White Panic

Charles Blow is one of the columnists for the New York Times whose essays I almost always find thoughtful and perceptive. In this one, especially, he hits the proverbial nail on the head.

Every so often it’s important to step back from the freak show of the moment so that you can see the whole circle. That has never been more important than at this moment and under this administration.

Everything that has happened during recent years is all about one thing: fear by white people that they will inevitably lose their numerical advantage in this country; and with that loss comes an alteration of American culture and shifting of American power away from white dominance and white control. White people don’t want to become one of many minority groups in America and have others — possibly from Asia, Latin America, Africa or the Middle East — holding the reins of power, and dictating inclusion and equity.

Once you see White Panic as the root of Trumpism, so many other things become clear: the imperviousness of Trump supporters to evidence of the harm he’s doing, the hypocrisy of “Christian” support for a man who has admitted to violating the values they purport to hold, the utter lack of concern for the humanitarian tragedy at the border…

Blow identifies the thread that connects so many of the issues that we’ve been confronting:

This is manifested in every issue you can imagine: the Confederate monuments fight, opposition to Black Lives Matter, intransigence on gun control, voter suppression laws, the Muslim ban, the hard line on asylum seekers coming across the southern border, calls to abolish the visa lottery, the defaming of majority black countries, efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade, the addition of a census question that could cause an undercount of Hispanics, the stacking of the courts with far-right judges (the vast majority of whom are white men). You name it, each issue is laced the white panic about displacement.

I have previously posted about the Cato report documenting the percentage of terrorist attacks attributable to White Nationalists; Blow references similar testimony by  the assistant director of the FBI’s counter-terrorism division. Of the 850 domestic terrorism investigations currently underway, he testified that 40 percent involve perpetrators with racist ideologies.  A significant majority are self-identified White Nationalists or White Supremacists.

Just as Trump saw fine people among the Nazis in Charlottesville, he is unable to see — or more precisely, to admit and address — white nationalism and white supremacy because he is at this moment these causes’ greatest champion.

The loyal MAGA-hat wearers may tell themselves that they differ from the violent fringe, that they aren’t like the David Dukes and other “out” Neo-Nazis, but their motives aren’t all that dissimilar.

The violent white nationalists are simply the leading edge, the violent vanguard, of the teeming masses of “soft” white nationalists and white supremacists, those who use stigmas and statutes as their weapons, those who have convinced themselves that their motivations have nothing to do with American racism and everything to do with American culture.

Blow connects some important dots. As he notes, in this “iteration of America,” securing white power and delaying displacement is to be achieved “through a fundamental restructuring of the laws around which babies get born, which addictions get treated, which bodies are allowed to immigrate or seek asylum and whose voice and votes get counted.”

Did you wonder why White Supremacists cheered the news about Alabama’s draconian anti-abortion law?

As the racist Iowa congressman, Steve King, tweetedin March of 2017, “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

The proposed census changes have a similar goal: If you’re losing in the game of numbers, change the way you count.

As NPR reported on Tuesday:

“Challenges threatening the upcoming 2020 census could put more than four million people at risk of being undercounted in next year’s national head count, according to new projections by the Urban Institute. The nonpartisan think tank found that the danger of an inaccurate census could hit some of the country’s most difficult to count populations the hardest. Based on the institute’s analysis, the 2020 census could lead to the worst undercount of black and Latino and Latina people in the U.S. since 1990.”

Don’t just grouse over each individual fruit of the poison tree, also focus on the root.

Right now, America is facing a moral challenge every bit as profound as the country’s earlier conflict over slavery.

Will we live up to our professed values, or–like the “Christians” who have discarded their theology in order to protect their privilege–will we elevate loyalty to our tribes over adherence to our ostensible principles?


  1. Another factor comes from who are those most likely to feel threatened by becoming a minority in “their” country? Authoritarians who live life believing two things: Order is power and entitlement. They, in turn, are freedom.

    Both they and liberals value freedom but define it quite differently.

  2. Charles Blow: “Everything that has happened during recent years is all about one thing: fear by white people that they will inevitably lose their numerical advantage in this country; and with that loss comes an alteration of American culture and shifting of American power away from white dominance and white control.”

    Sheila: “Will we live up to our professed values, or–like the “Christians” who have discarded their theology in order to protect their privilege–will we elevate loyalty to our tribes over adherence to our ostensible principles?”

    No way, unless we create and organize with a COMMON FRONT, which is impossible at the present time. Voting for Democratic Party candidates is not a meaningful front.

  3. I’m hoping that most of us live up to our professed values, but I fear that too many of us will opt to sit it out once again, leaving the door open for another term for 45, or at the very least, the continuance of Mitch McConnell at the helm of the Senate.

