White supremacy is a lost cause


To the Editor:

There is much discussion recently of “white supremacy,” and the threat its advocates may pose by fomenting violence and civil unrest.

It is true that many white Americans feel uncomfortable at the prospect of whites becoming a minority not many years from now. But very few of them are militant advocates of white supremacy.

Supporters of a high level of immigration describe the U.S. as a nation that has always welcomed immigrants. This is overstated. I doubt that my many ancestors who were Bible Belt Southern Methodists welcomed the last of my ancestors to arrive, who were Irish Catholics escaping the Great Famine of the 1840s; nor did the descendants of the Puritans roll out the red carpet for the Irish flooding into Boston in the 1840s.

A political party labeled the Know Nothing Party” arose in the 1850s, and tried — without success — to outlaw, or greatly restrict, Catholic immigration.

Nonwhite immigration was definitely unwelcome. The Chinese Exclusion Act was passed in the 1880s.

The ethnic composition of the white population was very largely of Northern European ancestry — British, German, French, Scandinavian, Dutch. This began to change in the late 19th century, as large numbers of immigrants poured in from Eastern and Southern Europe — Poles, Serbians, Hungarians, Italians, Greeks, Armenians, and many others, including many Jews escaping oppression in Russia.

Not every American subscribed to the Statue of Liberty’s invitation, “Give me your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” College students today, living in their politically correct environment, would be surprised at the number of eminent professors, university presidents, and respected public intellectuals who expressed alarm at the influx. They feared that the newcomers, on average, would be of inferior intellectual and moral character to the native population.

In 1924, Congress took action, passing laws which put a cap on the number of immigrants to be legally admitted annually. It assigned national quotas, favorably weighted to the Northwest European countries.

And then in the 1960s, a liberal Congress rewrote our immigration law to open the U.S. up, finally, to the entire world. The result: Since the 1960s, well over half of the U.S. population growth has come from immigration, and most of the immigrants are considered nonwhite. It became obvious to demographers some years ago that whites would inevitably become a minority.

How would a white majority have even been preserved? The clock would have to be turned back to 1924, with a policy allowing few, if any, nonwhites to enter as legal immigrants.

I know of no major political leader who has ever, explicitly, advocated such a drastic rewriting of our immigration law.

So what hope can white supremacists have? In a worst-case scenario, even if a large number of white men could be united to engage in an armed insurrection, it is almost inconceivable that white supremacists could amass enough force to seize and maintain control of our national government.

Like the Confederacy before it, white supremacy appears to be a Lost Cause.

As for the future: There is no rational reason why two human beings should feel hostile to each other simply because of a difference in their physical appearances. We must encourage and hope that the people of our country will come to look upon one another as fellow Americans, irrespective of their ethnicities.

To paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr., we must learn to judge others by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin.

Call it indoctrination if you wish, but we should strive to implant King’s precept in the minds of all American school students.


R.E.L. Knight
West Tisbury