White Nationalists Seek Respectability
in Meeting of "Uptown Bad Guys"
By JONATHAN TILOVE
Newhouse News Service
RESTON, Va. April 1 was Census Day, the moment
the 2000 census was supposed to capture, marking the first census
of a century that promises by its mid-point to record a United
States that is less than half white. By coincidence, it was also
opening day for a conference of some 200 white men and a handful
of white women who are appalled at that prospect and astonished
by the apparent willingness of most whites to let it happen.
"We've lost the ability to say 'us' or 'we.'
Most whites simply cannot bring themselves to say, 'This is our
culture, this is our nation and it belongs to us and no one else,'''
declared Jared Taylor, the charismatic convener of the fourth
biennial American Renaissance Conference, named for the publication
that he edits.
Attendees suffered no such lip-lock. The conference
brought some of the leading intellectual and political lights
of the white far right to the Sheraton Hotel in this planned community
a traffic jam from the nation's capital. For two days, they talked
to one another in tones by turn defiant and despairing of the
demographic changes threatening white dominance in America and
the West, and their determination to rally dormant white racial
consciousness to turn back that day-or at least to go down in
history as those who dared curse the twilight of white primacy.
"Our people are going to be extinct if we
don't stand up on our hind legs and do something,'' said Gordon
Baum, the affable St. Louis lawyer who heads the national Council
of Conservative Citizens, which counts as members at least 80
legislators across the nation.
They talked about an America that they believe
once was and ever ought to be a white, European-American nation.
Theirs would be a nation bound by blood and sanctified by the
genetic scientists who appeared before them as a place where white
people might rightly prevail over the black and brown people;
a nation where what they consider the natural hierarchy might
finally triumph over what they count as the false promise of egalitarianism.
In the words of Samuel Francis, an influential
writer and one of its leading ideologists, theirs is "a movement
that rejects equality as an ideal and insists on an enduring core
of human nature transmitted by heredity.''
This is, of course, many giant steps outside the
modern American political mainstream. For the weekend, the Sheraton
was a place where racial diversity was denigrated and John Rocker-
"the one sane man in sports,'' Taylor said - was celebrated.
But, with the exception of a handful of protesters who showed
up on the eve of the conference, the broader world barely took
To the faithful in attendance, and to those who
warily watch their progress, the American Renaissance Conference
represents a notable coming together of previously disparate forces
under the banner of white nationalism. Its numbers may be small,
but its wingspan stretches from the outskirts of politics and
academia to the far reaches of the racist right. And, under Taylor's
tutelage, it is a movement endeavoring to subvert stock stereotypes.
Like a Nietzschean Henry Higgins, Taylor, who
was raised in Japan by liberal Presybterian missionary parents,
is trying to create a respectable and presentable white racial
In advance of the conference, he promised a highbrow
affair. "We're the uptown bad guys,'' he said with his genial
lilt and disarming self-awareness. The invitation reminded guests
that this was a "three-star hotel'' and instructed, "Gentlemen
will wear jackets and ties.''
Taylor is a graduate of Yale University and the
Paris Institute of Political Studies. And he noted that among
the featured speakers, only he and Sam Dickson, a fire-breathing
Atlanta attorney who closed out the event with an assault on "multiculturalism
and race-mixing,'' lacked a Ph.D. The others included academics
from the United States, Canada and Great Britain, and the second-in-command
of the right-wing French National Front.
Taylor, at least in his public role, also tries
to steer his operation away from obsessing on the Jews or spinning
conspiracy theories too tightly.
At the first conference in Atlanta in 1994, David
Duke, who showed up at the hotel, agreed to remain outside the
meetings, lest his toxic celebrity poison the infant effort. Duke
attended this year, fresh from a bracing appearance at a Richmond
shopping mall where he encouraged whites to buy at stores being
boycotted by blacks protesting the county's designation of April
as Confederate Heritage Month. At the conference, Duke was received
politely but accorded no special attention.
Both friend and foe credit Taylor, 48, as smart,
smooth, and so far at least somewhat successful.
Leonard Zeskind, who is writing a book on white
nationalism tentatively titled "Barbarism With a Human Face,''
believes Taylor's progress was made possible by the end of a Cold
War that once provided the right with sturdy American identity.
"The white nationalist movement has emerged
in the critical space between the conservative movement and the
Aryan Nations types, and that didn't exist 10 years ago,'' said
Zeskind, president of the Institute for Research and Education
on Human Rights in Kansas City, Mo. "Their immediate goal
is not to win the battle of ideas but to bring their ideas into
Of the view that whites are losing their privileged
status in America, Zeskind said, "They are right about that.''
America in 1965 was more than 80 percent white.
The 2000 census will find a country a little better than 70 percent
white. By 2050, it is projected that America will be barely half
white, 26 percent Hispanic, 14 percent black and 8 percent Asian.
Immigration, mostly from Latin America and Asia, and higher birthrates
for some of the non-white populations account for the change.
