• Texas Family Project

The Spread of White Nationalism in Trump's America: It Stops at the Red River

Updated: Aug 13, 2018

by Ally Z., Contributor

Texas Family Project

The Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA poured gasoline on the fire that is the white supremacist movement in the United States. The media spectacle of tragedy, anger, and violence filled newsfeeds and news channels for weeks following. While the unfortunate events of that weekend shined a national spotlight on the issue, our leaders here in Texas have done nothing to stymie its growth. In this vacuum of leadership, the white supremacist movement continues to grow here in our state.

The events at Charlottesville sparked a sort of arms race between white nationalists and those opposed to their racist agenda. These groups began and continue to compete for traction in the public eye by holding rallies, like the one set for Washington D.C. this coming August, and even selling merchandise laden with their messages. As communities have come together to create safe spaces for marginalized groups, white nationalists have devised more systematic routes to spread their message. Where better to access young and generally open minds? Schools. White nationalists like Preston Wiginton started organizing events to spread his words of hate. Since at least 2015, Wiginton has attempted to bring the far right and white nationalism to his alma mater Texas A&M University at College Station. However, the threat of violent opposition became a roadblock for him.

Only a few days after the Charlottesville murders, Texas A&M University cancelled a white nationalist rally set for October 2017. The university claimed “circumstances and information relating to the event have changed and the risks of threat to life and safety” were plenty of reasons to cancel, according to the Texas Tribune. Whether the reasons for cancelling the rally were deeper than safety or not, Texas A&M University made a bold statement by not allowing white nationalism to influence the minds of its students and faculty on campus. Such decisions upheld the idea of educational institutions providing their students protection from unsafe and hateful influence.

On Capitol Hill, the response to Charlottesville was a bit different. President Donald Trump addressed the protest with distance, claiming that violent outbursts of racism have “been going on for a long time” and offered no solution. It wasn’t until he signed proposed legislation denouncing the bigotry at Charlottesville that any action was taken against white nationalism.

Fast-forward to Friday, May 18th of this year. That’s when Santa Fe High School became the scene for 2018’s 22nd domestic school shooting. Dimitrios Pagourtzis, the 17 year-old shooter, was arrested after brutally murdering 10 of his classmates. The New York Times revealed that Pagourtzis’s Facebook account contained many items that appeal to white nationalist ideology — a shirt that displays the words “Born to Kill," and artwork that was apparently inspired by musician James Kent, whose music has been popularized in white supremacist groups. In short, Dimitrios Pagourtzis is a neo-Nazi.

While the Trump Administration responded again with statements of thoughts & prayers, Governor Abbott responded with alternative, though misguided, suggestions in the form of a 40-point plan to increase security in schools. This extensive school safety proposal would take measures to a new level  that would require significant planning and funding. While the proposal is admirable in its aspirations, this plan can easily distance us from the real problem: white nationalism is still strong in our nation and in Texas. Extra security doesn’t eliminate the problem, but only distances us from taking action. So really, how different are Trump and Abbott’s responses? Both seek to distract from the underlying issue of racism and hate in our culture.

There’s just one more thing — Governor Abbott’s plan won’t be discussed until January 2019, unless he calls for an earlier session. That means Abbott will likely avoid the issue of white nationalism in Texas for the foreseeable future, and it’s very possible that he may never address it at all. It is imperative that Texans not let this issue hide with our cowardly elected officials. Removing doors from schools will not protect our children or safeguard our domestic civil rights from violent hate groups. Austin must address the presence of racism and terrorism at the c

ore of the ideology of these hate groups. While white nationalists pick up their arms, pick up your phone and contact Governor Greg Abbott as well as your local and state representatives. It’s up to us to keep our government accountable and to defend ourselves from hatred. Join the fight to protect our civil rights and our human rights to live free from hate and violence in our great state.

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