The American Nation: Identity

Note from the Editors: This dialogue is a follow up to Lafayette Lee & Darryl Cooper’s The American Nation: Ethnogenesis, contained in our fourth print edition.

Dialogue: Lafayette Lee & Darryl Cooper debate Scott Greer & Benjamin Roberts on White Identity

Lafayette Lee: In our recent dialogue, Darryl Cooper and I explore American identity and ethnogenesis. We both found ourselves agreeing that the civic nationalism of our parents and grandparents is inadequate to provide meaning and sustain identity, but we also shared doubts that racial identitarianism could be a viable alternative. In the end, we arrived at a third way, emphasizing the uniqueness of American civilization, our sectional character, and our capacity to reinvent ourselves. In a response, you [Scott] wrote that “what lies ahead for the historic American nation is deciding between acceptance of the new multiracial model or embracing the racial foundation to its identity,” and that “there isn’t a third way out of this problem.” I think we can all agree that the 20th-century regime is dying, and with it goes the civic nationalism of an earlier generation. But is restoring the nation’s racial foundations required? Is that even realistic?

Scott Greer: I think it’s unrealistic to expect a colorblind national identity to thrive in a minority-white America. America is great because of the people who made it. Those people were whites with an Anglo-Protestant culture. Much of the Left understands this when they denounce America for its “whiteness” – the Left’s use of “whiteness” by the way. Whiteness refers to the way that whites, our customs, our culture, and our beliefs operate as the national standard. The Left sees this fact as an abomination. I see this as a great testament to our unique civilization and its contributions, and in turn what we should preserve. 

The Left’s criticisms exhibit a clear understanding of the racial character of America. The Right shies away from this because of the great taboo around a positive white identity. Generations of whites have been taught to wince at this subject. Only hillbillies and other uncouth types would talk about being white. Respectable white people don’t see race. But even the old civic nationalism relied on an implicit understanding of the fundamental character of America. As the Left notices, it was a celebration of dead white men and their culture. Whites wouldn’t recognize this because we don’t see the Founding Fathers through a racial angle. We see them as deracialized individuals (which is a caricature of the ahistorical, liberal ideal; Locke and Jefferson obviously wouldn’t have seen themselves in that regard); but to non-whites, their whiteness is very apparent.

Civic nationalism thrived in a nation that was majority white. We could pretend race doesn’t exist and we’re all just individuals. Our history still glorified white men and Anglo-Protestant culture. It only made sure not to draw a racial conclusions. The values of, and ideas, of America were certainly prioritized over the founding stock of America in the telling of civic nationalists. But outsiders could still see the racial character of it all. Civic nationalism still posited whites as the generic Americans. That’s why the Left can’t resist an explicitly racial understanding of America. The DEI apparatchiks see whiteness as fundamental to the nation – and want to wipe it out. Leftists understand that they can mold a new country into the image they want if whiteness is dethroned.

Many normal white Americans would prefer we return to colorblindness or some other race neutral identity. But that’s unlikely to happen. Colorblindness is a luxury of a nation with an established, solidly positioned, yet tolerant majority. This is not America in 2024. We’re quickly heading towards a future without a racial majority. Non-whites, raised up on anti-white history, will bitterly resent the honors afforded dead white men and the relative prosperity of whites. They will cling to their racial and ethnic identities to distinguish themselves from the shallow consumer culture of the mainstream. Colorblindness doesn’t appeal to them. Colorblindness really only appeals to whites. They will prefer anti-whiteness. 

This is a conflict being imposed on white America. It may not make for the best campaign message. It probably will discomfort a lot of middle Americans. And it will certainly invite attacks from the establishment. But it’s necessary to stand up for the truth. Whiteness is fundamental to America. Without it, it’s no longer America. 

