White Nationalism I: The Family Argument

While more mainstream supporters of Trump insist he is not a racist, white nationalists and their ilk have rejoiced in his victory. Regardless of what Trump believes, his rhetoric has carved out a safe space for what has been dubbed the “alt-right.” While this term is both broad and, perhaps, misused, it does serve to bundle together various groups that are perceived as racist and even neo-Nazi. I will not endeavor to break down the fine distinctions between these various groups, but will focus on the white nationalists. As the name indicates, they have an ideological commitment to creating a nation consisting solely of whites.

Since Nazis and other hate groups have advocated the same goal, it seems reasonable to regard white nationalists as racists and as a group based on hate. Not surprisingly, they often claim they are not racists and are not a hate group. They even advance some arguments in support of these claims. In this essay, I will consider the family argument.

While specific presentations of the family argument take various forms, the gist of the reasoning is that it is natural for people to prefer the company of their family members and that it is right to give precedence to one’s family. In their family analogy, the white nationalists take whites to be a family. This, as they see it, warrants having a white nation or, failing that, giving precedence to whites. Some white nationalists extend the family argument to other races, arguing that each race should act in the same way. Ideally, each race would have its own nation. This helps explain the apparently inconsistent claims advanced about Jews by white nationalists: they want the Jews to leave America for the whites, but they support Israel becoming a pure Jewish state.

The family analogy gains much of its appeal from human psychology: as a matter of fact, humans do generally prefer and give precedence to their own family members over others. This approach is also commonly used in solving ethical problems, such as who to save and how to distribute resources. For example, if a mother is given the choice between saving a stranger or her daughter from drowning, the intuitively right choice is her daughter. While the family approach has considerable appeal, there are some obvious concerns. One is whether whites constitute a family. Another is the extent to which being family morally warrants preference and precedence.

In the biological sense, a human family is made up of humans who are closely genetically related to each other. This is something that can be objectively tested; such as with a paternity test. In this regard, family identity is a matter of the genetic similarity (and origin) of the members. There is also the matter of distinguishing the family members from outsiders—this is done by focusing on the differences between the family members and others.

To argue that whites are a biological family requires establishing that whites are genetically related to each other. This is easy enough to do; all humans are genetically related because they are humans. But, the white nationalist wants whites to be an exclusive family. One obvious problem with this, especially in the United States, is that most whites are closely related to non-whites. To use one well known example, Thomas Jefferson has many descendants and they thus constitute a family. However, many of them are supposed to descended from him and Sally Hemings—thus would presumably not be regarded as white by white nationalists. While one might quibble about whether Heming and Jefferson had children, it is well-established that the genetic background of most “white” Americans will not be “pure white.” There is also the fact that the genetic background of many “non-white” Americans will include white ancestors. This will mean that the “white family” will include people who the white nationalists would regard as non-white. For example, Dick Cheney and Barack Obama are related and are thus family. As such, the biological family analogy breaks down in terms of the white nationalists’ approach.

A possible counter to this is to focus on specific white genes and argue that these are what define being white. One obvious point of focus is skin color; white skin is apparently the result of a single letter DNA mutation in the 3.1 billion letters in the human genome. As such, white nationalists could rally around this one letter and use that to define what it is to be white. This would certainly seem like an absurd foundation for preference and precedence; but perhaps the absurd would suffice for the white nationalists.

While families are often defined biologically, there are also family members that are adopted and, of course, people marry into families they are (hopefully not) closely related to. As such, a family need not be genetically defined. This provides an alternative way to try to make whites into a family.

White nationalists could argue that the white family is not defined by white genes, but by a set of values or interests that constitute being white. That is, being white is a social construct analogous to a political party, religion, or club. While there is the obvious challenge of working out what would be the values and interests one must have to be part of the white club, this could in theory be worked out. After all, the white nationalists have set up their own little white club and they presumably have ways of deciding who gets to join. The obvious problem with this approach is that it does not seem to capture what the white nationalists want in terms of being white. After all, anyone could have those values and interests and thus be white. Also, there are many people who have white skin who do not share the interests or values of the white nationalists and would thus not be white on this approach.

The white nationalists could always go with the traditional approach of regarding as white anyone who looks white. Potential whites would presumably need to provide some proof that they do not have any non-whiteness in their background—there is, after all, a long history of people passing as whites in the United States. Since white nationalists tend to regard Jews as non-white, they would also need to sort that out in some way; after all, Jews can have very white skin. Presumably they can look to the Nazis for how to work this all out. There is also the concern about using technology to allow people to appear white, such as genetic modification. Presumably white nationalists would really need to worry about such things. After all, they would not want non-whites in their white paradise.

