Boston White Supremacists Signal National Trend

It's 2019, and the ghosts of white supremacy are coming back to life, showing America that no, racism isn't dead, and it can exist pretty much anywhere — whether it be in a very liberal New England city or in the Armed Forces, where actions are regulated much more carefully.

Three men were accused this week of hanging signs in East Boston that read: “Keep America American. Report any and all illegal aliens. They are not immigrants, they are criminals.” The men, police said, were connected to a nationwide white supremacist organization called Patriot Front.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which tracks hate groups and white supremacists in the United States, Patriot Front emerged as a splinter group from Vanguard America and split from its parent group in the backlash after the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. As SPLC noted, Patriot Front “was one of a number of hate groups that sought to recast itself as mainstream, patriotic Americans by dressing up their propaganda and rhetoric in Americana.” The group calls for a white ethnostate.

The Southern Poverty Law Center noted that the group was tightly controlled and that members “must regularly engage in activism — such as posting flyers in their local communities — or risk expulsion.”

As white nationalism continues to grow, its risks to everyone become more apparent. Last week, a white nationalist was arrested as he was allegedly preparing for mass violence. Christopher Paul Hasson, a member of the Coast Guard, allegedly wrote to a prominent Nazi that, “We need a white homeland as Europe seems lost.”

“How long can we hold out there and prevent niggerization of the Northwest until whites wake up on their own or are forcibly made to make a decision whether to roll over and die or to stand up remains to be seen,” Hasson wrote, according to SPLC. It's domestic terrorism, prosecutors said, and Hasson amassed fifteen guns and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition, according to reports. His hit list included Democratic lawmakers, pundits with whom he disagreed, and noteworthy Black and Latino public figures.

The Southern Poverty Law Center noted that racists have infiltrated the ranks of the military, and Hasson wrote about his time as a “skinhead” in the Armed Forces. Yet he isn’t a lone wolf when it comes to white supremacists serving in the government, or those who are radicalized after leaving.

Surely the Boston Globe wasn't aware of Hasson's alleged plans, but white nationalists spreading propaganda in a diverse neighborhood should have received more coverage than it did. On Wednesday, the day after the three Boston men were arraigned in court, the Globe's homepage lacked details about the hate that has risen in the city. Other media outlets ran perfunctory stories about the arraignment, but they didn't note that one of those arrested worked for a BAE Systems, a British-owned multinational defense firm.

These white supremacists posted propaganda in a neighborhood the city calls “a neighborhood of immigrants,” and one that has a majority Hispanic or Latino population, according to a 2013 survey by the American Community Survey. Boston is definitely a city that can call itself a beacon to liberalism, but the city should be actively trying to change its tone when it comes to how it thinks about race — a sore spot for the city.

The worst time for racial relations came during the 1970s and ‘80s during the Boston Bus Riots, when white residents rioted after the city was forced to integrate its public schools by busing. To white Bostonians, the ruling wasn't seen as simple policy; it was seen as an act of betrayal of their race. And violence shortly followed the anger. A 2014 account from Boston public radio station WBUR described reaction to the practice of mixing races outside of neighborhoods. “Hundreds of white demonstrators — children and their parents — pelted a caravan of 20 school buses carrying students from nearly all-Black Roxbury to all-white South Boston. The police wore riot gear.”

Racial disparity hasn’t improved in the decades since the riots. According to the Boston Globe, some of the most important metrics — Black unemployment, participation among business leaders, Black elected representatives — has barely budged. Even today, Boston remains a city that can't shake racism from its core, where 54 percent of Black people believe that the city is “unwelcoming,” according to a Boston Globe survey. That's nearly twice as many people as New York, and 20 percentage points more than Philadelphia, Chicago or San Francisco.

In 2017, Adam Jones, a baseball player for the Baltimore Orioles, said he heard fans taunt him with the N-word and threw peanuts at him. The incident caused Doug Glanville, a former Major League Baseball player, to write about his negative experience in the city for The New York Times.

“The city’s reputation certainly was something I thought about in 1999 when I was on the Phillies and in Boston for a series. On three successive days, my brother and I went out to eat — or tried to. At each place the host or hostess treated us rudely, if bothering to greet us at all,” Glanville wrote. “I could not recall having had that kind of dining experience in-season anywhere else at that point in my major league career. Is it possible I happened to pick three restaurants in a row where the staff was just having a bad day? Maybe.”

In 2017, the Globe wrote that the city's racism was “not as loud and violent as it once was, and the city overall is a more tolerant place. But inequities of wealth and power persist, and racist attitudes remain powerful, even if in more subtle forms.” Two years after those words were written, the Globe did not note that its tolerant city claims were in danger and that racist attitudes weren't being expressed subtly. Instead, Boston is experiencing a returning wave of racism that is rather quickly coming out of the shadows and into the public sphere. The next phase will be bloodshed.

About the Author

Jeremy Binckes is an experienced writer and editor who has reported on news, politics, culture and sports. He was most recently a news editor at Salon, but he has written articles for a number of publications.