Darryl Cooper: There is an interesting paradox here. True, generations of white people have been trained since kindergarten to view white racial identity as a mark of the uncouth lower classes, but who taught them to think that way? In the 1960s, the Anglo-Protestant elite still held the reins of power, and were the most passionate and vociferous opponents of white racialism. When the Irish, Italians, Jews, and other urban Euro ethnics began, in the mid-20th century, to put aside their differences and band together to protect their communities from the onslaught of the black Great Migration, they were universally vilified and politically attacked by the members and institutions of the Anglo-Protestant ruling class. The WASP elite weren’t taught in school to hate white racialism, it was they who taught it to others. So to whom does America rightfully belong: to the late-arriving European immigrants who resisted our demographic transformation, or to the old stock WASPs largely responsible for imposing it on them (and who still count among the most enthusiastic enemies of white racial identity)? As Nancy Isenberg shows in her book White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America, the tendency of the northern WASP elite to derive an identity based on their supposed moral superiority over the Bad Whites – from Southern slaveholders and Midwestern populists, to White Citizens’ Councils, Sun Belt evangelicals, and MAGA – goes back to the nation’s founding. As you say, you’re living in the country they made.

To be sure, I’m mostly talking about the Eastern Establishment, the elite WASPs in the northern cities that dominated national politics for most of the century following the Civil War. The South is full of founding stock WASPs who never had a say in this, and in fact had it forced upon them at the point of a bayonet. Perhaps those experiences left them with an understanding that sometimes the good guys lose, and that “we will win, because we must win” is not enough to overcome a lost cause. In my experience, they tend to wear their racial identity with a quiet assurance, and without resorting to the fanaticism necessary to sustain the faith of deracinated white nationalists in the rest of the country. In fact, most of the Southern racialists I know are closer to neo-Confederates than white nationalists, and don’t labor under the illusion that they share much of a common destiny, let alone a common identity, with Portland hipsters or Upper East Side Jews, or even liberal Yankee elites, for that matter. Southerners know from long experience not to base their politics on trying to control what the rest of the country does, and don’t spend their time or energy pretending that it’s possible, or necessary, to drive all the Latinos out of the Southwest. Sectionalism is a defensive posture, and it comes naturally to a Southerner; in the rest of the country, too many of us still cling to the Yankee faith in grand crusades.

Lafayette Lee: Following up on Darryl, I agree that America sprang from a largely Anglo-Protestant culture and that the racial composition of the nation remains relevant. Without a doubt, demographic change will alter the character of the country, though I don’t pretend to know the extent. But I think it’s important to point out that given its unique history and physiography, America has always had the capacity to reinvent itself while remaining positively “American.” The civic nationalism we deem inadequate is merely the byproduct of a specific place and time which saw a rapid consolidation of political and economic power, the birth of a global order, and a civil rights revolution. Before the rise of this mid-century consensus, the country was defined by sectional competition and Western expansion. We have every reason to believe that we are undergoing yet another transformation that will force the nation to reinvent itself once again. But is white solidarity as a national or transnational project suitable today?

We are watching globalization stall as capital changes course and great powers like Russia and China challenge US hegemony. Internally, the United States is riven by extreme polarization and widespread dissatisfaction. On top of it all, our southern border has collapsed while the leader of the opposition may be jailed. How does white solidarity respond to such tremors? Where does it fit? 

Identity is complex, with its many layers having varying degrees of salience depending on context. Unless it is used defensively in combating anti-white discrimination, I don’t see white identity as an adequate response to the broader challenges facing the country, not to mention the local problems brought on by societal decay – all of which is further confounded by the complicated relationship between race and class mentioned earlier. This is a critical vulnerability, and unless a unified white majority can be restored in short order, such a movement would remain small and fragmented, aping other minority communities to compete for patronage. Surely this would appeal to many deracinated whites, but for those who stand to lose something from diluting their interests, it would be a hard sell. And that’s not even scratching the surface of the difficulties you would face trying to impose a national program on such a divided nation. 

With limited time and resources amid sweeping change, a national program of such magnitude is unlikely to succeed. Wouldn’t it be more worthwhile for white Americans to recover a more rooted identity and seize the local, where they have greater resources and support and can more effectively advance their interests? If we are on the verge of another transformation, wouldn’t this approach give ordinary white Americans a better chance to secure a place to stand and shape the outcome?

