Why America Needs To Call Out White Supremacy For What It Really Is

There seems to be a disconnect when white supremacists talk about themselves, at least in public. Richard Spencer, the founder of the "alt-right" movement — who recently gained fame thanks to a video in which he said, "Heil Trump," and the people listening to him responded with Nazi salutes — has claimed that he's not a white supremacist. But in reality, white supremacists being recognized as such is possibly the most dangerous part of their entire, hateful ideology.

Spencer spoke to CNN on Tuesday at Texas A&M University right before giving a speech there — a speech that the university did not invite him for (the organizers just rented a room for him) and one that drew hundreds of protesters. In the interview, Spencer stated his beliefs that only white people can support Western civilization, that non-whites should leave America and go back to where they came from, and that the Nazi-style "heil" arm salute is a "Roman salute" that people just happen to associate with Hitler — and that doesn't bother him. And, of course, he believes that he's not a white supremacist.

Based on those other things listed above, it's clear that he does believe in the supremacy of white people. But he's not a white supremacist.


Scott Olson/Getty Images News/Getty Images

This is likely because Spencer recognizes that even in this new version of America, it's still a bad thing to be a white supremacist. However, it is possible to do big things — like win the presidency — while openly espousing racially discriminatory beliefs. So, Spencer isn't a white supremacist; he just believes that white people are better than all other races.

This is a dangerous and hateful ideology for so many reasons, and the fact that it's gained so much publicity — a fact that Spencer, of course, celebrates — has been a frightening part of the aftermath of Trump's victory. In his talk with CNN, Spencer was actively trying to normalize everything that he represents: the Nazi salutes, the idea that immigrants should leave the country, the belief that only white Europeans are qualified to lead whatever version of "Western civilization" he imagines.

Just to be clear, those things are not and cannot be allowed to become normal. It's easy to see why the people in question are unwilling to recognize their ideology for what it is, but those on the outside can't let that stand unchallenged. Onlookers must always call out white supremacy when they see it, and not allow these ideas to slither into normal political rhetoric just because the guy who doesn't mind people "heiling" at his speeches doesn't think that that label applies to him.

White supremacy is dangerous when it's out in the open, but it's more so when it's insidious, creeping into people's belief systems quietly under the guise of reasonability. That cannot be allowed to continue — white supremacy must always be called what it is and recognized for its inherent danger in order to be effectively combated.