Why the Rise of Racial-Ethnic Nationalism?

American Brownpants

American Brownpants.jpg
[Source: Anthony Crider, Charlottesville "Unite the Right" Rally, 8/12/2017]

The new millennium has seen a marked increase in parties and movements which appeal to racial and ethnic nationalism. What’s behind it? I have an idea.

Economic globalization could be a factor, as multinational corporations have shifted operations and production around the globe, to places where labor is cheaper and there’s less official concern for public well-being. That’s meant the loss of skilled-labor jobs in a number of countries with relatively high wages and state regulation in the name of public interest. There’s doubtless anger that such jobs have been lost to Mexicans, Chinese, Filipinos, and people of other nations. But there’s also evidence that this racial-ethnic anger is local and less abstract. Something else has triggered highly authoritarian Conservatives, I think.

The studies of Conservatives and authoritarians which I’ve cited in previous essays [here and here] suggested that these individuals are more sensitive to, and more alarmed by, conditions which present them with uncertainty. Any change from the status quo will do that. Consequently, any perceived deviation from the traditional order, with its established culture and hierarchies, will cause them to band together and fight for the status quo ante.

It’s my hypothesis that, in many nations around the world, the 21st Century brought with it the increased presence and upward mobility of populations which Conservative/authoritarian citizens considered non-traditional and lower status. Conservative/authoritarian citizens would have viewed these social changes as threats to their traditional cultures and hierarchies, and they would have taken political actions intended to conserve or restore their traditional orders [e.g., to “Make America Great Again”].

Between 2000 and 2015, estimated global migration increased from about 173 million migrants to 244 million migrants, a jump of 41% (if I did the math correctly). Here are the top 10 countries to which they migrated:

Top 10 Countries receiving migrants.jpg

The USA has been the major destination for immigrants for a long time. The following chart presents the Census data on the numbers of foreign-born individuals in the USA from 1850 to 2010, as well as [by the line graph] their percentage of the total U.S. population.

USA Immigration History in graphs.jpg

The graphs show that the foreign-born percentage of the U.S. population exceeded 10% from 1860 to 1940. Did anything happen politically in response to immigration in this period? Oh, yeah.

Here’s a timeline of major political events in the USA concerning immigration between 1860 and 1940:

President Lincoln signs “An Act to Encourage Immigration,” which welcomes immigrant contract labor.

A treaty with China welcomes Chinese immigration.

Immigrant percentage of the U.S. population hits 14.4%

The “Chinese Exclusion Act” is passed, denying entry to Chinese immigrants. Now many Americans are calling them the “Yellow Peril.”

The “Alien Contract Labor Law” is passed “to prohibit the importation and migration of foreigners and aliens under contract or agreement to perform labor.” It reverses Lincoln’s 1864 “Act to Encourage Immigration.”

Immigrant percentage of the U.S. population hits 14.8%

The “Immigration Act of 1891” excludes more categories of immigrants considered undesirable, including “aliens assisted by others by payment of passage.”

Immigrant percentage of the U.S. population hits 14.7%

Congress passes the “Emergency Quota Act,” which establishes national immigration quotas based on the 1910 census. It’s claimed that this Act was “mainly in response to the large influx of Jews fleeing persecution in Eastern Europe.”

The “Immigration Act of 1924” is passed, to continue excluding Asian immigrants and further reduce immigration quotas for Southern and Eastern Europe. It’s said that the main purpose of this Act “was to preserve the ideal of U.S. homogeneity.”

Because of the Great Depression, President Hoover engages in large-scale repatriations and deportations.

After 1940, the foreign-born percentage of the U.S. population declined dramatically, down to 4.7% in 1970. There followed a period in which immigrants were once more welcomed to the USA:

The “Bracero Program” permits Mexicans to work farms in the U.S.

McCarran-Walter Act ends exclusion of Asian immigrants.

Immigration & Naturalization Act of 1965 ends national origin quotas and emphasizes family reunification.

Simpson-Mazzoli Act grants amnesty to over 3 million undocumented immigrants.

However, since 2000, the foreign-born percentage of the U.S. population has again exceeded 10%. Once again there are demands for anti-immigrant government policies.

Immigrant percentage of the U.S. population hits 11.1%

REAL ID Act of 2005 includes provisions which make it harder to immigrate on the basis of asylum.

After Barack Obama becomes President, some Conservatives immediately begin to suggest that he isn’t qualified for the office, because his father was a Muslim from Kenya.

obama kenya sign.jpg

Immigrant percentage of the U.S. population hits 12.9%

President Obama signs two Executive Orders which have the effect of delaying deportation for millions of illegal immigrants.