Scott Greer: One thing that needs to be made clear is that deracination is the norm in America. The average person, especially white person, doesn’t have a strong, rooted identity. There are some exceptions, such as Mormons. Regional identity is especially weak. Darryl brought up the South, which he describes as the same place it was in the 1960s. I was born and raised in the South. Most of my family lives in the South. I had several ancestors who fought for the Confederacy. It is not at all like it once was. The type of Southern identity he describes is really only found among the older generation. Sons of Confederate Veterans meetings are elderly affairs. The young guys who get into neo-Confederacy generally learned it from the internet and are no different from “deracinated white nationalism.” The largest neo-Confederate group was the League of the South, which was at Charlottesville and was completely on board with the alt right. In fact, the largest protest against the takedown of Confederate monuments was the Charlottesville rally — and the majority of participants were from outside the South. Obviously, this was extremely counter-productive as Cville led to increased suppression of Southern heritage. But these were basically the only people who publicly protested.

The problem for solid Southern identity is that this isn’t shared by younger generations. Young Southerners aren’t that invested in their heritage. When driving through the region, I don’t see the rebel flag as much as I would have 10 or 20 years ago. A 2020 Quinnipiac poll found the majority of the region see the Confederate flag as a racist symbol rather than an expression of southern pride. Granted, this poll was conducted at the height of the George Floyd revolution, so the numbers may look different today. But I can guarantee a majority of southerners under the age of 40 aren’t fond of the Confederate flag. 

The South’s distinctive identity has diminished over the last 60 years. Much of this is due to the large number of people who have migrated there, both from other parts of America and other parts of the world. There are still differences between the South and other regions. Southerners are more likely to be evangelicals, watch NASCAR, be obsessed with college football, and drink sweet tea. But it’s not the kind of differences that amount to a semi-national identity. Even the world-famous southern accent is in decline. If the South — which has historically had the strongest regional identity in the US — is losing its distinctiveness, this doesn’t speak well for regions with weaker identities. Yankee WASPs are almost an anachronism at this point. The regional and cultural differences between white Americans are at an all-time low. 

As for Southerners not caring about Hispanic migration to the Southwest, I think that fails to understand the national impact of immigration. The South gets as many of the newcomers as anywhere else. A lot of these migrants end up in the rural South. Albertville, Alabama — not a metropolis at all — in the last 30 years went from having virtually no Hispanics, to its schools being majority Hispanic. The town also has a sizable Haitian population. This isn’t an outlier. Demographic transformation is happening even more rapidly and on a larger scale in the South’s urban centers, e.g., Charlotte and Atlanta. The rural south is experiencing mass immigration as much as anywhere else. This may explain why Trump dominated the South in the 2016 primaries. Southerners related to this anti-immigration message because they personally experienced the transformations Trump railed against. The Great Replacement affects all parts of the country. 

To Lafayette Lee’s questions on political pragmatism, there are few considerations. The best strategy for politics is Trumpism. It’s not explicitly white identity politics, but it’s opposed to DEI, racial quotas, historical erasure, mass immigration, and anti-white racism. So it strives to achieve most of what we want without spelling it out. I’m well aware of the challenges that explicit white identitarianism has in this country. 

On localism, I’m all for states and towns clawing back power from the federal bureaucracy. But hoping this solves all our problems is not enough. The core issue is the weak identity at the local and state level. Many of these places do oppose wokeness, but their major concern is economics. While Texas was making a spectacle about putting razor wire at the border, Greg Abbott was in India begging for more migrants to his state. There are many stories of local town leaders doing the same. The Wall Street Journal recently covered Topeka (which is more of a small city than town) pleading for migrants to move there. There isn’t an ethnic or a particularist identity at this level. Texas’ identity, for many of its residents, is more about Buc-ee’s than the Alamo. Anyone can assimilate to that shallow identity. A lot of leaders in small towns care more about business interests than preserving some sense of cultural homogeneity.

Localism without a clear identity is not a revival. It’s just a retreat to the hospice. Americans all experience some degree of deracination. We move around all the time and we’ve been doing it since the founding. Tocqueville even remarked on the deracinated nature of Americans nearly 200 years ago. Turning to sectionalism is a safer alternative than white identity, but it’s allowed to be articulated largely because it’s harmless. Americans focusing on the local realm couldn’t stop any of the major changes in our society, which occur beyond the reach of local political power and decision-making. It would keep some of the wokeness out of schools, but it would do little to stop the Great Replacement.

