A spate of recent articles has identified a curious trend
The New Yorker recently published an article by Geraldo Cadava titled, “The Rise of Latino White Supremacy.” It’s a frustrating piece that asks — or at least tries to ask — an interesting question: “Why are there non-white white supremacists?”
The question of “Latino white supremacy” is particularly fraught. The New Yorker piece follows on from several other stories in the liberal media about how “Latinos can be white supremacists” and the “rise of white nationalist Hispanics”. But something that’s oddly not explored in this article is that “Latino” is itself an artificial category that, ironically enough, whitewashes not only the diversity but the reality of race relations in Latin America. (See the practice of “blanqueamiento” for just one example.)
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In today’s political climate in the US, a light-skinned, blonde-haired, blue-eyed Colombian-born immigrant is considered roughly equivalent to a dark-skinned, Honduran asylum seeker with indigenous heritage. These differences aren’t granular, but in the United States there is one “Latino” bucket, into which everyone from your Italian-Argentine grandmother to your first-gen Chicano neighbour is supposed to fit. So of course Americans find it weird when they hear a Spanish-sounding last name — like Fuentes — and find out that person is on the far Right. It’s not that Latinos have assimilated and “become white,” as the narrative goes, à la the Irish and the Italians. It’s that the category is plainly a flawed one.
The other issue with Cadava’s piece is that it assumes there’s a monolithic “white power” movement, instead of acknowledging that the far-Right is itself an ecosystem with hundreds of conflicting ideologies. Are these so-called “Latino white supremacists” white supremacists per se, or are they just on the far Right? What exactly are we talking about when we talk about Latino white supremacists?
These snags aside — unfortunately, not the only ones in that piece — it remains an interesting question, and not one totally without merit: dig into far-Right subcultures, including ones that are explicitly white supremacist, and you will find people of colour, though often under the veil of anonymity. Not just Latinos, but black people and Asian-Americans, too. Similarly, you’ll also find plenty of Jews in spaces that throw around terms like “Jewish power”. (And famously, their spouses, too.) In fact, it’s a running joke both in and about some far-Right circles: they’re nothing if not diverse. So, what gives?
There are myriad reasons why this happens, including all the usual suspects, with self-hatred being one of them. But there is more to it than meets the eye. Firstly, not all far-Right subcultures are built the same: some are white supremacist, but not all. There’s also another issue: many people who identify as “far-Right” are really no such thing — it’s the other side of the coin of external misidentification. Some employ the label ironically or strike a reactionary pose to differentiate themselves (e.g. Dimes Square), without real investment in any of the beliefs one might associate with far-Right ideologies.
Meanwhile, other people have internalised a definition of “far-Right” that is closer to the progressive idea in which subscribing to anything Right-of-centre makes you a Nazi. There is a nontrivial population of essentially classical liberals who take issue with how we talk about race or immigration, but who would bristle at nationalism, or more extreme ideas like racial hierarchy.
Some still adopt the label because they perceive far-Right news sources (including white supremacist ones) as the only places that are addressing issues that are salient to them, or telling the truth. There might be an anti-authoritarian bent to it — the social justice-minded language popular in media is the language of the “oppressor” — or it might be as simple as, “I agree with them on X, and they’re the only group representing X accurately — might as well go all in.” Some people practice a sort of detachment from their physical selves and use the social laboratory of the Internet to experiment.
It’s a complicated question with a complicated answer, but it is lazy to simply say that Latinos — an artificial grouping anyway — have in some way internalised white supremacy.