What To Do > Students & Friends


For Student Visitors

If you are a middle or high school student visiting CO•RE, we’ve designed this section to:

  • Explain what white nationalism is
  • Help you learn how to recognize when a friend or classmate is becoming influenced by white nationalism
  • Suggest ways to respond if you’re uncomfortable about signs of white nationalism at school
  • Suggest what you can do if you feel you’re being bullied or harassed by classmates because of your race, skin color, or the country your family comes from

What is white nationalism?

In the US, white nationalism is the belief that because of their race or skin color white people have the right to hold all political power in America. White nationalists want to reduce the power of people of color (people they consider non-white) in the US, either by limiting their rights or by limiting the number of people of color allowed to live here. In general, white nationalists see people of African, Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American, and Jewish descent as non-white, regardless of skin color.

Because white nationalism violates basic American beliefs that all people are equal and should be treated equally, regardless of race, religion, or country of origin, most people in America of all political views reject white nationalism. But throughout American history, in times of stress or rapid change, there have been groups that advocated white nationalist ideas, and today is no different.

Some white nationalist groups focus on persuading young people, often students in middle and high school, to join them. Today these groups usually spread their ideas online, through social media, gaming sites, videos, heavy metal music with hostile lyrics, or streaming webcasts. All these are designed to persuade young people to join up with a movement that thinks white people are members of a special race, and people who are non-whites as basically different, less welcome, less equal, less American, and a threat to white people’s lives and culture.

How can you recognize when a friend or classmate has been influenced by white nationalism?

It used to be that white nationalism was easily recognized by symbols like the Nazi swastika or the KKK’s robes. Sometimes those are still seen. Today, however, white nationalism more often makes itself known by images, words, and ideas that spread on the Internet, and sometimes they make their way into everyday culture.

The most common sign that someone has been influenced by white nationalist thinking is the use of degrading words to speak of a non-white person’s race. Referring to a person or insulting them by using those words is never ok, but it doesn’t necessarily mean someone has signed on to white nationalism. But if a classmate is regularly bullying others by speaking to them this way, you are right to feel concerned.

White nationalists try to teach young people a set of basic ideas that are not true. If you know some of these ideas you can be better able to tell if a friend or classmate has been influenced by them. Here are some of white nationalism’s most important negative beliefs:

  • Race membership is the most important feature of a person.
  • The US was founded by and for members of the white race.
  • American society has been built by white people and is their birthright.
  • There is a worldwide conspiracy to destroy the white race, led by globalist Jews.
  • In America, the white race is being purposely “replaced” by non-whites.
  • These ideas are summed up in the phrase, “White Genocide.”

Sometimes kids who encounter these ideas repeat them as a way of “trying them out.” They want to see how friends or classmates react because they’re not sure if they really want to adopt them. Other times, they may be convinced they are true and want to persuade other white students to join them. Either way there are reasons to be concerned.

If a classmate has become interested in white nationalism, they might also signal that through symbols they wear on jewelry, clothing, or decals on their school bags or cars. If you’d like to learn more about what signs might point to a classmate’s interest in white nationalism, check out the Signs To Know section on this site.

What can I do if I feel concerned?

If you see signs that a friend or classmate is getting into white nationalism, it can be hard to know what to do. And when we’re unsure, it may feel easier to do nothing. But white nationalism divides people: it splits the school community and it can be hurtful. If you’ve come to this website because you’re concerned about signs of white nationalism, here are some ways to think about steps you might want to take.

  • Make a record of your concern if you can. For example, if you see a swastika on a wall, take a photo; if someone is handing out a flyer that you think might be white nationalist, keep a copy; if you hear someone harassing a fellow student because of their race, note down the incident.
  • In most cases, it’s a good idea to alert a teacher, coach, or other school staff member about the incident. If it’s not practical at the time, you can send an email afterwards explaining something you saw or heard that has disturbed you.
  • Your messages about incidents will have most impact if, in addition to describing your own reaction, you say how the incident may have negatively affected the school community.
  • Schools understand that these ideas and incidents can be disruptive, and most have policies, procedures, and the experience needed to respond to them. If you know your school’s guidelines about hurtful language and actions, those are the best ones to follow. If you don’t, you might think about suggesting that a teacher or administrator explain the policies and procedures so everyone knows.
  • You and your family have a right to expect that your school will be a safe place where all students can study free of discrimination and bullying. If you don’t feel satisfied with the way your school is responding to incidents of white nationalist speech or activity, you should let your parents know.

Involving objects and symbols

  • What if I see a swastika or other graffiti at school that I think is a sign of white nationalism? If you can take a photo that would be good. Then contact a teacher or other school staff member.
  • What if I see a student wearing a t-shirt with slogans I think might be white nationalist? It may be awkward to take a photo. Instead, you can write down what the t-shirt says and let a school staff member know. Schools have policies that do not permit speech and dress that expresses discrimination or hate against other students or that promotes conflict.
  • What if a student is handing out flyers promoting something that might be white nationalism? Take a flyer to a member of the school staff. This would be a situation where it would probably be best not to confront the student directly, because they may already be committed to white nationalist ideas, and argument may lead to conflict.