    Since there is no law requiring every question on the census form to be answered, I propose that we just don’t answer any citizenship question on the form. Can we start a movement?

  4. Ironically, the draconian abortion laws will result in more black and brown babies being born than white babies, so if the laws are not rescinded, the next generation will not look the way these white supremacists would be happy with.

  5. A moral crisis is accurate. And what’s driving our decisions is fear.

    We have a lower and higher self. Every religion teaches us to make decisions with our higher self, which is God’s will for us. When we are scared, we almost always make decisions with the lower self where our defects of character lie.

    All decisions have karma or consequences. America has made way too many poor decisions nationally and internationally. We are working through that karma now, and I suspect we’ll have more coming. It will be painful to watch.

    The media can lie in a means to cover up or use propaganda, but they only make matters worse. There are Universal Laws which some religions touch on while others do not. You can even swap God with Alfred if you’d like. The point is to stop making decisions based on our self-will.

    We need another MLK, Jr. to arise so we can begin to heal from our moral crises. But then again, our government couldn’t handle MLK in the 60’s so it would probably implode with a moral leader who happened to be a minority. Could you imagine how the Trumpinistas would feel an MLK persona?

    Instead of having a Ministry of Propaganda (media), we need a Ministry of Enlightenment holding the government and private industry accountable in every single market. It obviously cannot be loaded with actual ministers who haven’t become enlightened themselves. Anyone can see the problem there — especially Charles and Sheila.

  6. To Peggy Hanson: the law requires an answer to all census questions. It provides follow up, by mail, then by a personal visit. 600,000 have been recruited to do this. Todd Smekens, The Reverend Wm J. Barber in North Carolina has revived MLK’s Poor People’s March.

  7. Considering the abysmal amount of protests against the government’s treatment of brown children at the boarder one has to conclude that racism is the driving force in this country that has given us Trumpism just as antisemitism was the driving force in Germany that led to Nazism.
    We are a shameful lot indeed!

  8. I often wonder if we “white folks” are still the majority in this country if you total the number of all “other” races together? Does the census total the count of races as a whole, individual races or only district by district to portion the amount of public assistance, education tax dollars, infrastructure maintenance, number and location of polling places, etc.? (As an aside; yesterday I received a flyer from Republican State Senator Michael Crider with highlights of Indiana’s New State Budget. 50% is allocated for K-12 education; “An increase in both per student funding for all students and funding for educating low-income students, who often face more challenges than their peers in school.” Does the definition to that statement mean another increase in vouchers here?)

    Peggy; or anyone with the answer, wouldn’t just not answering the citizenship question simply lower he population count in that district? Would/could that entire census form simply be deleted from the count? Can – has – Trump, with Mitch’s able assistance slipped in the requirement that all questions must be answered? Their distractions cover up many of their actions we are still not aware of.

    “Right now, America is facing a moral challenge every bit as profound as the country’s earlier conflict over slavery.”

    While slavery was abolished by the 13th Amendment; the number of Americans living on “slave wages”; below poverty level, below minimum wage level and those underpaid for the work they do, is only one half-step above slavery. They, or “we” in the case of too many retirees depending on Social Security, are locked in place no matter our race. We are slaves to the system and the system is working harder and harder to prevent registration to vote or to actually vote to remove them from office.

    The current Democratic party is as split as President Abraham Lincoln’s administration was over the passage of the 13th Amendment; it has come back in the form of Trumpism and the list of presidential candidates with their ego trips and backbiting one another before they are out of the gate. As for those harping on Joe Biden’s age and changing his stand on some issues; this morning I remembered a comment by Mohammed Ali, “If you are the same at 50 as you were at 20; you have wasted 30 years of your life.” Most commenters on this blog appear to have continued to learn and to grow through the years; but we also struggle to maintain democracy, Rule of Law and uphold the Constitution for all Americans.

  9. It is senseless to try to reason with the followers of President Agent Orange and Pastor Pence. They are dominated by their beliefs that a Cultural War is being fought out. These Reactionaries having been fighting their Cultural Wars since the 1960’s, when the Civil Rights and Anti-War Movements gained traction.

    Nixon’s Southern Strategy of the Silent Majority seems almost benign by the standards of today’s GOP. These Culture Warriors on the Right will not be won over.

    There is still a majority of voters nation wide who oppose President Agent Orange. These voters need solid reasons to vote for the opponents of Trumpism. Simply being anti-President Agent Orange is not enough.

    The Democrats if they expect to maintain their advantage in the House, win the Senate and office of President must have an aggressive Progressive platform of ideas that appeals to the Independents.

