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Oregon and White Supremacy Annotated Bibliography

Protesters in Washington, DC at night.  One is holding a sign that reads, "White silence is violence."  Photo credit Gayatri Malhotra.

I originally created this annotated bibliography as part of a project to design a survey about white supremacy in academic libraries for ACRL-Oregon.  During the ACRL-Oregon and Washington joint conference in October 2019, librarians discussed the 2017 shooting of a protester by a white supremacist student at the University of Washington.  Academic librarians expressed a desire to know the extent of white supremacy across the state of Oregon, so I undertook an independent study to bring together scholarly writing on white supremacy and its effects on Oregon as well as to design a survey that ACRL-Oregon can circulate among its members to gather data on how white supremacy affects academic libraries today.

Bibliography

Ansley, F. L. (1997). White Supremacy (And What We Should Do about It). In Delgado R. & Stefancic J. (Eds.), Critical White Studies (pp. 592-595). Temple University Press.

In this article, Ansley examines why a social system of racial dominance and subordination has managed to survive waves of protests and rights movements.  Ansley argues that the persistence of oppression in the United States is due to a “race model” in which whites' self-conception is rooted in White supremacy.  Because whites have a stake in the current system, they will not give up their privilege by fighting it.  Ansley cautions against mistaking racism as an individual pathology, but instead connects it to broader structures of White supremacy.  Ultimately, the conclusion of the “race model” is pessimistic, that social change will have to come from outside of the United States because whites fail to understand power and justice and their part in upholding the status quo.

Burley, S., & Ross, A. R. (2019). From Nativism to White Power: Mid-Twentieth Century White Supremacist Movements in Oregon. Oregon Historical Quarterly 120 (4), 564-587.

Burley and Ross chronicle the evolution of White supremacist movements in Oregon, beginning with the resurgence of the Klan after World War I.  While the Klan fizzled out in Oregon at the end of the 1920s, anti-Jewish bigotry and “competing claims of White Protestant religious destiny” continued into the next generation of White supremacists.  Importantly, Burley and Ross note that all groups draw their strength from an association with a mythical Aryan past.  Various groups mentioned include the Ku Klux Klan, the Friends of New Germany, the Silver Shirts, the American Defenders, Americans Incorporated, and Portland Police’s “Red Squad”.  Burley and Ross also describe the rise of British Israelism and William Dudley Pelley’s influence on Oregon White supremacist groups.

Drabble, J. (2007). From White Supremacy to White Power: The FBI, COINTELPRO-WHITE HATE, and the Nazification of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s. American Studies, 48(3), 49-74.

Drabble examines the FBI operation COINTELPRO-WHITE HATE and connects its dissolution of Klan unity to the union of many formerly disparate White supremacist groups.  The Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party were once enemies, but the FBI’s dismantling of the Klan saw these groups splinter and then join together in new ways.  Drabble also examines the influence of Christian Identity theology on 1970s White supremacist movements.  Where the Klan was once pro-government and controlled many government bodies, COINTELPRO-WHITE HATE transformed what was left of them into virulently anti-government groups.  This transformation cemented itself when antiwar activists stole documents from an FBI field office that exposed the extent of government involvement in COINTELPRO-WHITE HATE.  Drabble examines the composition of 1970s White supremacist groups and the motivations of people joining them. 

Ezekiel, R. S. (1997). Talking about Race with America’s Klansmen. In Delgado R. & Stefancic J. (Eds.), Critical White Studies (pp. 586-588). Temple University Press.

In this book chapter, Ezekiel shares insights gleaned from a decade of interviewing Klansmen as a Jewish person.  He describes how the Klan’s Christian Identity theology differs from mainstream Christianity.  At its core, the ideology posits that Jesus was Aryan rather than a Jew, and the Israelites of the Hebrew Bible were actually the first Aryans rather than the predecessors of modern Jewish people.  Ezekiel notes that many of the neo-Nazis he interviewed lost fathers at an early age, and they seemed very fearful.  He notes that modern White supremacist leaders are intelligent and not particularly racist; rather, racism is a tool they use to control their potential followers.

Horsman, R. (1997).  Race and Manifest Destiny: The Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism. In Delgado R. & Stefancic J. (Eds.), Critical White Studies (pp. 139-144). Temple University Press.

Horsman details the connection between American expansion in the 1850s, the formation of the idea of the “Anglo-Saxon race”, and connections to earlier ideas of Americans as a “chosen people”.  By 1850, Horsman asserts that political speeches emphasize “American Anglo-Saxons as a separate, innately superior people”, a sharp contrast to earlier speeches that merely contain a sense of the United States’ destiny of expansion.  Horsman also connects American racial thought to parallel though from England.  The English believed that the Anglo-Saxon period (the Anglo-Saxons were not actually a race nor a people) was a period of political and individual freedom, and this idea carried itself into the colonies and later the United States.  Horsman highlights the disconnect between the east and west coasts, where an Irish family in New York might be degraded as “dirty” Celts but praised as “the vanguard of the energetic Anglo-Saxon people” in California.

Kanstroom, D. (1997). Dangerous Undertones of the New Nativism. In Delgado R. & Stefancic J. (Eds.), Critical White Studies (pp. 538-541). Temple University Press.

In this book chapter, Kanstroom first describes the effect of Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West on the formation of the German Nazi Party.  Through a critical examination of the plight of the Jewish people in Poland leading up to World War 2, Kanstroom connects incremental changes in contemporary American society to attempts to manufacture a scapegoat underclass.  Kanstroom suggests that the criminalization of migrant workers is heading in the same direction as Nazi Germany’s extermination of the Jewish people.

