While going through an incredibly stressful week of Trump-enflamed assassination attempts against key Democrats, the attempted murder of a black congregation and subsequent murder of two black shoppers at Kroger in Louisville, Kentucky, and the massacre of members of the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, I received a distressed phone call from a student who is currently attending the State University of New York (SUNY) New Paltz, where I have been teaching for over a decade. The campus was recently plastered with posters from a white supremacist group who call themselves “Identity Evropa.”
Identity Evropa is at the forefront of the racist “alt-right’s” effort to recruit white, college-aged men and transform them into the fashionable new face of white nationalism. Rather than denigrating people of color, the campus-based organization focuses on raising white racial consciousness, building community based on shared racial identity and intellectualizing white supremacist ideology.
The group posted a tweet proudly displaying their campus handiwork.
State University of New York – New Paltz
(New Paltz, NY) pic.twitter.com/OoMemG9uya
— IDENTITY EVROPA (@IdentityEvropa) October 23, 2018
The news did not surprise me, since this has been happening frequently on campuses across the nation. Racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia are not simply the purview of older people. Don’t kid yourself into thinking the way some folks do when they say, “Oh well, when the oldsters who hold biased ideas die off, this country will be rid of racism.” Nor is white supremacy confined to the South. It has no regional boundaries. Other people tend to think (imho wrongly) that eliminating ugly “isms” is simply a matter of education and ending economic inequality—attributing racism to people they think of as ignorant, unlettered, and lower-class.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), “The number of students projected to attend American colleges and universities in fall 2018 is 19.9 million.” About 8 million of them are male; approximately two-thirds of that 8 million are white.
Thinking of young college students simply as “liberal” or “progressive” is not factual.
College freshmen are more politically polarized today than they have been in the last 51 years, new survey results show. Just over two in five of the 137,456 first-year college students across the United States who responded last fall to the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute’s (HERI) annual freshman survey identified as non-partisan. On the other hand, 35.5 percent of students aligned themselves with liberal or far-left ideology, while 22.2 percent considered themselves conservative or far right. Millennial voting behavior in the 2016 election is consistent with this data, as 55 percent of the demographic cast its vote for Hillary Clinton, while 37 percent supported President Donald Trump. The findings also revealed a sharper ideological divide between male and female respondents than in previous surveys.
It is these young, mostly white male students, who see themselves as conservative, and who voted for Trump or other right-wing Republicans, who are the target of groups like Identity Evropa.
Here’s the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) description of the group:
Founded in 2016 by Iraq war veteran Nathan Damigo, Identity Evropa has always operated with an eye toward branding. The organization has a simplistic and replicable logo — a teal triangle with three lines that join in the middle — and builds name recognition by distributing flyers around college campuses printed with images of classical European statues and phrases like “Our Future Belongs to Us” and “Keep Your Diversity We Want Identity.” It’s self-aware and eminently meme-able aesthetics are meant to lure in young people who are then encouraged to engage in real-world activism on college campuses — the “epicenter of Cultural Marxism in America,” according to Damigo. The organization’s overarching goal — implemented through their #ProjectSiege campus flyering operation, banner drops broadcast over social media, demonstrations and “open dialogue” campaigns — is “taking up space” with their ideas and imagery in the hopes of eventually, through the sheer force of repetition, mainstreaming their ideology.
Identity Evropa members, including Damigo, helped to plan the deadly 2017 Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, but have since attempted to publicly distance themselves from events that could both tarnish their image and land them in legal trouble. As a result, they’ve made multiple leadership changes, doubled down on their identitarian label, and become pickier when it comes to the group’s membership and public appearances.
If you’ve never watched this short guide to white supremacy from ThinkProgress, it is well-worth viewing:
White supremacists in America are not a unified group, but a loose coalition of hate groups, each fringe and dangerous in their own way. In the year since the deadly violence on display at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., different white nationalist, anti-immigrant, and general hate groups have demonstrated in cities across the country. The Nationalist Socialist Movement, Vanguard America, and League of the South held a “White Lives Matter” rally in Shelbyville, Tenn. in October. In July and again in August, hate groups Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys clashed with anti-hate protestors in Portland, Ore. Smaller demonstrations — including the gathering of Identity Evropa members who chanted “build the wall” in front of the Mexican consulate in Manhattan — might only be distinguishable by a flag. This is a guide to identifying the symbols and chants used by different factions of white supremacists in America.
Taylor Michael Wilson, who twice marched with white supremacists in Charlottesville, and who was a member of Identity Evropa, was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison for committing an act of domestic terrorism.https://t.co/PzZUBE2OaK
— Emily G (@EmilyGorcenski) October 24, 2018
Here’s yet more evidence that there weren’t “very fine people on both sides” during the extremist rallies held in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year.
Taylor Michael Wilson ― who on Friday was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison for his armed takeover of an Amtrak train last October ― was identified this week as having marched alongside white nationalists Jason Kessler and Alex Fields during the deadly Unite the Right rallies on Aug. 11 and 12, 2017, in Charlottesville.
Activist Emily Gorcenski and journalist Ford Fischer surfaced photos and videos this week that showed Wilson is no stranger to extremist rallies. He was seen fighting and marching alongside white supremacists during the torch march on the University of Virginia’s campus on Aug. 11, and wielding neo-Nazi regalia at the extremist rally the next day.