One obvious problem with this approach is that it is like accepting as family anyone who looks like you in some specified way. For example, embracing someone as a relative because they have a similar nose. This seems like a rather odd way to set a foundation for preference and precedence, but white nationalists presumably think in odd ways.

Given the above discussion, there seems to be no foundation for regarding whites as a family. As such, the white nationalist family analogy fails. As should be expected. I will close by saying that I am horrified by having to engage in arguments about white nationalism; such a morally abhorrent view should be recognized as such by anyone familiar with history and moral decency.


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  1. Are Semites White?

  2. Doris Wrench Eisler

    The idea, and it is just a notion, of race has been carefully cultivated both domestically and abroad: domestically as a diversionary tactic, as in, “they are taking your jobs” not stupid, callous government/business policy. And it is often useful to hold foreign countries and their peoples in contempt both to inculcate the feeling that we and our values are better, even exceptional, as well as making it possible to wage brutal wars against them, if necessary, as it so often seems to be, and for the worst reasons..
    A brutally unfair system perpetuates itself by various “racially-based” prejudices including white on white: in the case of English versus Irish, the latter culture was posited as inferior and its marginalization justified on that ground.
    These irrational ideas follow the economy inversely pretty closely: when it does well and everyone has a good chance of taking part in the good life, they ebb and even disappear.
    It is also a fact that human greed knows no bounds and unless the ideas of brotherhood and fairness is inculcated by the society in its social and economic policies prejudice will thrive even when the economy is not a factor. But we’re talking socialism and communism here, and that won’t do.

  3. Depends on the definitions of the terms.

  4. If you’d like to over-generalise the concept of racism, you could say that it is simply a part of a set of identity-based preferential treatments. And there are many of those that generally go unquestioned. Take for example the privileges one gets in one’s own country vis-a-vis foreigners.
    It seems that almost all societies – and i am no expert – are built around ideas of belonging which bestow both privileges and responsibilities. If we treat the attribute of “belonging” as an identifier, then we run into the following problem: most methods of identification seem irrational and arbitrary.
    Where i’m trying to get at is that if we bestow legitimacy to any means of identification that is arbitrary and irrational (like citizenship, i would argue) then one is forced to allow for horrible ideas such as white/black/asian/christian/jewish/islamic/atheist/tall/short/whatever supremacy, where supremacy is seen from the relative perspective of the group claiming it.
    A society that is free from those racist troubles would be a utopian one where identity cannot be associated with privileges and responsibilities. Such a society has not been seen, would not be non-problematic; doing away with functional roles of authority (legislators, policemen, etc.), with claims to property, or even kinship, is not without great challenge.
    So the problem of whatever-supremacy becomes a political problem. Once you transfer it to the realm of principles, you can not avoid inconsistency.

  5. Rires, cris, l’un après l’autre,air max pas cher,de l’entendre trembler nufactured peur. La peur nufactured leur propre termin Alarme certainement trop tard maintenant. Il dit que lui aussi ne savait pas l’emplacement spécifique, ne peut suivre cette petite voix trouver chaos. Dans une telle grande ville se ‘vrrle rrtre vraiment quelque made a decision là-bas, bien cual maintenant la sécurité s’av’e rrtre très bonne, mais the state of illinois ya toujours une ville

  6. I think this is a kind of refutation that the white nationalists would have an easy time responding to, and it’s not the argument I would make. Instead, here’s what I’d say to them:

    Humans essentially have two kinds of systems to promote altruistic behavior: one based on similarity and another based on reciprocity. Both are products of evolution.

    Pre-modern societies could essentially thrive on either system, though some environments called for one more than the other.

    But under conditions of modern times, the only possible system that’s viable in the long run is the system based on reciprocity!!!

    When any society under modern conditions tries to rely on a moral system based on similarity, then ethnic nepotism, ethnic conflict and eventually ethnic cleansing is the typical result!

  7. In a brief search, I was unable to find White Nationalist sites making a “family” claim, so I can’t respond to their actual argument. This post was my first search result for white+nationalist+family, and some reading of introductory pages on some white nationalist sites did not use the family argument.

    Speaking, then, to a generic “family” argument, it clearly has no literal application to close genetic relationships, because ideas of nation are not predicated those, but on some combination of common ethnicity, culture, religion, and values.

    All nationalists have the problem of identifying the members of the proposed nation. If we consider close family, extended family, tribe, and nation as successively larger groupings, it is not surprising that the edge cases are less clear with nation than with the smaller groups. Further, individuals within a group may hold slightly different views about where exactly the boundaries are drawn, while agreeing about most cases.

    Québécois nationalists, Irish nationalists, Chechen nationalists, Basque nationalists, Scottish nationalists, Zionists, White Nationalists, Black Nationalists all define their own in-group, and advocate a form of separatism, but they are not all strictly dividing by genetics.

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