  10. From “Let the People Know ” by Norman Angel [ Nobel Peace Prize recipient] (Viking Press, New York, 1942) pp. v-vi:

    “Indeed, the underlying proposition of the book is that the war has come upon us because we have rejected the elementary social truth upon which all human society is based, namely, that the most primary right of all—the right to life, the right not to be killed and tortured—can only be made a reality by the general fulfillment of an obligation, the obligation of men [and women] to defend that right on behalf of others. The community as a whole, men [and women] collectively, must defend each to life, or that right CANNOT BE DEFENDED AT ALL. Individual defense is in the long run a physical impossibility. If each individual—whether individual person or individual nation—takes the position that he will fight for his own life but not for others, then any VIOLENT MINORITY can, by ganging up, subdue a vast majority, for it can apply “the simple and deadly plan of one by one”: ten men can overcome a thousand if each of the thousand says: “I will fight for myself alone.” For in that case the ten do not face a thousand, they only face one—one at a time.” pp. v-vi

    “The Moral Miracle: We miss the significance of what is happening unless we realize the importance of distinguishing between two distinct orders of events: those happening in the visible and external world, the actual fall of nations, destruction of states, and the domination or threatened domination of the vast majority of mankind by a relatively small minority, between events of that order and those happening in the minds of men. In this latter sphere we face above all a miracle of blindness. It behooves us therefore not merely to face the facts of yesterday’s folly but inquire how it came about that we did not see it to be folly. We are confronted by two miracles, not one: one of a material and another of moral order. It is the latter which explains the former. Yet it is the mental lapse which we overlook.” pp. 57-58

    I forgot where I read it, but it hasn’t been forgotten: “The Klan is the militant arm of Evangelical Christianity.”

  11. Wayne, sorry, I was wrong, the law does require all questions be answered. You might be fined, but I doubt that would happen. Just because they have 600,000 people to follow up, doesn’t mean that they will come to your house to get an answer to a single question. They will start be phoning people who didn’t return a form. Next they will send census takers to homes they couldn’t reach by phone that didn’t return a form. Finally, they will send people to determine where some of the houses from the list they got from the post office actually are (some are not on local maps) and to try to get any census information from those houses. By the time they have done that, they will call it quits and accept what they have. They don’t send jackbooted thugs out to make you answer each question. How do I know this will happen? I have done it.

  12. We are experiencing another iteration of white panic. Jon Meacham’s book, “The Soul of America” describes the re-emergence of the KKK in the 1920s whose platform was pure white panic. Joe McCarthy sowed fears with his anti-communist sedition. The point is that we the people, who remain slaves to our economics are fearful of losing ANYTHING, not just white superiority. We’re afraid of losing our jobs, so we follow an idiot who promises more jobs, then fails to deliver them.

    What I don’t understand is why skin color is STILL such a driver of our behavior, especially white behavior. All you have to do is look at the NBA. The audience has got to be 90% white, while 90% of the players are black. Hmmm. What does that resemble?

    I’m not sure we’ll ever fully recover from our original sin of slavery. Yes, we have made enormous strides, socially, but there is a persistent core, maybe 25%, who are totally committed to racism, hate, bigotry and hypocrisy. Most of them are Republicans. When Todd lumps Democrats in with the racists he fails to understand that it is the post-WW II Democrats who have led the way to “binding up our wounds”. Republicans only want to get re-elected by the core of white people who are afraid.

  13. I won’t get as deep as other commenters or quote well-worn passages from books, but it’s my guess that those with only “White Panic” (I.e., just the fear; not the hatred) don’t view themselves as racist. Perhaps they aren’t.

    Watching what the majority race/religion/political party has done to the minorities across the world, across millennia, surely supports a potential future minority’s all-encompassing desire not to end up there.

    Perhaps this very understanding should guide those of us who constantly criticize the Trumpeteers.

  14. Peggy,
    I was one of those census takers nine years ago in southern Illinois. I was one of hundreds in that area alone. And we did follow up on every form not returned. We scoured the country side, drove the back roads and located every single person. When faced with a government official (we had badges of the most impressive kind) the people who had not filled out their returns did comply. Seems they simply didn’t care to take the time to fill it in and mail it in.

  15. I’m sure that many of those who were followers of Adolph Hitler were probably not racists, but just scared.

    Bob Stanis: “Perhaps this very undestanding should guide us who constantly criticize the Trumpeters.”

  16. I recognized this as a primary cause for Trumpism all along. Every time I find myself asking, “How could they possibly do X?” I remind myself that their fears are deeply rooted in racism and anything is justifiable to that end. My greatest disappointment has been realizing that there are so few in the GOP that are willing to stand against those impulses.

