empathy and willful liberal blindness to racism

Liberals, progressives, the readers of Mother Jones, are often useless to me as “allies” because they can’t identify racism when it’s screaming “Nigger!” in their face. See a true comrade for contrast.

In Mother Jones, Rick Perlstein just published an article called Peter’s Choice. That article itself is a commentary on a college student’s history paper. This will be a commentary on Perlstein’s commentary, followed by commentary on the original paper. Why did Perlstein not see what’s staring me in the face?

Responding to Perlstein

He was teaching a seminar on the history of conservatism. There were 9 students: 5 black women, a white single mom, a white queer dude (Perlstein uses scare-quotes), and Peter the white man.

Peter is 21 and comes from a town of about 3,000 souls. It’s 85 percent white, according to the 2010 census, and 1.2 percent African American—which would make for about 34 black folks. “Most people live around the poverty line,” Peter told the class, and hunting is as much a sport as a way to put food on the table.

Peter was one of the brightest students in the class, and certainly the sweetest. He liked to wear overalls to school—and on the last day, in a gentle tweak of the instructor, a red “Make America Great Again” baseball cap. A devout evangelical, he’d preferred former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee at the start of the primary season, but was now behind Donald Trump.

One day the students spent three hours drafting essays about the themes we’d talked about in class. I invited them to continue writing that night so the next morning we could discuss one of their pieces in detail. I picked Peter’s because it was extraordinary. In only eight hours he’d churned out eight pages, eloquent and sharp.

I’ll agree that the essay is extremely good compared to the average psychology undergrad’s, which is my reference point. After grading bad essays, reading a good one is like a breath of fresh air. He didn’t have to worry about bad grammar and a complete lack of argumentation. It takes so much less time to grade the A papers than the C papers. I’m about to criticize Perlstein for wanting to like this person, but in the setting I understand the temptation. We don’t know anything about the quality of the other papers in the class, although it was an honors class.

I already have a problem with using “sweet” to describe a fan of Mike Huckabee’s. Aren’t Prussian Blue the sweetest little girls when they sing “Aryan Man Awake?”


That’s somewhat the point Perlstein is trying to make, but he’s not making it hard enough, because he doesn’t want to. To me, “creepy” would be a more appropriate word for this type of person. They’re “sweet” but if you talk to them they’re preoccupied with whores and the desire (temptation) to have sex with and punish them. Sin is sexy. There would be less child molestation if more people could perceive it.

When I asked him if I could discuss his essay in this article, he replied, “That sounds fine with me. If any of my work can be used to help the country with its political turmoil, I say go for it!” Then he sent me a new version with typos corrected and a postelection postscript: “My wishful hope is that my compatriots will have their tempers settled by Trump’s election, and that maybe both sides can learn from the Obama and Trump administrations in order to understand how both sides feel. Then maybe we can start electing more moderate people, like John Kasich and Jim Webb, who can find reasonable commonality on both sides and make government work.” Did I mention he was sweet?

Isn’t it strange that the first political figures praised in the article are all conservative? Going for the undecided voters in the center is definitely the way to go. It’s won every presidential election in my adult life and unified the Democrats.

When he read the piece aloud in class that afternoon in October, the class was riveted. Several of the black women said it was the first time they’d heard a Trump supporter clearly set forth what he believed and why. (Though, defying stereotypes, one of these women—an aspiring cop—was also planning to vote for Trump.)

I agree that Peter’s essay is as clear and self-deluded in good faith an explanation as I’ve seen. That’s how bad the state of our political discourse is. Trump is an emotional outburst, which Peter attempts to justify.

The highly-educated self-hating black woman is given gratuitous attention, as usual. We don’t hear more about the reactions of the single mom or the queer guy.

This is Peter, quoted in Perlstein’s essay:

“We all live out in the wilderness, either in the middle of a forest or on a farm,” he wrote. “Some people cannot leave their homes during times of unfortunate weather. Many still dry clothes by hanging them on wires with clothespins outside. These people are nowhere near the top, or even the middle, of any hierarchy. These people are scraping the bottom of the barrel, and they, seemingly, have nothing to benefit from maintaining the system of order that keeps them at the bottom.” His county ended up going about 70 percent for Trump.

