In August, 2019, I read an article in the New York Times entitled, “Amid the Kale and Corn, Fears of White Supremacy at the Farmers’ Market.” I used to shop at that farmers market. It’s in Bloomington, Indiana, where I got my PhD.
Back in 1994, I hadn’t been in Bloomington long when I was told of the 1968 murder, in nearby Martinsville, of Carol Jenkins, a young African American woman who was selling encyclopedias door-to-door. Jenkins was stabbed through the heart with a screwdriver. My new neighbors told me of her murder with what struck me as an unhealthy fascination, if not freakish pride. At that time, no one had yet been convicted of Jenkins’ murder, and no one will ever be.
My first month in Bloomington, I was riding in the front seat with a fellow graduate student, an African American man. We were run off the road. I would come to meet Hoosiers who made a big deal about my name, about my Catholicism, about my being the child of immigrants. Once, at a social function, I conversed with a man who studied me closely and finally said, “There’s a strong Jew vibe about you.” (I’m not Jewish.)
One day a pamphlet appeared in my driveway. It declared that not only blacks and Jews, but also immigrants and Christians, needed to be wiped out in a holy race war. Not long after, on July 4, 1999, I was walking past the Korean United Methodist Church, a church I had passed hundreds of times. I was stopped by a police officer. Korean grad student, immigrant and Christian Won-Joon Yoon had been murdered there hours before. I attended his funeral, where his sister was a monument to stoic strength. His father recited the 23rd psalm from memory. I joined local groups united against white supremacy, and I broadcast support via my radio essays.
For my dissertation, I studied prejudices against my own people, Eastern European immigrants. I met and spoke to people who had crosses burned on their lawns. When people like my parents entered the US, during the mass migration of Eastern and Southern Europeans, c. 1880-1924, KKK membership surged. “KKK” was sometimes interpreted to mean “Koons Kikes and Katholics.” Two of my family members were harmed by anti-immigrant racists in ways too horrible to detail here. During this immigration period, Indiana had the largest KKK in the US.
My father told me that his mother’s Polish family had been wiped out by Nazis in WW II. I met my mother’s traumatized relatives who survived Nazism. I’m all too aware of what Nazis think of Slavic people like me, and I’m also aware of Nazism’s roots in Paganism (see here, here and here.) I’m a childless feminist, I’m handicapped, I’m Catholic and the child of “Untermensch” immigrants. I’m not black or Jewish, so I’m not first on the hit list, but I am on the hit list.
People who insinuated to me that they were KKK members were not the only racists I met in Indiana. As I’ve written elsewhere, my first semester at IUB I was harassed by the professor for whom I worked for taking off four workdays to attend my father’s funeral. I was asked to testify against this professor. I was told that this professor “had ruined many,” was “psychotic,” had “almost killed someone,” but no one was willing to risk speaking out against her because she was black and female. I was assigned the task of bringing her down through my testimony because I had “nothing to lose,” “no pension, no tenure, no financial support.” The casual contempt that IU elites showed poor white grad students dogged me every second I spent on that campus. Several of my professors made direct, contemptuous comments to me about my ethnicity, my religion, and my economic class.
So, I read with interest the August, 2019, New York Times article alleging fears of white supremacy at the farmers market.
According to the article, “activists and online sleuths used federal court records and the leaked archives of a far-right message board to uncover a digital trail they say connects the couple who own Schooner Creek Farm [Sarah Dye and Douglas Mackey] to an organization that promotes white nationalism and white American identity.”
After this document leak, Bloomingtonians began debating whether or not they should bring guns to the market in self-defense. Other Bloomingtonians stopped bringing their children. Activists began handing out buttons that say, “Don’t buy veggies from Nazis.” The mayor suspended the market.
Sarah Dye, it is alleged, is a member of the American Identity Movement. The American Identity Movement’s homepage is here. The Forward discusses AIM’s anti-Semitism here. What AIM members call “The Jewish Question” is discussed here. The Southern Poverty Law Center offers information on AIM here. The Anti-Defamation League page on AIM is here.