    I always held the belief that Republican lawmakers were dedicated public servants that were generally good people with whom I differed on a few political points. I now see through that myth. They are not good people, and the “political points” on which we differ are the basic definition of who is American and who deserves life.


    “All voting is sort of gaming, like chequers or backgammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong, with moral questions; and betting naturally accompanies it. The character of the voters is not staked. I cast my vote by chance, as I think right; but I am not vitally concerned that the right should prevail. I am willing to leave it to the majority. Its obligation, therefore, never exceeds that of expediency. Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it. It is only expressing to men feebly your desire that it should prevail. A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it prevail through the power of the majority.”
    ~HENRY DAVID THOREAU, “Civil Disobedience,” 1849

  18. Erik,

    Well said. Republicans stopped being “good people” with the election of Richard Nixon. Before that they were merely the tools of corporate/banking America. Now they have added immorality and sedition to their resume’s.

  19. joining the navy in 1972 was one eye opening move. i was moved by my parents in 1970 to a bastion of indiffrence,bakersfield calif. diverse,but controled. in newark,n.j, where i left for the golden gate,to find little gold.newark is hard core,racial,and divided back then. bakersfield had a segregation in hiding. though in plain view,like the south,if your black, you know segregation is still paramount,under ones breath. i went to a almost all white high school,north high. oildale,and a culture shock. being from inner city newark, whitey ruled here in bakerfield. the talk was bigotry in color,and damn you if your white and had long hair.(me) i made few friends,an kept it that way. i dont like putting down anyone,and dont like the cheap conversation it brings about,a lack of intelligence..
    i tolerated it for a few semesters,i left bakersfield, never looking back. i figured at 17,and in the vietnam era, i was better off dealing with war,over standing my beliefs in this shithole. you know that song,streets of bakersfield, “if you dont know me,and you dont like me,you could care less how i feel,as i walk the streets of bakersfield.” buck owens said it best,though not a song about bakersfield per say,it sure was a proper reflection of that dirty street. i was glad i left,i was able to,start my life in a war era,and made some very good fiendships,many,were on the footpaths with a diverse buncha men,of all colors,i tip my hat to em all. i discovered that no matter the color,many are themselves great people. i believe a failure to install a civics lesson throughout school from kindergarten to deploma,is needed,if you dont get to live through the changes ive lived and been witnessed to..there should be no reason a public education cant compete with a ivy league one. for this, primary education left to rot,will only allow more divisiveness..,we are not discussing why and how to be above bigotry in school. as many grow up,many just following their famlies view of the world,which sometimes,leds us to the above subject. trump is just a can of gas in this,the roots,are what needs to be discussed. best wishes..

  20. Some of the questions on the previous census were so prying and personal that I ended up deciding not to fill it out. Questions like “What time do you leave home to head to work?” seemed completely irrelevant and invasive. This question made me think that it could be used by someone to know when to show up to my house to burglarize it. How would I know that the data would not fall into the wrong hands? (Maybe if I lived in a high traffic area the question might have been useful, but I live in an extremely rural area).

    Anyway, the local census taker decided to harass me. That was the wrong thing to do. After repeatedly telling her to leave me alone and to stop threatening me I not only turned the tables on her, but I looked up her supervisor’s name in the Illinois office, found out his home address, called him and informed him of all the personal information I knew about him and if he did not immediately order her to stop harassing me that both his family’s lives and hers would become a living hell.

    He actually apologized to me and promised that he would call her as soon as our call ended. I never heard from her again.

    The bottom line is that not all questions on the Census apply to everyone nor should people be forced to answer all questions if they choose not to. While some of the questions are used to appropriate funds to your locale, there are other questions that seem to be there that have potential nefarious and hidden reasons.

  21. I’m looking for abortion to be outlawed only for white women who are pregnant by a white man. All others can have them.

  22. I have been reading the book “White Fragility” by Robin Diangelo as part of UUFSD’s (Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Dieguito – north coastal San Diego) ongoing search to address white privilege. This piece today illustrates the gross agenda of 45 and his ilk. FEAR is their tool.
    I am unafraid.
    I will act to support voter rights.
    “Everything that has happened during recent years is all about one thing: fear by white people that they will inevitably lose their numerical advantage in this country; and with that loss comes an alteration of American culture and shifting of American power away from white dominance and white control. White people don’t want to become one of many minority groups in America and have others — possibly from Asia, Latin America, Africa or the Middle East — holding the reins of power, and dictating inclusion and equity.”
    Thank you Sheila for this and every effort to bring light to our lives!

