Both antisemitism and racism are pervasive in the United States. I make a distinction between the two terms because there is a difference between both. And yes, antisemites are not limited to white supremacists. Other groups who suffer the poison of racism, can be antisemitic. One does not prevent the other. But we like to pretend that it does not exist, or is not as bad, where we live. Why? It can be disconcerting to realize how bad this can be. Or worse, that people have died because of racist and antisemitic attitudes.
In the last four years we have witnessed an increased open embrace of these attitudes. The Unite The Right rally was but one of many of these moments. President Donald Trump has given these people cover, and at this point, there is no doubt, he is racist.
One of the most difficult aspects of media and popular culture is what I like to call the mirror. It is very difficult for people to admit we have a race problem where we live. The same goes for antisemitism. Some of the worst offenders of this are local media that for a variety of shifting reasons refuse to shine a light on this issue.
I got to witness this after the shooting in Poway. Local media and it was many reporters, were surprised. How could we have an attack in the midst of a sleepy town near America’s finest city? Some were shocked for the same reason many people around then country are. It can never happen here. And this is partially due to willful ignorance. After all, our neighbors could not be this ugly, could they?
it’s easy to concede that there are both racists and antisemites in the United States, but it is in the South right? It’s not where I live. Well, we have seen the rise of quasi-militias around the country over the last few months. Those that were already organized have also come up. These range from the three percenters, to the proud boys, boogaloo Bois and locally the Defend East County types.
There are connections ideologically, and the Defend East County has a few ties to the national QAnon movement. It’s not hard to tell, and they are not making a secret of this. Almost all of these militias have a deep sense of grievance politics and racism, with a dose of antisemitism. With the contracting economy, expect them to grow.
When any of us thinks of these things, we immediately go to Dixie and the Old Dominion. Yes, racism is pretty strong in some areas, even today. Yes, there are issues with antisemitism as well. And who can forget? This is the land of the Klan. So thinking that there is racism over there is easy. It helps us to maintain a fiction that does not affect us. We are better, you see.
The Forms it Takes
Racism is in some ways about structures of power. They are the things we live with every day. They involve access to loans, as well as patterns of poverty. The Pandemic has done an incredible job of revealing this in ways beyond academic papers. It is tragic.
Overlay any redlining map in any American city with death patterns for COVID. To a map, you will find a very close match. Why? People who live in redlined districts are the essential workers keeping you and I supplied. They are greatly exposed to the virus, live in multigenerational households due to fewer resources, and are dying in higher numbers. These are also the same people who are having more problems paying rent in the current crisis, not because they are lazy (a favorite trope) but because they are in the group that also lost jobs in larger numbers.
There are other structures that go with this. Access to healthy food is not there. Food deserts are common, as well a flood of fast-food restaurants in these neighborhoods,. There is also a difficulty getting bank loans to start a business and build multigenerational wealth. Then there are the schools. When you think about this deeply and realize a zip code is predictive of where a child will end in life, and his or her health status, it should speak to the structures of race.
Add the police to this soup, who tend to over-police these communities under the guise of broken windows policing. They do not stop whites, or police middle and upper-class communities to the same extent. This also leads to a school to prison pipeline as officers tend to arrest the youth of these communities and enforce curfews. These are blunt tools that are used to keep people under social control. We are told it is due to the war on drugs, and to maintain social order. But these policies have led to the largest number of incarcerated people in the world.
It also is encoded in the judicial system. Sentencing rules are not enacted the same way if a person is white or black. The system tends to be harsh for blacks, and much less so for whites. It does not matter if the cases look all but the same. This is not hard to see if at any moment you have looked into the internal workings of the system.
Open Hate Groups
This is the worst part. Hate groups that seek to protect whites from genocide are not just limited over there. My county has some old ones, going back to well before Donald Trump. You know skinheads, Neonazis, and other sundries. We also have newer groups. These include the Proud Boys, Bugaloo Boys, a series of patriot groups, and defend groups that like to pretend they are civil defense militias. If you know what you are looking for, you will even find a few Three Percenters and Oath-keepers. In fact, we did find plenty of all of these during the events of August 1 in La Mesa. They were the other side to the Uhuru group that many confused for a black lives matter group That these people did is hardly surprising though.
What happened after the La Mesa event is that they declared victory, even though there was some violence, quite a bit from their side, and they were not able to prevent the march from happening. According to Left Coast Right Watch:
Things became more dangerous when the protesters passed the VFW building at which DEC had stationed themselves. Again, they lost their cohesion as soon as they were faced with protestors. DEC members began hurling slurs at the protest group. Quickly several conuterprotestors with Three Percent badges attacked protestors including a 17-year-old woman who was left with a black eye and bruised back.
