Over 200 members of Kansas City area faith and community justice groups gathered on November 7, 2019 to learn about the white nationalist movement and why it matters in the fight to advance democratic rights for all Americans. Workshop participants engaged to brainstorm what a better response to the white nationalist movement could look like. Below is a summary of key findings from those discussions. We see this summary as a beginning. It is meant to start the discussion on what our community and others across the country need to do, in order to defeat this threat to our fundamental American values of human rights and democracy.
–Kansas City Area Forum Sponsors
Build the Kansas City Area Response to White Nationalist and White Supremacist Organizing
Summary Report Out from Small Group Discussions
1. Learn how to identify white nationalist groups and their ideology
- How do you convince people that white nationalism is still real? I came tonight not believing.
- I came because I hear my own children using the language.
- First step is to identify the white nationalist groups – where and what they do, names and key issues/ideas, etc.
- Recognize that the white nationalist movement is real – don’t let its threat get watered down – call it what it is.
- Use IREHR resources, such as their website (irehr.org ). IREHR should write a report on white nationalist/white supremacist groups actively organizing in Kansas and Missouri, and explain connections to mainstream institutions/public life.
Start by caring about the issue of white nationalist organizing.
2. Educate on why opposition to white nationalist groups and their ideology matters
- Disbelief is an issue – we need more education and awareness of what the white nationalist movement is and why it matters.
- Educate in smaller settings and on different, smaller chunks of their ideology
- Become a trusted source on white nationalism….in all the possible spheres of influence – from family and friends, to faith and community groups.
- Make sure that all justice groups and faith communities are informed about white nationalist movement and its significant groups – especially those active in our region.
Make others aware of what’s right there in front of them, i.e. white nationalist movement and its ideas.
3. Build and integrate opposition to white nationalism into our daily lives and work
- Become fluent in information about the white nationalist movement so that we can articulate effectively and actively participate in building the response.
- Learn how to start conversations on the danger of the white nationalist movement. Learn how to debunk their ideas – have the counter messages ready to go.
- Reach outside our circles of like-minded folks. Find ways to reach out to isolated people and help them find different communities to feel comfortable with. Create the alternative social movements that give people somewhere to turn.
- Center racial justice in all other justice fights, and make the connection to the danger of white nationalist movement and its ideas.
It is not enough to not be racist. I need to be actively anti-racist.
4. Engage the faith community – this is a moral battle
- As a member of my church, I’ve seen the nationalism in Christianity – I have seen the church divide people – “white churches/black churches”- Let’s reach out and support faith leaders, clergy and preachers to speak out against white nationalism.
- Make information on white nationalist movement and its ideology available broadly across faith communities. Educate in our Sunday schools.
- Faith communities can boost messages to people who are not politically involved.
- Faith groups are a great place for study and discussion sessions on different facets of white nationalist organizing.
5. Interrupt the target populations of white nationalist/white supremacist organizing
- Identify who is at risk of joining – who is susceptible to messages of white nationalism.
- Begin with youth – teach children how to dismantle racism. Support young people by building compelling places for them to be and a cause for them to join in.
- Give teachers tools to recognize the ideas and signs of the white nationalist movement.
- As a veteran, we can have a direct dialogue with our own men and women. We also have the credibility to do more outreach to people to oppose white nationalism.
- Go to gun shows or other like venues and provide counter messages. Create the progressive alternative rifle association.
“Please note first what I am not saying: I am not saying that what I propose is the answer to institutional racism, or the blind bigotry of the white guy next to you on the job. Nor is it a way to develop workers power and win powerful unions. Those are different kinds of battles against a different kind of racism. We have to mobilize to fight both fights. But they are not the same fight.
First, to fight organized white supremacists and white nationalists you must first educate yourself, and keep educating yourself. The white-ists are always changing, and you must know who and what we are fighting.
Secondly, you must educate the people around you. We cannot do this alone. We must join hand in hand, and we must all know what we are doing.
Third, we must be able to mobilize large numbers of people to oppose white nationalists in demonstrations, by going to the polls, and through our own networks and neighborhoods.
Only after we have completed these three steps can we begin the most important work: politically isolating the white supremacist movement by cutting them off from their sources of support and new members.
This is hard work. But I believe it must be done before our society can advance past our oppressive exploitive existing structure and win the promise of real equality and democracy for all.”
–Leonard Zeskind, keynote presenter and founder of IREHR
6. Use today’s technology to inform and connect the fight back
- Make information about white nationalist movement more available – identify ways to post information online about local activities of their movement and its ideas.
- Create a coordinated phone/tweet/email on when to respond to anti-Semitic white nationalist groups – we need a vehicle to share information and form the basis of connection on this work.
- They are not muting their social media, nor should we.
- Conduct outreach on IREHR’s new phone app, called TREPPER to report white nationalist activity in our region and to learn more about white nationalist movement.
7. Challenge white nationalist organizing and ideas when it emerges in the mainstream
Elected and/or Public Office Holders
- No candidate is touching the issue of white nationalism. Support candidates to speak out on the white nationalist movement.
- Go to Sam Graves’ office to speak out on his policy attack on the 14th Amendment of U.S. Constitution. It matters that we show that we see his position.
White Nationalist Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric
- Understand and define the direct link between the white supremacist movement and its ideology with the anti-immigrant terms currently in the news.
- Identify what the ‘counter ideas’ are to put out there. Disrupt their ideologies on the highly visible anti-immigrant rhetoric coming from today’s public office holders.
Public Demonstrations by White Nationalist Groups
- Build a separate event that is bigger and better. Invite multiple groups to participate. Preempt their rally.
- Take attention away from white nationalist rally. They want attention from media for their cause – don’t play their game, be smarter.
- Use preemptive rally to maximize engagement and education of more people on the threat of white nationalism.
White Nationalism on College Campuses
- Best change will come from other young people’s organizing. We need a multi-racial student movement to respond.
- Faculty should encourage, but not lead.
- Define and explore the intersection of free speech and hate speech. Don’t let their voices drown out ours.
Militia Groups Showing Up at Civil and Human Rights Rally’s
- A key obstacle is our ignorance of what 3% Militia groups are and what they’re up to.
- Taking their guns won’t change their ideology – it could have the opposite effect and strengthen their support.
- We need to educate ourselves on how and where the militia groups work.
More on Organizing the Kansas City Area Response: Questions & Action Ideas
- Create adhoc committee to devise methodology and help organize deeper involvement.
- Documentary film on white nationalist movement – especially groups active in our area.
- Letters to editor or opinion pieces, including high school and college news media.
- Need more information on how to create the counter movement. What does that look like? Is the aim to convince those already in the movement, or get in the way of those who might otherwise join? What are the best platforms/venues for transmitting these ‘counter ideas?’
- Identify how to chunk the information people need about white nationalism. Regularly invite people who can share information on white nationalist movement to our gatherings.
- Tell the real stories from our U.S. history; understand its racist roots.
- Challenge their ideas through education. Tea Parties had numerous newsletters – where’s our counter awareness effort.
- Increase the network of like-minded organizations by creating the overlaying thread of information and action about the white nationalist movement – even as we still focus on our own primary issues.
Organize to create such significant numbers that we can drown out the white nationalist movement.
KC Poor People’s Campaign, Stand Up KC, Westport Presbyterian Church, Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights (IREHR), Cherith Brook Catholic Worker, Heartland Center for Jobs & Freedom, Congregation Kol Ami, KC NAACP, Indivisible KC, United We Stand, AIRR, KC for Refugees, Missouri Rural Crisis Center and Jewish Community Relations Bureau | AJC.