As they marched through Charlottesville, Virginia, Saturday, the pack of white supremacists chanted “you will not replace us.” Their rallying cry prompted a viral Twitter thread in which the user Julius Goat asked, “Replaced as ... what?”
“I would so love to see these people get all the oppression they insist they receive, just for a year. Just to see,” he wrote.
It may seem puzzling that the racism of these white men—the most powerful group of people in the world—is motivated by a sense that they’ll be wiped away somehow. But according to research on white supremacists, a sense of victimhood is exactly what groups like these use to grow their cause.
In a 2000 article, the sociologist Mitch Berbrier examined dozens of white supremacist media appearances and publications and discovered a pattern of carefully crafted victim ideology. Victimhood, it seemed, is how the groups assured themselves they weren’t being racist—the excuse being that, hey, they’re suffering too.
In his study, Berbrier found that white supremacists believe:
(1) that whites are victims of discrimination
White supremacists seem aggrieved by their sense that civil rights movement has tipped the balance in favor of minority groups. Here, Berbrier cites David Duke’s organization, the National Association for the Advancement of White People, as positioning itself as a counterpoint to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People:
The NAACP promotes racial discrimination by seeking discriminatory policies against white people in employment, promotions, scholarships, and in college and union admittance, while the NAAWP seeks equal opportunity for all, with preference for the hardest-working, most talented, and best-qualified ... The NAAWP seeks greater racial understanding and goodwill by showing that when all things are considered, blacks have enjoyed far more benefits from whites than they have endured privation. American blacks have the highest standard of living, the greatest educational and employment opportunity, and by far the most democratic and civil rights of any blacks anywhere in the world. (NAAWP News, 1980)
The group’s newsletter, the NAAWP News, ran items with headlines such as "Anti-White Discrimination Accelerates,” Berbrier notes. Today, this sentiment survives as the myth that affirmative action, for instance, constitutes “reverse racism.”