August 21, 2017
After 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed while protesting at the White racist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday, August 12, Andrew Anglin—the founder of the neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer—published an article calling her “fat and a drain on society.”
“Despite feigned outrage by the media,” Anglin wrote, “most people are glad she is dead, as she is the definition of uselessness. A 32-year-old woman without children is a burden on society and has no value."
This is in sharp contrast to the way she was described by Heyer’s boss, a legitimate source—someone who actually knew her, who attested to her being “a strong woman.” Others lauded her commitment to standing against any form of discrimination. As the New York Times reported, she “died standing up for what she believed in.”
The disparagement and demonization of Heyer, a White woman actively fighting against racism, in many respects parallels to what happened to Viola Gregg Liuzzo a little over a half-century ago. Members of the Ku Klux Klan murdered Liuzzo while she was travelling from her home in Detroit to help the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) register African-American voters in Selma, Alabama, in March 1965. As the only known White female who was killed for participating in the Civil Rights Movement, Liuzzo, like Heyer, gave her life in an effort to make America a more equitable and just society.
Though public officials including President Lyndon B. Johnson and Michigan Governor George Romney visited Liuzzo’s family after her death, celebrating her sacrifice, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover launched a campaign to discredit Liuzzo—disseminating stories about her being a bad wife and mother, and being sexually involved with a Black male teen working with the SCLC.
The parallels between Heyer’s and Liuzzo’s racially driven murders remind us that today’s dynamics are nothing new. While the punditocracy is arguing about the semantics and sentiments of Donald Trump’s words and actions in response to the events in Charlottesville, and The Daily Stormer has been exiled by Facebook and Twitter and web-hosting sites like GoDaddy, Google, and even Russia’s RU-Center, which momentarily hosted it, we need to dig deeper to reflect on the multiple attacks against Heather Heyer and what it means about the persistent crisis of toxic White masculinity.
The perceived loss of power, privilege, prestige, and social capital is driving racist political agendas, and fueling this rise in a blatant aggression tinged with sexual insecurity.
Note that TV shows are no longer always portraying the lives of White men. The major sports teams—the NFL, MLB, and the NBA—are no longer dominated by white players. The world of popular culture is not exclusively white. Once all-white universities are merely predominantly so. For eight years, even the White House wasn’t white—the most powerful man in the country was Black and so is his family.
We saw hundreds of racists descend on Charlottesville with Tiki torches to blame and scapegoat Jews and people of color for their misfortunes in the workplace and the bedroom. We heard their pitiful, shrill cries: “You will not replace us!”
In my opinion, the so-called-alt, same-ole right, a.k.a the not-so-new Nazi movements are fed by White men struggling with a powerful sense of sexual displacement—their racial and gender identities are wrapped up in the belief that they are pre-ordained by a Christian sky daddy to be “masters of the universe,” ruling over Jews and the Earth’s dusky inferiors. This feeling of displacement starts in middle school and high school, with White males who aren’t high achievers, academically or athletically. Those who discover and feel a kinship with the ideology of White supremacy may feel a sense of validation of their rage and insecurity. And others find it through the “men’s rights” movement and its legions of trolls who stir up misogyny online. It’s led some of them right on the path to white supremacist groups.
As they become adults, the very foundation of their reality is being shaken by the rapid browning of America. The hatred The Daily Stormer and its scum publicly expressed toward Heyer demonstrates how much they hate women who don’t fit into their narrow definition of the Nazi Jim Crow fantasy ideal of the white heterosexual nuclear family. But that pre-1950s traditional white family ain’t coming back. Ever. Never. Ever never.
The fact is, White people in the United States and around the world are facing a genetic winter as they continue falling as a proportion of the population because they are no longer having enough babies to replace themselves. On top of this, middle-aged White Americans without a college degree and with fewer job opportunities than their parents’ generation are dying in greater numbers. Researchers speculate that bad economic times have fueled widespread hopelessness resulting in rising rates of divorce, suicide, overdoses from alcohol and opioids, liver disease, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, respiratory failure, and erosion of mental health.
This outcry demonstrates their growing fear that the U.S. will be a majority-nonwhite nation where they won’t be able to maintain their historic dominance over people of color to ensure not only their imagined genetic survival, but their status as rulers (even if that status exists only in their fantasies).
Visit any White nationalist website and you’ll see some key gripes about why Whites are facing extinction. They blame the destruction of White families on interracial marriage, “Jewish-controlled” popular culture and political correctness that promotes miscegenation, abortion and birth control, non-reproductive sex, such as homosexuality and celibacy, alcohol and drug abuse, radical feminism and careerism, rejection of motherhood, sexual conflict and competition between the sexes, economic factors that force women away from motherhood and the home into the workplace, and massive non-European immigration into White nations. Their list is long and their targets are many and invariably center Jewish efforts to displace white Christians. And they’re spraying their rage in as many directions as they can, being driven to public displays of violence and empowered by a terrorist sympathizer-in-chief.