Bloomingtonians began to march in protest in front of the Schooner Creek farmstand in the farmers market. On October 26, 2019, Dye posted on Facebook that Antifa and No Space for Hate Bloomington protesters have significantly reduced her sales, and also the sales of all vendors at that market. The Hoosier Anti-Racist Movement Antifa Support page, on December, 1, 2019, featured an image of a hand gripping a switchblade. The caption: “Every Day is Trans Day of Vengeance.” Clearly this is a group that supports change through violence.
I approached The Purple Shirt Brigade, another of the several Bloomington groups protesting the Schooner Creek farmstand, and requested information. They sent me a link to an information page. It says, “People should be allowed to believe whatever they want. However, some beliefs – such as that white people are naturally superior to others – are inherently harmful to society.”
The Purple Shirt Brigade accuses Dye, through her hard work and back-to-the-land ethos, of putting an attractive face on white supremacy. “The idea of working hard and bettering yourself is central to this particular iteration of Neo-Nazism … Her gardening, cooking, and herbal remedies are all an important facet of her white supremacist identity.”
In the past few months of monitoring the Schooner Creek Farm Facebook page, I did not encounter white supremacist material. What I did encounter were posts about homeschooling, weaving, herbal sachets, and celebrating the arrival of a deer struck by a car. The deer was euthanized. Dye posted photos of the carcass before butchering. She reported that she’d be tanning the hide with the deer’s own brains. Brain tanning is a favored activity of back-to-the-landers.
I also encountered a rune carved into the top of a homemade pie. I asked about the rune. Dye responded to my query, explaining that the rune symbolizes family.
A stranger sent me a private message. “Don’t let them fool you,” the message said. The sender included a link describing how some Neo-Nazis use runes. I responded that runes are a Neo-Pagan religious element, and not all Neo-Pagans are Neo-Nazis. It was a bit unnerving to receive a private message from a stranger in response to my posting on the Schooner Creek Farm page.
After I read the New York Times article about protests against Schooner Creek Farm at the Bloomington, Indiana, Farmers Market, I did something that might seem incomprehensible for someone whose own flesh and blood has been harmed by various incarnations of racists, white supremacists, Nativists and the original Nazis. I went to the Facebook page for Schooner Creek Farms and I “liked” it.
Sarah Dye is different from me. She celebrates Pagan runes; I’m Catholic. She upholds racial identity as central; I uphold my Christian faith and understanding of the US as diverse at its birth as central. I think commitment to the Constitution, not our skin color or when we arrived, is what unites Americans and defines our national identity.
But Sarah Dye is like me in the following ways. Like me, she is an American citizen who has a right to her own private thoughts, no matter how alien those thoughts are to my own. She and I also have a right to free speech and freedom of assembly. She has a right, in a free, capitalist country, to make a living, and to profit from her own labor. While visiting relatives in the old Soviet empire, I met relations who had been turned into nonpersons. Their right to work was taken away from them. Taking away someone’s right to support themselves through their own work is a totalitarian strategy.
Sarah Dye is being punished for thought crimes. I did not encounter allegations that Dye has taken action against non-white persons, immigrants, or Jews. The protesters marching in front of her farmstand, harassing her on Facebook, dousing her car with fake blood, and demanding that she be ejected from the famers market, are doing all this because of what is in Sarah Dye’s head.
Yes, what is in Sarah Dye’s head is wrong. Ethnonationalism is based on flawed science. Further, European Americans acquired territories from France, Spain and Native Americans, and French, Spanish, and Native American people lived on that land. Americans imported black Africans to this continent. We imported Japanese and Chinese to work fields and build railroads. No matter what the allurements of a “Nordic” America may be, that train left the station long ago and we have to learn to live with diversity.
But Sarah Dye, as an American citizen, is allowed to think and say and post what she wants, short of incitement to violence. She’s an American citizen in America, not a Uighur in China. The effort to destroy Dye economically is fueled by the seductive, totalitarian urge to wield the power of telling other people what they may and may not think.