Perlstein calls bullshit, six paragraphs later:

According to the 2010 census, the median household income in Peter’s county is a little more than $45,000. By comparison, Detroit’s is about $27,000 and Chicago’s (with a higher cost of living) is just under $49,000. The poverty rate is 17.5 percent in the county and 7.6 percent in Peter’s little town, compared with Chicago’s 22.7 percent. The unemployment rate has hovered around 4 percent.

The town isn’t rich, to be sure. But it’s also not on the “bottom.” Oklahoma on the whole has been rather dynamic economically: Real GDP growth was 2.8 percent in 2014—down from 4.3 percent in 2013, but well above the 2.2 percent nationally. The same was true of other Trump bastions like Texas (5.2 percent growth) and West Virginia (5.1 percent).

Peter, though, perceives the region’s economic history as a simple tale of desolation and disappointment. “Everyone around was poor, including the churches,” he wrote, “and charities were nowhere near (this wasn’t a city, after all), so more people had to use some sort of government assistance. Taxes went up [as] the help became more widespread.”

He was just calling it like he saw it. But it’s striking how much a bright, inquisitive, public-spirited guy can take for granted that just is not so. [list of factual inaccuracies continues…]

You can’t have more than people who aren’t people, so where’s the privilege?

What Perlstein puts immediately after Peter’s white working class lament is much more telling:

Concerning race, Peter wrote, “In Oklahoma, besides Native Americans, there have traditionally been very few minorities. Few blacks have ever lived near the town that I am from…Even in my generation, despite there being a little more diversity, there was no racism, nor was there a reason for racism to exist.” His town’s 34 or so black people might beg to differ, of course; white people’s blindness to racism in their midst is an American tradition. As one of the African American students in the class—I’ll call her Karen—put it, whites in her town see “racism as nonexistent unless they witness it firsthand. And then it almost has to be over the top—undeniable acts of violence like hate crimes or cross burnings on front lawns—before they would acknowledge it as such.” But it’s relevant to the story I’m telling that I’m certain Peter isn’t individually, deliberately racist, and that Karen agrees.

FYI, “content sites” can use JavaScript to track how far down the page you’ve scrolled before closing the tab or loading a new page. Professional writers understand that readers won’t necessarily make it to the end of what they write. This means Perlstein can exhaustively document the factual errors in Peter’s essay, but de-emphasize them. The order of information within an essay is significant.

Look at what he actually did next: he designated “Karen” as the spokesperson for black people, vested with the power to certify Peter as non-racist. The mindfuck part is that his paragraph is enacting exactly what it’s describing it. He’s doing the thing he’s distancing himself from. What could possibly be racist about saying there have traditionally been very few minorities?

On May 31 and June 1, 1921, a white mob started the Tulsa race riot, attacking residents and businesses of the African-American community of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma,[1] in what is considered the worst incident of racial violence in United States History.[2] The attack, carried out on the ground and by air, destroyed more than 35 blocks of the district, at the time the wealthiest black community in the nation. More than 800 people were admitted to hospitals and more than 6,000 black residents were arrested and detained, reportedly for their safety, many for several days.[3] The Oklahoma Bureau of Vital Statistics officially recorded 39 dead, but the American Red Cross estimated 300, a number supported by historians since then. Most were black.

The riot began over a Memorial Day weekend after a young black man was accused of raping a young white female elevator operator at a commercial building. After he was taken into custody, rumors raced through the black community that he was at risk for being lynched. A group of armed African-American men rushed to the police station where the young suspect was held and a white crowd had gathered, to prevent a lynching. A confrontation developed between blacks and whites; shots were fired, and some whites and blacks were killed. As this news spread throughout the city, mob violence exploded. Thousands of whites rampaged through the black community that night and the next day, killing men and women, burning and looting stores and homes. Hundreds of blacks were left homeless, and property damage amounted to more than $1.5 million in real estate and $750,000 in personal property ($30 million in 2017). Some blacks claimed that policemen had joined the mob; others said that National Guardsmen fired a machine gun into the black community and a plane dropped sticks of dynamite.[4] In an eyewitness account discovered in 2015, Greenwood attorney Buck Colbert Franklin described watching a dozen or more private planes drop burning balls of turpentine on Greenwood’s rooftops.[5]

Many survivors left Tulsa. Both black and white residents who stayed in the city were silent for decades about the terror, violence, and losses of this event. The massacre was largely omitted from local and state histories: “The Tulsa race riot of 1921 was rarely mentioned in history books, classrooms or even in private. Blacks and whites alike grew into middle age unaware of what had taken place.”[6]

Perlstein, history teacher, just lets that slide. So everybody’s clear: “tradition” means “white power.” It’s worse than that. Remember that this person is being given a platform in a high-profile progressive publication.

