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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Just minutes before a massacre at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart on Aug. 3 left 22 people dead, a hate-filled, anti-immigrant manifesto appeared online. In it, the author, whom authorities believe to be the alleged shooter, claims to be defending his country from white American “replacement” and an “invasion” at the U.S. border, as well as from environmental destruction and corporate power.

“Some people will think this statement is hypocritical because of the nearly complete ethnic and cultural destruction brought to the Native Americans by our European ancestors, but this just reinforces my point,” reads the manifesto. “The natives didn't take the invasion of Europeans seriously, and now what’s left is just a shadow of what was.”

For decades now, warped ideas about Indigenous struggles have buoyed conservative rhetoric and white-nationalist fantasies, and have been used to justify racist violence. While members of the far and extreme right claim to share a hollow, disingenuous affinity with Indigenous people, their appropriation of Indigenous victimhood and rights language is providing long-burning fuel for everything from right-wing propaganda on Fox News to extremist manifestos and movements worldwide.

In 2011, for instance, a far-right terrorist in Norway killed eight people in a bombing and another 69 at a youth camp. In his 1,500-page manifesto, the killer argued that the rhetoric of white nationalism was ultimately doomed to fail due to its connections to Hitler. Instead of using language and ideas associated with Nazis, the author chose to exploit an “untapped goldmine” of Indigenous rights language. “We are no more terrorists than Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse or Chief Gall who fought for their people against the imperialist General Armstrong Custer,” reads the manifesto. “Our struggle will be a lot easier if European nationalists use smart and defusing arguments instead of using supremacist arguments which can be efficiently squashed through psychological warfare propaganda or by anti-Nazi policies.” To the author, embracing the language of Indigenous rights and victimhood was a softer, even sympathetic strategy that would embolden efforts to reclaim European land and culture from immigrants.

A few months after the Norway attack, a German far-right anti-immigration propaganda video uploaded to YouTube featured a Green Party politician and a stereotypical “Cherokee” Indian maiden—a foreign exchange student who hopes to become a naturalized German citizen. The politician quickly obliges—a dig at the party's “multicultural ideals”—and the maiden tells a story about the massacre of her people by European immigrants who were allowed to settle the land by traitors in her tribe.

The righteous xenophobia revealed here has plenty of company: In 2014, the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), another far-right German nationalist party, echoed the same sentiment in a meme of Hunkpapa Lakota Chief Sitting Bull, with a caption that warned: “Indians could not stop immigration. Now they live on reservations.”

“Nowadays, you see internet memes and videos on YouTube of people who tell the story of the conquest of North America and who skew historical references,” said Frank Usbeck, curator for the Americas at the State Art Collections in Dresden and former professor of American Studies at the University of Leipzig in Germany. “‘Look at the Native Americans who invited the foreigners as refugees.’”

Usbeck, who has studied the links between Indigenous people and white nationalists for years, began by examining the relationship between German perceptions of Native Americans and the Völkisch Movement’s “blood and soil” ideology, which has roots in the 19th century. “Constructing a national identity among Germans seems to have had strong roots in identifying with Native Americans and also setting oneself aside from many other Europeans,” said Usbeck, adding that this need to belong to the land and to connect with an “Indigenous” identity can be traced to early German nationalist studies of pre-Roman Germanic tribes.

Before and during World War II, Nazi propaganda declared American cultural imperialism was a threat to German culture, noting that it had destroyed the Native American way of life and comparing U.S. bombing campaigns in German cities to American frontier massacres. Usbeck calls this “co-victimization”—an invented affinity with the Native American experience of genocide and cultural loss, rhetorically linked to ideas of German victimhood. The Nazis thereby used Indigenous people to create a myth of survival, of a people fighting heroically for their homeland.

And Indigenous people remain potent symbols of outsider oppression for far-right extremism globally. In 2013, in Greeley, Colo., anonymous citizens bought two billboards that espoused pro-gun propaganda with the image of three armed Native Americans. The text reads: “Turn in your arms. The government will take care of you.”