White supremacy was encoded in the United States
until 1865 in slavery and then until 1965 with Jim Crow, said
Barry Mehler, director of the Institute for the Study of Academic
Racism at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich. Only for
the last 35 years has the ideal of equality been dominant.
"The way I see the American Renaissance is
these are the academics, the intellectuals who are trying to lay
the foundation for a third system of racism,'' Mehler said. But,
he added, their day is done: "They are flat earth people.''
Chip Berlet, who tracks right-wing groups with
Political Research Associates in Somerville, Mass., uses another
word for white racial nationalism: "It's fascism.''
But Harvard University sociologist Orlando Patterson,
no fan of the movement, nonetheless suggests that the "ethnic
chauvinism'' of black and other minority groups has helped undermine
a common national identity and pave the way for a countervailing
Taylor sees himself as merely espousing racial
views that any white American of substance and power would have
held before the 1950s. And to him, research by the likes of J.
Philippe Rushton, the controversial University of Western Ontario
professor who spoke at this and past conferences, proves that
those views are in fact correct. Rushton has been pilloried by
many academics for his contention that whites on average have
larger brains than blacks and Asians have larger brains than whites
- simple facts, he said, that have been made to disappear for
political reasons. (Taylor concedes Asians the bigger brains,
but not a claim to American identity.)
In his remarks, Sam Dickson conceded that some
of the Founding Fathers inserted universalist language into the
original documents that folks like Abraham Lincoln could later
use to distort what Dickson considers America's real mission to
truly be a new England.
"All men are not created equal,'' Dickson
He believes that a nation founded on a common
peoplehood can be tolerant of difference, while one founded on
ideas like equality cannot be tolerant of those who don't subscribe
to those ideas. Dickson said he would be willing to move to New
England to permit the creation of a separate black nation in the
To Dickson's bad-cop white nationalism, Taylor
plays the good cop - presenting his views in as plain-spoken and,
considering the content, unthreatening a manner as possible. He
noted that ethnic and racial conflict was the rule throughout
history and the world. "The Serbs,'' he said, "have
not yet learned that diversity is a strength.''
Taylor picked on multiculturalist hypocrisies,
observing, for example, that while Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton
are tireless advocates of diversity, they sent their daughter,
Chelsea, to a private school in Washington; that when Hillary
Clinton moved to New York, she settled into a house in Chappaqua,
a Westchester community even whiter than Taylor's own very white
suburb of Oakton in Fairfax County, Va.
The Clintons, Taylor suggests, are only doing
what most whites do - avoiding diversity at all cost.
And yet, Taylor said, "What we don't like
in small doses, what we don't like when it happens in our neighborhood,
somehow when it happens to the whole nation is going to be OK.''
Andrew Hacker, the Queens (N.Y.) College sociologist
who writes frequently on race and who attended the 1998 conference
as an observer, believes Taylor's analysis is both right and wrong.
"If you're of European origin, I don't care
if one's left or right, whether you like it or not, you believe
you are superior,'' Hacker said. The difference is that conservatives
will admit that among themselves, while "liberals hate having
that view and wish they could get rid of it.''
But Hacker predicts that the demographic transformation
Taylor and his allies fear will never actually occur.
"In 50 years a very high percentage of Hispanics
and Asians will have adapted to the Anglo model,'' Hacker said.
"We absorb, we assimilate and co-opt at a pretty hefty tempo.''
(THIRD OPTIONAL TRIM FOLLOWS)
That is not the American Renaissance vision of
how it is going to go down.
"For much of the next generation race and
racial issues are going to be the major issues around which politics
revolves,'' said Francis, a syndicated columnist and editor in
chief of the Citizens Informer, the paper associated with the
Council of Conservative Citizens.
"As non-whites increasingly invade the country
through immigration and the racial balance runs against whites,
we will see an increasing level of interracial violence directed
against whites, an increasing level of discrimination and outright
persecution of whites for any challenge or resistance to non-white
domination, and an increasing level of barbarization of our culture
as immigrant and indigenous non-whites challenge and replace white
Richard Lynn, director of the Ulster Institute
for Social Research and author of "Dysgenics: Genetic Deterioration
in Modern Populations,'' was equally gloomy. "I think the
immigration of Third World people in the West is unstoppable,
as long as we retain democratic structures,'' he said.
Rushton finds a puzzle here. A gene's first mission
is to create more genes. How, then, have whites lost ground?
It is a puzzle that Taylor said confounds him.
He ran through the various theories, all of which he considers
inadequate. Maybe it was the terrible white fratricide of two
world wars, or the universalist message of Christianity. Maybe
it is the Jews, he said, to a small burst of applause.
What is certain, he said, is "a terrible
loss of confidence that has afflicted whites all around the world
- a loss of confidence so profound that it begins to border on
"It makes this, I believe, one of the most
dangerous and potentially fatal periods in our history as a people.
... Never, ever, has a people welcomed dispossession. It's against
human nature. It's against all history, and to bring something
as radically, radically sick as that about ...
"Maybe it's something in our genes, for heaven's
sake,'' Taylor surmised. "I'd hate to think that.''