White nationalism has no ground in the immigration debate

Alyssa Fernandez

From Brexit to burqa bans, 2016 has seen a global rise in white nationalist movements. Even in the U.S. the popularity of Trump and the alt-right can be associated with white nationalistic sentiments. Especially in the background of this election, the words ‘nationalism’ and ‘immigration’ cannot be said without relating back to either the absence or presence of racism.

In other words, when white nationalists defend their views against immigration on a platform of nationalism, the discussion should not focus on their offensive language or beliefs. These criticisms ignore what is fundamentally wrong with this argument, which is that white nationalism has no cultural foundation in the U.S. in the first place. 

In many cases, people tend to ignore what white nationalism really means and dismiss it as white supremacy. What is problematic about this dismissal is that it ignores where the real problem lies and that is necessary to see why it has no purpose in the U.S. Therefore, it must be properly defined.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, nationalism is “a feeling that people have of being loyal to and proud of their country often with the belief that it is better and more important than other countries.” 

Herein lies the problem with nationalism — the belief of superiority. This superiority complex is amplified when race is included and this sentiment must be understood in order to apply and construct an encompassing definition of what white nationalism is specifically. 

In essence, white nationalism is a national ideology with a racial framework. With this in mind, nationalism is no longer bounded by a border but by race. It suggests that the pride and sustainability of that country depends on racial boundaries.

However, what white nationalists don’t take into consideration is that the United States was not founded as a racially homogenous nation. Astronomy freshman Serena Romero explains the racial and ethnically diverse origins of the U.S. 

“White nationalists have this idea that there is this American culture that every immigrant has to assimilate to,” Romero said. “What they don’t understand is that America itself does not have a culture. We’re a country of immigrants, we’re made up of a bunch of different cultures. To say that there is one American culture, that’s not true.” 

In an era of globalization and economic stagnation of lower-middle class white citizens, it is easy to see why ideologies like white nationalism seem so seductive to them. To white nationalists or those who share their beliefs, immigrants are a threat and a scapegoat. They feel threatened and nationalism seems like a solution, to where the people of their country can be put first again. Or more specifically, the people who they think belong in the country. 

Ultimately, if we want to combat white nationalism the public needs to be more conscious of what these sentiments are and how they’re constructed. This cannot happen without first having a discussion of these ideologies.

Fernandez is a rhetoric and writing and Spanish senior from Allen. She is a senior columnist.