Causes of Extremist Racism in the United States

Thiago Nascimento
4 min readJan 23, 2020

Although it is not reasonable to pinpoint the origin of racism in the United States, many authors have referenced the Civil War as a possible milestone for racism wide-spreading. After the defeat of the southern Confederate states, the racial segregation was accepted as pattern behavior for the people of the time. This racial division started in the agrarian south, but with time it reached the industrial north. As an outcome, the number of white nationalists boosted which in turn leveraged the violent cases against black men, women, and children.

Many decades have already passed since the civil war. Nevertheless, the effects caused by it in American society were far from being restricted to political and economic questions. A harsh side-effect left by it was the concept of white supremacy. Outside the war scenario, this ideology has reached modern society and it has found out shelter in the mind of people with very similar familiar historic. In fact, Byrne advocates the idea that the behavior of white supremacy defensors goes back to a disturbed childhood. His research pointed out that a significant part of those ones involved with racist activities reported they experienced physical or sexual abuse or exposure to parental racism amongst many other types of abusive treatments.

Extremist racism goes back to the Civil War

This same study published by Byrne revealed yet that white nationalists find in the extremists groups a way to channel their violent tendencies. For these cases, the ideology does not play a relevant rule. Instead, for many that have embraced racist movements, such an activism represents an opportunity to manifest pre-existing urges into violence disregarding the target. The fact they are immersed in a segregationist culture allows that the group’s ideology can conduct their internal aggressive trend toward a specific class of people. By avoiding get in touch with extremist groups, people with those psychological characteristics probably would never turn their violent thought into actions.

Corroborating the idea that an unstable childhood plays a crux role for the arising of extremist racism, Simi argued the extremist recruitment process is focused on this life stage of people. According to the authors, the vast majority of those ones that entry into extremist movements “ was exposed to racist/anti-Semitic beliefs during childhood”. Recurrent psychological factors are also pointed out as catalyzers behind the dissemination of extremist racism. Some of them are acceptance desire, attraction to social minorities, self-esteem improvement, and sense of protection.

Considering that extremist racism has a direct relation with psychological vulnerabilities, any external influence could become an influencer guiding people to acts against specific groups. It was largely observed on several terrorist attacks that had in this background the influence of the best-known racist novel written in the English language — The Turner Diaries. According to Berger , “since its publication in 1978, at least 200 people have been killed in hate crimes and terrorist attacks by people who were influenced by the book”. The dystopic society presented by this literary work describes a deeply ruined society that has been feeding several radical or extremist initiatives over the decades. Obviously, racism is a very common topic approached by the book. One of the most tragic attacks widely reported in the US was the bomb truck detonated in a park area in Oklahoma City causing the death of 168 people besides hundreds of wounding. The attacker followed systematically the bomb’s design described in Turner’s book. Berger describes this book as having created a reign of terror since copies of it were found with many extremist crimes authors.

The music has been arising as another relevant influencer pushing people to the white supremacist ideology. Windisch and Simi highlight that, for extremist groups, the music creates a fanciful real-world where the members are free to manifest hostility against those ones that do not belong to their caste. Naturally, countless other factors could listed as being behind violent racism. However, by analyzing that childhood — the most sensible stage of human life — has been distorced as an efficient strategy to promote extremism, it is not exaggerated to say that society already has a hard challenge to solve in its fight by racial equality. And considering the influence of extremist books and music, such a battle can be seen as the modern civil war.



Thiago Nascimento

My tripod of interests: Mathematics, Computer Science, and Content Writing.