It’s not fair to beat up on a sweet 21-year-old for getting facts wrong—especially if, as is likely, these were the only facts he was told. Indeed, teaching the class, I was amazed how even the most liberal students took for granted certain dubious narratives in which they (and much of the rest of the country) were marinated all year long, like the notion that Hillary Clinton was extravagantly corrupt.

Feelings can’t be fact-checked, and in the end, feelings were what Peter’s eloquent essay came down to­—what it feels like to belong, and what it feels like to be culturally dispossessed. “After continually losing on the economic side,” he wrote, “one of the few things that you can retain is your identity. What it means, to you, to be an American, your somewhat self-sufficient and isolated way of life, and your Christian faith and values. Your identity and heritage is the very last thing you can cling to…Abortion laws and gay marriage are the two most recent upsets. The vast majority of the state of Oklahoma has opposed both of the issues, and social values cannot be forced by the government.”

On these facts he is correct: In a 2015 poll, 68 percent of Oklahomans called themselves “pro-life,” and only 30 percent supported marriage equality. Until 2016 there were only a handful of abortion providers in the entire state, and the first new clinic to open in 40 years guards its entrance with a metal detector.

Perlstein doesn’t write like he has a particular duty to correct students’ false statements. He thinks calling Hillary Clinton corrupt is a “dubious narrative?”

Surely a progressive magazine, champion of women and minorities, understands that the popular will is totally irrelevant to the protection of individual rights. He doesn’t have the fight in him to tell religious conservatives to fuck off and shove abortion and gay marriage down their throats because it’s right, goddadmnit. That’s not even fair. It doesn’t personally affect conservatives that someone has an abortion or marries someone of the same sex. It just makes them feel a disgust reaction that’s not shared by everyone, so they expect other people to suffer a lot worse than a disgust reaction.

Since this is Mother Jones, is the reader supposed to feel superior for not living in Oklahoma? Is it supposed to be scary that there are a lot of conservatives and they vote, because we already knew that…

Finally, at long last, Perlstein gets to the racism in the essay. He only saw it on the third reading, and he missed an awful lot:

Peter thinks he’s not a reactionary. Since that sounds like an insult, I’d like to think so, too. But in writing this piece, I did notice a line in his essay that I had glided over during my first two readings, maybe because I liked him too much to want to be scared by him. “One need only look to the Civil War and the lasting legacies of Reconstruction through to today’s current racism and race issues to see what happens when the federal government forces its morals on dissenting parts of the country.”

The last time I read that, I shuddered. So I emailed Peter. “I say the intrusions were worth it to end slavery and turn blacks into full citizens,” I wrote. “A lot of liberals, even those most disposed to having an open mind to understanding the grievances of people like you and yours, will have a hard time with [your words].”

Whether or not Peter is a reactionary isn’t a matter of liking him. It’s a matter of accurately describing his stated beliefs. By voting for Trump, Peter wants horrible things to happen to many people, but Perlstein treats him with kid gloves. Perlstein says the “intrusions” were worth it. Thanks, Rick! Telling Peter that “liberals will have a hard time” with writing idenfified with with the KKK’s perspective only encourages him.

Perlstein is surprised that standard history education radicalizes Dylann Roof, according to Dylann Roof.

I wanted to meet him halfway, until he started talking about history.

“The reason I used the Civil War and Reconstruction is because it isn’t a secret that Reconstruction failed,” Peter wrote. “It failed and left the South in an extreme poverty that it still hasn’t recovered from.” And besides, “slavery was expensive and the Industrial Revolution was about to happen. Maybe if there had been no war, slavery would have faded peacefully.”

As a historian, I found this remarkable, since it was precisely what all American schoolchildren learned about slavery and Reconstruction for much of the 20th century. Or rather, they did until the civil rights era, when serious scholarship dismantled this narrative, piece by piece. But not, apparently, in Peter’s world. “Until urban liberals move to the rural South and live there for probably a decade or more,” he concluded, “there’s no way to fully appreciate the view.”

This was where he left me plumb at a loss. Liberals must listen to and understand Trump supporters. But what you end up understanding from even the sweetest among them still might chill you to the bone.

