MARCANO: My talk with a racist

Ray Marcano

caption arrowCaption
Ray Marcano

caption arrowCaption
Crews work to remove one of the country's largest remaining monuments to the Confederacy, a towering statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, Pool)

Credit: Steve Helber

Crews work to remove one of the country's largest remaining monuments to the Confederacy, a towering statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, Pool)

Credit: Steve Helber

caption arrowCaption
Crews work to remove one of the country's largest remaining monuments to the Confederacy, a towering statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, Pool)

Credit: Steve Helber

Credit: Steve Helber

I get a lot of emails, including from Nathan. I’m not using Nathan’s last name because I don’t know it since he doesn’t disclose it when he writes. But I wouldn’t use it if I did because his views would likely get him fired.

Nathan is a racist. I could tell that from the notes he sent me whenever I wrote about race.

I didn’t get angry or dismiss him as a nut job. Instead, I asked him if he’d do an interview to discuss his views, and he agreed.

Some readers will claim that newspapers shouldn’t give people like Nathan a forum. I disagree. Whether we like it or not, lots of people in America think like Nathan but won’t say it because they don’t want to be branded a bigot and suffer the consequences that come with it.

Nathan has given us a chance to see what lay beneath the scab.

Nathan has a family with children and works two jobs. He’s well-spoken and keeps up on the news. He calls himself “a proud white American” who didn’t object to the phrase racist and proudly showed me, via our video chat, the Confederate flag that hangs on his wall.

And like a significant percentage of white America, he’s not happy with the country’s direction and what that means for white people.

He’s angry that newspapers like this one capitalize the word Black but lowercase white, “Because that is trying to put Black people above white people, and that really upsets me.” (Newspapers follow Associated Press style, which doesn’t capitalize white, saying they don’t have the same shared heritage). Along those lines, he vehemently disagrees with removing Civil War monuments or changing the names of military bases that contain Confederate names because he believes, we shouldn’t hide our history.

He’s concerned about the demographic trends that show whites becoming a minority in America by about 2045. “I mean, that’s taking away from my white heritage. It’s all gonna blend together. And it’s just not right,” he said. “It’s not normal. The white people were the ones that founded this country, and we need to keep being in charge of this country.”

He’s frustrated by Black people he sees as mad at the world. “I think the Black people are trying to go after white people and are trying to change America. And it’s to erase racial division. And this is not going to happen. But it is very frustrating.”

He considers most Black people lazy and disrespectful. “Most of them are. You have to work hard in life. And they don’t seem to want to work as hard. I think black people think they are entitled to have things and to be given things.”

He has no desire to socialize with Black people. He said if someone from his immediate family came home with a date from a different race, “I would have a fit. I mean, that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. Because we are different, Black people and white people. Other people of color have different cultures, different beliefs, different ways of thinking. And it’s okay to be separate. I hate to say separate but equal, but sometimes that is okay.”

He called interracial marriage “gross.”

“White people should stay with whites,” he said. “Blacks, they have blacks. It’s just easier.”

Before you dismiss Nathan as a wacko, some of his views (monuments, military bases) rest squarely in the mainstream. Even his more extreme views hold significant support in white America, and that’s telling.

An Ipsos poll taken in 2017 revealed that 31% of whites who responded either strongly or somewhat agreed that America must retain its white European heritage. Nearly four in 10 believe that whites in America are under attack. One in six strongly or somewhat agreed that marriage should only be allowed between people of the same race.

Those numbers may undersell the depth of some of white America’s anxiety. After all, who wants to admit they’re racist?

Feel free to be repulsed by Nathan’s views, but that misses the point. He’s not alone, not by a long shot. That’s the scary part.

Ray Marcano is a long-time journalist whose column appears on these pages every Sunday. He can be reached at raymarcanoddn@gmail.com.