Diversity doesn’t just mean skin color. It also means thought. The protesters want a diverse Bloomington? They have a diverse Bloomington in the person of Sarah Dye, and they are trying to crush, homogenize, brainwash, or nonperson her.
On its Facebook page, the group No Space for Hate Bloomington features a simple watercolor painting of five apples in a row. Four of the five apples are round and red. One is brown and a sickly yellow-green. It is misshapen. “One rotten apple spoils the barrel,” an old saying goes. Selecting one member of a community and representing that member as a discordant source of rot that is destroying the pure community is the very definition of intolerance and indeed, dehumanization.
Protesters acknowledge that they are targeting Dye because of private posts she made to a private discussion board, posts that were leaked. The surveillance aspect of their protest doesn’t seem to bother them. It bothers me tremendously. Using surreptitiously surveilled private conversations to nonperson a thinker of taboo thoughts is exactly what totalitarian states do.
Like all pushes for elusive purity, the harassment of Sarah Dye is selective. Is Dye really the only farmer who thinks dirty thoughts? Let’s investigate all the vendors. Let’s rifle through all their private internet activity and release all their passwords. What about Bread and Roses Gardens? Does the staff ever visit S&M porn sites? How about Driftwood Organics? Does anyone on their staff litter or beat their kids or drive while intoxicated? How about this stand named “Fairywood”? What’s up with that name?
Let’s up the ante with another litmus test. How many of the employees at other farmstands have ever said that white men are evil, that America is fascist, that Christianity should be eliminated? If we are rooting out prejudice and hate, should we not root it all out all prejudices and hatreds, including “woke” hatreds?
Abby Ang has protested Schooner Creek Farms. On Ang’s Facebook page, you can find overtly Christophobic material. Evidently hatred of Christians is okay. Ang is proud to be a member of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. “My soul was replenished” one poster says about the forum. No doubt Sarah Dye would be pilloried if she reported that her “soul was replenished” by meeting with the White Women’s Forum. Ang praises IU’s celebration of Puerto Rican identity. Ang is free to celebrate some identities to the exclusion of others. She denies Sarah Dye the same privilege. That is rank hypocrisy and selective outrage. And it’s more. The anti-white, anti-Judeo-Christian, anti-Western extremism on the left, that I encountered so sharply on the IU campus and other campuses as well, is directly responsible for encouraging extremism on the right.
If our friends on the left were to open dialogue with white supremacists, one thing they’d discover is how their own rhetoric is recruitment material for white supremacist groups.
Today’s white supremacist groups are not direct descendants of the white supremacist groups of a hundred years ago. Witness the name of a prominent former white supremist leader: Christian Picciolini. A hundred years ago nativists were lynching Italian immigrants, not making their sons leaders of white supremacist groups. Classic white supremacist theorists like Madison Grant, Kenneth Roberts and Henry Fairfield Osborn did not grant Eastern and Southern Europeans membership in the superior “Nordic” race. If today’s white supremacists are not direct descendants of the white supremacists of the past, where did they come from?
The Btown Antifa Facebook page offers a clue to the origins of the appeal of contemporary white supremacy. The page features a flier that its members found in public places in Bloomington in September, 2019. The flier’s headline: “NO WHITE GUILT.” The flier features an image of a white baby with the words “sexist” and “racist” written on its body. The flier alleges that “People who push ‘white guilt’ Marxist propaganda on white children are child abusers who hate white people and seek their demise … We wish no ill will on any race … we seek only white well being.”
In response to this flier, one poster on the Btown Antifa Facebook page wrote, “I’m white and Irish most my family came here in between WW1 and 2 well after slavery ended. Should I still be ashamed for what white people did here before I was born or my blood line was even in this country?”
This exchange reminded me of a post I came across on Facebook six years ago. A 20-something man named Ross posted about a course about racism and sexism that he was required to take in college. Ross said that the class was “the single biggest load of crap ever … The class did however teach me the most important skill in life, just say what people want to hear at all times, contain all actual feelings and you will be fine … Essentially the readings were: If you aren’t white, you suck at life and should basically kill yourself because there is nothing you can do in life to improve tomorrow. If you are white, go kill yourself you dirty capitalist pig Nazi and try not to rape any women before you do it.”