Ammon Bundy’s 2016 anti-government militia takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge even tried to appeal to Native Americans: “We’re reaching out to the Paiute people, in the sincerest manner that I can,” said Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, a spokesman for Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, in a video posted to YouTube. (Finicum was later killed by law enforcement at a traffic stop during the occupation.) He continued, “Any claims that they (Paiutes) may have upon the lands, let’s begin that dialogue.” But the Burns Paiute Tribe quickly denounced the Malheur militia members for mishandling tribal artifacts and traditional land.

Earlier this year, a video featuring white supremacist Jared Taylor trod the same ground. “The story of the Indians is one of the strongest possible arguments for tight borders. Immigration, or more accurately, the arrival of European pioneers was a disaster for the Indians,” said Taylor. “We took their land, destroyed their way of life and put them on reservations.” The video ends with a final thought: Indians fought for their land, so why can’t whites do the same?

In the early days of U.S. colonization, white settlers waged numerous wars to displace Indigenous people. “This idea of making (colonial) invasion look like self-defense goes all the way back to the Declaration of Independence, where the British colonists, who were declaring independence from the crown, were simply making the argument that they were defending themselves against merciless Indian savages,” said Nick Estes, author and assistant professor in the American Studies Department at the University of New Mexico. “The El Paso shooter was referencing Native people as a heroic defense against invasion, when he himself was waging a kind of a terror campaign against actual Indigenous people who are crossing the border.”

The suspected shooter also allegedly wrote that the destruction of the environment, led by corporate interests, would limit available resources for whites, echoing the manifesto of the shooter who killed 51 at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March 2019, who considered himself an “eco-fascist.” Historian and author Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz says this anti-capitalist environmentalist rhetoric is designed to reach readers beyond already-sympathetic audiences. “He hits on certain tropes that make him somewhat sympathetic to Native Americans, and he talks negatively about corporations controlling everything,” said Dunbar-Ortiz. “It is a very manipulative manifesto by a very rational guy.”

The manipulation of Indigenous struggle and victimhood has been a part of white supremacists’ modus operandi in Europe for decades. Now, white male gunmen in the U.S. are now picking up the mantle.

“Hate groups have co-opted historical U.S. symbols in a weak attempt at tearing down any progress we’ve made toward including people of all races, creeds and backgrounds as true Americans,” said Keegan Hankes, senior analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that tracks hate groups and far-right extremism in the U.S.

The El Paso shooter’s manifesto is the most recent anti-immigrant, hate-filled document to actually culminate in enormous violence. But since the shooting, the Guardian reports that police have thwarted seven similar plots by far-right extremists with racist ideologies.

“The idea of a parallel people aggressively taking land, taking whole swaths of territories—Mexicans coming in don’t have any power to do any of that,” said Dunbar-Ortiz. “It’s really obscene that he really is framing things that are completely different.”

It’s unlikely that the El Paso shooting will be the last white supremacist attack in the name of an imaginary immigrant invasion, nor the final use of Indigenous victimhood in a hate-filled manifesto.

Kalen Goodluck is an editorial fellow at High Country News, where this piece first appeared. Email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Community Voices

The week after Donald Trump launched his racist attack on U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings, which came on the heels of his racist attacks on four nonwhite Democratic members of Congress, my hometown paper gave its resident MAGA apologist, J. Peder Zane, ink to argue that the president and his Republican Party are not, in fact, racist, but rather the victims of a “false narrative” painted by Democrats, who are the real racists.

While Trump may have been “insensitive” in calling a mostly black congressional district with a median income above the national average “a disgusting rat- and rodent-infested mess,” Zane tells us, a “fair-minded person, while hoping that the president would be more precise, should see that he is not a racist.”

Four days later, a Trump-loving white-nationalist murdered 22 people in an El Paso Walmart after posting a manifesto explaining—in language that uncannily mirrored Trump’s immigration rhetoric—he was fighting an ”invasion.”

Funny how the racists think Trump is one of them.

Lots of papers have hacks like Zane, men (always men) who crib their sophomoric understanding of U.S. history from low-rent hucksters like Dinesh D’Souza and regurgitate the outrage du jour from the Fox News/talk-radio set. These columns tend to land somewhere between intellectually vapid and irresponsibly dishonest; papers publish them as a fig leaf to the MAGA crowd, an effort to assure them that they’re not part of the Liberal Media.

