At least one thing the “alt-right” is known for is speaking about race in a provocative manner. Immigration, for example, is examined from a racial perspective rather than an ethnic and cultural perspective. The style of some in the alt-right universe is to be as outrageous as possible when attacking or exposing the hypocrisy of the political left. While aggressive rhetorical tactics may be entertaining at first, a strategy that ultimately lacks any serious content or philosophical acumen is doomed to become nothing more than ideological theatre.
The rise of the alt-right is largely based on a culture that thrives on being entertained in the political arena. Political cycles are not a time to reflect on candidates who are making arguments for good or bad policy; they are a new season of reality T.V. and the major news networks are writing the script. The alt-right is simply a part of this environment and they are a different flavor of political performance art. If you don’t particularly appreciate the entertainment value of Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Democrats, or Black Lives Matter, the alt-right is supposedly the “conservative”option for right-wingers.
With that being said, I wanted to focus on the alt-right emphasis on race and immigration for a moment because there is a significant error being made by an ostentatious movement that seems to be gaining new followers.
Culture, and the ethnicities therein, is based on shared beliefs and values turned into action for the sake of building a civil society. These cultural identities forged in the trials of historical experience are linked to territory, community, and country rather than unitary racial features. Race is associated with your biological genotype and the subsequent the lineage of ancestral phenotype. This may include, but is not limited to, skin color, skin tone, eye color, hair color, the proximity and shape of facial features etc. Ethnicity is about tradition, social behavior, and commonly shared customs. The racial features of an ethnic identity of peoples within a given culture associated with territory and community is an accidental feature of the civil society; the essences of shared beliefs and values are necessary features of these communal orders. For example, if two white men were standing next to each other we would immediately recognize their racial features, but their ethnic identities have not yet been discovered. If one person were from the American West Coast, and the other were a native Irishman, their ethnicities would be quite different. And while their racial features may be similar, their ethnicities may in fact create a situation where a communal attachment and association becomes vexed.
Allow me to draw from my military experience to support the argument being offered. If you were to examine a picture of the American military infantry units fighting in the European and Pacific theater during WWII, a dominating racial characteristic of the soldiers was that they were white. If you were to examine a picture of the American military infantry units fighting in Vietnam the racial features of these soldiers become recognizably more diverse. And if you fast forward to when I deployed in 2009-2010 to Iraq, and examined a picture of the mechanized infantry unit I served with, the racial features of those who served with me overseas were even more diverse than the Vietnam era.
Now, according the narrative created in the the alt-right camp, the culture of the infantry units fighting in America’s wars should have changed because the racial identities of those units had shifted from being predominantly white to a significantly increased level of racial diversity. However, the military culture did not change, at least with regard to esprit de corps and patriotic brotherhood. The tenacity of the infantryman remained firmly in tact and the American military remains the most powerful army in the history of the world. This is because the historically relevant ethnic diversity of American Citizens assimilated to the culture of the military, which is based on shared beliefs and values transformed into action when called to fight, not the racial make up of those who serve in these ranks.
In my view, this example supports the argument against the misguided analysis of immigration based on a racially focused interpretation. What matters for the preservation of a culture are beliefs and values, not skin pigmentation. This doesn’t mean that we ought to throw open the doors regarding our immigration policy, but it does require the recognition that the accidental features of human persons are not the determining factors of beliefs, values, and moral praxis.
– Lucas G. Westman