A centerpiece of Donald Trump’s campaign for the Presidency is his insistence on curbing immigration, with a ban on Muslims and a wall to keep out Mexicans. After he becomes President, his language continues to reflect disdain for immigrants from predominantly Muslim, Hispanic and Black countries. I don’t think this requires citations. We’ve all heard of his remarks.

President Trump signs Executive Orders which repeal the 2014 Executive Orders that delayed deportation of immigrants who arrived as minors or became parents of children born in America. He also ends Temporary Protected Status for Haitian, Nicaraguan and Sudanese immigrants and attempts to ban immigration from several Muslim-majority countries.

At a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, right-wing marchers chant slogans like “You will not replace us!” As explained by the Southern Poverty Law Center, this is a reference to their fear that white people and white culture are under attack from multiculturalism and nonwhite races.

Conservative commentator Tucker Carlson

… told viewers the immigrants were coming “to change your country forever.” … In March, Carlson railed against “changing demographics in America,” asking viewers “how would you feel if that happened in your neighborhood?” In a fear-mongering January segment about Spanish-speaking grade school children, a Carlson guest blamed kids for cementing “Arizona's future as a Hispanic society.”

The Trump Administration officially adopts immigration policies which have the effect of separating immigrant parents from their children and sending the children to relatives, foster homes and detention centers, sometimes without documentation. Also, in his attempt to get more funding from Congress for his Mexican border wall, President Trump forced the U.S. government into its longest shutdown on record. Now he is proposing that asylum-seekers, most of whom are poor, pay fees for their asylum applications.

I would say that, overall, U.S. history shows a pretty clear association between high percentages of immigrants in the population and the rise of racial-ethnic nationalism in the form of demands for immigrant exclusion. But why?

Some apologists for anti-immigrant actions insist that immigrants hurt us economically, or threaten us with higher rates of crime. But unemployment has hardly ever been lower. Yes, wages have stagnated, but employers set wage rates, not immigrants. High-paying jobs have been moved overseas, but not because of immigrants. Have immigrants caused drug prices to skyrocket? No. Pharmaceutical companies did that all on their own, because they can. Fewer immigrants won’t change that. Is school loan debt ballooning due to immigrants? No. It’s due at least in part to our system of commercial colleges and private loans. Having fewer immigrants won’t change that. Do immigrants increase crime rates? Because of differences in data collecting, it’s not entirely clear, but there is evidence that, overall, immigrants “do not commit crimes at a higher rate than non-immigrants, and that higher concentrations of immigrants do not lead to higher rates of violent crime.”

Moreover, legal and illegal immigration to the U.S. actually has been declining for many years.

But it doesn’t matter to U.S. Conservatives. They still see too many immigrants around them.

Based on psychological studies of Conservatives and Authoritarians (which I discussed in essays here and here), it appears that people with Conservative political orientations are typically more anxious and uncomfortable in circumstances which present them with uncertainties – like social change. They will want to reduce their anxiety and discomfort over social change, so they will take actions calculated to conserve their traditional cultures and hierarchies.

There must be a point at which immigrants present a visible social change that creates alarm and anxiety among Conservatives. They will not be comfortable with having people in their midst who don’t look like them, who don’t behave like them, who don’t speak like them and/or who don’t share their religion. The default assumption among such Conservatives will be that these immigrants are potential threats to their traditional cultures and hierarchies. So they will treat them as such, and demand that their governments treat them as such.

In my view, this alarm is wildly exaggerated. Every country needs to control its borders, of course. Immigrants, especially waves of refugees, do present adjustment issues. But not enough to warrant “shut” borders, family separations and indefinite detentions. Immigration also has its benefits:

“Countries of destination benefit significantly from migration as migrants often fill critical labour gaps, create jobs as entrepreneurs, and pay taxes and social security contributions. Some migrants are among the most dynamic members of the host society contributing to the development of science and technology and enriching their host communities by providing cultural diversity.”

United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs
International Migration Report 2017: Highlights

Unfortunately, every time President Trump threatens to close the border and make immigration harder, he provokes another wave of would-be immigrants, desperate to get in before the hammer falls. Then the new wave further alarms Conservatives and provokes them to demand still harsher conditions for immigrants.

Worse still, research suggests that we’re already seeing migrants from areas of the world hit hard by climate change. This is expected to continue, and it will probably further inflame Conservatives.

