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We must face the white supremacist violence of our past, present, and future.

Historian and author of Bring the War Home | Co-editor of A Field Guide to White Supremacy

Kathleen Belew | Historian and Author of  Bring the War Home | Co-editor of A Field Guide to White Supremacy
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How the White Power Movement Operates in the Shadows

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White Power is a Fringe Movement. Why Is It So Dangerous?

Lavin Exclusive Speaker

The white power movement in America wants a revolution. Its soldiers are not lone wolves, but highly organized cadres motivated by a coherent and deeply troubling worldview of white supremacy, virulent anticommunism, and apocalyptic faith. Historian, former CNN contributor, and author of Bring the War Home, Kathleen Belew gives us the history of this movement, which consolidated decades ago around a potent sense of betrayal after the Vietnam War, and went on to make tragic headlines in Waco and Oklahoma City. With a sustained attention to the white supremacist violence of our past, we can avoid future attacks on American democracy.

An Associate Professor of History at Northwestern University, Kathleen Belew specializes in the recent history of the United States, examining the long aftermath of warfare. She focuses on the broad themes of history of the present, looking at conservatism, race, gender, violence, and the meaning of war. Her book Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America explores how white power activists wrought a cohesive social movement through a common story about warfare and its weapons, uniforms, and technologies. Kathleen reveals how the movement united previously disparate Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazi, skinhead, and other groups, carrying out escalating acts of violence that reached a crescendo in the 1995 bombing of Oklahoma City.

“[Belew] presents a gorgeously rendered account of the white power movement in this country that reveals its symbiotic character, one that both feeds on mainstream angst and stimulates it to new heights.” Los Angeles Review of Books

Her latest book, A Field Guide to White Supremacy, co-edited alongside Ramon A. Gutierrez, connects the dots between current events—acts of hate, racial violence, and racist law-making—and the deep, violent roots of white supremacy in this country. An essential read for legislators, educators, journalists, and activists, it offers the knowledge necessary to understand why America is what it’s like today. 

As a speaker, Kathleen is lucid and compelling, showing us the common threads in white supremacist actions at every scale, from hate crimes and mass attacks to policy and law. Her talks reveal an unsavory, but necessary truth: white supremacy is a motivating force in many parts of American life. But by learning how this impacts us today, Kathleen says, we gain the tools to face it and forge a better future.

Kathleen has appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show, AC 360 with Anderson Cooper, Frontline, Fresh Air, and All Things Considered, among others. Her research features prominently in documentaries such as ABC’s Homegrown Hate: The War Among Us and Frontline’s Documenting Hate: New American Nazis.

In her forthcoming book Home, At the End of the World, she illuminates our apocalyptic era through the history of her native Colorado. She’ll reveal how the accumulation of crimes and dangerous ideologies exposed rifts in America’s social fabric—dramatically changing our national relationship with place, violence, and politics. When we understand the events and history that created these rifts, we are better equipped to protect the future of this country.

Speech Topics

Politics & Society
Understanding White SupremacyDecoding the Actions of the White Power Movement

The Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 was the largest deliberate mass casualty on American soil between Pearl Harbor and 9/11. Yet unlike those actions, most people don’t understand what that attack was, and what it meant. It was not the work of “lone wolves,” but rather the crescendo of a string of violent attacks perpetrated by a broad, deeply networked social movement, the white power movement—one that brought together an array of Klan, neo-Nazi, skinhead, and militia activists in outright war on the federal government.

We are now decades, if not generations, into this war, which has killed Americans, damaged infrastructure, and now represents the single largest terrorist threat to the United States. And even as white power activists appear in violent actions across the country and as one component of the January 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol, we still don’t fully understand it. A leading historian studying the modern white power movement, Kathleen Belew decodes the movement’s worldview, actions, and planned attack on America, and teaches us how to overcome it to protect the democracy we cherish.

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