated, and Radiance’s interactive website is rich with video shorts. The organization’s self-described mission is to “illuminate the intrinsic value each person possesses” through “creative ad campaigns, powerful multi-media presentations, and compassionate community outreach.”2

Bomberger has worked on a number of initiatives, including the notorious “Too Many Aborted” billboard campaign. Launched in Atlanta in 2010, the billboards juxtaposed images of African-American babies or toddlers with inflammatory statements. One compared abortion with the African genocide of the transatlantic slave trade. The campaign was endorsed by several national African-American antichoice leaders, including Dr. Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and director of African-American outreach at Priests for Life.3

“Too Many Aborted” was funded by Georgia Right to Life, a prominent antichoice institution with more than 30 chapters throughout the state. Registered as a 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) organization, it pursues public education and outreach activities while also conducting substantial legislative work, including lobbying the Georgia state legislature and endorsing candidates.

Since conceptualizing the billboards, Bomberger has turned to creating ads that promote transracial adoption. One of his recent media campaigns, “Turn the Unplanned into a Loving Plan,” is a collaborative effort with the RealOptions Medical Pregnancy Clinics of California and Bethany Christian Services.4  The latter is an international adoption agency with reported revenue of more than $82 million in 2012.

The public service announcement they collaboratively produced shows images of White parents and a cast of multiracial children, reflecting the antichoice movement’s effort to broaden its appeal by highlighting diversity. Bomberger, through his personal story and his media savvy, is becoming an increasingly vital contributor to that goal.

Next ProfileThis profile also appears in the Summer 2013 issue of the of PRA’s Public Eye magazine.


1. “Ryan Bomberger speaks at Values Voter Summit 2012,” YouTube, Feb. 18, 2013, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZW5tVQBFkA.

2. “Our Vision and Mission,” The Radiance Foundation, http://www.theradiancefoundation.org/our-story/our-vision-mission.

3. Penny Starr, Ryan Scott Bomberger, “A Rape Victim’s Child Speaks Up for Right to Life,” Catholic Online, Nov. 12, 2011, http://www.catholic.org/national/national_story.php?id=43637.

4. “Turn the Unplanned Into a Loving Plan,” The Radiance Foundation, http://www.theradiancefoundation.org/turn-the-unplanned-into-a-loving-plan.