Fortunately, our Conservative faction doesn’t yet have the power to unilaterally determine the policies and practices within our political economy. That depends on whether the Liberal faction can organize and mobilize sufficiently in the coming years to get recognition and satisfaction of our value priorities: cultural freedom and equal treatment.


1. For an article with a similar perspective, see “U.S. could face prolonged era of anti-immigrant fever.”

2. The first graph in this essay identifies the “Ten countries with the largest number of international migrants, 1990, 2000 and 2013.” What is happening politically in the other nine countries?

Racial-ethnic movements, specifically anti-immigrant, are said to be growing in Russia, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Canada, Australia, and Spain.

Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates already are authoritarian conservative states. Tradition and hierarchy are, and long have been, fundamental elements of their politics. It’s reported that, since early 2013, Saudi Arabia has been brutal and abusive in its detention and expulsion of immigrants. UAE welcomes migrant laborers, but almost none will obtain citizenship, and their stay will often include discrimination, abuse and exploitation. Complaining publicly about such conditions will get you jailed and deported.

3. Why aren’t Liberals equally agitated by the increased presence of immigrants?

The research I cited in previous essays [such as here and here] indicates that Liberals are more open to experience, more sensation-seeking, novelty-seeking, curious, creative, and rebellious. Through cognitive intervention, Liberals experience less uncertainty anxiety than Conservatives. Therefore, in contrast to Conservatives, Liberals will place less value on traditional culture and hierarchies. Liberals will instead place more value on cultural freedom and status equality. I think that’s why Liberals are less anxious about having more immigrants around and more anxious about Conservative efforts to impose traditional culture [e.g., through anti-abortion laws] and unequal treatment [e.g., through tax laws which mostly benefit the wealthy].

4. Perhaps the waves of some refugees could be reduced by targeted, strategic international assistance to their countries of origin, specifically assisting them in ways that have proven to be effective for their local problems. That could then reduce the potential for conflict and violence within their would-be host countries.

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You have a very Russian-y name.


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The earth is a multibillion-year-old sphere.
The Nazis killed millions of Jews.
On 9/11/01 a Boeing 757 (AA77) flew into the Pentagon.
AGCC is happening.
If you cannot accept these facts, I cannot fake an interest in any of your opinions.

Bollox Ref's picture

At least the German Nazis had decent uniforms for all.

Even train drivers/postal workers/miners, etc., looked sharp, way back when.

Major fascist fail.


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from a reasonably stable genius.

snoopydawg's picture

But it doesn’t matter to U.S. Conservatives. They still see too many immigrants around them.

He not only brings immigrants into the country to work at his clubs, but his clubs hire many immigrants that aren't here legally. But his supporters don't call him out on it. He goes on and on at his rallies about how bad immigrants are screwing workers over and his supporters eat it up even though there have been many articles exposing this.

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America is a pathetic nation; a fascist state fueled by the greed, malice, and stupidity of her own people.
- strife delivery

lotlizard's picture

People “on the ground” without the benefit of an elite education or advantaged social position just see evils happening and being tolerated that were never there before, with an obvious connection to immigration which the Right may play up unfairly but which nevertheless does have a basis in reality.






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The Right. By definition, the rich and powerful aristocrats. The very people that have been replacing them with immigrants and outsourcing jobs.
Why? Well, for one thing BOTH parties have been doing it. But the Democratic Party is the one attacking poor whites as evil white men, that exalt immigrants over the native born, that engage in racist and sexist attacks most heavily, openly scorning the "deplorables" and their values. In the Sixties and Seventies, Democrats, at least Northern Democrats, promoted racial equality and harmony. Early feminists stressed their desire for equal treatment, not preferential treatment. But as the Party's electoral success waned, largely due to the hated War and ineptitude of Jimmy Carter, the elite sought to use non-whites and women to lock in electoral success and started their racist and sexist campaign.
Affirmative Action is no more than racial/sexual discrimination, culminating now in calls for reparations. My ancestors from the middle 19th century were serfs, no better off than slaves with the sole exception that they were bound to the land, forbidden to ever leave, hence could not be bought or sold. Do the present day governments of Italy, Austria, and Hungary owe me reparations? Of course not! The people that committed those atrocities in both Europe and North America are long dead. To claim reparations from their great-great-grandchildren as well as those whose ancestors never lived in the USA during the slavery era is nothing but "an attainder of the blood". I have read that young Germans resent being blamed for the Holocaust that occurred before their parents and sometimes grandparents were even born. Maybe Mimi, who lives there, can confirm or deny this.

