Column: White supremacy comes in all colors. 2023 will make this impossible to ignore

Hate comes in all colors.

On the one hand, Republicans managed to elect more Black members to Congress than at any point since the late 1800s — for what will be a total of five when new members are sworn in this month. Most are, at least on the surface, more restrained in their politics. On the other hand, the Black Republican candidate who drew the most attention in 2022 was Herschel Walker, an unabashed promoter of conspiracy theories and an inspiration for football-loving, white supremacists everywhere. 

Walker thankfully lost his bid to replace Raphael Warnock, another Black man and a Democrat, as Georgia’s junior senator. But it’s telling that Republicans were so shameless about embracing him as some sort of mindless prop, supposed proof that their party couldn’t possibly be racist since it had a Black man as a candidate. 

But, I’ve got to say, when I think of people of color and extremism, the person who most comes to mind is Kanye West — or Ye, as I guess we’re calling him these days. What did you think of him sporting that “White Lives Matter” T-shirt at Paris Fashion Week last year and descending into a series of antisemitic rants and conspiracy theories on TV? Oh, and having dinner at Mar-a-Lago with former President Trump and white supremacist podcaster Nick Fuentes?

What those theories also have in common — and what’s relevant to understanding people of color embracing extremism — is that they all purport to be about protecting the traditional family structure. And by that I mean straight men in power and women happily subservient to their alpha males. That’s a seductive world view for a certain type of guy, regardless of race. It uses Christianity as its justification, melding the whole mess with Christian nationalism. There’s a lot of overlap in these ideologies, and a lot of flexibility. 

I’ve seen this firsthand with the Proud Boys, some of whom, like their leader, Enrique Tarrio, are Latino, especially in the Central Valley. Over the last few years, they’ve turned out in increasing numbers at antiabortion rallies. Now they have an organized campaign against transgender people, centering on drag shows.

When I hear them talk, it’s often with this grievance-driven narrative: That liberalism is attempting to destroy their masculinity, and they must protect their children from the same fate. That can encompass rejecting vaccines, requiring women to carry unwanted pregnancies or stopping gender nonconformity. 

That righteous warrior bit is nothing new, but it’s powerful bait for luring others into extremism, and it crosses a lot of demographic and geographic lines. And to be clear, just like white supremacy can co-opt people of color, misogyny can lure plenty of women who support those views of masculinity and family.