From the moment I heard news of Friday’s mosque violence in New Zealand, I assumed that the shooting was driven by white nationalism. Information about the shooter’s manifesto confirmed that suspicion. Nothing has subsequently shaken it.
We have a problem with white nationalism in this world and especially in the United States. It’s dangerous and made far worse by those with a stubborn unwillingness to recognize it. Racism and the preferences of privilege permeate so many of our institutions and we struggle to consistently recognize and confront it. When we do that, we place those institutions and our nation at risk. In that atmosphere, white nationalism flourishes and increasingly explodes, as it did in Friday's mosque shooting.
For New Zealand, the shooting seems to be a moment of cultural epiphany; a chance for that nation to have an honest conversation about guns and nationalism. Good for them. The United States has had plenty of opportunities to also have an honest conversation about the power of right-wing white nationalism in our politics, but we steadfastly refuse to have that conversation. From Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma, to the Emanuel AME Church shooting in South Carolina, to last fall’s Tree of Life Synagogue shooting, the overwhelming evidence that white nationalism is alive and well in this nation is there. When we refuse to recognize it and call it out, we set ourselves up for more of this ugly and racist violence.
So let’s call it what it is, confront white nationalism every time we see it, and condemn it without qualification. Only then can we move forward to do the work and fulfill the promise of the equality we claim for ourselves. It’s not too late for us to do this work but every time we refuse to acknowledge the truth we put ourselves ever closer to a tipping point from which we cannot recover.