White Supremacists on Campus: Unprecedented Recruitment Efforts Underway
March 6, 2017
Since this report was released, the ADL has counted 35 additional incidents of white supremacist fliering on college campuses — bringing the total for the school year (through April 24) to 147. These incidents took place on 107 different campuses in 33 states, with a disproportionate number in Texas and California.
White supremacists are engaged in unprecedented outreach efforts on American college campuses – another sign that these hate groups feel emboldened by the current political climate.
Since the start of the school year, America’s college students, faculty and staff have been confronted by a flurry of racist fliers and stickers, on-campus appearances by white supremacists, and several rounds of anti-Semitic, racist faxes and emails.
White supremacists are mobilizing in hopes of translating their online activism to “real world” action, and campuses – and young people – are prime targets, in part because they are still figuring out who they are, and what they believe. Extremists also undoubtedly see value in recruiting a new generation that can carry the movement for years to come.
Longtime white supremacist Jared Taylor recently wrote on his website, American Renaissance, that colleges are of special interest “because they are bastions of anti-white propaganda.” Before he imploded publicly in February, Islamaphobic and misogynist gadfly Milo Yiannopoulos told CNN, “I am speaking on college campuses because education … is really what matters. It’s a crucible where these bad ideas are formed. Bad ideas like … progressive social justice, feminists, Black Lives Matter…”
Yiannopoulos’ appearances (some of which were cancelled) seem to have had an energizing impact on other racists. Nathan Damigo, founder of the white supremacist group Identity Ervopa, has called Yiannopoulos “an inspiration,” and showed up at the (ultimately cancelled) Yiannopoulos speech at UC Davis, hoping to poach a few fans for his own cause, which he outlined in a Tweet: “We will not rest until Alt-Right ideas are represented on campuses nationwide.”
As of March 6, there have been 107 white supremacist fliering incidents on American college campuses since the school year began in September – 65 of which have taken place since January. While the vast majority of white supremacist campus actions involve hateful fliers (“Imagine a Muslim-Free America,”) and stickers (“Make America White Again”), white supremacists have also sent anti-Semitic faxes and, in the case of Richard Spencer, delivered speeches on campus.
Racist fliers and posters have been reported on campuses in 25 states, adorning parking garages, street signs, billboards, utility poles and along corridors. Schools in California and Texas have seen the most fliering activity.
These days, white supremacists are taking more forceful steps to establish a physical presence on campus. Identity Evropa (founded by Nathan Damigo) was clear in its goals – and used fittingly “academic” language – when describing “Project Siege” plans for the 2016-17 school year: Go talk to actual students. “Project Siege is the beginning of a long-term cultural war of attrition against the academia’s cultural Marxist narrative that is maintained and propagated into society though the indoctrination of the future managerial class. If we are to be successful in combating the current paradigm,” the online message read, “it is imperative that we create space for our ideas at universities across the country. Speaking with students and helping them unpack some of their assumptions while gaining name recognition for our organizations are the ways in which we will create the foundation for that space.”
Sometimes, students take things into their own hands. Damigo, for example, is a student at California State University at Stanislaus.) At the University of Wisconsin, Daniel Dropik, a 33-year-old student-employee who was convicted in 2006 of setting fire to two black churches, attempted to form the Madison branch of the American Freedom Party, which urges students to “fight anti-white racism.” The American Freedom Party is a white supremacist group founded by William Johnson, and was heavily involved in the 2016 presidential campaign, calling voters nationwide urging them to vote for Trump.
White supremacist events on campus face particular scrutiny and, in some cases, speakers are able to circumvent the school altogether, avoiding heated debates over free speech rights versus hate speech laws. In December, when Richard Spencer spoke on the Texas A&M campus, he wasn’t there as a guest of the University. Instead, he spoke to supporters and onlookers in a room rented for the occasion by local neo-Nazi Preston Wiginton.
On March 2, 2017, students reported that Wiginton was on the Texas A&M campus passing out flyers and recruiting for the Alt Right.
White supremacists, emboldened by the rhetoric of the 2016 presidential campaign, are stepping out of the shadows and into the mainstream.
In January, Jared Taylor wrote, “It is widely understood that the election of Donald Trump is a sign of rising white consciousness….Now is the time to press our advantage in every way possible.”
Richard Spencer has stated that now is the time to “professionalize” white supremacist beliefs, and is currently fundraising to take his message to campuses across the country. “These types of events are tremendous opportunities for us to communicate our message,” he told supporters in December. “They are ways for us to reach millions of people who would otherwise never have heard our ideas.”
Fear and anger are the most common reactions to
A “pro-white” American Vanguard poster found at Purdue University
white supremacist fliers and events, usually followed by a powerful response from students and others who are appalled by the display of hate and divisiveness. Rallies and other gatherings are common. At Purdue, a group of students replaced American Vanguard’s “pro-white” posters with their own inclusive messages, and loud protests met Richard Spencer when he arrived to speak at Texas A&M.
College administrators are responding more quickly and forcefully to campus hate speech; the president of the University of Texas called for a town hall meeting after anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant fliers (courtesy of American Vanguard) were found all over the Austin campus. The University of Michigan recently launched its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative, which the school hopes will make all campus populations feel safer and more empowered.