I just realized I have video of Taylor Michael Wilson (highlighted in vid) – nazi just sentenced to 14 years for terrorism on an Amtrak – yelling and fighting during the UVA torch rally in #Charlottesville.
When arrested, he had a National Socialist Movement I.D. on him. pic.twitter.com/MQIAgWRldC
— Ford Fischer (@FordFischer) October 8, 2018
How aware are you of what is going on at the colleges and universities in your area?
I did a quick Google News search this morning and turned up a long list of hits, some from my local area and others reporting on national trends. Here’s a sample:
- Sept. 2018
MIDDLETOWN — Mayor Joe DeStefano on Tuesday called the white supremacy group that plastered posters in and around SUNY Orange cowards.
The group called Identity Evropa posted several photos of its posters to Twitter last week. The posters appeared to be at various locations in New York, including Croton, Spring Valley, Staten Island, Middletown, Newburgh, Binghamton and several other cities.
- June 2018
White-supremacist propaganda on college campuses is rising sharply, according to data released on Thursday by the Anti-Defamation League.
During the 2017-18 academic year, the ADL’s research arm, the Center on Extremism, recorded 292 instances of white-supremacist propaganda on campuses. That’s a 77-percent increase from the 165 cases it documented in the 2016-17 academic year.
The white-supremacist activity mainly took the form of posters and fliers, the ADL found. In the past year, high-profile controversies at Texas State University, the University of Virginia, and Michigan State University have sparked concern that colleges and universities were becoming targets of the far right.
The anti-immigrant group Identity Evropa was behind nearly half of the 478 reports recorded by the A.D.L. Identity Evropa describes itself as “a fraternal organization for people of European heritage located in the United States that participates in community building and civic engagement,” but the A.D.L. classifies it as a white supremacist group and the Southern Poverty Law Center describes it as a white nationalist group.
Far-right groups have increased their activity since President Trump’s election, and white nationalist leaders have been encouraged by how the president has spoken about their behavior. In a report released earlier this year, the Anti-Defamation League found that anti-Semitic episodes had increased 57 percent in 2017 from the year before.
The new report documented racist fliers covering photos of black historical figures outside the University of South Carolina’s African-American studies program, as well as fliers at multiple schools encouraging students to report undocumented immigrants to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
- Jan. 2018
As the white supremacists continue to flout boundaries of acceptable behavior and engage in activities many students, faculty and staff find menacing, institutions are rethinking, and in some cases rejiggering, policies regarding allowable activities on campus. Schools that have cherished their longtime role as havens for free speech and debate have found themselves drawing lines in response to messages of hate and threats of violence.
- Aug. 2017
The events in Charlottesville this weekend have worried educators nationwide.
But they are not typical of how white supremacists are turning up on campus. The last academic year saw more of a visible white power movement on campus than ever before, according to the Anti-Defamation League and others. Much of the activity, however, came in the form of racist posters and leaflets that appeared on campuses, most of the time anonymously and without any link to a person on campus.
The last year also saw, however, a campaign by the National Policy Institute to hold events on campus — and that effort may be picking up this fall. The institution describes itself as committed to promoting “the heritage, identity and future of people of European descent.” The leader of the group, Richard Spencer, is known for “Hail Trump” rhetoric that prompts his supporters to respond with Nazi salutes.
To make things even worse, teachers are becoming targets.
— Johnny E. Williams (@jwillia2) October 30, 2018
When the threatening letters started to arrive, Albert Ponce stopped letting his daughter touch the mail. Ponce, a political science professor at Diablo Valley College in the San Francisco Bay Area, and his wife didn’t know how to explain to their 9-year-old that her father was receiving death threats. “Only Mom and Dad can touch the mail” became a new house rule. Each night after putting his daughter to bed, Ponce would peek through the windows of his home in Martinez, California, to check for strange cars or people outside, “precautionary measures,” he said, after an internet troll army had targeted him.
It started just before Christmas last year. Ponce logged in to his college email account expecting the usual: work messages, a few season’s greetings from family and colleagues, maybe some spam. Instead, he found an inbox full of vitriol.
“I might just take a trip to Mexifornia and sit in on one of your hate speeches,” read one of the hundreds of messages.
“Your (sic) racist, Marxist filth, you ave (sic) been noted and we all know you now,” read another.
Ponce soon discovered that his Facebook page and personal website were cluttered with nasty comments as well, and his office answering machine was full. Hundreds of people were calling for his firing. They slung racial epithets, told him to return to his home country (Ponce was born in Orange, California) and made thinly veiled death threats.
The great majority of Daily Kos readers are not college students, though we do have quite a few teachers and educators. Far too often we remain unaware of events taking place on campuses that are in our neighborhoods.
The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education keeps a running list of racial incidents on campuses across the U.S. Most do not make headline news.
The Democratic Party has a college auxiliary, College Democrats of America (“With over 600 campus chapters nationwide, the College Democrats are the official student arm of the Democratic Party”), who have no presence here, and whose website gives very little information.
I hope that after midterms we can begin to seriously address the incursions of hate groups on campuses, and develop ways to support students who are organizing and working to combat them. Young people are our future.
Just what that future will be depends on actions we take today.