  23. Is this why the establishment Democratic Party loyalists are running/ardently supporting a privileged white-man as a presidential candidate?

    By running and supporting Biden they are seeking to retain their hold on power and influence? Are they attempting to attract white-flight voters by supporting Biden?

    This site/forum is nothing more than a group of white-folks whining about their loss of influence and power. Trump is only the symptom. How many among this forum live in white-flight communities? How many of you own rentals and rent to black Americans?My guess is the majority live in white-flight communities and the majority do not rent to black-people.. Let’s be honest, 99.9% of white-people are racist. That is truth. Moreover,this is just more virtue-signaling and recreational outrage from the “peanut” gallery. Pun intended. At their core,white-Americans are Republican. The Republican Party was always a racist and hateful organization.

  24. Gerald, Is the hate displayed by black folk 🙂 toward white folk a sign of racism? Oh I forgot, only white people can be racist. Irvin Korean War Vet. I served with black men. We looked after one another regardless of skin color. An old white man

  25. The dots Blow connected with his white panic thread all made sense except for one – the overturning of Roe v. Wade. The conservatives who oppose Roe also oppose funding all sorts of financial safety nets for the poor. Sixty percent of women who get abortions are already mothers, a significant proportion of whom cannot afford more children. If conservatives don’t want more “welfare queens” having more babies, logic would dictate making RELIABLE contraception widely available to women who can’t afford it AND upholding Roe v. Wade. Of course that assumes logic trumps emotion and the desire to suppress women as well as minorities.

  26. Question: WHO is WHITE? Do you know the only real ‘WHITE’ people are Caucasian from the area of the Caucasus in Eastern Europe – Italians? – oh hell no! Jews nope! (at least not if they are truly Jewish) Even Belgians and Swiss are not to be fully counted… and Germans…? hardly! No there are not that many ‘white’ people around unless you count the folks that are claiming to be and waving NAZI flags and wearing swastikas on their black uniforms… or are just intolerant of folks NOT WHITE. Now if we replace the word ‘white’ with ‘IGNORANT’… that might make more sense. Don’t ya think?

  27. Nancy Papas – from a white male co-worker/friend, who really is a nice guy with terrible opinions – “Sex is wrong (except for procreation in marriage); the result should be pregnancy; being forced to carry the fetus to term is the punishment – no exceptions” – he probably voted for Trump (also this is not a direct quote)

    Peggy, Wayne, and Nancy – I have looked into this already – what is called for is massive civil disobedience. I believe that the current fine for not answering all of the questions is $5,000. Very few people have ever been prosecuted and not all prosecutions have been successful. Perhaps a rich, liberal philanthropist could offer to pay any fines. The Census Bureau itself does not prosecute; Justice takes over for that. The effort would require massive resistance by “white” residents and huge efforts to help “non-white” residents understand that they should fill out all of the questions except for that one — and that they would not be alone.

    Then there is part two – massive voter turnout – by the time any potential prosecutions could happen, there would be a new administration that would (1) refuse to prosecute and (2) stop any attempt to not count incomplete forms (to answer your concern, JoAnn).

    What I didn’t hear about, and don’t understand if the argument wasn’t made, is that any data actually gathered by the citizenship question would be highly suspect. I would expect high uncertainly as to the number of people who don’t answer the census and the proportion of them that are citizens or not. If the question invites refusals to answer, the results are skewed by an uncertain amount rendering the data gathered as virtually useless.

  28. White and Black both are English adjectives, not any kind of hard science studies or chemistry. Children here have to learn color words in any learned language, what is taught in the state schools. Commerce appointees are temporary, too. Real <> depends on skull and bone formation, not skin or complexion color. Barack Obama is a good example of popular commerce publicity taking over any kind of learned, formal English.

    With all the 1950s to present WHITE emphasis, no white supremacist or nationalist has much following at all, not even in the political unions. So those of the United Nations who want to see themselves as leaders in White Studies or Politics,they need to go to a pharmacy and match color makeup with the right words for adults to use to purchase something. Where’s the dominance of mature HUMANs by juvenile appearances?

    Maybe what those self-identified Whites (after 1492 universally) are beginning to look in mirrors for followers.

  29. Thank you Sheila and thank you Charles!!

    Spot on as usual!! Fear is a very powerful thing, helped along by a racist demagogue sitting in, of all places, the White House due to the same thing, fear! He has to go as soon as possibly for this and a myriad of other obvious reasons.

  30. Ah yes,The Angry Black-man. Still clinging to racist memes,eh?

    The Korean War was a long time ago. I guess you’ve had no contact closely with black folks since,eh?

    Irvin,still clinging to racist tropes. Yep,you’re an OLD white-man.

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