Community Partnerships to Counter the New Face of White Nationalism

I am a detective within a large metropolitan police department’s criminal intelligence section. While I wear multiple professional hats, one of my primary duties is to understand the trends of various extremist groups, including those of white supremacist organizations. In my work related to understanding these extremists groups, two things are clear: first, white supremacist organizations are constantly evolving in their approach, outreach, and tactics, and second, law enforcement organizations must also constantly evolve in order to counter any criminal activities of these groups and ensure the public’s safety.

White Supremacist groups inject a visceral fear into our communities and disrupt any sense of harmony, while also overtly advancing an ideology of systematic racism. Some may camouflage this racism and try to legitimize a belief system that promotes “European heritage” under a banner of the Identitarian Movement, while others openly adopt the cultural signature of the movements by dressing in hoods or the swastika participating in public protest. While groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the National Socialist Movement remain the most recognizable representatives of white supremacy, new faces, such as Identity Evropa, are peppering neighborhoods and college campuses with cryptic handbills to generate interest and to promote racism under the false pretext of ethnocentric awareness.

Researching these groups gives me an opportunity to speak with various community organizations to answer questions and to raise awareness about the police department’s response and how community members can counter their messaging. I sit with our neighbors, police advocates, and community leaders. I have open discussions about how the police department I work for can meet their needs while eliciting feedback and fostering sincere partnerships. We move beyond the formal presentation of facts and figures and instead sit down, forget politics, and discuss strategies to move forward. In practice, we drop the “you” and replace the pronoun with “our”: our community, our concerns, our needs, and maybe most important, our goals. We all represent our community, and we all have perspectives, strengths, and fears, and by identifying shared objectives we can all move forward together.

When this initiative began, we discussed an incremental and holistic approach to strengthening community resilience. Through our ongoing on-going personal and interpersonal conversations about acceptance, openness, and behaviors, we built relationships from those initial conversations. We have initiated a dialogue about the importance of cultural and institutional partnerships to address (in-)equities, policy needs, and how to establish a sense of social empowerment and tolerance.

These efforts have been crucial to our community partnership, and essential to our ability to ensure safe communities throughout are area. We elicited stakeholder support from government and local cultural and religious centers to discuss advocacy and support for existing programs and resources that are available now and to discuss the needs for the future. While these long-term efforts are only beginning to show promise, we believe we are leveraging our strengths to address our concerns and fears associated with the evolving white nationalist movement in our community.

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