Alt-right racism is both like and unlike the old racism.
How they’re alike: Both see the white race as superior and in need of protection. How they’re different: The alt-right is generally educated, secular and young.
The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) brought the alt-right to center stage during its 2017 annual meeting when it initially failed to consider a resolution condemning racist aspects of the alt-right.
Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed, and SBC messengers approved a revised resolution, which decried “every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy, as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Messengers also said, “we denounce and repudiate white supremacy and every form of racial and ethnic hatred as of the devil.”
Alt-right is a loosely defined term. It dates back to 2008 in one form but has been reappropriated more recently.
Last year, a University of Alabama political scientist, George Hawley, told The Washington Post the alt-right is “predominantly an online phenomenon, and amorphous and somewhat diverse in terms of what the people who associate with the movement want, but really the core of the alt-right is white nationalism – or, at least, white identity politics.”
AltRight.com is led by Richard Spencer, probably the most visible white supremacist on the scene today in the U.S.
In its About section, under the heading of A Primer Text, the site says, “The United States is being overrun by hordes of non-White immigrants, legal and illegal, fundamentally altering its demographic landscape in key cities, and driving a stake through the heart of its culture. … The Great Replacement is well underway.”
The primer uses the scientific theory of evolution and natural selection to defend its position regarding racial differences. It also affirms the importance of white identity and says genocide of the white race is ongoing.
The alt-right is painting a picture of the U.S. as a white nation under attack from non-whites. It does not recognize that from our earliest days, the U.S. has been a place where all types of diverse people have come together.
The U.S. has been a mixing place for centuries, even though white males held power. And the alt-right is pushing for a return of white male dominance.
Their propaganda is not just against non-whites; it is against women – and what they consider to be weak or emasculated men.
That said, the alt-right is not some easily defined and identified movement. It is a label for loosely related people.
It is sometimes even hard to know if some of these people are being serious. Hawley, the Alabama professor, says, “The alt-right has been able to successfully brand itself as an edgy and fun and ironic movement that takes pleasure in needling both liberals and conservatives, and it’s tongue-in-cheek and rebellious as opposed to just being motivated by [the] genocidal hatred that you would see from people like William Pierce.”
But Hawley adds, “A lot of the people who are sharing alt-right material online are just trolling and find it funny, but the people who are really dedicated content creators, the people who are spending massive amounts of time on this, this is more than just trolling – or if it is trolling, it’s trolling for a purpose. It’s not just because they find it funny.”
Because of the alt-right’s white nationalism and white supremacy, you can understand why Texas Pastor Dwight McKissic proposed the SBC adopt a resolution against the ideology.
“I thought it would be a no-brainer, I thought it would be a slam-dunk,” McKissic told Roland Martin on One News Now, after the SBC initially refused to consider his resolution. “I thought they had turned a corner, at least in the sense of being able to intellectually, theoretically, biblically affirm what the Bible says, that one God created all men equally.”
The SBC did get it right the next day with the revised resolution, but the approved resolution left out two aspects of McKissic’s proposed one – the so-called “curse of Ham” and the political aspect of alt-right ideology.
The Texas pastor’s proposal said, “Whereas, the roots of White Supremacy within a ‘Christian context’ is based on the so-called “curse of Ham” theory once prominently taught by the SBC in the early years – echoing the belief that God through Noah ordained descendants of Africa to be subservient to Anglos – which provided the theological justification for slavery and segregation. The SBC officially renounces the ‘curse of Ham’ theory in this Resolution.”
After three whereas statements dealing with the politics, McKissic’s proposal included this statement: “Resolved, that we reject the retrograde ideologies, xenophobic biases and racial bigotries of the so-called ‘Alt-Right’ that seek to subvert our government, destabilize society and infect our political system.”
The approved SBC resolution excluded these two subjects.
The “curse of Ham” theory still courses through the Christian South. It is part of the reason so many church-goers can still be racist and think little of it.
They feel they have biblical justification. They don’t. And we must continue to attack this falsehood.
I have not found reference to the curse of Ham in alt-right literature, but the idea is there among racists who call themselves Christians.
The adopted SBC resolution, by failing to condemn the so-called curse of Ham, leaves room for supporters of this falsehood to continue moving through southern congregations as the venomous evil spirit of racism they embody.
The “curse of Ham” is a double lie. Noah cursed Canaan, not Ham, and Canaan does not refer to people of African descent.
Now, as to politics being left out of the approved resolution, the alt-right is seen as an important part of the electoral support behind Donald Trump.
The final resolution steps gingerly around the issue of widespread southern evangelical support for Trump in the election. This is understandable.
Many southern evangelicals who voted for Donald Trump say they were primarily voting against Hillary Clinton. They do not want to be branded as racists because of their vote.
I hope the SBC resolution will surface the reality of the white supremacy and white nationalism associated with the alt-right.
Racism keeps surfacing in various ways because evil doesn’t give up easily. It’s important we understand the wolf when it reappears in new sheep’s clothing.
Ferrell Foster is director of ethics and justice for the Baptist General Convention of Texas’ Christian Life Commission. A longer version of this article first appeared on the BGCT’s blog. It is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @ferrellfoster.