Many among the alt.right aren't white supremacist as such, but separatist. For instance, instead of claiming that there is such a thing as a white race and that it's superior, it might be claimed that the benefits of diversity aren't obvious, that intermingling of races leads to various social problems, and that therefore a government ought provide the opportunity for people, if they choose, to live lives free from racial diversity. There is some degree of precedent for governments actively providing space for people to live particular lifestyles: for instance, Indian reserves in America, or acknowledgement of Quebec as having a special status within Canada. What I wanted to ask is -- are there good moral philosophy or political philosophy objections against this sort of separatism? Is there anything philosophically meaningful to say to a white separatist; or, given that "racial diversity leads to discord" is an empirical claim that might be true or false, is this more a matter for sociologists? I've been looking at arguments against segregation from the '60s, and by and large what I've found isn't on point -- the concern was more to do, basically, with black people being treated as second class citizens, not with whether there's anything wrong, morally or otherwise, with the idea of racially distinct communities in itself.

There are a variety of problems here, I think, in the way you have framed the question. But that is less your fault than it is the fault of the debased and confused nature of our conversation about race and racism in the US (and elsewhere).

The distinction between a white supremacist and a white separatist seems to me and to others who study hate groups to be entirely specious. Remember that the Ku Klux Klan also advocated racial "separation," but what they were really opposed to was miscegenation and racial contamination. Jim Crow laws supposedly existed to ensure "separate but equal" institutions and social spaces in the South. In reality, though, they existed to enforce white supremacy, i.e. a de jure white race hierarchy (upheld through terror and violence). Contemporary white separatists don't want to "mix" with other races because they hate them and see them as genetically and culturally inferior to whites. There is therefore nothing innocent about the desire for a separate white homeland--it's the old racism poured into new bottles. White racism, meanwhile, is not a "lifestyle"--it is an ideology of supremacy rooted in a socio-economic structure of power and inequality. As such, it is very hard to see why it would or should be the duty of a democratic state to "provide an opportunity" for the flourishing of white supremacist enclaves. In any event, it is neither the function nor the formal purpose of a democratic state to promote or to guarantee "lifestyles," as such, but to conduct commerce, secure the public welfare, and protect the constitutional order (among other things). Recall, in this connection, that Native peoples in North America were forced onto reservations at gunpoint, not to promote their lifestyles but in recognition of Native sovereignty. In fact, the reservations system was itself an artifact of racism: that is, colonial genocide and the wholesale destruction of Native peoples' societies and ways of life.

If we adopt a liberal perspective, it is perhaps not clear why white separatism should be different from, say, black separatism. That's because liberalism is unable to address the social context that is prior to political discourse. As this case suggests, however, we cannot think through the question of white separatism without a prior understanding of the history and practice of white racism as a system of domination. Since "race" is itself a bogus scientific concept, and since the white obsession with racial purity, racial separation, racial inferiority and superiority, etc., has been shown to be a form of pathology, a force destructive both to individuals and to civil society as such, it is probably better to "out" separatists as racists, rather than to lend credence to their supposedly rational intentions. A good touchstone here is Jean-Paul Sartre's book, "Anti-Semite and Jew." As Sartre points out, the arguments that racists put forth are shot through with bad faith, and as such are not to be taken at face value.

Read another response by John Sanbonmatsu
Read another response about Race