We live in a globalized world where kids in the middle of nowhere Arkansas can see content from China in a second. We no longer live in the 19th century America of Tocqueville and Jackson where a strong system of localism thrived. As America increasingly becomes less white, anti-whiteness will become even more prevalent. Retreating to an identity around being a Topekan or a Midwesterner won’t challenge it. They will still take your money, undercut your access to opportunities, and hate you for being a white man — all while you subsidize the same system. 

Benjamin Roberts: Extending this, it’s important to also note that identities often form and strengthen as a result of specific conflict or opposition. Americans are not being attacked based on their regional identity, they’re being attacked on a racial basis. Meaning, they are unlikely to adopt sectionalism as a core identity because it isn’t the fault line of the conflict. The regime isn’t going after Midwesterners, New Englanders, or Southerners as such. The South is singled out from time to time, but this is only because the Southern identity is essentially inextricable to White identity. It was a convenient first target. However, it was attacked on the basis of anti-Whiteness. Non-Confederate White American heroes have also seen their legacies and monuments assailed. They tore down statues of Lincoln too. This isn’t a Yankee-Dixie thing. It isn’t the ‘perfidious Yankee’ closing out a centuries long grudge, it’s anti-White activists. They go after any White cultural symbol or hero. All of the old White men of the American canon are equally evil in their eyes.

There are several historical examples of this opposition-oriented identity formation. To name a few, 9/11, post World War I Europe, and the Civil War. The identities that surged during these times were precisely the identities which were under threat. After 9/11, it was Islamic terrorism vs. America. As a result, there was a massive surge in broader American patriotism. After World War I, nationalist identitarianism grew out of Allied occupation, humiliation, and the breakdown of the continental empires. During the Civil War, as has been discussed earlier in this dialogue, identities calcified around sectionalism, because this was the main driver of conflict. Even the American Indians eventually looked past their tribal affiliations and understood the Indian-American Wars as fundamentally racial in character, rallying behind a Pan-Indian identity. 

In many ways, the Left’s vociferous anti-White hatred is actually a boon, because it catalyzes the organic process of identity formation that has played out time and time again. Trump’s 2016 campaign was buoyed almost entirely by the beginnings of this White backlash. As Scott noted, it wasn’t and isn’t articulated in an edgy fashion, but the cultural issues that propelled Trump to power were largely indiscernible from White identity issues and White grievances. There’s been some revisionism on the part of the literati and the GOP itself, but this much is clear to essentially everyone. Economic populism isn’t the makings of identity, and it played a part in Trump’s campaign only inasmuch as it appealed to dispossessed White Americans, mostly non-college educated. 

In reality, White identity has been playing a major role in modern politics since the Civil Rights Movement. A vast amount of the 20th Century GOP’s platform consisted of thinly veiled White grievances. White flight, busing, the War on Drugs, welfare reform, affirmative action, etc. – these are all racial issues which were articulated in the language of law and order, parental rights, meritocracy, or economic pragmatism. At the end of the day, these problems were the natural outgrowth of White discomfort in a newly non-White America. Even the Democrats of old played this game. Bill Clinton promised to “end welfare as we know it,” and passed one of the toughest crime bills in recent memory. In doing so, he was essentially cozying up to White concerns at a time when it was politically expedient. Similar to Trumpism, the conservative approach to these issues wasn’t articulated in explicitly racial terms, but the effect was more or less the same.

This understanding of identities and their organic evolution should inspire optimism for several reasons. First and foremost, the Left obviously has no signs of stopping their anti-White jihad against America. Not to beat a dead horse, but the psycho-political effects for most White Americans will be to double down on their Whiteness. 