Where does this commandment come from, that liberals “must” listen to and understand Trump supporters? We can understand it as a sociological phenomenon without bending over waaaaaaay backwards to identify with assholes. And Peter is an asshole.

Responding to Peter

Let’s take another look at a passage quoted by Perlstein, without the ellipses. It looks like Peter changed the paragraph a bit in the final version that’s posted online. Perlstein was probably working with the original.

It has been suggested that poor people in the South had their racial position to maintain, and that was part of their appeal to conservatism. In Oklahoma, besides Native Americans, there has been traditionally been very few minorities. Few blacks have ever lived near the town that I am from. There was never a racial culture because there were no other races. Even in my generation, despite there being a little more diversity, there was no racism, nor was there a reason for racism to exist. Without race and racial status as a hierarchical position to lose, then what is left to convince these people to be conservative?

Peter says explicitly that white people don’t have a culture because they’re dominant by default. There were simultaneously Native Americans, “a little more diversity,” and “no other races.” What Peter means is that he wasn’t friends with any of them and never thought about them. He doesn’t provide evidence of anything except not understanding anything that’s been said by people who study whiteness.

So why is it that the people of my hometown hate unions, hate deficits, and hate welfare, despite the fact that many of them are on it? I think it is because they have seen their jobs disappear as a result of these same ideas.

The “white working class” doesn’t know its enemies and votes for its oppressors. News at 11. They hate welfare because they’re not OK with their tax money helping people in any other community. Because they’re racist.

The majority of the people in the area do not blame the business or the company for their loss because they realize that businesses are in the business of making money, and that if they had a business of their own, they would do the same things.

This is exactly the key. Conservatives are dickheads, so they don’t begrudge dickishness in others. They respect a bully who’s winning and want to be like them. They don’t have a lot of scruples.

This is another passage quoted by Perlstein, without omitting the first few sentences:

Barry Goldwater mentioned that he opposed the Civil Rights Amendment on the grounds that when the Federal Government forces something into law, it has negative impacts across the country. It forces people to change something that they do not want to change and assaults their beliefs by telling them that they are wrong for what they believe. Usually, the impact of this is more prevalent in social issues than in economic policies. Abortion laws and gay marriage are the two most recent upsets. The vast majority of the State of Oklahoma has opposed both of these issues, and social values cannot be forced by the government. One need only look to the Civil War and the lasting legacies of Reconstruction through to today’s current Southern poverty, racism, and race issues to see what happens when the Federal Government forces its morals on dissenting parts of the country.

Mother Jones now has a problem identifying Barry Goldwater as racist (and Perlstein has written a book about him!). I guess that makes sense, since Hillary Clinton campaigned for him.

This also demonstrates white fragility perfectly. Whites are being “assaulted” merely by the fact of someone telling them they’re wrong. They’re the ones who get to say what’s right and wrong around here, and niggers are wrong, and that’s the end of it. Anyone who says different is oppressing us..

There’s a grotesque sort of solidarity on display:

The people of Oklahoma want to be left alone by the Federal Government. I think this partly, historically, originates from a mixture of Southern immigration to self-sufficient farming and domestic production in Oklahoma and the mistrust of the Federal  Government that is shared by the Native Americans.

It’s really strange because one of the very first actions taken by Trump has been to fuck over the Native Americans by forcing oil pipelines to go across their land.

The climax of the essay is what we already knew: conservatives are assholes who identify with Donald Trump.

Enter, Donald Trump. After years of job loss, part-time labor, factory shut-downs, increasing taxes, federal overreach, and an assault on your moral values, a wealthy businessman appears and steals the show. To hell with political correctness, rednecks call it like it is, and so does Trump. Trump hits illegal immigration harder than the problem is and it appeals to you, at least, if for no other reason, because it is funny to watch. Trump is loud and obnoxious – just the sort of wrecking ball you want to hit Washington. The media says that Trump has outsourced jobs overseas and hired immigrants at the expense of Americans, but Trump says he had to because it was good business, and you are not bothered by it because you know it’s because of the same Federal Regulations that caused these things to happen to you. Despite his business practices, he says that does not like to see America hurting so bad and that he would like to do business in America and hire Americans, and you like to hear this because it restores a little bit of your hope that real jobs and companies could come back to your town. Then the media reports that Trump might have evaded taxes for decades, and while they shame him, you are impressed and jealous! By golly, he must be pretty smart to catch every loophole; if only you could manage to do that too! Even if he manages to not accomplish any of the things he says he wants to, at least you can send Washington the message that you are sick of their crap.