Involving social interaction

  • What if a student makes a statement in class that I think might be white nationalist? If your teacher asks the class to discuss what your classmate said, one way to comment helpfully is to ask what the source of these ideas is, and why they should be believed. That can open a conversation about how to figure out what sources are trustworthy.

If your teacher chooses not to deal with the statement in class, it may be because they plan to handle the situation differently or in a future class. But it is always ok to speak to your teacher later and describe how the comment disturbed you. You have a right to feel confident that the school is addressing what happened.

  • What if classmates send mean or hurtful texts or social media posts? If you’re included on messaging or posts that promote white nationalist themes or are hurtful or disrespectful to non-whites, you can make clear that you don’t approve of them. Tolerating something as small as disrespectful racial names opens the door to more serious problems.

If texts or posts involve any form of online harassment of classmates, you should, if possible, preserve them or take screenshots or pictures. Then alert a teacher or other school staff member you trust, for the good of your classmates. Online harassment can hurt a classmate and make them feel alone.

  • What if a friend talks about white nationalist ideas to me personally? The key idea in this situation is to be a true friend. White nationalists attract young people by offering them what seems like friendship. Some offer a macho, tough-guy group image, while others seem like cool insiders. A friend who talks to you about white nationalism is probably testing out whether they’ll have to choose between keeping old friends or new ones.

The way to be a true friend is to make clear that you don’t believe white nationalism is a good way to think, and that it would make you sad if your friend became involved with it. When old friends send a message to someone being recruited by white nationalists that they can’t go along with it, and they hope their friend will pull back and stay with them, it can make white nationalism seem less attractive. Keeping the door open can help your friend walk back through it.

  • What if I see a student bullying another student with white nationalist speech? Bullies act because they want to show they have power or popularity by picking on someone they feel has less. When you see a person taunting or harassing someone, if you feel able to stand up and say that what they’re doing is not alright with you, it makes a difference, because bullies are hoping for respect and fear. If they are picking on someone because they aren’t white, you are showing that white nationalism is not a way to gain respect. Being targeted by bullies can make a classmate feel embarrassed because they feel they aren’t powerful enough to stop it alone. If you speak up, your support can make a difference to them and to everyone watching.

It’s not easy to stand up to a bully. And if a confrontation is physical, it may not be safe. If you see a classmate being bullied and it’s not safe to speak up, find a teacher or other school staff member you trust and let them know. It is each school’s responsibility to ensure that everyone can be free from intimidation, discrimination, and fear.

If you want to take a more active role to make sure your school is not disrupted by white nationalist influence, here are some things you could do.

  • Learn more about white nationalism yourself (you can find some good additional sources on this website, especially on our Sources & Resources page).
  • Talk about your interest and concerns with student-led groups at your school, such as the student council or other student advisory groups, that work with faculty and administrators about clarifying school policies.
  • Find other students who share your concerns and discuss strategies you might pursue as a group to improve the well being of the school. Remember that the broader your group is the more effective it can be. Sometimes classmates who have begun to be interested in white nationalism but then turn away from it can become persuasive advocates for a positive and friendly school spirit.

What things can I do if I’m bullied or harassed because of my race?

No amount of racial bullying or harassment is acceptable. If you’ve become a target of intimidation or discrimination because of your race, either through incidents at school or social media posts from classmates, make sure that people you trust at school know about the problem. You have a right to be free from it, and to expect your school to take action to ensure that you are. And you’re not just speaking up for yourself. By reporting bullying to adults you trust you are helping protect others. Speaking up is the right thing to do.

If you are not confident in your school’s response, make sure that adults at home are aware of the situation. It’s unlikely that you are the only person at school encountering this issue. If classmates and adults contact the school administration together, it’s more likely that the situation will be addressed.

Sources & Discussion2021-10-08T21:59:35+00:00

All the pages on the CO•RE site rely on information we have gathered from books, articles, and reliable online sources, and especially on guides prepared by experts who specialize in what white nationalism and other forms of extremism are, and how to respond to them.

For this page, we relied heavily on a guide produced by the Western States Center (WSC), Confronting White Nationalism in Schools: A Toolkit. The Toolkit discusses a variety of scenarios, indicating the way teachers, students, parents, and school administrators can respond productively in each context. The WSC has many helpful things to say about the student role.

This page was also influenced by a brochure called, School Response to Bullying, Intolerance, and Hate. This guide was produced by Not In Our Town (NIOT), an organization based in Oakland, California that has addressed the issue of bullying in schools in a number of publications.

If you want to know more about how we learned about white nationalism and the types of responses that experts recommend, you’ll find information in the “Sources & Discussion” sections of the other pages on the CO•RE site. If you’re interested in looking further, you might explore our Sources & Resources page, which lists all our sources together and talks a bit about each one.

Updated, October 2021

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