Like most, Zane is rarely worth rebutting. Here, however, he’s recycling an argument common among Trump acolytes, which in light of El Paso warrants scrutiny. His point is this: Republicans should ignore Democrats/liberals/the media when they say Trump is racist, because Democrats/liberals/the media always say Republicans are racist.

As Zane puts it: “Before Trump, Democrats leveled the same despicable smear against Mitt Romney—Vice President Joe Biden warned African-Americans that Romney ‘would put y’all back in chains!’” (Not to be pedantic, but Biden said Romney’s policies would allow big banks to do so.) Before that, Zane continues, they called John McCain racist, and George W. Bush racist, “and so it goes with most every Republican back to Richard Nixon.”

Quick history: Whatever Nixon’s personal feelings were (he really didn’t like Jews, FYI), beginning with his 1968 campaign, racial appeals became central to GOP politics. See, for instance, Republican operative Lee Atwater’s infamous quote: “You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968, you can’t say ‘nigger’—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things, and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.’”

Ronald Reagan denounced mythical welfare queens. George H.W. Bush ran the Willie Horton ad. George W. Bush’s campaign smeared John McCain with rumors about his adopted black child. McCain elevated Sarah Palin to the national stage, where she accused the first black major-party presidential nominee of “pallin’ around with terrorists.” Romney kissed Donald Trump’s ring while Trump was pushing the racist birther effort. Trump launched his presidential campaign by calling Mexican immigrants rapists and pledging to ban Muslims.

What Zane doesn’t consider is that GOP leaders have been accused of racism because they’ve employed racism to win votes. Trump has been accused of racism more frequently because he says and does overtly racist things more frequently.

Indeed, Trump’s entire political career has been built on racial demagoguery—and studies suggest that he owes his victory in 2016 in part to his voters’ racial attitudes. But for his supporters to admit that would mean admitting an uncomfortable truth about themselves. So instead, they define the R-word so narrowly as to render it meaningless.

Truth be told, however, I’m less interested in what the J. Peder Zanes of the world tell themselves about Donald Trump’s racism than in the effects their denial has on the rest of us. It’s no surprise, for instance, that Republicans don’t want to talk about guns after El Paso. More unnerving has been their widespread reluctance to acknowledge the crisis of the increasingly violent white-supremacist movement in the Trump era.

As a former FBI supervisor who oversaw terrorism cases told The Washington Post: “I think in many ways, the FBI is hamstrung in trying to investigate the white-supremacist movement like the old FBI would. There’s some reluctance among agents to bring forth an investigation that targets what the president perceives as his base.”

If we can’t even address white terrorism with offending Trump’s supporters, how can we possibly begin to address complex, systemic issues of racial and social justice: wealth gaps, education gaps, opportunity gaps, affordability crises, etc.?

The thing about Trump is that he says the quiet parts loud—often through a megaphone. He’s fundamentally incapable of hiding who he is. And that makes the choice ahead of us crystal clear: Between now and Election Day, we as a country will have to confront a lot of uncomfortable truths about who we are—and who we’re going to be.

Contact Jeffrey C. Billman at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in National/International

On this week's wet, moist and tropically humid weekly Independent comics page: Jen Sorensen quizzes a Trump supporter on racism; The K Chronicles wishes people were more skeptical; This Modern World enjoys a Donald Trump Decoder Ring; Red Meat listens as Milkman Dan tells Karen a cottage cheese-tinged story; and Apoca Clips ponders Li'l Trumpy's racism.

Published in Comics

Antisemitism and other forms of racial hatred are on the rise—and Temple Isaiah in Palm Springs is taking a stand with the Interfaith Service to Stop Hate, taking place at 6:30 p.m., Friday, March 29.

During a recent phone interview, organizer Bob Weinstein explained the goal of the service.

“There’s been a tremendous spike in the hate of minorities, with Jews being shot dead in their houses of worship, and African Americans being persecuted in the streets,” Weinstein said. “Even in Palm Springs, we had an incident with the Black History Parade … where someone from the parade was attacked by a racist.

