My date with a white supremacist: The link between toxic masculinity and racism

"Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, VA  Aug  11, 2017
In the spring of 2007, I had been widowed for about 8 months.  My husband had died of a brain tumor at 38, leaving 30 year old me with an 18 month old baby boy and a not-yet-written doctoral dissertation.  That spring, I was on a mission to find a husband who would be worthy of my son and me. 
For a full year, I on-line dated like it was my job. Lots of coffees and lunches and cocktails.  
Only rarely did I get beyond a first date.  
It happened only four times, in fact. 
Once with a smart and funny lawyer with whom I remain friends.
Once with a charming and handsome outdoors guy with whom I had very little in common. 
Once with the superman to whom I am now married – who was and is the best thing that ever happened to me (thanks Match.com).
And once with a white supremacist.
I was content to leave that last one hidden away in the catacombs of my long-term memory – forever. But as alt-right white nationalists threaten our minority communities and run-down 32 year old Heather Heyer in the light of day, and as our president states publicly that there are “fine people” among these Nazis, I’m realizing that my experience provides a unique (and horrifying) opportunity to get in the mind of a racial purist. 
First, how on earth could I get beyond a first date with a white supremacist?
Simple. I had no idea he was a white supremacist.  White supremacists – at least white supremacists back in 2007 – didn’t put their desire for a white enthno-state in their online dating profiles. 
His online profile was minimalist.  A few details about how he liked old cars and history and great food…
Our first date was a lot of him talking.  He was confident and well-spoken, and I was content to entertain that. 
He talked about his hobbies and his love of classic cars.
He talked about how he loved books and biographies of famous historical figures. 
(In retrospect, perhaps I should have asked which historical figures.)
The date was enjoyable enough and he asked me to go out again. The next date was at a busy restaurant bar and grill.
I don’t even remember how it started, but before we even had our drinks, he made reference to the fact that he had looked at lots of profiles online before “choosing” me. And that he had made his choice because “we would have beautiful babies.”  
I imagined that this was just a ham-fisted gross compliment, until he continued…
“…beautiful blonde-haired blue-eyed white babies.”
--record scratch.
“Wait.  What?” 
He didn’t flinch.
“Look around,” he said gesturing to the customers at the restaurant, “There really aren’t a lot of people left in our country that look like us. We owe it to our white race to make more white babies.”
I started to feel physically ill.
I told him I’m not the girl for him.  I then said something along the lines of how we’d all be better off if the human race all got closer to a medium shade of brown, and the “impurity of the white race” didn’t concern me… in the least.
And here’s where things get intriguing.  He started to get defensive and said,
“I’m not a racist, you know.”
He informed me that his ex-girlfriend had had a child before they got together.  A black baby that he had helped to raise for over ten years.
Not wanting to physically anger a man who just told me he wants to purify white America, I said gently, “But, you just said that we need to make white babies to save the white race. Isn’t that … kind of racist?”
He replied that if he were racist he wouldn’t have helped to raise that child. 
At this point, I was feeling nervous about the intensity of his energy.  It was clear that he thought that he had done me a favor of some kind by “choosing” me.  He explained that he had been looking for a suitable “mate” for over a year and that I was the one whom he had selected.  I informed him that I wasn’t going to be anyone’s vessel…especially in a quest to purify the white race.
I then played the dead husband card, and gestured dramatically to the empty spot next to me in the booth.  I told my Nazi compatriot that I felt my dead husband’s presence there at that moment. 
“My dead husband often guides me.  And right now he is telling me that you’re not the person for me.” 
(Fight crazy with crazy, I figured).
In the wake of our current political reality, I’ve been thinking about this man’s words, and the role of toxic masculinity as it relates to racism and white ethno-nationalism. 

How in his mind, he had selected me (my uterus really) as the home for his white seed. How he intended to capitalize on my Aryan looks to grow a white blonde baby. He really did see me as a vessel. A lucky vessel.

The relationship between the rhetoric of toxic masculinity and white supremacy has been studied for decades. In White Lies, Jessie Daniels, a sociologist at Hunter College writes, “The highest duty and honor of a white man, according to white supremacist discourse, is to preserve the white family and with it a hierarchy of race, gender, and sexuality.” In an extensive analysis of white supremacist propaganda, Daniels points to the prevalent theme of “Black man as sexual threat.”

Not only is it the duty of white men to propagate the white “species,” but to fight ethnic sexual threats against “their women.”

It isn’t hard to witness how resonant this theme is among white supremacists.

Before killing nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015, white supremacist, Dylann Storm Roof , told African American church members, “You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country, and you have to go.”

In the Vice documentary filmed in Charlottesville Friday through Sunday of last week, white supremacist Christopher Cantwell, criticizes President Trump for “giving his daughter away to a Jew,” a reference to Ivanka Trump’s marriage to Jared Kushner.

“I don’t think you can feel about race the way I do and watch that Kushner bastard walk around with that beautiful girl,” Christopher Cantwell says.

In spite of Cantwell’s disappointment in Trump’s approval of the “racial-integration” between Ivanka and Jared, Trump’s dog whistles have consistently reinforced the notion that ethnic minorities pose a threat … especially to white men. In the speech announcing his candidacy, for example, Donald Trump invoked harsh sexual imagery of illegal immigrants. Speaking of people coming from Mexico, Trump said: "They're sending people that have lots of problems…They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists."

In March of this year, press secretary Sean Spicer singled out a gruesome rape in Rockville, Maryland as justification for President Trump’s tough stance on illegal immigration. The case, which has since been dropped due to lack of evidence, involved the alleged sodomy of a 14 year old girl by two older students who were illegal immigrants.

It seems there is something primal ignited by the thought of young white women “defiled” by men with darker complexions.

Recall, too, that it has only been fifty years since the Supreme Court of the United States declared prohibitions of interracial marriage unconstitutional in the 1967 case of Loving v. Virginia. Until that time, a black man with a white woman (and vice versa) was a punishable crime in many states.

Chris Cantwell, that white supremacist who criticized Trump for “giving his daughter to a Jew?” He used to write forA Voice for Men,” a website whose stated purpose is

“…provide education and encouragement to men and boys; to lift them above the din of misandry, to reject the unhealthy demands of gynocentrism in all its forms, and to promote their mental, physical and financial well-being without compromise or apology.”

He connected his views on women to his views on race in one simple statement, referring to “the disturbing trend of “Radical feminists and “anti-racists” who demonize men and white people…”

Heather Heyer who died last weekend in Virginia was a brave 32 year old white activist who marched with her friends and colleagues in opposition to this white supremacist bullshit. Following her death, Chris Cantwell said he believed her death was “more than justified.”

It’s inevitable that part of the angry response of people like Cantwell to Heather’s death stems from the fact that this was a young, beautiful white woman who was marching in solidarity with a diverse crowd of people vociferously rejecting the premise of “racial purity.”

How pissed must that make them.

And how great is that.