When I first heard about A Field Guide to White Supremacy, I knew it would be important. Its co-editor, Kathleen Belew, is the author of Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America—a his- tory of how Vietnam veterans mid-wifed the white power movement that burst forth in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Belew emphasized that the white power movement is a still-living phenomenon: We all saw that truth on January 6, 2021, as Con- federate flags mixed with Trump flags and the criminals beating up Capitol police officers were allowed to just go home, cloaked in white privilege.
It’s no surprise that Belew testified before Congress a week later and in Charlottesville in November 2021 on behalf of those injured during the 2017 “Unite the Right” march. She has long taught us that white supremacy is the ideology behind all the faux grassroots concerns spouted by those in power, and that the white power movement’s distortion of populism is much more dangerous than people realize.
Now, Belew and University of Chicago historian Ramón A. Gutiérrez have given us this Field Guide, which could be the most important piece of political education you’ll read this year. They’ve amassed brilliant thinkers and authors, starting with its history “Building, Protecting, and Profiting from Whiteness.” After sections on “Iterations of White Supremacy” and “Anti-Immigrant Nation,” it returns to our current five-alarm- fire moment, with “White Supremacy from Fringe to Mainstream.” DSA chapters can—and maybe should—go through this book section by section, starting with Doug Kiel’s exploration of settler colonialism and backlash against Indigenous movements. From misogyny/femicide to anti-Asian and homophobic violence, DSAers could discuss all the ways white supremacism manifests in daily life. We also can and should discuss the differing meanings of white supremacy and white power, as the latter movement fights to entrench the former.
Still with me, a week after reading, are thoughts of Joseph Darda’s “The Whiteness of Blue Lives: Race in American Policing” and Belew’s final chapter, “There Are No Lone Wolves: The White Power Movement at War.” I wouldn’t eliminate a single one of these essays, even as I might have wanted more on racism in the military. Don’t miss Jamelle Bouie’s meditation on lynching, Judith Butler’s on anti-Semitism, or Croix Saffin’s lyrical call to action on behalf of Black trans women and femmes.
Marxist analysis permeates every page, as we see how the economic violence of capitalism buttresses the victimizers. Keeanga Yamahtta-Taylor, whose Race for Profit I briefly re- viewed for DL a year ago, skewers our racist culture’s pathologizing of the Black family as she outlines what white supremacist economics has done to actual Black families.
I’m writing this review soon after the November election, which almost cartoonishly demonstrated how tightly the powerful hold to white supremacy: The Virginia governor’s race capitalized on white voters’ fear of even the gentlest discussions about racial injustice. This book is anything but gentle. It is an essential component in every strategic plan we make for the future.