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Insidious Comfort

Racism and Privilege Collide on the Left

By John T. Bledsoe [Public domain]

The Progressive Left in America is experiencing some growing pains. The burgeoning coalition is finding fissures among its members many did not know existed. All of this is causing more than a few headaches. I wanted to take some time to put this conflict into a broader context. There is a great deal to be learned here that can actually strengthen the Left as we move forward.

How It All Started

Caitlin Johnstone, an Australian political commentator, wrote an article about the left and right working together on common goals. In this case, an effort to stop foreign wars and destroy “mainstream media.” However, one particular person she mentioned in her piece is Mike Cernovich. He is a bombastic individual that often publically makes racist and misogynist statements. He is often associated with the Alt-Right movement.

Many people stated on news sites, blogs, and social media that dealing with Alt-Right personalities was a bridge too far for many of us on the Left. Several reasons have been stated for being against this potential alliance. Most reasons fall under these four categories:

  1. Allying with the Alt-Right would alienate People of Color and anti-racist factions that already exist on the Left.
  2. The Alt-Right has never shown any real desire to stop foreign wars.
  3. Any alliance requires a modicum of trust. The Left has no reason to trust the Alt-Right.
  4. It would bolster the destructive “Bernie Bro” talking point from 2016.

Johnstone herself has stated that Cernovich uses hateful rhetoric. However, she will not go so far as to denounce Cernovich and the Alt-Right. In fact, she maintains that she is willing to work with Cernovich, Alex Jones, and Infowars on social media.

Because of the reasons mentioned above, an alliance would be of no strategic or tactical value for the ascendent Progressive movement. It is more likely to harm the movement than it is to help.

Understanding the Alt-Right

Before we go any further, we have to understand the role of the Alt-Right or New Right in American politics.

First, let’s be clear about who they are not. The group is a relatively small faction on the American right. Not all Republicans are Alt-Right. Not all Right Wingers are Alt-Right. Not all Trump Voters are Alt-Right.

What is the Alt-Right?

From the Southern Poverty Law Center

Their goal: A White Ethnostate that is unapologetically socially and economically exclusionary to People of Color. This position is particularly the case for Black Descendants of Slaves and Hispanic/Latino communities. Moreover, they accomplish their goals by normalizing White Supremacist views.

The movement was designed to put a smooth, well-coiffed face on American racism. They helped power Donald Trump into the White House. Their message is specifically crafted to sound “logical” and innocuous. Most Americans see the face of racism as a broke, toothless buffoon spewing hate from his trailer with a Confederate flag on his truck. The Alt-Right takes this view and turns it on its head. They present as harmless, well-spoken, clean-cut college kids. But, their views and goals are vastly more toxic than the racist avatar of our imaginings. Even worse, they are positioned to win.

Outlets like Drudge, Infowars, and Breitbart drive and coordinate their agenda and talking points. This stage is where many people miss how racism works. Racism is driven from the top by the wealthy and powerful. It’s used to divide us so that they can rob us blind.

The movement has members and people sympathetic to their cause at every level of government, media, industry, and law enforcement. They are well-funded so they can afford to be patient and methodical and members believe they are at war. Like capitalism itself, this movement thrives on division.

Once you scratch the surface, you soon realize the movement isn’t really about race. They don’t care about ALL White people. They care about the privileged. It’s all about consolidating power through control of institutions and resources.

There is the only force that can challenge them — Multi-Ethnic Social and Economic Populism from the Left.

We are their Kryptonite.

Push Back

The Push Back has rightly been loud and forceful. On the forefront, as always, have been Women of Color. Chief among them, my dear sisters Anoa Changa, Brittany B., and Wendi Muse. Beth Lynch has written about it. The ever-fiery Pamela Getz has also joined the fray. Ben Dixon, of the Benjamin Dixon Show, recently jumped in with both feet. I and several others have also lent our voices.

We are all united in our vehement and vocal disgust with this pairing. An alliance with the Alt-Right is a non-starter. Not because we are scared or have become “reverse racists.” We are very clear about who the Alt-Right is and we see no value in working with them. They do not belong in any coalition on the Left.

If they wish to support Progressive Policy, we are all for it. That does not require an alliance of any sort. They can do their part and we will do ours.

To be clear, most of us have no issue working with others from the Right on a Progressive agenda. We draw a hard line on people and organizations with hateful platforms that use Race, Gender, Creed, or Economic Status to exclude people.

Counter Push Back

There are three camps coming at us on this issue:

  1. The Alt-Right can be our allies.
  2. We can work with some folks on the Right.
  3. The Alt-Right are the same as everyone else on the Right and we should work with all of them.

Camp #1 simply cannot be helped. Many seem to want to normalize the Alt-Right using the defense of Johnstone as a pretense. Some have stated that the Alt-Right is not racist and Cernovich is “Alt-Light,” not Alt-Right. As if that makes it better. They deny the Alt-Right are racists/White Supremacists.

Several clueless people have pointed out that Cernovich’s wife is Persian. She is from Iran. Iran means “land of the Aryans.” I’ll just let you work out what that means.

I mainly agree with Camp #2.

Camp #3 really needs to do some research. They also need to do a Twitter/social media search on “Cernovich” and take a good look at what the Alt-Right defenders from Camp #1 are saying. Some are provocateurs that intentionally conflate all groups to the Right of the Democrats. This position is an effort to make us seem unreasonable.

It takes an extraordinary amount of privilege to ignore the People of Color on this issue.

Insidious Comfort

As stated earlier, the Alt-Right’s goal is to mainstream their racist, exclusionary worldview by appearing to be reasonable “average joes.” They also use humor/jokes to mask their message. All this to make people comfortable with bigotry and racism. It’s working.

Seventy-Five percent of White people in America do not have any close, non-White friends in their social circles. Therefore, the vast majority of social gatherings are monochrome. Most White people readily admit that when race and People of Color are the topics of conversation in these settings, unkind terms are often used. Racist jokes are also regularly told by family members and friends. People they have known their whole lives.

Cernovich and his ilk do not alarm many of our Caucasian brethren because the Alt-Righters remind them of their uncle, grandmother, brother, sister, or father. People they love, admire, and trust. “Uncle Pete and Aunt Kate aren’t terrible people. They’re just misinformed.” They believe this in spite of the evidence — racist jokes and statements every Thanksgiving.

The inability to see through this facade can be harmful. Your aunt and uncle could be cancerous to a young movement that consists mainly of People of Color and anti-racists. This fact is true no matter how much you care about them. The Alt-Right is Aunt Kate and Uncle Pete on meth-flavored steroids.

This particular camel cannot be allowed to get its nose under our big tent.


We have many experts on race and coalition building on the Left. We should listen to those voices and learn from this experience.

Watch Five Things You Should Know About Racism

Written by Michael Graham

Son, Brother, Husband, Father, Grandfather, Veteran, Social Justice Warrior. City by birth, Country by default. Follow Michael on Twitter @BLUpfront.

Michael Graham is a Senior Writer for Progressive Army.

One Comment

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  1. Watching this on Twitter as an outsider has been mind-boggling and instructive. I can’t fathom how anyone can see themselves as a part of the political left and not see Cernovich, et al., as anything but toxic. Superficially, there may seem to be common goals, but surely the motives are different and the desired outcomes are polar opposites?

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