The white nationalist movement yesterday and today

Leonard Zeskind has a story to tell you, a story that may seem all too familiar and reiterates the social problems of racism in contemporary and historical society.

Leonard Zeskind has a story to tell you, a story that may seem all too familiar and reiterates the social problems of racism in contemporary and historical society.

Anti-Semitism and the white supremacist movement has been a topic plaguing our nation since its humble beginnings.

“I was always an anti-racism activist, interested in the white nationalist movement,” said Zeskind. “I originally saw it as far right racism and an anti-Semitic movement.”

A former employee in the heavy machinery industry, Zeskind has worked in a lamp factory, an automobile plant assembly line and in steel fabrication shops.

Despite his unique beginnings and only having a high school degree, Zeskind has achieved more than some college graduates could hope for with his in-depth research of the white nationalist movement and related topics of racism.

Zeskind received the MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” in 1998 and has written for Rolling Stone, The Nation, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. He has also participated in major groups to combat racial injustices and was the president of the Institute for Research & Education on Human rights since 1983.

Zeskind’s new book, Blood and Politics, is an important new piece of literature of the topic of racism and anti-Semitism internationally and in the U.S.

The title of the lecture series, “Neither Dinosaurs nor Neanderthals: Understanding the White Nationalist Movement” comes from the need to address these issues in a way that brings them to our front door.

“[The series gets its name] mostly because there were certain, if you will, liberal stereotypes of it all that consign that the white nationalist movement is at the furthest, creepiest edges of society,” Zeskind said. “I’m trying to talk about it in the middle. Right in the middle of American life.”

As Zeskind talks about Blood and Politics at Portland State, he will tell you the three major components that he wants you to get from reading his book.

“[The book is] the first, most comprehensive treatment of the topic to date,” Zeskind said. “It treats the
white nationalist movement as a social movement with resources and the ability to influence society larger than just the movement. It’s not primarily a criminal conspiracy, but a social movement. And it locates the problem in history and our current situation, [in] which we have a new discussion of national sovereignty.”

Zeskind wants us to be aware of the threats that these movements pose by illustrating their historical narratives and how they adapt to present situations.

“I want people to know that this is a problem. With its criminality, violence and political experiences and that this is a movement with their skid power, it is a national identity,” Zeskind said. “They don’t consider themselves multicultural, and they want to break away and create a white only republic which is very dangerous for our country.”

The talk will undoubtedly tackle issues with the white nationalist movement that’s going on today, as well as in the past. The talk will be the most useful having some background information about the discussion. So, if you plan on going to the talk, make sure to pick up an excerpt from Zeskind’s book at the History Department office in Cramer Hall.