A few days ago, I took the time to investigate the alt-right movement a bit more thoroughly. What I discovered is appalling. Though I am choosing to talk about alt-right here as a resurrection, it was not really dead. It went underground and now the Trump presidential campaign has created a space for it to come out from underneath the sheets and put on a business suit. It can claim itself to be respectable. After all, a person who is seeking to be the commander in chief supports their ideology.
Welcome back, late 19th and early 20th centuries, when so called “learned men” in the halls of some of our finest universities — Harvard, Stanford and the University of Virginia — were carving out their theories of racial superiority and inferiority. This body of scandalous knowledge came to be known as eugenics.
The notion was put forth that African Americans were inferior and that it was biologically based, thus they would pass their inferiority on through their descendants, so race mixing could not be allowed because it would make whites less intelligent. Scientific racism — what a scandal.
One of the major proponents of the scientific racism theory was William Shockley, an electrical engineer at Stanford, a man who never had a class in genetics, biology or psychology. But this did not hinder him from theorizing about African American inferiority and going as far as seeking funds to pay black people to be sterilized. He preached a philosophy that became known as “retrogressive evolution.”
Shockley believed that because African Americans were inferior to whites, they could not achieve equal intellectual levels. Unfortunately others at Harvard and the University of Virginia, before Shockley, theorized along the same lines and worked diligently to find ways to control African Americans based upon their ill founded notions of inferiority.
The alt-right, which is short for alternative right, see themselves as standing outside of the conservative right that we commonly think about needs to be carefully evaluated. The alt-right’s ideas are rooted in those previously described early ideologies of white superiority. This is the reason they hate immigrants, Native and African Americans along with any others who happen not to be white. They believe that African Americans have the lowest average IQ of any of the groups who live in this country.
They have a little green Pepe the Frog as their symbol, a meme they co-opted that originated on Myspace. I am not quite sure what that’s all about. I can only imagine that since they have vacated their sheets and hoods, they needed another symbol with which to identify themselves.
It is indeed scandalous in 2016 to have to hear about these folks, let alone having to think about them and the implications of their efforts. After all of these years of African Americans living in this country, we still have to deal with these tired, old, fearful ideas of white supremacy.
While these folks have the legal right to speak from whatever perspective they choose to embrace, they do not have any moral authority because they hold an indefensible position of white supremacy and African American inferiority. This is a position that has no right to thrive.
It is time for us to be on another page in this country, and all of us who care about freedom and peace need to find the courage to make sure our voices are heard. There is no more time left to be unclear, uncommitted or fearful. We cannot afford to have a divisive movement such as the alt-right thriving in a society that is trying to build community and solidarity.
We are one country and it’s time we acted like it. The night is dark, indeed, and we are a long way from home. More of us need to wake up, stand up and speak up for unity.
This column by Catherine Meeks, Ph.D., appears twice monthly. Meeks is also a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.