Darryl Cooper: I probably should not have diverted us into a discussion about the state of the South, but I’ll try to briefly tie off that thread. I didn’t say Southerners don’t care about immigration, or about demographic change in their own communities, but that they tend not to care whether all the Latinos are driven out of the Southwest. In any case, Scott’s right that Southerners are not blind to national concerns, and his point about fading Southern identity is well-taken. No doubt deracination is the norm in America, including the South. The homogenization of culture brought about by mass media, economic churn, and geographic mobility is not a concerning possibility, it is an accomplished fact, and it means any attempt to re-establish regional identities will be an uphill climb. But that’s true of any project to construct an identity for a deracinated people. My point in bringing up the South was not that the younger generations are rooted in an unbroken tradition, but simply that the fragments of a tradition lay ready-at-hand to be picked up. While Southern identity might be a body on life support, hanging on by a thread, white identitarianism in the rest of the country is a Frankenstein creature, made up of thrown-together, poorly-fitted parts, hoping for a spark that will bring it to life.

So I’ll concede that local identity is currently as much of a fiction as any other identity, and like racial identity has to be built virtually from scratch. I simply believe that the former is a much more manageable, and, for the overwhelming majority of white Americans, more agreeable project than the latter. By more manageable, I mean it’s a lighter lift to get people to identify with their neighbors based on common interest and understanding than it is to get them to identify with strangers based on similar skin pigmentation. And by more agreeable, I mean that white identitarianism, as Scott and Ben have helpfully demonstrated, is almost entirely devoid of positive content. Ben’s right that identities are often forged and shaped by conflict, but one need only look to black and other minority identitarians to see the toxic consequences of adopting an identity whose sales pitch is: “You’re under attack, everyone hates you, everyone will always hate you.” Localism, unlike white identitarianism, is able to appeal to one’s loyalty and aspirations, and most normal solid citizens who resist white identitarianism do so because they sense that anger and resentment are the price of admission.

Scott Greer: White American identity isn’t a Frankenstein creature. You can pick up any American history book to learn about it. It’s been articulated in this country since Europeans arrived here. Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Calvin Coolidge are a few of the prominent Americans who were open about America’s racial character. Frontier conflict sharpened American national identity to where different whites saw each other as one group against the great Indian other. White identity was emphasized in our naturalization laws until the 1950s. The 1965 Immigration Act was passed only with the false promises that it wouldn’t change America’s fundamental white makeup.

This is a great example of where the woke are more correct than conservatives. Whiteness is arguably the fundamental fact of American history. As leftists bitterly note, much of our history is about whites imposing white norms, values, and traditions on the land and people. Many minorities recognize the habits and standards whites take as “normal” as white culture. White identity stands obvious before a lot of Americans. There’s just a very strong taboo around whites proudly acknowledging it. 

I think the Frankenstein creature you have in mind is what the alt-right advocated for years ago. Greek statues, strange symbols, and all that. That clearly fell flat. But that’s not what I’m advocating for. The white identity I envision is one firmly rooted in the history, experience, and tradition of white Americans. The heroes and monuments the Left threatens today are expressions of that identity. This identity is everywhere around us — you merely need the eyes to see it. This is a far more real tradition than the dreams of localists.

I don’t think identitarianism will be the GOP platform in the next few years. But none of us are solely focused on building a party platform. We’re more interested in metapolitics and changing the perception of the people who read us. White identity may be taboo, but it’s more relevant to our age than localism. It offers deracinated Americans a heritage, a purpose, and a people to call their own. The hinterlands on their own don’t provide that. 

Benjamin and I feel it’s necessary for white identity to be advanced in order to keep America America. Whites developing some form of group consciousness is necessary to resist replacement-level immigration, reparations, and racial quotas. It is also essential to assert the “traditional American culture” that conservatives cherish. This would be different from minority identitarianism in that we would be begging for handouts from the system. We would aim to make the country as a whole great again. Without the development of a positive white identity, the new American identity will be based around anti-whiteness. We will be the Other for everyone else to define themselves against. There’s a good reason why many whites are trying to flee from whiteness and claim they’re POC. Society denigrates whites in a similar way to how frontier society saw Indians. Unless that changes, our country is doomed.

