Sisters in Hate review: tough but vital read on the rise of racist America
Photo: David McNew / Getty Images
It's not Proust, Nietzsche, or even Toni Morrison when it comes to difficult reading, but some will certainly find Seyward Darby's book even more difficult to wade through.
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It's not that it's unfathomable. Indeed, as engaged as it is, Sisters in Hate provides an excellent explanation for the rise of Donald Trump amid a triumphant resurgence of white supremacy, sexism, and xenophobia. As a journalist, Darby focuses on Trump's success through the experience of three individual and distinct women. Gender and reactionary politics aside, there is only the year of their birth, 1979, to unite them. Each took a different route to arrive at what they saw as the struggle to save the white identity, which all three saw as America's “true identity”.
Oregon-born Corinna Olsen, a former pornstar and bodybuilder, has largely survived as an undertaker specializing in embalming. She is Darby's only repentant sister. Admirably, during her unpredictable odyssey, she tried to protect her young daughters from a hatred of differences that she initially refused to admit, but gradually accepted. Her search for adjustment, which resulted in an embrace of white nationalism, was sparked by the death of her skinhead brother. Today, with swastika tattoos hidden, she is a Muslim convert who wistfully teaches martial arts to black girls as she used to.
The most accomplished white nationalists are aware of the blind spot that observers often have when it comes to women
Ayla Stewart is from Las Vegas. Between caring for six children as a Mormon "tradwife", she has developed into a minor celebrity in her malicious environment with blogged and broadcast racist abuse. How did she develop as a vegan feminist who worshiped a pagan goddess and supported liberal democrats like Dennis Kucinich? Only slowly. Eventually, Stewart suspected a conspiracy to discredit her and no longer confided in Darby. But she was very happy to tell her story first and it is fascinating.
The third sister in Hass, Lana Lokteff, was born to Russian immigrants in the Pacific Northwest and now lives in Charleston, South Carolina. Like her Swedish husband Henrik Palmgren, the pale and slender blonde looks perfectly Aryan. The neo-Nazi couples run Red Ice TV together. Produced abroad since the ban on YouTube, it is widely regarded as CNN of the old-right. The couple advocate apocalyptic anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and have created both notoriety and wealth.
The particular attraction of women as spokespersons for a movement that is so blatantly misogynistic, says Darby, is what makes female recruits such valued members. It is comparable to the prominent placement of blacks behind the podium at Trump rallies or in the middle of the ranks of the Proud Boys. Both offer plausible denials of bigotry.
“Today,” writes Darby, “the most accomplished white nationalists are well aware of the blind spot that watchers often have when it comes to women, and are finalizing their contributions on hideous causes, preferring to view them as the better angels of humanity . "
Related: The Year of Karen: How a Meme Changed the Way Americans Talked About Racism
“One of the themes of this book,” she continues, “puts it this way:“ A soft woman who says hard things can have an impact on society as a whole. "With that in mind, Lokteff remarked at a conference," Since we're not physically intimidating, we can get away with saying big things. And let me tell you, the women in this movement can be lionesses and shield girls and Valkyries. "
Astounding as this is, it doesn't differ much from Sarah Palin's memorable characterization of Alaskan football mothers at gunpoint as "pit bulls in lipstick." How perverse is some women's desire to show loyalty and worth by responding to other men's disdain? What does this growing recklessness mean?
In 2016, 6 to 9 million citizens who supported Barack Obama voted for Trump. Almost 50% of white women did this. That November, even larger numbers of one-time Obama voters tried to re-elect Trump. As hard as it is to imagine, he gained even more supporters among women.
All three "sisters" who spoke to Darby dislike being viewed as racist haters. But their contempt, their race and class based mockery, born of envy, ignorance and fear, is real enough. Lyndon Johnson assumed that her subject's pocket could be easily plucked when someone could find the worst white to be superior to the best black. Recently, more than 600 billionaires have made double the fortune of 331 million Americans. One would imagine that the time was right for the masses to join the ranks.
The utter indifference to humanity and the contributions of people of color and more is what makes reading Sisters in Hate so painful. Given the genocide and theft to which Indians were subjected, African slavery, or the Holocaust, any tragic episode could be seen as the promise of a happy ending. These battles were proof of our shared determination. We can all say, "We will overcome!"
See also: Strongmen Review: A Terrifying Story for a Nation No Longer Under Trump
But can America's resurgent white nationalism and anti-Semitism be overcome? The prospect is pessimistic, admits Darby and writes about how the dismantling of hegemony and patriarchy feels like discrimination for many legitimate whites.
"Black people are the magical faces at the bottom of society's well," wrote Derrick Bell. "Even the poorest whites who have to live their lives just a few levels higher gain self-esteem by looking down on us."
Perhaps America's happy ending will come of heeding the lessons of history. In the tumultuous 1960s, black and white protesters willing to be brutally treated successfully protested for change. This year, after prolonged police violence, various masked demonstrators marched again worldwide.
In the same vein, all risking, chosen more than ever. But mostly those who made the difference on election day were women of color. Our sisters in hope?
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