It Can Happen Here: White Genocide and Lessons from Trump’s USA
Rutgers University, United States of America
If many people were shocked by Trump’s 2016 election, many more were stunned when, months later, white power extremists took to the streets of Charlottesville chanting “Blood and Soil” and “Jews will not replace us!” Like Trump, the Charlottesville marchers were dismissed as aberrations --the momentary appearance of “racists” and “haters” who did not represent the real United States. Rather than being exceptional, these events are symptoms of the country’s long history of racism and systemic white supremacy, genocide, and atrocity crimes. And, as underscored by the Capitol riot that ended Trump’s term, there is a high likelihood that such violence will occur here again. This reality, the author argues in a just published book, It Can Happen Here: White Power and the Rising Threat of Genocide in the US, is a key lesson we learned from the Trump presidency. It is also a lesson that is connected to the white power frame of white genocide, or the feared extinction of the white race that legitimates race war and even the genocide of non-whites in response. This paper discusses the origins of this idea and its connection to the pre– and post–civil rights history of white power extremism—ranging from the systemic white supremacy that informed settler colonial genocide and slavery to the ideology of contemporary groups like the alt-right. The paper concludes by noting how the idea of white genocide was directly mobilized not just by groups like the alt-right, but mainstream media and the Trump administration.
Alexander Laban Hinton, It Can Happen Here: White Power and the Rising Threat of Genocide in the US (New York: NYU Press, 2021).
Never Again, Again and Again: Repetition of Holocaust Education as Anti-Racism in the 21st Century
Rutgers University Newark
This paper will discuss whether Holocaust education (HE) has been given too much responsibility as a one-size-fits-all antiracism initiative- with special focus on its current role as state-mandated or core curricula across Europe and the United States- its efficacy, and particularly recent attempts by Holocaust remembrance institutions to use new digital technologies to reach current generations of young people and convince them of their relevance in an age of aggressively competing and conflicting information streams.
With anti-racist education initiatives denounced as inflammatory and divisive by both the US and UK governments in 2020, HE initiatives are often positioned as the key source of institutional anti-racism education across Europe and the US. 2020’s widespread public demonstrations seeking racial justice shows that many feel race and racism are not being sufficiently addressed- yet the USHMM model of using HE to train local and federal policing departments in empathy and tolerance remains. As a genocide scholar and instructor at a state university campus ranked 'most diverse in America,' I have seen students question the universality of HE as a sufficient civics- rather than history- lesson particularly given Newark’s history of riots and negative police relations. New Jersey also has state mandated HE before higher education- yet during lessons on conflict and human rights, students have voiced a frustration at the limitation of HE (in which it is tasked with too much and expected to provide a universal example in a complicated contemporary society) while other case studies of genocide and mass violence are relegated to niche college classes or specific disciplines like the humanities. Remote learning saw lessons distilled into online formats during increasingly turbulent times- robbing institutions like USHMM of their on-site power and tour programming- but perhaps also allow for a reimagining of this educational space without geographical restrictions or borders.
Unsettling Narratives: Teaching About Genocide [in the United States (a Settler Colonial Nation-State)]
University of Minnesota, United States of America
Despite the widespread nature of Holocaust education and the growing prevalence of comparative genocide education in secondary schools across the United States (Totten, 2012), little is known about what is taught, let alone how and why teachers approach genocide education. For many secondary educators, teaching about the Holocaust has led to greater awareness and inclusion of other instances of genocide and mass violence within their curriculum. Greater inclusion has the potential to provide greater clarity around how and why genocides continue to occur, despite promulgations of “never again”; to expand students’ awareness of events, places, and peoples that have been traditionally underrepresented in U.S. curriculum; and engender notions of democratic citizenship and tolerance. However, some instances of genocide and mass violence, particularly those tied to difficult national and local histories, remain absented from or hidden within the curriculum, either excluded from the course of study altogether or, when included, not discussed as genocide (Hinton et al., 2014). In the United States, these include narratives of mass violence perpetrated against Indigenous nations and peoples, the enslavement of African Americans, and violence perpetrated against other minoritized groups.
Taking up settler colonialism theory (Tuck & Yang, 2012; Wolfe, 2006; Veracini, 2010, as well as the notion of difficult knowledge (Garrett, 2017; Pitt & Britzman, 2003) and multidirectional memory (Rothberg, 2009), this qualitative study explores non-Indigenous secondary social studies (history and social science) educators’ perceptions of and approaches to teaching about national and local histories and legacies of Indigenous dispossession and genocide and African American enslavement and disenfranchisement within the context of comparative genocide elective courses and units of instruction. Further, this paper seeks to demonstrate and analyze the limits of and possibilities for comparative genocide education within public secondary schools in the United States, a settler colonial nation-state.
Genocide, Reproductive Violence, and Slavery in the United States of America
Keene State College, United States of America
The history of genocide and the history of slavery are usually considered to be two separate fields of study, linked only by their shared association with large-scale human rights abuses. Comparative approaches, such as Steven Katz’s recent The Holocaust and New World Slavery (2019), tend to emphasize differences, such as the pronatalism of US plantation slavery versus the anti-natalism and mass murder of the Holocaust, to make the case that genocide and slavery constitute ontologically separate processes. This paper will use the insights of gender scholarship and postcolonial studies to make the case that North American slavery was indeed a form of genocide and that it should constitute a central case study within an ‘American model’ of genocide. In particular, this paper will examine the familiarities between reproductive violence on US slave plantations and reproductive violence during classic cases of genocide, emphasizing the deep conceptual, ideological, and historical connections between policies of anti-natalism and pro-natalism (useless bodies and valuable bodies), that together reflect a genocidal logic. In so doing, the paper will bring North American slavery into the case history of genocide by using precisely the distinctions that are usually made to separate these two crimes.