The brief description of white nationalist ideology sketched here is primarily derived from white nationalist websites, such as American RenaissanceCounter-Currents, and Stormfront. There is no single authority for a definition of white nationalism, and there are points upon which white nationalists may disagree. A useful summary guide, intended for teachers, is Explainer: White Nationalism, developed by the non-profit group Facing History and Ourselves.

The fact that specific points of ideology play a secondary role in recruitment is widely noted. The characterization of beliefs as a “ticket” recruits punch to gain admission to rewarding group membership is an observation made by Ian Danskin, whose video analyses of the process of white nationalist recruitment are described in Christy Somos, Dismantling the ‘Alt-Right Playbook’: YouTuber Explains How Online Radicalization Works. However, despite the fact that particular points of ideology are generally not central to recruitment, awareness of the general outlines of white nationalist beliefs plays an important role. Assuring recruits that there is a crisis narrative and an action path forward instills confidence in group leadership and provides a sense of meaning that bonds new members.

In their own words

“Many whites are uncomfortable about resettling non-whites who have put down ‘roots’ in our homelands. Non-whites have tens of thousands of years of roots in their homelands. Yet somehow they managed to move here. So if their roots there did not matter to them, why should their “roots” here matter to us? And if their shallow roots here matter to us, shouldn’t our own deep roots matter that much more? Freedom of choice is an important thing, but preserving our race is more important.”

  • Greg Johnson, “Restoring White Homelands” Counter-Currents 2014

For a detailed exploration of “race science” and its scientific critics, this page draws on Angela Saini’s Superior: The Return of Race Science. We focus on The Bell Curve because it has been a flashpoint for public debate for two decades. Public talks by Charles Murray, the surviving co-author, have generated demonstrations and counter-protests, and more focus has been given to the question of whether Murray’s views deserve a hearing than to the disputed data and methods of his book. Whether Murray and others who agree with him should be offered platforms to speak is a very different question from whether their arguments are scientifically reasonable. White nationalists frequently claim that attempts to stifle their speech demonstrate that their opponents fear it because it is true. This type of argument can be convincing to recruits, and is one reason to be cautious about seeming dismissive of young people when they advocate white nationalist ideas.

We have included comments and sample questions to ask young people primarily with teachers in mind, though some parents may find them useful as well. We’ve specified some of the sources we relied on to formulate these questions, sources we think may be useful to teachers as they further explore these issues.

“Ideology matters, but not necessarily its core messaging. . . . Rather, radical groups use religion and ideologies to legitimize grievances, placing themselves as agents of change and promising empowerment and a sense of purpose.”

“Some groups appropriate the language of diversity by claiming that white supremacists are the true multiculturalists, because they seek to separate and preserve all cultures, as opposed to those who would promote ‘race mixing.’”

With regard to the issue of geneticists’ research on race, we consulted the organizational statement and discussion published by the American Society of Human Genetics. An accessible discussion of the underlying genetic science is Vivian Chou, How Science and Genetics are Reshaping the Race Debate of the 21st Century. For a geneticist’s view of the likely productivity of genetic intermixing, see White Supremacists Believe In Genetic “Purity.” Science Shows No Such Thing Exists.

Prompting a young person to question whether the white nationalist idea of a unified white race of European descent is a self-evident truth or a recent innovation is one strategy for weakening its ideological power. Many sources document discrimination against whites from Eastern and Southern Europe in 19th and early 20th century America, for instance. A particularly useful example is an 1896 essay by Francis A. Walker, president of MIT: Restriction of Immigration. The role of George Lincoln Rockwell in devising a redefinition of whiteness suitable for America is recounted in Heidi Beirich and Kevin Hicks, White Nationalism in America.

Helping young people become more aware of the many contributions people of non-European descent have made in US history can weaken the hold of white nationalist assertions that white Americans are somehow “true” Americans and others cannot be. The question we propose concerning Revolutionary Era black soldiers is based on Phillip S. Greenwalt, George Washington’s Integrated Army; the information from the 1790 census is available on Wikipedia.

“Although a person’s genetics influences their phenotypic characteristics, and self-identified race might be influenced by physical appearance, race itself is a social construct.”

“There were many to exclude, but to Indiana Klan members, Catholics were by far the most dangerous.”