With far-right movement rising, one New Yorker hopes education can change tide
“They saw (Trump) say he was going to build a wall and register Muslims, and it was lit like a match on gasoline.”
While the presidency of Donald Trump has inspired a resistance of marches and art exhibits and plays, it’s also stirred another movement that isn’t grabbing as many headlines.
“I went to an Ethiopian restaurant in Bushwick on Monday and had to pull a neo-Nazi sticker off the wall,” Spencer Sunshine told Metro. “I never would have seen one two years ago.”
Because such propaganda and its believers have become more visible in the city — and country — Sunshine, who has researched and reported on the far-right movement since 2005 and is an assistant fellow at social justice think tank Political Research Associates (PRA), felt it was time to “have a public discussion about this.”
Sunshine will host “The Far Right Today in the U.S. and New York City” at Verso Books in Brooklyn on Wednesday, June 28. During the PRA-sponsored talk, Sunshine will shed light on the different groups within the far-right movement and break down their beliefs.
Metro: How important is it to hold this event now?
Spencer Sunshine: There’s a real uptick in far-right presence on the streets of New York right now. I’ve lived in New York for 17 years, and I’ve never seen so many people at a far-right demonstration as I saw at the anti-Sharia rally on June 10. This is in concert with an upsurge of far-right work and racist organizing across the United States.
What do you hope is the takeaway?
I want people who are concerned about the rise of the far-right to not just know that it’s here, but to look at it in color and notice these different kind of groups have names, organizers and pay attention to how they’re organizing and what kind of things they’re talking about because that’s a necessary step to taking action against them.
Can you pinpoint when this recent far-right movement came to the surface?
It all happened with (Trump’s) campaign, 100 percent, especially the racist part of it. They saw him say he was going to build a wall and register Muslims, and it was lit like a match on gasoline.
Do you think the country can or will step back from this post-Trump?
That’s a really vexing question. Trump has broken this post-civil rights movement consensus that you cannot, in polite conversation, say these bigoted things. Will that genie go back in the bottle? I have a feeling that’s going to be hard to do. Him leaving won’t resolve those underlying tensions. Many white Americans don’t want to live in a multi-racial society.
You’ve been called an instigator, a war criminal, a political hit man and worse. How do you describe yourself?
(laughs) People say those things because they want to shut people down like me from speaking out. I’m a researcher of the far-right. That’s my description of myself, and I am completely against them. I want them to change their beliefs and embrace different views of society.