It is important to truly understand their comments about Heather Heyer. They reveal a much deeper story about frustrated and unexamined sexuality to be told about this racist movement. As one of my friends put it in a Facebook comment on my page: “The citronella soldiers of the Trump regime do not like women. They like hating women. They need to find women at fault if they are to avoid faulting themselves for their failure to meaningfully connect with women,” Anthony Paul Farley, a critical race theorist wrote.
He added that one way to fault women is to racially fault them. “White women on the side of equality are no longer white, they are racial failures, just like blacks, in the eyes of these Trumpist citronella torch bearers.”
These fascists range from Donald Trump, with his small hands, to Heyer’s murderer, James Fields, whose mommy watched his cat while he went to war, perform a particular type of masculinity. Fields, who also beat his own mother, represents the contradictions of this white supremacist façade. And sexual dynamics play an undeniable role.
As Farley stated, “These Trumpers are failures, catastrophic failures, in their own eyes. And one of the failures that appears in their mirrors is sexual failure. Small hands? Differently directed libido? Difficulty, post-puberty, with mommy? Confused over what ‘no’ means? Are you John Wayne in your dreams? Why do you, a man, own a cat (conservatism isn’t about that)?”
What Farley’s comments reveal is that these conservative white men’s “weirdly restrictive and undemocratic ideas, especially about sex and gender,” do not match the lives they are actually living or, perhaps, the passions by which they are really and truly driven. These cowards spend their time trolling on Breitbart, The StormFront, 4chan, Reddit, and Twitter calling women “whores” and “cunts.”
These enraged supremacists are the White guys who lose out the prestigious positions they think will attract women, whether they’re lacking the athletic ability to make the football, basketball, and baseball teams, or the academic prowess to be top of their class because, to their minds, Blacks, Latinos, Asians, and women are pushing them out thanks to affirmative-action programs (which are actually benefitting White women).
I believe this starts in middle school, when they’re facing the onset of puberty. Those who aren’t chosen for the alpha male roles, or who measure themselves up against the boys of color in the locker room, start to feel inadequate.
And this feeling of inadequacy and loss of white male prestige equals a loss of sexual charisma. They hate women for making them feel less than, for rejecting them and being attracted to the powerful men who are increasingly non-white. Many don’t have the prestigious and high-paying jobs they think they deserve. They’re not occupying the positions of privilege to which they believe they are entitled from the cradle to the grave.
They are driven by fear of extinction and so-called “white genocide.” The so-called alt-right Neo-Nazi movement is filled with these mediocre White men, and now one of their own is in the White House. They can’t adjust to the fact that all White men are no longer stars or alphas like they were when people of color and women were kept out of competition. Nobody wants a mediocre white man, as a teammate, a spouse, an employee! The president’s wife is famous for rejecting his attempts to hold her hand. And let’s be clear, I’m not trying to impute closet homosexuality. It is more being sexually displaced by others who are more talented and visible. This is about the loss of prestige in public space. These men have demonstrated, even in their actual demonstrations, in their chants about demanding that they not be replaced, that they’re suffering from continuous anxiety over their inadequacy.
And now their patron saint, their role model, is leader of the free world. The most mediocre White man in the country became the POTUS—a fat, ugly, vulgar White man who boasts about his greatness in all manner of things, even when there’s proof that he has actually failed in such matters. He is the perfect president for the mediocre White man who feels displaced and inadequate. He had a rich father, and because he sold his companies to international gangsters, even his success is compromised. (The fact that his wife expresses her distaste for him may even make these men identify with him more.)
While clearly embodying the unfulfilled sense of entitlement, a belief that imagines White men as destined to be the CEO and the president, to be sexually dominant and the most popular kid in school, to be the sports star and sought-after celebrity; to be feared and revered, celebrated and desired, white supremacy is more than disaffected White kids.
It is important to move beyond narratives that imagine white supremacy through individual pathologies, and sad White adolescents whose hurt and unfulfilled sexual desires anchor their hate and compels their racist violence.
When the Klan was bombing churches in the 1950s and 1960s, and again in the 1980s and 1990s, when White men were kidnapping Black children and lynching them, when White men were shooting Black men, women, and children because they dared to vote, drink from water fountain, was it because they didn't make the football team, or because no one asked them to prom, or because they weren’t let into the coolest fraternity party? Was the conquest of indigenous lands, slavery, and Manifest Destiny a consequence of a feeling of sexual inadequacy? Is mass incarceration or the murder of countless police shootings of Black men, women, and children the consequences of white mediocrity and white fragility, or the insecurities and sexual failures of White men?
Clearly the depth and destructiveness of white supremacy and its institutional entanglements run deeper. White supremacist aggression isn’t just about unfilled sexual desires; it is also about institutional arrangements and power, and violent ideology.
The more equal the playing field becomes, the more that White men have to compete with women and with people of color for everything, the more violent and vile they will become. What we’re seeing is the tip of the iceberg. As the illusion of their superiority melts away, there is the potential of a better world ahead. We just have to survive and stay sane until we can get there while watching them go the way of the dinosaurs.