Ross, who is Jewish, reported that when he was in high school, he found a swastika drawn on his locker. He did not report it, or even tell anyone about it. As a white male, he assumed his concerns would be dismissed as unimportant.
Ross is not alone. Millions of young, white, heterosexual American men have been insulted and indoctrinated on American campuses. They are frustrated. Former hate group leader Christian Picciolini says that young men require community, identity, and purpose, and white supremacist groups provide those to them. “When we’re searching for identity, community and purpose, there is somebody waiting for us on the fringes to give us a narrative.”
What does the left prescribe for young Americans seeking “community, identity, and purpose”? The left tells them that being white is an ineradicable stain, that they should live their lives in shame, that if they don’t like that shame they are suffering from “white fragility,” and that everything they, their parents or their ancestors have accomplished is not a reflection of their own hard work but rather of “white privilege.” “You didn’t build that,” as Obama once said.
Even as leftists condemn hatred of blacks and immigrants, leftists let pass hatred against white men, America, Christianity, and Israel. Further, Leftist protesters emphasize the word “community.” News flash: in real community, you don’t get to cohabit only with the pure. You have to live next door to people who think and act differently than you do, often in ways you find profoundly offensive. I live in a state where imams have called for killing of Jews, intolerance toward homosexuals, and have spoken against freedom of speech and women’s rights. Can you imagine left-wing protesters marching around the Muslim-owned restaurants, convenience stores, and gas stations of congregants who listen to those sermons and share those beliefs? We know this will never happen. For the left, some hate is just fine. Outrage against Sarah Dye is selective.
In any case, the drive for purity, from Khmer Rouge killing fields to Nazi race laws to the French Terror, never ends well. Jacques Mallet du Pan famously observed that, “Like Saturn, the Revolution devours its children.” After the protesters purge Sarah Dye from the Bloomington farmers market, and eliminate all the transgressors staffing other stands, they will, as the pure always do, turn on each other. The push for purity is never satisfied, and it never will be. We are an impure species living in a post-fall dispensation and we will always live with stench, our own and others’.
Do we, then, not contest the assertions of the American Identity Movement? No! The Founding Fathers enshrined free speech in the first amendment. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote in 1927 that discussion exposes falsehoods and fallacies, and that the solution to bad speech is not less speech but better speech.
Cancel culture selects human sacrifices and tells us that that victim can never be any more than their worst act. Louis CK, Kevin Spacey, Dave Chappelle, Roseanne Barr, Roman Polanski, Chick-Fil-A, Covington Catholic schoolboys, Schooner Creek Farm, the list is endless. It’s also simplistic. Chick-Fil-A is delicious. “The Pianist,” directed by Roman Polanski, a rapist, is a great movie. Kevin Spacey is a compelling actor. Roseanne Barr is funny as hell. Love “White Christmas”? So do I, and I love Bing Crosby, the Bing Crosby I encounter in songs and films. His son accused him of child abuse. I can love Bing the entertainer, and not condone the alleged child-abusing dad. Life is complicated and purity is not an option.
So, yes, if I lived in Bloomington today, I would buy Schooner Creek Farm produce, and I’d do so for several reasons. One, I am intelligent enough to differentiate between a ripe tomato and the grower’s opinions, and I know that the tomato grown by a perfectly pure person has never existed. Two, I believe that interactions within a diverse community, including economic interactions, keep a community healthy and more tolerant – see Thomas Friedman’s rule that two countries who have a McDonald’s are less likely to go to war with each other. When I handed Sarah Dye my money, I might mention that I’m a proud child of immigrants, immigrants who were themselves gardeners and weavers, hunters and trappers. See? We have much in common. I’d smile my most winning smile. Black? Jewish? An immigrant? Don’t boycott Dye – girlcott her. Make it a point to patronize her stand. Chat with her. Smile at her. Give her money. That’s what people in community do. You win over your neighbor with neighborliness, not with nonpersoning. Nonpersoning is the totalitarian way. Quarantining Sarah Dye so that she can interact only with other identitarians might only serve to harden her views.