Naively, I thought the man that said, "I'm not white and I'm not black, I'm both", was the one who could lead us out of this morass of mutual hate. But, he turned out to be just another corrupt Chicago politician.

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We are so screwed.

lotlizard's picture

@The Voice In the Wilderness  
none of that history applies, since Hawaii was an independent country until 1898.

In Hawaiian history, the wrong from which every other wrong follows was the American-led 1893 “regime change.”

The Number One thing stolen from the people of Hawaii was their sovereignty and political agency.

Genuine restitution would mean first restoring Hawaii as an independent country and national homeland of the Hawaiians, then paying reparations to that Hawaiian government.

Since that’s not going to happen, you know “reparations” in Hawaii are just going to be another boondoggle, a grab for federal monies, silly historically just as funding Oahu’s H-1, H-2, and H-3 as “interstate” highways is silly geographically.

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Lookout's picture

Between climate collapse and our Latin American coups destabilizing our neighbors, I suspect many, many more migrants. Ironic T-rump creates the problem, perhaps to justify his wall.

In the 90's our county rapidly grew to a 10% Hispanic population. They were brought in to work the fields, chicken houses, and sock mills. The sock mills have now off shored seeking even cheaper labor. The Latinx remain here and have added much good to our community. Excellent food and produce, labor, and culture. The local schools now celebrate cinco de mayo.

However, many locals don't see it that way...I mean hey it's Alabama. This is T-rump country and they blindly support him and his racists policies (which sadly are part of the local culture for decades/centuries).

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

It is culture clash. Not enough time to assimilate.

Detroit Doctor Charged With Performing Female Genital Mutilation
April 13, 2017 at 12:01 pm

According to the criminal complaint, some of the minor victims traveled from other states to have Nagarwala perform the procedure — which typically involves the surgical removal of a female’s clitoris or labia, sometimes for religious or cultural reasons.

Authorities say the girls ranged from approximately 6 to 8 years old.

One alleged victim, 7-year-old Minnesota resident, told an FBI agent she was bought by her parents to Detroit with another child for what she was told was a “special girls trip.” Once she arrived, she was told she and the other girl had to go to the clinic “because our tummies hurt,” and that the procedure preformed by the doctor would “get the germs out.” The girl said she was told not to tell anyone about it.

I can't stomach Christianity, let alone Sharia. We'll never become civilized as a nation if we keep bringing in hordes of people from highly religiousized cultures in numbers large enough to impact the rest of us. Like all things, there has to be a balance and a tipping point. Too many people arriving with behaviors normal in one place and not another can be misled into believing the behaviors and beliefs they bring with them are "normal" in their new nation too. I use religious in the broadest sense. To me this label can include irrational and fanatic beliefs like women not being able to drive or belonging in the kitchen barefoot, pregnant, cooking, and cleaning. You know, needing to be smacked around occasionally so they don't forget their place.

If not wanting these people around me in such numbers that they make it impossible for American women to get birth control,then I'm all for building walls, closing tunnels and bridges. If I go into a church in Italy, I am expected to cover my shoulders and knees. If I go to Dubai, I am expected not to kiss someone in public.

Life in complicated. Being anti-immigrant and pro-immigrant can both be rational when viewed from their proper places. What amazes me is that no one asks why we have so many people wanting to come to the US when it totally sucks. Maybe if we quit blowing up their homes and families and stop installing dictators to terrorize them so corps can steal their resources, we'd have a healthy, welcoming balance.

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"Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

Like mass starvation and disease?

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We are so screwed.

@The Voice In the Wilderness

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"Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

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We are so screwed.

edg's picture


Maybe if we quit blowing up their homes and families and stop installing dictators to terrorize them so corps can steal their resources, we'd have a healthy, welcoming balance.

Exactly right.

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The Aspie Corner's picture

And yet the Shitpants and Color Imperialists don't have two brain cells to rub together to make the connection.

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Modern education is little more than toeing the line for the capitalist pigs.

Guerrilla Liberalism won't liberate the US or the world from the iron fist of capital.

are different sides of the same coin. Democrats have developed the "unite the factions" strategy with targeted campaigns to wronged and victimized groups. The main message on identity to come out is that whites, esp. white males are the main cause of every ill since the dawn of time, even if they don't know it. Whites are not the majority anymore, and the factions outnumber them. There are the votes.

If you lean towards the left and are white you are encountering a mixed message of duty and guilt. Your identity is being painted on you. And much of that paint is colored by the projection of white nationalism on even the left leaning whites.