“The LGBT community is systematically being attacked. We have a very polarizing situation today where minorities are being viciously persecuted across the country and around the world. A Jewish person can’t walk down the streets of Paris without being attacked. What I wanted to do to combat this hate before it gets worse is partner up with local churches once a month … and have more of a brotherly service and try to get the pastors, temples and Baptist churches across the country to (tell) their congregations that hate and bigotry are not acceptable. We’d like to start this trend across the country.”

Weinstein said religious congregations are in a position to speak out against racial hatred.

“The base of the community is the community that goes to church or goes to a mosque,” he said. “Unless the leaders of these communities talk and teach their congregants that hate is not acceptable in our society, things could get worse. During the Nazi persecution of Jews in Europe during World War II, most of the churches remained silent, even though the church leaders were aware that Jews were being persecuted and murdered. You can’t have that today. You need to have the leaders of the community talk to their congregants and tell them, ‘This has to stop, and it’s not acceptable.’ We have to make a change for the better, and we have a capacity to do better.”

In 2018, the FBI reported that there were 7,175 hate crimes in the United States in 2017—1,054 more than the previous year, or a 17 percent increase.

“The problem is it’s becoming more acceptable,” Weinstein said. “Antisemitism is out in the open. Attacking African Americans in the street has become more acceptable. These things cannot be acceptable in our society; otherwise, we’re going to end up in a civil war. That’s the bottom line. We have to stop it, and we have to deescalate the situation before it gets worse.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center estimates that there are at least 30 hate groups in Southern California.

“There have been a number of Nazi organizations and hate groups living in the Coachella Valley, and in the surrounding areas as well,” Weinstein said. “It’s always been a very conservative jurisdiction. Small pockets like Palm Springs are subject to periodic attacks like we had with George Zander a few years ago. We have to be on guard, and we have to fight back.”

The service at Temple Isaiah will include speakers including Congressman Raul Ruiz, Mayor Robert Moon, Palm Springs Councilmember Lisa Middleton, Palm Springs Councilmember Geoff Kors, and State Senator Jeff Stone.

“We’ll have speakers before the service from 6:30 to 7:30, and then at 7:30, we’ll have the service where our congregation will join the Baptist congregation in Palm Springs, Ajalon Baptist Church, an African American congregation, and their choir will join our cantor onstage, singing and praying together. We’ll be praying for peace and to stop the hate.”

Weinstein said Temple Isaiah has an important role to play in fighting for social justice in the Coachella Valley.

“Temple Isaiah has always been at the forefront of trying to seek justice not only for the Jewish community, but for minorities in general,” he said. “Many years ago, we had interfaith services with the African-American community and other communities throughout the Coachella Valley. We’re always trying to reach out. I think that not only should we reach out in this instance; we should try to set a trend for the rest of the country.”

The Interfaith Service to Stop Hate will take place at 6:30 p.m., Friday, March 29, at Temple Isaiah, 332 W. Alejo Road, in Palm Springs. Admission is free. For more information, call 760-325-2281, or visit www.templeisaiahps.com.

Published in Local Issues

I am incensed that the president of the United States may have been caught on tape saying the “N” word, and that his administration can’t “guarantee” that such a tape won’t surface.

He ran a campaign that cast “political correctness”—the progressive notion that we should recognize the impact of language relating to race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation—as having run amok.

The “N” word inherently assumes a sense of superiority to those being thus described. I steadfastly maintain that the word, and its hateful presumption, cannot possibly be said or even thought unless it’s already programmed into your thinking.

Racism is a cancer at the core of our culture. It’s in our cultural DNA.

I was lucky enough to be raised in a household where racist language was never heard or used. I had a mother who always used any situation to inculcate the equality of every individual. If we drove past some men digging a hole in the street, we often noticed that the one down in the hole was usually black, while those watching him work were white. My mom would say, “Isn’t it a shame that those guys are just standing around watching the other guy work?” I got the message that nobody should be considered better than anybody else, particularly based on the color of their skin.

