White supremacist, white nationalist, alt-right: What's the difference?

The terms white supremacist, white nationalist, alt-right, and neo-Nazi have been used almost interchangeably. But one expert says when the terms are used as shock or to provoke the potential or reality of violence, that's when you get into trouble.

HOUSTON - The people protesting the removal of a Confederate statue in the showdown in Charlottesville have been described by several terms: white supremacists, white nationalists, the Alt-Right movement, and neo-Nazis, just to name a few.

In many reports and on the streets, those terms are used interchangeably. So, what’s the difference?

"’White supremacist’ and ‘white nationalist’ are not all that different,” said Dr. Cary Wintz, Distinguished Professor of History and Interim Chair of the Department of History at Texas Southern University.

Dr. Wintz, whose website says he specializes in “African American history… and racial and political ideology in the early 20th century”, says white nationalism is basically an ideology that asserts the rights of white people.

"’White supremacist’ is a little bit more provocative because it asserts the right of whites as being superior,” said Dr. Wintz, who describes both groups as ‘right-wing’. “’White nationalist’ sort of means that they believe that whites should control the society that they’re living in."

Dr. Wintz says 'Alt-Right', a term popularized by Richard Spencer, is more loosely defined and came into usage recently to describe a group of people even more the right of the Republican party's conservative wing.

"That they were an alternate, more extreme, more pure,” said Dr. Wintz, who says there are similar extremist groups on the left. “When it gets out in the public, these terms evolve and their meanings evolve."

Dr. Wintz says when the terms are used as shock or to provoke the potential or reality of violence, that's when words can cause problems.

"I don't think there's any difference between a white supremacist and a white nationalist,” said Dr. James M. Douglas, President of the NAACP Houston Branch and Interim Dean of TSU’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law.

Dr. Douglas describes the violence in Charlottesville as “unlike anything we've seen in the last 20 or 30 years” and says he believes it’s happening now because people who have been “under the radar for years” now have a president that supports their beliefs.

Douglas says he believes President Donald Trump needs to help our country evolve from the kind of viewpoints on display in Charlottesville, no matter what the label.

"I do believe that if we're gonna heal, the President, who is supposed to be a moral leader of this nation, is gonna have to act as a moralist and a peacemaker,” said Dr. Douglas.

Dr. Douglas says he's meeting Monday night with some local ministers to come up with a plan to help the country move forward.
 

© 2017 KHOU-TV


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