My Friend The Ethnonationalist

So I realize this is a bit off topic but you guys are my peers and I know you are all critical and logical thinkers. I need your help. A friend I went to college with and still talk with a lot identified himself as a strong ethnonationalist. Being unaware of the meaning of this I looked into it. It is the belief that people should live in communities with only those of the same culture and preferably the same ethnicity and national background. In fact, this little doozy happens to be at the foundation of most white supremacist and neo-nazi organizations. Scared me senseless. He and I have disagreed many times due to his rather radical conservative views and my strong liberal ones. He is also a Christian. With little ground to share, I didn't know quite where to begin.

He and I talked quite a long time about it. He explained that he is not a racist and not a segregationist (though I can't understand how) and the he believes this would eliminate much strife in the world. He went on to say that he is scared that the European/European American culture and bloodlines are dying out. He has an obsession with Russia and thinks that they would fulfill his cultural desire. He also believes the Afrikaners in South Africa have got it right and are living peacefully with the natives. He just wants to keep his culture and bloodlines unaffected.

I don't understand even a little bit of it. To me, combining cultures and "bloodlines" is a wonderful thing which furthers humanity as a whole. How can this really be seen as a positive ideal? How can I try to convince him as a good person that this goal can only lead to a negative end? I will give you as much as I can of his actual words and responses.

Let it be known that at no time will be arguing for this ideal. I may state his words and reasons in response to you so I can question further, but it is not me arguing for it. Thank you for any help you can offer. I find this very upsetting.
faithinhumanity faithinhumanity 22-25, F 8 Responses Feb 1, 2011

Your Response


Thanks for all your input guys. I really appreciate it.

chalas-oddly enough, he identifies the most with his Russian heritage. Though he still calls it European, despite Russia being in Asia. I think it really does come back to the white thing.

FT-I think you are right. I think he longs for that traditional conservative type community and just found something that fit with that the best. I still don't get it, but it's weird. He claims he doesn't want everyone to have to live in a community like he wants. I think this is the best way he can rationalize that. He gets his white conservative community and everyone else can live in their own community the way they want to. He just doesn't understand that it's impossible.

I've never really understood all the hullaballoo over "protecting" culture. Whatever we're living in IS the culture! Culture warriors generally just use culture as an excuse to push their agenda. Here in India, the far right uses the term "traditional Indian culture" constantly to push their conservative ideas, while the centrists and libertarians use the term "modern culture" to push their own ideas.

In the context of American conservative ethnonationalism, it's most probably little more than an epithet for a White, heterosexual, fifties-style America.

What does not make sense to me is: IF he is an American, what culture is he trying to preserve?

Well, he is entitled to his opinions, although I certainly do not share them. I myself am a mix of nationalities as are many if not most americans. I do not see either how people living within ethnically pure communities would end war and strife -- many wars are fought in the name of race, to expand the space that one nationality has at the expense of another. Also, how to define "race" is tricky too. What is an "italian" or a "swiss" or a "canadian" or (ooops!) a yugoslavian -- (WAR!)

I have not read much about it. But I think is a good read for your issue.

Realistically, what your friend wants is a near impossible thing to achieve. I would recommended to let him realize that by himself. However, keep an eye on him and make sure he does not turn into a white supremacist.

Tell him that the entire idea is moot. Very VERY few people (if any at all) are "purely" one race. The royal family in the UK comes to mind when trying to think of anyone who is pure white... and I doubt that their bloodline is completely "pure." (Using words like "pure" to describe a human being is horribly disturbing and sickening to me, btw.)

Take me for example. By looking at me you would say that I am Irish or Scottish. I am stark white, I have red hair, blue eyes. I do have Scottish ancestors BUT I also have Native American ancestors...(and no I'm not just one of those people who say that). We have plenty of records of our family genealogy so I know exactly what I am made of.

My sister looks completely different than I do. My sister and my dad have more of the Native American Cherokee traits where as my brother, mom, and myself have more of the Scottish traits.

My point is: this friend of yours better have plenty of historical documentation to back up his "pure" bloodline if he is going to dream about "ethnonationalism" or more accurately entitled, "ethnic cleansing." Most of those red neck white supremacists who meet in shacks in their back yards are Heinz 57s. I would say that 99.999999% of Americans are "Heinz 57s" and that's a GOOD thing!

With everything that we know about evolution (not that a Christian would accept the facts) it is pointless to think that any human being is "pure."

Unfortunately, a lot of people are very stubborn to change the way that they think. So, any points that you bring up might not lead him to change his mind. A lot of conservative Christians aren't exactly known for their aptness to change their world view. They pretty much stick with what their parents drilled into their heads when they were young.

You might observe him and point out his physical features and traits and ask him if HE is "pure" white.

I know I made all the same points to him. The first he simply doesn't believe. He says that because there will still be trade between communities they will see each other as equals. As ridiculous as that idea is. I also tried to explain to him that there really is no such thing as just one specific culture. It is always changing and evolving and would literally be impossible to regulate. He just believes so strongly that a group who could all agree on the same ruled would be different. In order for that happen though, the group would be so small they could hardly be their own sovereign community. He says he should just live up in the mountains by himself for it. I think that is the only way he can come close to "preserving his culture." I just don't get the mindset at all. I want to learn about as many cultures as I can and I see beauty of the ebbs and flows in human sociology. Why would you ever want it to stagnate?

I know he is a good person and doesn't hate others because they are different. If he did I wouldn't even discuss it with him. I just don't get his obsession with purity. It seems so intrinsically wrong.

Well, first, I think he's quite right in saying that he's not really a racist. Racism involves hatred of other races/ethnicities.

His worldview is not such an uncommon one and I personally find such ideas completely absurd. For one thing, strife usually does not occur between people living together in the same community. It occurs when one community is massed together in one place whereas the other is massed in a separate place. Ethnonationalism is counterproductive in preventing strife because by separating communities and reducing contact between them, it makes it much easier for radicals to demonize "the other". A simple example : if you have many gay friends and interact with them often, you're unlikely to see them as devilish or evil. But if you've never met a gay person in your life, it's much easier to be convinced that homosexuality is evil and that homosexuals are out to recruit children. Similarly, if you've never met an atheist, it wouldn't be that hard for you to accept that they're bitter, angry and sad people. But if you meet them on a daily basis, this kind of a generalization will set off alarm bells because you'll have your own set of experiences to draw inferences from.

The greater the intermingling of different people of different communities, the harder it becomes to portray a community as a monster and thereby create discord.

By completely separating communities, ethnonationalistic policies would create a generation of citizens who would have never had any kind of regular contact outside of their own little world and would fail to ingrain in them the basic concepts of cultural and social tolerance. Enforced homogenity is not a good idea.

As for culture, well culture does not need guardians. Culture is living, breathing, dynamic, everchanging. A culture frozen in time is a culture dead. It is not possible nor desirable to tightly control or "preserve" the culture of a particular place. Plurality brings depth, strength, resilience and variety to culture.

In biological terms, a varied bloodline is always preferred over a highly homogenous one. But he's welcome to try and keep his own pure if he wants to. It's quite a trivial thing, not worth getting riled up about and certainly not something to force people into.