By Arielle Iniko Newton
Last week, the New York Times published Richard Fausset’s “A Voice of Hate in America’s Heartland” to claims that it was an amateurish puff piece that sought to humanize that which is inhuman. Amidst immediate backlash, Fausset wrote a follow up which was just as vapid, as did national editor Marc Lacey, who skirted responsibility for how awful the original piece was.
Many uplifted Luke O’Brien’s “The Making of an American Nazi” in contrast to Richard Fausset’s. This Atlantic profile of virulent white supremacist troll Andrew Anglin is at all times investigative, culturally competent, and thorough. While the principles of standard journalistic integrity remain intact, the author’s agenda is clear in demonizing Anglin as both sorrowful and dangerous. O’Brien does not hide behind “impartiality” or pretend to divorce himself from anti-Nazi bias as he commits himself to research, fact-checking, and rigorous verification.
While these two profiles live on opposite ends of the journalistic inquiry spectrum, what holds is the incessant need to document how and why white people adhere to more obvious and overt forms of anti-Black racist white supremacy. But I have no curiosity as to why this happens. Those who have been victims of anti-Blackness for the last few centuries already have a sense of that. I care that it is happening, and I urge my fellow Black comrades and comrades of color who are committed to unraveling anti-Blackness to understand that all white people, especially the most vocal in the leftist fight against race-based oppression, are also (if not especially) susceptible to neo-Nazism.
O’Brien writes that Anglin was a dreadlocked vegan liberal in his youth. He was, and is, the very same white dreadlocked vegan liberal whom we stand alongside as we face-off against law enforcement during demonstrations to protest against police violence. The larger Movement for Black Lives has served as an entry point for almost anyone remotely interested in advancing Black rights—including wannabe rebellious white people who use this transformative Movement to live out twisted white savior fantasies. This truth is one that gets little traction in the prominent desire to unfurl how neo-Nazis become the shit that they are.
Throughout O’Brien’s article, he makes mention of how narcissistic and arrogant Anglin is. During Anglin’s time in the Philippines, Anglin quickly grew disenchanted and decidedly more racist when the native T’boli community refused to welcome him as one of their own. Anglin’s narcissistic arrogance is a common trait among white liberals and leftists, particularly white cisgender men, and this arrogance is reflective of the messiah complexes and white saviorism that characterize how whiteness involves itself in social justice movements.
It reminds me of the time when a supposed white ally with whom I had the displeasure of organizing with said my experience living at the intersection of racism, patriarchy, and queer-antagonism did not matter because my very existence stood in conflict to some books he read. Seriously.
In the fight against oppression, the mythologized savior is an aspiration, and with the creation and concretization of the anti-Black world, white people’s saviorism builds from the fictional, racist belief that Black people are too stupid and too helpless to save ourselves.
We must be cautious of white people who “commit” themselves in fights for Black racial justice equity, because being so thoroughly indoctrinated by this anti-Black world means their view of Black people as helpless and ignorant is second nature.
I have no hope that this view can be eradicated, especially as social justice movements are slow to achieve the fundamental societal transformation that we’re all striving for, giving ample room for white people to reinforce their stereotypes of Black people as substandard and incapable.
The anti-Black conditioning of white liberals coupled with their narcissism is a deadly combination that feeds seamlessly into neo-Nazism, white nationalism, and white supremacy.
This is why I urge my Black comrades to be careful about allowing white people in their ranks. I encourage us to remain comfortably suspicious of white people who are all too eager to fight for a cause that has no material or tangible benefit for them. I encourage us to trust the inclinations of fellow Black comrades who express reservations about the white “friends” that find their way into our spaces. And most importantly, be mindful of the white folk you fucking.
Because although today the white folks we vouch for are saying all the right things and using the all the right language, they too can become the subject of a well-written or ain’t shit profile piece in a future that is not yet here.
Arielle Iniko Newton is the senior editor of @RaceBaitR, an organizer within the Movement for Black Lives, and the founder of the Black Giving Fund. She’s the host of the RaceBaiting, the first RaceBaitR podcast. As Head Girl of Ravenclaw, she is an unapologetic mermaid, abolitionist, and radical militant freedom fighter.
Follow her on Twitter at @arielle_newton or send her an email at email@example.com.