I would also challenge that localism is a completely positive identity. Localism generally emphasizes the hinterlands over the cities and suburbs. These are the places filled with a lot of understandable “anger and resentment” at their current state and the way the country is heading. It’s why they overwhelmingly vote for Trump. Nearly every identity needs an Other to define itself against. What localism seems to do is to direct that animosity towards a safer target. Namely, other whites. I see many self-proclaimed localists talk about how much they love the illegal immigrants in their towns yet endorse terror campaigns against newly-arrived whites who fled from blue states. This politically correct animosity further reinforces the impression that localism is just Frontporch Multiculturalism. The primary reason the Right is uncomfortable with white identity is because of the taboo around it. There’s a great cost to advocating for it. Just look at how Jared Taylor is treated by Big Tech and the EU. No one who advocates for localism is treated that way, which underscores that it is no threat to the system.

Towns on their own can’t stop mass immigration, civil rights law, corporate DEI practices, or federal law enforcement mandates. If our main issues were cleaning up trash from local parks or renovating dilapidated store fronts, then localism would make sense. These are positive things to do, but they’re not what’s driving people to the Right. Everybody should strive to make their community nicer. But without a larger political mission that unites a wide array of people, we aren’t solving any of the core problems. Localism, in practice, would accept America’s radical social transformation.

Benjamin Roberts: Another confounding issue for regional identities is that they, too, are based on race. Of course, if we take localism to mean simply building up your town, then maybe that’s a stretch. However, the larger regional identities in America also emerge from distinctive racial and ethnic backgrounds. Without delving into a lengthy aside, borrowing from David Hackett Fisher’s Albion’s Seed, we can note that the East Anglian Puritans coalesced to form New England, the Cavaliers and their underlings creating the South, and so on. They each had their own folkways, faiths, and sub-races. This of course isn’t a surprise to any of us, but I highlight it to show that racialism is essentially a gravity well. Every American identity traced back to its roots originates in a race-culture. Cultures writ large are nearly inseparable from their racial origins. Even if regionalism were embraced as an idea, it would still be a White Southern Identity, or a Black Southern Identity, or a White New England Identity – you get the idea. 

I understand Darryl’s opposition to grievance politics, but I don’t think his characterization is necessarily accurate. When White identity was commonplace and central to Americans’ self perception, it wasn’t centered around resentment. White identitarians, at their best, pine more for a return to form rather than a victim-complex fabrication. As Scott said, White identity has historically been the norm of American life. This is what we’re after, and with that identity firmly established, America became the greatest nation in the world. 

At the risk of oversimplifying the matter, White identity is fundamentally distinct from other American racial identities. White Americans generally associate themselves with pride in the unique constitutional character of America – winning the World Wars, things of this nature. Victim mentality in general is simply alien to the archetypal White American. The foundational tenets of Black culture are a fixation on slavery and the belief they’ve been held back since by the White man. White Americans tend to have a revanchist rather than defeatist mindset. They’re interested in taking the country back, not in degenerating into a small minority leeching off of the welfare state as reparations for current or past injustices. Simply put, the resentment formulation of racial identity is alien to how most Whites think and feel.

This brings me to Darryl & Lee’s most fundamental and poignant criticism of White identity. What is it? And is it true that it lacks any positive content? The problem with this line of inquiry is that it misses the forest for the trees. American culture, everything that’s ever been done in our history, is attributable to the foundational race-culture of White people. Granted, it’s a cop-out to claim all of American greatness for our side of things, but the unfairness of this claim in the context of our dialogue illustrates just how difficult it is to disentangle Whiteness from America. The men who conquered these lands did so out of a true belief in the beauty and richness of their people. 

Though it is somewhat difficult to nail down, we can still highlight a few specifically White American traits: Across the country and its existence, we see an emphasis on personal industriousness, fair play, ‘freedom’ (loosely defined at best, but definitely a lodestone tenet for White Americans), some form of Christianity or Christian morals, adventurousness, hospitality, and frontier grit. The challenge for those of us interested in White identity isn’t to invent a ‘new’ American, but to hope that Americans remember who they already are, and what they already have.

Lafayette Lee: It seems that you are both are trying to solve two problems for the price of one: that resolving this white identity crisis will yield desirable political outcomes and may even spur a kind of national renewal. This is quite the assumption, and not just for the reasons we’ve provided, but for those you yourselves have identified. Furthermore, your project ignores current political realities because it can’t reconcile with the nature of politics itself.