That concept is what got me to volunteer as part of the 1960s civil rights movement. I worked with the Black Arts Workshop in Pacoima, a diverse suburb in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, participating in what we called “confrontations,” gatherings held in the living rooms of middle-class white people, most of whom thought they were not at all prejudiced. They were always shocked to realize they harbored deep-seated biases, even though most of them never said offensive words (at least never in public), and proudly proclaimed they had never acted in any way that might be seen as prejudiced. But had they ever spoken up or acted when they had been around others expressing those thoughts? Almost never.

I have black stepchildren who came into my life for a few years in the early 1970s—with whom I have warm, loving relationships to this day. I still remember my shock that 5-year-old Kim had never had a black doll. When I brought one home for her, I remember the look of wonder and delight on her face when she realized the doll looked like her. Yet social research has shown that black girls prefer white dolls—because those are the “good” ones. This is what our culture teaches them.

My own children never batted an eye when I began living with Milt, and they readily accepted his children as members of the family. My kids had grown up learning what I had learned from my mom: The only difference was in skin color, not unlike hair color or eye color or height.

Milt had been raised in a black community in northern Louisiana, and he grew up seeing himself equally valued relative to all those around him. His experiences later in life in a largely white society came as something of a surprise, especially because he had never internalized that he was somehow “lesser.”

We need to actively root out the racism at the core of our culture. What curriculum is your school district using to teach American history? In some school districts, slavery is minimized, and its ultimate impact on our culture is never mentioned. In bridge clubs and book clubs and social-service organizations, people drop words or phrases or raise their eyebrows when race is an issue, and they need to be publicly called out on that. It’s enough sometimes to just say, “I find that really inappropriate.” Staying silent should never be an option.

The “N” word has never, and could never, come out of my mouth. I never learned it. My children don’t have it in their heads, either. But we all know it’s a pernicious part of the American culture, and it must be excised as we would remove a tumor. It’s about making it never acceptable anywhere. It’s about realizing we inherit racism as part of our cultural DNA, and it’s up to each and every one of us to recognize it and call it out, so future generations won’t have it in their heads either.

Teach your children and grandchildren to be “politically correct”—if it means they won’t have denigrating words and concept in their heads, and that they will call out others who feel free to express prejudice. That way, perhaps we won’t perpetuate the cancer to yet another generation. We must improve mankind and move our society always forward.

Maya Angelou said, “We are more alike than we are different.”

For me, it’s personal.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays from 11 a.m. to noon on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

On this week's extra-crispy weekly Independent comics page: This Modern World looks at the Trump scandal cycle; Jen Sorenson wants us to pay attention to gerrymandering; The K Chronicles visits a movie set; Red Meat checks out a place in the meatpacking district; and Apoca Clips has Li'l Trumpy telling a story.

Published in Comics

On this week's post-fireworks weekly Independent comics page: Apoca Clips debates the merits of the president; Red Meat enjoys some arts and crafts; This Modern World drops the first F-bomb in its decades-long history to make a point; Jen Sorenson offers a nod to European culture; and The K Chronicles admires what rich people have.

Published in Comics

On this week's 108-degree weekly Independent comics page: This Modern World again checks in with The Unbelievable Trump; Jen Sorenson examines the life cycle of a slur; The K Chronicles gets some chickens; Apoca Clips spots Trumpy with a gun; and Red Meat shares adventures from the bowling alley.

Published in Comics

On this week's sunblock-covered weekly Independent comics page: The K Chronicles sings to Roseanne, with apologies to The Police; This Modern World looks at the Nazification of America; Jen Sorenson discovers a security flaw in American brains; Red Meat chats with Wally about his trip to the beach; and Apoca Clips takes a belated knee for Memorial Day.

Published in Comics

On this week's music-festivaled-out weekly Independent comics page: Jen Sorenson tells some truths about the term "identity politics"; The K Chronicles gets excited after seeing a phone number on a license plate; This Modern World bursts the liberal bubble; Red Meat gets ready for a seafood dinner; and Apoca Clips finds a recent tragedy particularly interesting.

Published in Comics

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