Justin Haskins, who goes by Justin N’Bama online, and is the leader of the Defend East County group, posted the next day a victory on Facebook. Notice the description from Left Coast Watch, because I am going to quote Haskins. He wrote, and screencap will be attached, “BLM outnumbered us, and an underage colored girl has fabricated a story of being jumped by three men.”
These are the things that people are trying to ignore, The open racism that pervades these defenders. The President has enabled a lot of this. And yes, we saw plenty of American Guard and Three Percent paraphernalia to make your hair stand on edge. There is more, for the Defend groups and their fellow travelers, they have decided to go to war. Their enemies are the ghosts of ANTIFA and they engage in Citizen Goldstein’s like three minutes of hate. They also hate anarchists, communists, and Black Lives Matter, which is far more substantial. However, whites joining PoC in large numbers scare them. It indicates the world is passing them by. The grievance politics on their end are increasing as well.
The Role of the Media
We need to examine the role of the media in this. After all, it rarely asks questions beyond the surface. This is why these groups can walk with impunity. A little more into the Chabad shooting, because it is a perfect example. It was hardly a surprise to me, I had some questions for the authorities. Like the march on Saturday where it was in your face. San Diego County has racism as well as an antisemitism problem. It’s not in the shadows anymore either,. This is not one most people like to confront, but even in the past, you saw it every so often. The Dixie flag here, the blood flag there, the 88 tattoos on somebody. It’s present, always, just under consciousness where most of us can feel safe to ignore until you can’t.
Perhaps I notice these things because as a daughter of a Holocaust survivor, I know it’s never quite gone. It can be a look or tattoos. It can also be a transfer or a car sticker. It’s there, right under the surface, waiting. And the last four years it’s become mainstream. For me, It was more of a question if the shooter (no need to glorify the name) was radicalized locally, online, or both. When all was said and done, it was likely a hybrid radicalization. He got some at home, and quite a bit of it online
Mind you, some of the radicalization in that particular case happened at his church, where the old canard of Jews killing the Christ is still repeated. That one goes back to the medieval period, and it is instrumental to the passion plays, which have gone from Street theater to Hollywood. However, there are many sites online where “lone wolves” can find information, and further radicalize themselves, and crucially, we have local groups. And here is where the media has failed.
Partly it’s a natural denial that we have a problem. It may very well be because the media is hiding its collective head in the sand. And no, that day they had no idea what Stormfront or the Chans were…or that this young man posted his manifesto at 8Chan since has become 8Kun. And I must say, it is no longer as crazy for the racist crew, but oh boy, it is QAnon central.
So what hate groups do we have in San Diego? First off, we have some oldies, like the skinheads and the American Guard. But we have seen the rise of identitarian groups in my county as well, with the usual tactics in recruiting. They, of course, are not just limned to my corner of the country, but it is time to face how widespread they are The American Identity Movement, formerly Identity Europa, has engaged in leafleting operations in area colleges, for example. And one of the groups fairly active in this county is the Patriot Front. And of course, we still have a slew of Tea Party groups, whose members have a cross over, and at times engage in the same flights of conspiracy and open racism.
in Poway specifically, according to the Southern Poverty Center, we have the Realist Report. This group has one reason to exist, and this is to deny the reality of the Holocaust. Then we had the more recent fracas with Nick Cannon, who engaged in antisemitic tropes bordering on Black Israelites ideology. He is a product of San Diego, and it goes to show that intolerance is not limited to just white people. However, the media was taken aback and by surprise. It’s like the events of the last five years are isolated, which they are not. They are part of a continuum.
Then the last two months and the rise of a militia should worry people. The Defend East County, from their posts on social media, has connections to QAnon and the American Guard. The language of the far-right has become mainstream. In other words, racism and antisemitism have become mainstream. This is partly due to the present national leadership. But we have a serious problem. Major national and local media ignores them. When there is an attack It’s always a lone wolf. It does not matter if this is a guy sending pipe bombs to CNN, or a mass shooting at a couple of synagogues, or the increasing trend of driving vehicles into protesters. There are a lot of lone wolves. It’s like there is a pattern or something.
A few of these groups are militias, preparing for the coming civil (race) war. This movement is not just becoming far more mainstream, but the refusal of the media to treat it as a movement, not lone wolves, helps them. It enables denial that they are at heart violent groups and that in the end, they seek ethnic cleansing. As long as we continue to treat these events as singular ones, the far-right violent movement continues to get plausible deniability.