Basically, Donald Trump is president because liberals didn’t want to believe people are like that. When someone objects to “political correctness” and calls the opposite “telling it like it is,” they’re rarely challenged to elaborate. Of course, everybody knows they’re talking about white man facts like “black people are stupid, lazy criminals” or “women can’t drive.” Notice that Peter admits a lack of personal experience with “people of diverse backgrounds,” but he knows rednecks have the facts about them. He also knows, this time legitimately, that illegal immigration is a fake problem. He thinks it’s funny, and he also knows what he’s doing.

Over the past few days, I have seen “end of the country/world” feelings and statements on CNN, MSNBC, and my phone’s news feed. There have also been riots and protests across the country, with the first ones I heard about being at UCLA and then later in almost every major city in the US. That is exactly how we felt about Obama getting elected eight years ago. Suddenly the country was doomed, our guns were going to go away, he was a Kenyan Muslim who usurped the Presidency with his anti-military and communist ways, and our country’s moral fiber would rot away, all of which became the Gospel of the Tea Party. Now the shoe is on the other foot; Trump, especially because he did not get the popular vote, is seen as an illegitimate, racist monster that has, seemingly, caused most women and people of color across the country to fear for their rights and jobs, he’ll start World War III, and he too will destroy our moral values. I could be wrong on this, but I think that many of the protesters, especially the young ones, are from Bernie Sanders’ base group. I would guess that his Democratic-Socialist movement will grow and become the far-out group that starts dominating the Democratic Party, just like the Tea Party did to the Republican Party back around 2010.

This demonstrates that “conservatives lack empathy” is too simplistic. They know exactly what they’re doing to other people. They just think it’s justified because they were scared a black man was elected, and anyone who makes them afraid has to be destroyed.

Perlstein puts all his mental energy into looking for ways to build bridges and cross divides and mend fences with sadists. These are people who think it’s a joke to say “Mexicans are rapists and we’re deporting them all”, when they mean it, when it causes anxiety in small children. They’re dominating the women and minorities and it’s sexually gratifying to dominate and you’ll take that from their cold, dead hands. Peter’s stated religious beliefs are all about the rightful authority of men, which Perlstein knows too much about conservatism not to understand.

Peter knows that people have reason to fear real violence from a Trump administration. He supports that violence because he believes in it, takes vicarious pleasure in it. He really believes fear of stupid shit is the same as the fear of walking out into the street wearing a headscarf. Muslims need to be scared, because he’s afraid of them:

When someone with “traditional” values stands up to oppose the Federal Government, it is now an heroic, religious effort. For many conservatives today, I think it is hard to distinguish the line from where Liberalism ends and where Socialism begins, and the success of Bernie Sanders has only made that problem worse. The blurring of that line only lends its’ hand to conspiracy theories. How much government interference is too much? Where will they ever draw the line? The final straw always comes when religion is attacked. An example of the way many Oklahomans see it today, people are shamed for having anxiety about Muslims over terrorism and the hoopla in the Middle-East, but we should be even more ashamed for thinking that it is okay to have prayer in school; it is one-sided and against us. Suddenly Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity & Rush Limbaugh’s conspiracy theories don’t always seem so far-fetched. If the government can seemingly attack you for your religious beliefs, which already feels like a violation of the First Amendment, then what is to stop them from attacking any of your other rights? Where does it all stop?

If you live in Oklahoma and you’re afraid of Islamic terrorism, you are an idiot who should be ashamed.

I do think it’s insightful for him to point out that the appeal of conspiracy theories is based on an intensifying sense of fear. It makes it more disgusting that he has insight into all of these things, though. He has spite for minorities and hates any challenge to his rightful Christian headship of everything, and knows it, and supports Trump on that basis.

If he does have trouble with empathy and insight, it’s to do with putting himself in the shoes of people who feel threatened by a bunch of public Christianity. Because Christians elect Trump.

Conclusion

Peter has truly captured the essence of Trump supporters, and it’s ugly. It’s a mix of xenophobia, religious backwardness, greed, ignorance, and sadism. White liberals, as represented by Mother Jones, will bend over backwards to identify with these people before their victims. I disliked Peter immediately, with none of Perlstein’s handwringing. I grew up around the Navy. I’ve met Peter before.

