"Exceptions" to White Supremacy
December 4, 2022 6:33 PM   Subscribe

What is going on when white supremacists ally with individuals who are members of minorities whom they would normally hate, and vice versa?

A major news story recently has been Kanye going to dinner at Trump’s resort with a white supremacist. White supremacists by definition think black people are inferior and should be persecuted, so why was one hanging out with a black rapper? Why would he make an exception for his hatred?

And likewise, why would a black person align himself with someone who in most situations would want him and his community to be denied rights and worse?

I can think of other examples of people who are members of minorities involved in America's culture of racism and antisemitism. Milo Yiannapolis is gay. Trump’s aide Stephen Miller is Jewish. Enrique Tarrio of the Proud Boys is of Afro-Cuban heritage. Why are these people leaders in the world of bigotry, and why do other bigots allow them in their ranks?

In this Ask, I’m not looking for a discussion of these figures per se. Rather, I’m curious about when and why these exceptions happen.
posted by Leontine to Society & Culture (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
They like the attention, and money and fame tend to make prejudice disappear for a while (plus white supremacy isn't what it used to be).
posted by kingdead at 6:55 PM on December 4, 2022 [2 favorites]

It is about structures and positions, not individuals.
Most racist groups don't say they are racist, not even to themselves. Having an individual person of color on board is good for their optics and their self-justifications.
As for the opposite: people do not always identify primarily with the oppressed facet of their identity. It might be easier to ask yourself why would a woman vote for a man who opposed women's rights? Because she identifies with other aspects of her value system than gender first.
Someone of color can value personal wealth and anti-Semitism more than they worry about Trump's contributing to structural racism.
posted by rainy day girl at 6:56 PM on December 4, 2022 [26 favorites]

They're "one of the good ones." They "prove" that the reason all the other oppressed people are still oppressed is that they're lazy or unmotivated or just not trying hard enough. The "exception" is being used to "prove" the rule.
posted by lapis at 7:12 PM on December 4, 2022 [15 favorites]

And that "logic" can work internally as well, as internalized White Supremacy or internalized anti-semitism or internalized any-of-the-other-isms. "*I* am one of the good ones. I 'prove' that the rest of my community is just not trying hard enough."
posted by lapis at 7:14 PM on December 4, 2022 [4 favorites]

Cognitive dissonance.
posted by dbmcd at 7:17 PM on December 4, 2022

Nick Fuentes and Kanye West having dinner with Donald Trump is, as someone put it, an intersectional recognition of mutual struggles, which brings people with disparate interests and values together in a way that is inclusive of their differences, in a framework respectful of potential conflict, but you know.

The other kind.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:19 PM on December 4, 2022 [11 favorites]

Best answer: From the point of view of the bigots, I think there are basically three patterns. The first is that sometimes it's strategic: they hate the person with whom they're allying, but they're willing to overlook it (temporarily) because they're getting something from the alliance. The second is that the "one of the good ones" phenomenon: they think that most members of a group are bad, but this particular one is an exception. And the third pattern is that sometimes their stereotypes and bigotries make them think that members of a group are suited to particular functions. So someone might be really antisemitic but want a Jewish accountant, because they think Jews are good with money. (I think that's Trump's deal. All the things he thinks he admires about Jews are basically awful stereotypes.)

From the point of view of the member of a minority group, I think it's often internalized bigotry, mixed with the heady feeling that comes from being validated by people whose opinion they think matters. If you're a woman who thinks that men are better than women, then it can feel incredibly validating to have men treat you as an honorary guy. And there's probably also a strategic aspect: there can be concrete benefits to aligning with power.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:24 PM on December 4, 2022 [10 favorites]

Cleavages on political tribal affiliations are often not rational, but emotional. These people may identify with the emotions that allegiance with the movement inspire in them as opposed to an affinity for its ideology.
posted by lemur at 7:44 PM on December 4, 2022 [3 favorites]

It’s because it’s mutually advantageous.

White supremacist groups want to grow and win, which means they need to continuously expand their membership by recruiting new people. The visible presence of racialized people makes it possible for potential recruits to convince themselves the group isn’t really racist. It makes the group more palatable for the unsure.

