When you're a writer, being pitched stories inspired by various conspiracy theories by friends, family and total strangers, becomes a fact of life.
So does ignoring most of them.
So when I first began hearing murmurs that there may be more to the political battle over contraception than simply the usual culprits -- sexism, misogyny and political posturing -- I was skeptical. But as more and more people who I don't consider your usual, run-of-the-mill conspiracy nuts began mentioning one theory in particular regarding part of the motivation behind the battle over contraception, and the larger war on women in general, I began to wonder: Could they be on to something?
Now, thanks to my recent interviews with a prominent white supremacist and one of the nation's foremost experts on them, I don't have to wonder any longer. Let's just say that for some, the battle over birth control happens to align with a much bigger, long-term culture war. Not a culture war over religious freedom, as some would have you believe, but a war over the browning of America.
Newly released census data has confirmed that for the first time in our nation's post-colonial history, white babies are no longer the majority. According to Mark Potok, a Senior Fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, the shifting racial demographics in America has fueled what he calls an "explosion" in hate groups in recent years. "The radical right has expanded just explosively over the last three years. It's been quite stunning." He went on to explain that the explosion has been fueled by three factors: the 2008 economic collapse, the election of Barack Obama, and lastly, "the most important reason for this growth is the changing racial demographic of this country, specifically the idea that whites will soon lose their majority."
He added, "The prediction that whites will lose their majority by the year 2050 has been around for some time and is in the front of every white supremacist's mind in this country." My discussion with white supremacist Gordon Baum, CEO of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) seemed to confirm this. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Baum founded the group in 1985 by culling the membership lists of the White Citizens Council, one of the most notorious segregationist groups of the 1950's and 60's. The White Citizens Council gained infamy for publishing the names of black civil rights sympathizers in local Southern newspapers and encouraging residents to take action. It also paid the legal expenses for Byron De La Beckwith when he stood trial for the assassination of civil rights activist Medgar Evers. (De La Beckwith's first two trials in 1964 resulted in hung juries. He was not convicted until 1994.)
With his folksy demeanor, which included sprinkling our conversation with "hon," Baum could easily be one of the most polite and open interview subjects I have ever encountered. That is if you can just get past the racist rhetoric he was spewing.
(For the record, he never asked about my race during our phone interview and I may have forgotten to mention it. Oops.)
When asked about the new census data, specifically the rise in births among racial minorities, Mr. Baum replied, "Well we've been warning about that." He continued, "Do we want to see our country become more like where these people [racial minorities] are from or not? Now that's a quantitative judgment. And we as an organization prefer to see it remain as it was... When Europeans had America."
I then asked Mr. Baum specifically about contraception and whether the use of birth control among educated white Americans is an issue of concern to his organization. "I think that whites are not having children as much as others are. We don't want to say minority because hell we're not the majority anymore... Whites are not having enough children," he said. "They're waiting too long and they are not having the number of children these others have and as a result within the century we went from 10% of the population to 8%. It's obvious that as a race we are the true minority." He went on to express fears that America could end up looking like Mexico or Brazil one day.
When I reminded him that similar sentiments were expressed in Germany during Hitler's regime, he responded by saying, "Hitler Schmitler! I get tired of hearing of him." Adding, "We are pro-white. Not anti-anybody."
For those who think that drawing parallels between the rhetoric of a white supremacist and the actions of some of the most extreme conservative leaders in years past is a stretch, consider this: As Baum helpfully reminded me during our interview, the CCC remained a force in conservative politics well into the start of this century. In addition to boasting of dozens of members in local legislative bodies, it also counted Senators Trent Lott and Jesse Helms among its speakers and supporters. According to a New York Times report, Lott's relatives claimed he had actually been a member for years. Baum accused the media of mis-characterizing his organization and unfairly condemning the men. "Because they spoke at our meetings they are bad boys," he said with sarcastic sigh.
Thanks to the unflattering coverage, the CCC has seen its public profile as a political force diminished, yet in the intervening years thanks to the advent of the internet its philosophy has found a new and growing audience in private. According to Mark Potok at the Southern Poverty Law Center, "This has been known for at least 10 years this idea in radicals' minds that whites are losing their majority but it's gotten much worse in the last three years for the obvious reason: It coincides with the time that Barack Obama appeared on the scene. It's not simply about Barack Obama, but Barack Obama as the first black president represents in the minds of these people all that has changed and all that will never be the same in this country." He continued, "A universal complaint on the American white supremacist right... they are all freaking out over the fact that white women don't have enough babies to suit them so they are in a constant state of urging white people to make babies." As far as the role conservative politicians play in this effort Potok offered cautiously, "I guess the truth is I don't know what the real motivation is of right-wing Republicans but when you look at the radical right it is open fear of losing the breeding race to other races."
So maybe those who have been telling me that there's more to the birth control battle than meets the eye aren't so crazy after all.
Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to to hear the outgoing voicemail message for one of the hate groups I called while researching this piece. It's both chilling and laughable at the same time.
Click here to see which present-day political figures have ties to race based hate groups.
Keli Goff is the author of The GQ Candidate and a Contributing Editor for Loop21.com where this post originally appeared.