When then-presidential candidate Donald Trump boasted during his campaign that he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody” and would not lose any supporters, he was right.
He was speaking as bully-in-chief, a man proud of not only his wealth but confident in his whiteness and the rightness of his belief that white people were being harmed by the direction the country was going. He used dog-whistle language to speak to white people who were angry because they felt ignored; part of the angst concerning immigrants and Muslims is tied into the belief held by many white people that too many people of color are coming into this country and that they are threatening the livelihood of white people.
They are white nationalists, a phenomenon which is not new and is perhaps more dangerous than is white supremacy. White nationalists feel like America was “built by white people for white people.” The ideal of pluralism notwithstanding, white nationalists are probably more comfortable with incoming immigrants if they are white and Christian.
In 1860, Mississippi Senator Jefferson Davis, who would become the first president of the Confederacy, spoke with passion as he argued against the passage of a bill that would have funded education for black people. Davis was incensed, and said, on the floor of the Senate, “This government was not founded by negroes for negroes but by white men for white men.” He said that the bill assumed that black people were equal to whites, and that, he said, was not the case. “The inequality of the white and black races was stamped from the beginning.” (Ibram Kendi: Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, p. 3)
Whites sought to keep power and control in the hands of whites from this country’s inception and are still doing it. The phrase, “Make America Great Again” was interpreted by non-white people, but especially by African Americans, as meaning, “Make America white again.” Globalization had done something to upset the racial make up of this country, and many white people were alarmed. Pat Buchanan made a prediction that by 2063, America would no longer be a predominantly white country. Even that possibility riled white nationalists. Something had to be done. Something was done. A man got into office whose chief strategist is a white nationalist and whose attorney general is known not to be in favor of the influx of immigrants of color into this country.
The fact that the GOP has control of two of the three branches of the federal government makes it easier for the agenda of the white nationalists to get through. It feels like the White House is not a lot different than a small sheriff’s office in the South, where the sheriff knows a white man has killed a black person, but also knows there will be no justice. The good ol’ boys ― including not only the sheriff, but the judge, the attorneys and the jury ― will put the black man where he belongs: in prison or worse.
As the administration ignores the fact that Vladimir Putin is easing his way into the very fabric of American democracy, some of us shudder. As we watch the Republican Congress, and far too many Democrats, slide silently into line behind the president, we shudder. The good ol’ boys are closing ranks, and it feels like there is little anyone can do about it.
When Emmet Till was murdered in 1955, an all-white jury acquitted two white men, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, of the murder, though it was clear to all that they had done it, and they confessed the crime to a magazine after their acquittal. When it seems crystal clear that white police have used excessive force, resulting in the deaths of far too many black people, the good ol’ boys close ranks. They protect each other. All-white juries have historically ignored evidence of white guilt and have put far too many African Americans in prison for life or sentenced them to death, often for crimes they clearly did not commit or for crimes for which whites receive far lesser sentences.
It’s the good ol’ boys network.
It is present in the criminal justice system, in the political system and in the economic system. The good ol’ boys have no intention of yielding any of the power they feel was given to them by God at the inception of this country. Many feel that diversity is no less than an attempt to ethnically cleanse white people from America.
It is not going to happen. The good ol’ boys network is deep and wide, and the club members are white nationalists who will do whatever it takes to keep things as they believe things should be.
We should all hold onto our hats. We are in for the ride of our lives, and America, already pulled from some its ideals, will survive, but will walk with a distinctive limp when this period of history passes. The mark of the good ol’ boys will be made, just as it was during Jim Crow. Rev. William Barber says we are in the Third Reconstruction.
We are, and it is not quite clear where America will be as a nation when the club members realizes its agenda.