In the summer and fall of 2019, disputes over the presence of white nationalist followers at the downtown Farmers’ Market disrupted Bloomington; a church in nearby Ellettsville was desecrated with white nationalist graffiti; flyers from a variety of groups, including the Ku Klux Klan, were posted on the campus of Indiana University or distributed at private homes in Bloomington.
These incidents were not our first experience with white nationalism. For instance, in 1999 Bloomington was the site of a white nationalist campaign that culminated in the murder of a Korean student, Won-joon Yoon, and thirty years earlier, the city’s Black Market was bombed by members of the Klan. The events of 2019 brought the problem of white nationalism back into local focus at a time when the influence of white nationalism is on the rise nationally.
The pandemic of 2020-2022 shifted attention elsewhere. But as life begins to return to normal it seems wise to draw from our recent experience the lesson that our community needs to build a sustained capacity to understand, identify, and respond to white nationalism, and, in particular, to be aware of the ongoing efforts of white nationalist groups to attract new recruits among teenagers and young adults. Bloomington has reminded of the ongoing presence of white nationalism as recently as the winter of 2021-22, by a series of anti-Semitic incidents in the city and on the IU campus over several months.
CO•RE’s mission is not a response to any one incident. Our goal is to build community resilience so individual parents, families, teachers, and young people themselves are prepared to respond effectively whenever white nationalist groups seek new followers in Bloomington and Monroe County.
The face of white nationalism is constantly changing. Indiana was once politically dominated by the Klan, whose members were easily identified by their robes, recruiting new members through ties of family, church, and workplace. Recruitment now occurs mainly online and the social interactions that recruits once encountered in person increasingly take place on a computer at home.
And the pace of change is accelerating. The white nationalist group at the center of the 2019 Farmer’s Market controversy no longer exists. Its leader now recruits through regular income-generating webcasts instead of relying on membership dues, and its followers have merged with a new and even larger group, which presented sitting members of Congress as featured speakers at its annual gatherings in 2021 and 2022. White nationalism is increasingly seeking to appear mainstream, making it harder for young people to perceive its extremist core or for parents and teachers to detect its influence on their children or students.
This website is designed to help adults and young people recognize signs of white nationalist engagement and to provide some basic guidance about good ways to respond. It offers information about white nationalist ideas and how these ideas spread. And we hope to assemble on this site a guide to community resources that local citizens can access when they need help responding to white nationalist recruitment.