Three, I’d shop at Schooner Creek Farms because I don’t think that Dye’s thought crimes condemn her to not being able to make a living. Those protesting her farmstand want to drive her stand out of the market, to shut down her sales, to drive her into poverty, and for her, her husband and kids, to starve or go on the public dole. That’s not a victory against white supremacy. It’s pointless, petty vengeance, an exercise of power for power’s sake, a dead-end with no positive outcome for anyone.
I ask the protesters, do you ever interact with the black underclass, with Jews or immigrants who have been targeted for abuse? I do, on a daily basis. I live in a majority-minority city and I am surrounded by heartbreak. What do my neighbors need? They don’t need Bloomingtonians marching around a farmstand. My disadvantaged neighbors need to be able to walk on streets not strewn with garbage. They need to go to sleep at night at a normal hour and not wait for the blasting car stereos, fistfights, and drug-deals and drug-trips gone wrong to quiet down outside the window. The kids need fathers. They need nutritious food. Do you really think that your protest does a damn thing for my neighbors? Get over yourselves. We in the inner city are not grateful to you. You are accomplishing nothing for us.
Derek Black is the son of a KKK grand wizard. Black founded KidsStormFront, a companion site to Stormfront, founded by his father, Don Black. Derek has rejected white supremacy. How did he change? He mingled with people unlike himself, specifically Jews he met at college. They repeatedly invited him to Sabbath dinners. These students, Matthew Stevenson and Moshe Ash, “invited Derek over week after week after week, not to build the case against him but to build their relationship.” Two Jews treated Derek Black like a human being. And Derek Black changed.
In September, 2019, Dye spoke at a public library in Indiana. Rather than engaging in intelligent dialogue with Dye, “protesters banged on the window panes.” Dye soldiered on. Her talk is on YouTube. Dye says, “Many of these Antifa activists are actually former acquaintances of mine, from my younger days of having been one of them. I voted for Obama in both elections. I considered myself a feminist. I embraced … Communism because that’s what all the cool kids in Bloomington were doing during my late teens and early twenties. I was supportive of WTO protests in Seattle … I believed that climate change was going to end the world in 2024. I decided against having more than one child at that time.
“During 2015 things changed, and I began to waken from the liberal, leftist, mind control cult. I also began to realize that liberalism wasn’t what I thought it was. I find that today many of my principles have not changed, such as being pro-environmentalism, and anti-globalism, and so on. But what has changed is the mainstream. I’m still doing what I’ve always done. Living close to the land, growing healthy food, being involved in my community, and honoring nature, and that is what I am going to continue doing.”
Dye used to be an Obama voter. Something changed her mind in 2015. Shouldn’t protesters ask her what changed her mind, and try to understand how to change her mind again? Isn’t the solution here speech, not boycotts? Brandeis wrote that the Founding Fathers insisted on free speech, not just as a gift of democracy, but as the very exercise necessary to build democratic muscles in both individuals and societies.
“Those who won our independence believed that the final end of the State was to make men free to develop their faculties, and that, in its government, the deliberative forces should prevail over the arbitrary. They valued liberty both as an end, and as a means. They believed liberty to be the secret of happiness, and courage to be the secret of liberty. They believed that freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth; that, without free speech and assembly, discussion would be futile; that, with them, discussion affords ordinarily adequate protection against the dissemination of noxious doctrine; that the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people; that public discussion is a political duty, and that this should be a fundamental principle of the American government.”
Contrast this emphasis on free speech, public debate and dialogue with the values of Antifa, one of the groups protesting Schooner Creek Farms. “People in the streets fighting for each other works” reads a post on the Indiana Antifa Support page. The post is accompanied by photos of violent street clashes.
Danusha Goska is the author of God through Binoculars: A Hitchhiker at a Monastery
Photo Credit: (Seth Tackett, WTIU/WFIU News)