And so the white supremacists seek out and elevate the small number of racialized people who are willing to affiliate with them. That makes it a pretty good opportunity for advancement (money, fame, approval) for, again, that small number.
posted by Susan PG at 8:00 PM on December 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

I have observed that many subscribers to Fox's ideology tend to "dislike" certain groups but can be okay with individual members of said groups (particularly individuals that they know personally). They see no contradiction in this mindset... and may see themselves as being "race blind*."

*Their term, not mine.
posted by oceano at 8:47 PM on December 4, 2022

To give another historical example, you might be interested in this article recounting a 1961 meeting between the Ku Klux Klan and the Nation of Islam.

I'd do the story a huge disservice, go read it (and The Dead Are Arising, Les Payne and Tamara Payne's excellent Malcolm X biography from which it's excerpted)--but basically there were people in each organization who thought they might have enough shared political goals, particularly around racial segregation/separation, to be able to cooperate or at least use each other (and also the FBI, who had their own motives, were probably meddling.)
posted by jameaterblues at 9:35 PM on December 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

It's like how lots of sexist men still want to marry a woman. He wants to say "Men are superior. Women need to obey us because they are inferior" and have his wife agree. The more successful and beautiful she is, the better he feels when she "acknowledges his superiority". He only hates women when they refuse to submit.

Likewise, a white supremacist hates minorities who want equality. But if a famous millionaire minority repeatedly says "Yes, you are right, white people are superior, I agree", they love that and want to keep hanging out with that minority.
posted by cheesecake at 2:25 AM on December 5, 2022 [2 favorites]

Sorry to be the one to say it, but historically, anti-semitism is something that brings a lot of groups together. There’s the “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” logic that says that once we join together to fight the real problem, you’ll see that your beef with my group was misguided.

And plenty of people are willing to see themselves as a noble exception to a group’s prejudices (because they “see the truth”, or because they’re “a free thinker”, or because they think “it’s all a game, really”), if it gives them an elevated status in that power structure.
posted by Mchelly at 5:25 AM on December 5, 2022 [5 favorites]

Don’t forget the power of “I never thought leopards would eat my face.”
posted by Hypatia at 5:49 AM on December 5, 2022 [8 favorites]

Like a lot of alt-righters, Fuentes is a mid-wit grifter. He may have no actual problem with black people at all, and certainly has no hesitation to exploit a famous and (it seems) mentally ill black guy for financial and other advantage.
posted by MattD at 5:52 AM on December 5, 2022

I'm familiar with Fuentes from his other Internet exploits, and it seems clear to me that while he detests black people he sees Kanye as a means to an end. I mean, he got an audience with the (former) president and likely Republican candidate for 2024 by exploiting an existing relationship that the entire country was aware of.
posted by Selena777 at 6:26 AM on December 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: 1. Don't expect racism to make sense.

2. It's all about power.

3. The apartheid regime in South Africa had a racial designation called Honorary White which they could grant to important non-white people and sometimes successful non-white communities. I first became aware of this when a black political leader from the US, possible Jesse Jackson Jr, visited South Africa and was appalled when they tried to make him an Honorary White. He declined.

Apparently the Nazi regime in Germany declared the Japanese to be Honorary Aryans. The link says,
The prevalent explanation as to why the status of "honorary Aryan" was bestowed by the Nazis upon other non-Aryan race peoples, is relatively vague but was mostly explained that the services of those peoples were deemed "valuable" to the German economy or war effort, or simply for other purely political or propaganda reasons.
So I guess we could say that Kanye has earned the title of Honorary White Supremacist. It's not all that shocking, actually.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 6:41 AM on December 5, 2022 [4 favorites]

There's an old saw (which I have found to be frequently true, if not universally) that the difference between Southern racism and Northern racism in America is that in the South, white people don't care how close Black people get, as long as they don't get too big, while in the North, white people don't care how big Black people get, as long as they don't get too close.