It can be said that that's what whites, in their arrogance, do to everyone else. It might be true. From my observation I don't see that most people think about their identity in relation to other identities, but there are a few that stick out that you mostly don't want to know.

This is where the republicans are filling a vacuum, a space that didn't need to be filled. A space where whites HAVE to choose identity, according to the r's. If you don't feel you fit on one side anymore, then there's the other side. Many shades of white nationalism. Much of it is about feelings. It's where passion lies.

The law used to be the embodiment of justice and fairness. We knew what good law was, in it's fairness, and bad law. This has been replaced by fear,emotion, taunts and anger.

And so, it's one side or the other, or turn your back and take no side.

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lotlizard's picture


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@Snode It is getting to the point where there will soon be a white people's party, and an everybody else's party. White people are still more than half of the American population and even if they get to the point where they are less than half they will still be the dominant population of America for a long time. They will still likely be the dominant population in a vast majority of states and counties probably for the rest of this century.

But if the clamor of "its the white races' fault for every ill in the world," doesn't soon stop, whites will have no choice but to form their own party (without calling it that). We already have such a party, and that party is just biding its time, waiting for the rest of the whites to feel they have no choice but to join it.

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traveled to 20 different countries (on whose dime, I wonder). Conversation generally reveals that Mr. Sophisticated Traveler has an intimate acquaintance with the bars, brothels and hostels of any number of different countries, but don't be so rude as to ask him (it usually is a him) about the history, literature, culture, or current political situation of anywhere he has visited.

There is no need to be insulting. Folks who are living paycheck to paycheck and can barely pay the rent and utilities are likely to be alarmed by and sensitive to "conditions which present them with uncertainty", and with good reason.

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edg's picture

Immigrants from many countries are conservative with a small "c". Indians, for example, are generally culturally and politically conservative. As are Muslims from many nations. In a sane world, Conservatives with a big "C" would welcome fellow conservatives with open arms.

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rabidly anti-Muslim, pro-war in the Middle East (against Muslims) and sicially conservative in general. They are roughly 50% Republican, 50% DNC Democrats. They LOVED Hillary.

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We are so screwed.

earthling1's picture

Much food for thought.

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After six years, still getting robo-calls from Marriot Hotels.
They're like herpes.

From your essay: The studies of Conservatives and authoritarians which I’ve cited in previous essays [here and here] suggested that these individuals are more sensitive to, and more alarmed by, conditions which present them with uncertainty. Any change from the status quo will do that. Consequently, any perceived deviation from the traditional order, with its established culture and hierarchies, will cause them to band together and fight for the status quo ante.

It’s my hypothesis that, in many nations around the world, the 21st Century brought with it the increased presence and upward mobility of populations which Conservative/authoritarian citizens considered non-traditional and lower status. Conservative/authoritarian citizens would have viewed these social changes as threats to their traditional cultures and hierarchies, and they would have taken political actions intended to conserve or restore their traditional orders [e.g., to “Make America Great Again”].

Newsflash buddy - it ain't the conservatives wailing and keening over Trump. Did you see any c's sitting and screaming in the streets when Obama was elected?It's not the c's who are trying to overthrow a duly elected president, pushing propaganda every single day. It's not the c's who are attacking people who are wearing political statements; it's not the c's telling everyone to run people out of restaurants, movies, and shops. It's not the c's who spied on a political campaign. It's not the c's repeatedly calling for impeachment for various republicans. It's not the c's screaming for any number of people to resign. It's not the c's imagining criminal activity based on nothing.

Trump is a disruptor, and who is crying about his disruptions? The dem side. Who keeps talking with wide-eyed hysteria about Trump being oh so dangerous, he's a dictator, he's a fascist, oh noes. The dem side (who cares if Obama did the same thing).

As for 'authoritarian,' who keeps running conservative speakers off campuses? The dem side. Who is violently attacking people who set up tables on college campuses to promote conservatism? The dem side. Who wants to suppress speech? The dem side.

Further, maybe you should consider id pol as a huge source of all the division. Everyone is so wrapped up in their own identity and their own fantasy of reality (Staci Abrams), they don't care about anyone else. An oriental guy objected to some non-oriental woman wearing an oriental inspired prom dress for 'appropriating' his culture. Really? Now id pols are complaining because the 'wrong' people are dressing a wrong way?

Exactly what do you think will happen to a group of people if id pol, id pol, and more id pol dominates?

I used to think that theories about c's were correct. That was until Trump was elected and the dems showed their true colors.

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