Labbe, J. M. (2019). The Colored Brother’s Few Defenders: Oregon Abolitionists and their Followers. Oregon Historical Quarterly 120 (4), 440-467.

Labbe explores the little-known history of Oregon’s few abolitionists, noting that most racial policies enacted during the mid-nineteenth century were both anti-slavery and anti-Black.  Due to Oregon’s exclusionist founding as a White utopia, it is often painted as a progressive state, when in reality, its constitution prevented people of color from owning land or even residing in Oregon.  Labbe examines the political parties and voting methods of the day to reveal how many abolitionists were outed and run out of the state.  Many anti-slavery voters did not believe in the possibility of a multi-racial society; they opposed slavery because it brought whites into contact with blacks, not because they believed that all races should have equal rights.  Labbe also chronicles the history of genocide of indigenous peoples during the Rogue River Indian War.

Langer, E. (1997). The American Neo-Nazi Movement Today. In Delgado R. & Stefancic J. (Eds.), Critical White Studies (pp. 573-585). Temple University Press.

Langer contributes an important piece to the study of White supremacy by naming and differentiating prominent White supremacist groups of the 1990s.  Among the named groups are Nazis, skinheads, the Ku Klux Klan, Posse Comitatus, and the Christian Identity movement.  Langer examines the fusion of Klan and Nazi units as well as the creation of the Aryan Nations compound in Idaho.  She names several prominent White supremacist texts, including the work of Carleton Putnam, Henry Ford, Richard Harwood, and William Pierce.  Langer touches on Oregon in relation to Tom Metzger and the trial of the skinheads who murdered Ethiopian student Mulageta Seraw in 1988.

Mahoney, M. R. (1997). Residential Segregation and White Privilege. In Delgado R. & Stefancic J. (Eds.), Critical White Studies (pp. 273-275). Temple University Press.

Mahones examines the history of racial segregation and housing and how the suburbs were created to maintain a de facto segregation between blacks and whites.  Importantly, Mahoney notes that all ethnic groups who had access to the suburbs became white, including previously excluded “Jews, Greeks, and Italians”.  Through this process, Blackness became linked with the ideas of the urban and unemployed, and job applicants with inner-city addresses experienced greater difficulty getting hired than applicants with suburban addresses.

Ross, L., & Mauney, M. (1997). The Changing Faces of White Supremacy. In Delgado R. & Stefancic J. (Eds.), Critical White Studies (pp. 552-557). Temple University Press.

Ross and Mauney use this book chapter to make a crucial point: it does not matter how many actual members White supremacist groups have.  What is more significant is the number of people who endorse those messages even if they do not participate directly in violent activities.  Ross and Mauney examine the history of traditional hate groups in the United States while linking it to global movements such as the first Aryan Nations World Congress.  Groups mentioned solely in this article include the Church of the Creator and the Institute for Historical Review.  Ross and Mauney point out that White supremacist violence is becoming more invisible because seasoned adults are pushing young people to commit crimes, disguising the violence as the work of a lone, misguided youth rather than the result of a network of hatred.  White supremacist groups are also adopting new platforms such as “homophobia … anti-abortion, pro-family, and anti-government values”.

Thoennes, P. & Landau, J. (2019). Constitutionalizing Racism: George H. Williams’s Appeal for a White Utopia. Oregon Historical Quarterly 120 (4), 468-487.

The majority of this article reprints verbatim George H. Williams’ speech calling for the creation of Oregon as a White utopia.  Thoennes and Landau also provide a short overview of the framing of the Oregon Constitution.  The provisional government formed in 1843, and one of its first official actions was to ban slavery and also make black immigration a crime punishable by whipping.  Thoennes and Landau situate Oregon’s formation within the context of the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the violent clashes there leading up to the Civil War.  Thoennes and Landau point out that Oregon’s climate did not support the type of agriculture that made the slave trade economically feasible, and many arguments for restricting Oregon to whites held that slaves would “degrade” the labor of white workers.

Thompson, C. P. (2019). Expectation and Exclusion: An Introduction to Whiteness, White Supremacy, and Resistance in Oregon. Oregon Historical Quarterly 120 (4), 358-367.

Thompson introduces the field of Critical Whiteness Studies (CWS), an interdisciplinary and interracial field investigating what it means to be White.  Thompson traces the evolution of Whiteness from the European colonization of West Africa to its coalescence in the United States.  Thompson examines the writings of Saxton and Roediger that place the rise of Whiteness within “European class tensions and strivings in North America during the nineteenth century”.  However, Thompson argues that it was not frustration that drove white workers to accept Whiteness but rather the expectation of privilege and advantage.  Thompson notes that theories on American racism tend to focus on explaining race rather than Whiteness.

Trafford, E. (2019). Hitting the Trail: Live Displays of Native American, Filipino, and Japanese People at the Portland World’s Fair. Oregon Historical Quarterly 120 (4), 158-195.

In this article, Trafford provides a historical overview of the 1905 Portland World’s Fair.  Trafford situates the live display of Native American, Filipino, and Japanese people in the context of the contemporary narrative of American progress and supremacy.  The displays of people at the fair were intended to reinforce racial stereotypes developed by Social Darwinists and early anthropologists, allowing white people to see in person the differences between themselves and the people on display.  Trafford notes that Native American were portrayed as a dying people, which suited the white desire to take as much land from them as possible.  Trafford notes that the Portland World’s Fair imagined American conquest to expand across the Pacific Ocean, continuing to claim territory until the ocean could transform into “an American lake”.

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1 comment

Kathryn, This is excellent! Thanks for sharing! : )

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