Why Do We Love To Hate White Supremacists?

Have you noticed the recent image-alteration occurring in white supremacist circles? One of our subscribers suggested a post focusing on this latest P.R./makeover campaign. I agreed, but this post will be more about you and me than about them.

In the wake of last year’s Charlottesville disaster, the public image of the white supremacist, neo-Nazi movement took a beating. The seemingly continuous major and social media replays of their demonstration depicted enraged, tough, weapon-packing, hate-spewing, hissing, spitting, cussing, quasi-militia swarms of men on a rampage. While there was some violence on the part of counter protesters, the enduring image was that of an angry swarm of white men. A viral social media “naming and shaming” campaign reinforced that image. We love to hate ‘em!Violent Clashes Erupt at "Unite The Right" Rally In Charlottesville

So some of the less hard-core white supremacists set out to burnish their tarnished appearance:

  • Drop the swastikas
  • Tone down the rhetoric
  • Be more restrained, less objectionable
  • Include more women up front in the movement

However, a Washington Post/ABC poll revealed that the vast majority of Americans – 83% – say that holding neo-Nazi views is unacceptable.

We do love to hate white supremacists!


I recall one kid in my grammar school class who was a natural-born hell-raiser. He had a knack for outrageous antics and trouble-making. His impulsive outbursts and stunts made the rest of us appear angelic. We (and our teachers) could excuse our own pranks and stunts because at least we weren’t as bad as _________. Radical white supremacists serve a similar purpose. As a recent “Time” article noted, “We need easily marked villains.”  (article below)

I’m also reminded of the biblical story of the Pharisee and the tax collector who went to the temple to pray (Luke 18:10): “The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like the other people – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’’  In observing those despicable white supremacists, we can easily adopt the self-righteous, self-blinded arrogance of the Pharisee.

Consider this definition:

Aversive Racism: A form of contemporary racism that, in contrast to the traditional form, operates unconsciously in subtle and indirect ways. It has also been described as bias without intention. (article below)

Here are some of the common characteristics of aversive racists. Please consider whether these fit you:

  • They sympathize with victims of past injustice
  • They support the principle of racial equality
  • They aspire to be, and regard themselves as nonprejudiced
  • They will at times respond more favorably to Blacks than whites as evidence of their lack of bias
  • They are typically well-educated
  • Politically, they tend to lean liberal

Seems reasonable and egalatarian so far, right? Here are a few more characteristics. Again, consider whether these fit you:36178146 - woman is certain that she is innocent.

  • They know they possess negative feelings and beliefs about Blacks or other groups, though they would prefer to be rid of them
  • They try to “catch” these feelings and stifle them in conversations
  • When these feelings and beliefs do leak out, they will attempt to justify or rationalize their comments on the basis of some factor other than race
  • They might be less guarded in situations where these beliefs would be more likely to be shared or tolerated
  • They are eager to cite positive relationships with Black people they have known
  • They will find openings to recount ways in which they demonstrated their non-prejudiced beliefs
  • They will hesitate to challenge anything said or done by a Black person

I consider myself an example of this phenomenon.  For example:

  • In the past several years, I’ve been brought face-to-face with the inherent, learned biases that saturated my world as I grew, and which seeped into my deepest unconscious by osmosis
  • I’m well-educated and lean liberal (though fiscal conservative)
  • I always have wanted desperately to appear nonprejudiced
  • I’m especially sensitive to situations where my innate prejudices might surface.  I  tend to check myself carefully rather than expose them. (This is improving somewhat as I choose learning over ego-protection)
  • I’m less guarded around my conservative softball teammates, and less likely to speak up when racist comments surface (again, improving as I learn and grow and “catch” the comments)
  • As evidenced above, I want you to know that I’m aware of all this!!

As the first article below concludes, “Despite its subtle expression, the consequences of aversive racism are as significant and pernicious as those of the traditional, overt form (e.g., the restriction of economic opportunity.)”

To my mind, the fundamental issue is one of GENUINENESS. Real relationships cannot be built on such contrived, disingenuous posturing.

While I may be tempted to jump on the Supremacist-bashing bandwagon when the topic arises, in my more sober moments, I see that as a cover, a diversionary tactic to stroke my ego and skirt the truth of the enormous “work” that still lies ahead, given the racialized condition of my mind.

This work is far more challenging and humbling than hating “them”! This doesn’t mean turning the bashing instinct inward – guilt is “white noise” .  The focus needs to be on becoming a healthier Pharisee – and moving to ACTION.  (See suggestions below)

How do you relate to this?
You can scroll to the bottom of the page to “Leave a Reply”


A description of Aversive Racism:

“Understanding the Psychology Behind Aversive Racism” –

“Aversive Racism: Bias without Intention” –

“Time” article: Don’t Let the Loud Bigots Distract you:  America’s Real Problem with Race Runs Far Deeper:  Time article


Pay close attention to upcoming elections – research candidates’ history and positions on key issues, particularly on race-related matters. For this and future elections, get involved as a volunteer in campaigns that align with your values.

Implicit Bias Project: Find out your implicit associations about race, gender, sexual orientation and other topics:

“Intro to Implicit & Unconscious Bias in Professional Settings” Tues. Sept. 18, 7:00 – 8:30 pm. Irondequoit Public Library

“Controversial Issues: Skill sets for effective conflict resolution” Thurs. Oct. 4, 9:00am – noon, National Coalition Building Institute, Starbridge, 1650 South Avenue:

“Understanding White Privilege” Tues. Oct. 9, 7:00 – 9:00, 540wMain Community Learning Academy

“Introduction to Gentrification” Tues. Oct. 16, 7:00 – 8:30, 540wMain Community Learning Academy

“Defamation Experience” The “Defamation Experience” is a courtroom drama in which the audience plays the jury. The premise of the workshop is a civil suit: A South Side African American woman sues a Jewish North Shore real estate developer for defamation.  October 29 at MCC.  Details at Workforce Diversity Network

12 thoughts on “Why Do We Love To Hate White Supremacists?”

  1. Thanks for sharing this perspective on personal growth, Frank. It reminds me of the “Jo-hari’s Window” activity, in which there are 4 possibilities for personal growth & development:
    – Those areas of ourselves that are known to self, but not known by others,
    – Those areas that are known to self And to others,
    – Those areas that are Not known to self & Not known to others, &
    – Those areas that are known to others but Not known to self.
    This perspective seems to be particularly appropriate for examining our “whiteness,” anti-racism, values, etc.
    How vulnerable & assertive we’re each willing to be in exploring who we are, may be a key to our personal growth & development.


  2. Thanks, Frank. I appreciate you distinctions here and the depth of personal awareness that is required as we each examine our subtle responses to “the other.”
    Barbara Staropoli SSJ


  3. I find that I am similar to your description of aversion racism and you in most ways. I do recognize the real challenge and test for me is how I respond when I hear other, white males or female express a bias or make a racist comment. I am swift to respond against such statements in the workplace where I have a degree of power, slower and softer in a social setting. I have much work to do. Thank you for addressing this subject.


  4. Thank you again, Frank. Excellent blog.
    I was watching my reactions as I moved through your checklists above. I moved easily and comfortably through the first check list— the “egalitarian” one. But when I reached the second I felt the old guardedness rising up: all that aversive racist rigamarole that I doubt I’ll ever be free of. But like you—and in part thanks to your blogs and workshops—I think I’m better at “catching myself catching myself,” and allowing I hope some bud of “genuineness” to open within me.


  5. I and no one else I know is perfect when it comes to racial, gender, etc. beliefs and actions. I learn and grow as I listen and talk to other people. Keeping quiet and not listening does not work.


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