I guess this is another case of my autism making me judge Peter incorrectly because he means well. The normal people are too busy trying to feel what the wrongdoers are feeling, and it clouds their judgment. I know that Perlstein’s reaction to the essay is closer to what’s “normal” than the way I read anything. He seems to value cooperation for its own sake, a lot like Obama. His mistake is assuming someone unlike him is like him. He’s not listening. The existence of the conservative mind was so shocking to him that the shock was good material for an essay. The internal struggle of seeing yourself like a white supremacist as a Jew.

Radiohead on connection with others: “Just because you feel it doesn’t mean it’s there.”

People are all the same, and they’re all different. Perlstein and Peter each live in a bubble where they haven’t met enough people who aren’t like them. By 5th grade, I definitely knew that my mom, my dad, and the school/Navy base had 3 different, mutually opposed belief systems. I figured out which parent to ask for something, depending on what it was. Growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness, you see lots of worldly people that seem pleasant even though Jehovah’s gonna kill them in Armageddon pretty soon. Growing up as a white-sounding mulatto, I heard racist stuff people would say in unguarded moments when they forgot I’m black. I’ve been the atheist that offends all the Christians and they’re threatening.

I think this also related to the phenomenon of teachers looking the other way when someone’s being bullied. They don’t want to believe that these sweet, innocent children would do stuff like that when they’re not looking. It’s the reason many kinds of abusers get away with stuff.

It’s like Perlstein doesn’t understand that he has enemies. Trump voters are the enemies of liberals. They say so themselves and he’s not hearing it. There are still “sweet” ones, in his mind. Perlstein won’t get the same consideration from them, if he crosses them.

It seems to me that normal people don’t have very good empathy at all, in a sense. What they have is a high level of uniformity among themselves, so that, for each person, extrapolating from themselves is likely to be accurate. They follow the Golden Rule instead of the Platinum Rule: “Treat others the way THEY want to be treated.” They struggle to understand people with different motivations than their own. They’re presumably not relying as much on conscious logical deduction. Perlstein has a gut feeling that Peter is sweet, which precludes him from reading critically. I don’t give a shit how Peter treats white people and the exceptional blacks allowed into college. I see what he writes, and nearly all of it is talking points I’ve seen before, with a bit more emotional honesty. He’s just confirming what some of us could figure out about Trump supporters from the beginning. They’re not actually very nice, even the nice ones.

If Perlstein could turn off the part of himself that makes it feel good to imagine friendship with Peter, he’d think more clearly. This isn’t a small thing. This is a failure of social skills on the part of Democrats, on a mass scale, with disastrous consequences.

This is a Trump supporter telling us that there’s going to be a racist backlash no matter what. There’s not going to be any progress without pissing them off. We shouldn’t CARE if they’re butthurt after we dominate them, because they’ve NEVER shown the kind of mercy where they have to read something Obama said 3 times before freaking out with nonsense.

As usual, the problem is the bond “liberals” feel with the Klansman friends and relatives. Reductress explains:

In the aftermath of the recent presidential election, it’s crucial that we don’t normalize the behaviors of radical conservatives. Those who call themselves the “alt-right” are distracting us from who they really are: white supremacists hell-bent on dismantling democracy. That’s why I refuse to call them “alt-right” and instead call them what they really are: my brother’s friends.

When we use the name “alt-right,” we acknowledge the legitimacy of their ideas as a new political faction, instead of what it always has been: my brother’s dumbass friends being racist fuckers. Saying “alt-right” distances the situation, making it seem like a valid political system we must respect. In truth, it’s just Pete, Jack, and Carson getting drunk on Bud Light, feeling insecure about their romantic or job prospects, and trying to make themselves feel big by talking about “real America.” By calling them my brother’s friends, I am undermining their power and talking about them on my terms.

Another problem with “alt-right” is that the term is so vague that it can be dangerous. Using such an innocuous term hinders us from calling them what they are—my brother’s friends. “Alt-right” might sound like they won’t hurt you, but anyone who knows my brother knows that those dudes are reckless partiers. They clean up fine in a polo and khakis, but most nights you’ll find them at the neighborhood bar getting into fights with Chucky from high school for no fucking reason. Those types of bumbling, destructive men are what make up the so-called “alt-right”, and it’s important to call them a name that communicates that.

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