You both admit that the average white American is deracinated, lacking a strong, rooted identity. This makes him uniquely susceptible to propaganda, ideology, and negation; in other words, the building blocks of mass politics and our decrepit mid-century consensus. With politics hopelessly abstracted, ordinary Americans are increasingly divorced from the political realm and unable to disambiguate their own interests. This is why mass politics often resembles a morality play and why ideology is the only lens by which the lowly citizen can comprehend his government and its policies. As our society becomes more crowded and complex and we push the limits of old principles, systems, and social structures, we are tempted to sacrifice the particular for the universal and intellectualize our attachments. Real people living in real places become hallucinatory figments, with ideology as the only way to divine them. No matter how righteous the cause, if you play by these rules, you will lose.

I don’t see white identitarianism effectively responding to the challenges we face because it can’t resist the same temptations that have kept other mass movements safely away from power. As much as it is interested in people, it can’t help but abstract them and their interests. On the offensive, it will need ideology to steady itself, and over time that ideology will disfigure and purge all the beautiful and exceptional qualities you attribute to white identity. It will sacrifice the particular for the universal, and circle endlessly around power while never having a chance to partake – and if it does, the moment will be short-lived.

Identity, as I explained before, is multilayered and often derived from a particular history, geography, people, and political disposition; but to be useful, identity needs to be flexible. For example, with changing demographics, white has increased salience today. I don’t necessarily see anything wrong with recognizing that and leveraging it when appropriate. But it must remain flexible, and ideology tends to have the opposite effect. Ultimately, I think Ben is correct that conflict tends to form and strengthen identity. This is the heart of Turner’s frontier thesis, the source of American ethnogenesis, and the foundation of our unique civilization. But conflicts that renewed national identity in the past hinged on collective suffering and sacrifice, with particular identities submerged. Is an identity intertwined with ideology and susceptible to mass politics enough?

I believe we, white Americans, should recover identity through meaningful attachments to things that are embodied, not as an intellectual exercise or political project, but as a lifelong experience that helps us orient ourselves properly in the world. This will give us a richer appreciation for the real and particular, as well as provide the strength to reenter the political as fully-formed men of action with a people, place, and history. Seizing the local is not to abandon national politics, but to reorder one’s priorities in a way that individuals, families, and communities can enjoy greater autonomy in the shadow of mass politics, propaganda, and despotic bureaucracy. Our forefathers understood that liberty – in the older, English sense of the word was not the pursuit of an abstract idea but a collective self-determination, essential for preserving customs, culture, norms, and a way of life. Whether it’s a mid-sized city or rural backwater, the local is where average Americans can protect the particular and wield power on its behalf. 

I don’t believe politics is downstream from culture. Beneath all the subcutaneous fat of theory and ideology is political muscle, and going deeper you find bone. Culture is downstream from power. We desperately need to bring our politics back to earth and retake lost ground – to make the political real again. All Americans need to sober up from all the –isms, theory, and moralizing and see their interests as they truly are: simple, crude, close to home, perhaps indecent, but for once stand for themselves and no one else. This requires them to first and foremost recognize their particular interests. 

I value our shared national culture and history, but I delight in the particular – it gives me strength, guidance, and keeps me rooted; it’s the fertile ground from which my obligations and responsibilities grow. We do not need to reject race, cling to the mid-century consensus, or acquiesce to those who would punish or humiliate us for who we are. But we need something more to overcome the challenges we face. We still need to stop the bleeding, first by transcending mass politics and propaganda and then reentering the realm of politics. I believe that if we fix the political, this identity crisis will heal naturally and we will end up doing more to preserve the things we love and cherish about our people and place than anything else. But it all starts here, close to home. That is the battle every ordinary American can fight and win.

Lafayette Lee is an American writer and a contributing editor of IM—1776. He can be followed @Partisan_O.

Darryl Cooper is host of The MartyrMade podcast and co-host of The Unraveling with Jocko Willink. He can be followed @martyrmade.

Scott Greer is the author of No Campus for White Men and the Highly-Respected Substack. He can be followed @ScottMGreer.

Benjamin Roberts is an American writer and a NYU Abu Dhabi graduate. He can be followed @radicalbenjamin.

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