By JONATHAN TILOVE
April 4, 2000
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 notice.
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 nationalism.
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 the battle.”
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 white force.
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 said.
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 South.
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.”
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 civilization.”
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 self-loathing. …
“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.”