Regardless of the specifics of that, it illustrates a key difference between American racism and a lot of others: Genocide would be a waste of useful Black people. Ye is useful to Trump and Fuentes, so they don't hate him in the way that, say, Hitler hated the Jews. (Similarly, the European and American history of anti-semitism often ends up assigning them to useful but "distasteful" occupations, such as banking or entertainment.)

But also, there's a really ugly streak that's being exposed by the propping-up of Ye and Herschel Walker by the American Right: These particular Black men are being elevated because they are so damaged. No Republican sat in a room with Walker and thought Ah, this man is a principled conservative who will hold up American and Georgian values! They met him and thought (probably even said out loud to other White Republicans) This man is so visibly stupid that our white voters will understand that he is more of a puppet than any proud white man could ever be, and unashamedly vote for him because they know that he will simply vote the way we want him to regardless of how patently anti-Black the effects of that vote would be.
posted by Etrigan at 6:48 AM on December 5, 2022 [6 favorites]

I have a PhD and many PhDs in academia think people with only high school degrees are "inferior" in some ways that are fundamental to a key aspect of their identity, although they would never say that out loud and generally engage with and admire high school graduates otherwise. They would see no problem with a high school graduate underscoring their own belief that those with a higher education are somehow "better off" than those without one and they would also have no problem having dinner with a specific person who thought that. Someone without a higher education who aspired to consort with and be identified as part of the "better off" set, and agreed that there was something "better" about having a higher education than not having one, could perhaps understandably very much want to "hang out" with higher educated folks.

This analogy may seem wholly inappropriate given that your education level is not a fundamental characteristic of your identity that you can not change. Nevertheless, it applies because racists and those who love and spend time with them do not have the same kind of understanding about "identity" that you or I do. And a lot of folks who hang with Trump are royally pissed off about the specific type of view I describe above. As others have said, it's not really about individuals -- its about power structures and systems, and positions within those structures and systems. Everyday Joe Smith racists are just symptoms and effects of the much larger type of power structure and system dynamics that Trump/Ye are engaging in.

What's going on is kind of like a Escher Relativity portrait of identity politics -- it doesn't make sense in aggregate whole, only in specific part.
posted by desert exile at 7:31 AM on December 5, 2022 [3 favorites]

Winnie the Proust: "The apartheid regime in South Africa had a racial designation called Honorary White "

I didn't know this (or if I did, I forgot it), but it echoes the phrase a Jewish guy used to describe himself—"provisionally white"—which neatly describes the way I feel about myself. I have to imagine that someone like Stephen Miller has dropped the "provisional" part in his own mind.
posted by adamrice at 8:24 AM on December 5, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: White supremacists by definition think black people are inferior and should be persecuted

White supremacists aren't great critical thinkers and they didn't arrive at their beliefs through reason. They believe what they do because it serves them in some way, not because they have a well-thought out framework for understanding the world (or even themselves), which means their beliefs often don't even make sense within the context of themselves. That is, ideological consistency has never been the point.

In Kanye's case, he shares their sense of grievance against Jewish people, and is useful (emotionally, political) for that. Anything that they said about Kanye in the past, anything that they feel about Kanye being a Black man, a Black hip-hop artist, "George Bush doesn't care about Black people" - that all can just be memory holed. Because ideological consistency has never been the point.

Some white supremacists try to handle this type of cognitive dissonance by claiming that they aren't really white supremacists - by cloaking their beliefs in pseudoscience, bad history, or bullshit cultural analysis. This is the majority of white supremacists. They claim they're not racist; it's just that Black people struggle for reasons that are unchangeable or their own fault, so any attempt to redress societal wrongs are unjust and doomed to fail. This is a large part of the Republican party in the US. For this type of white supremacist, a successful Black person is simultaneously a threat (because they're encroaching on white privileges) and a shield (because they prop up the fiction that there is no racial discrimination against Black people). How they're received is going to depend a lot on how useful they are.

I can't speak for Kanye, but I suspect he's not well, and I don't think we can understate how important antisemitism is in this.

Candace Owens, I suspect is just a grifter who has found success and doesn't much care about beliefs or morals or any of that other inconvenient stuff.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:22 AM on December 5, 2022 [6 favorites]

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