Last weekend, a flyer posted on a bulletin board outside Smith Memorial Student Union stood out among the various ads for events and shows. In capital letters it read, “White. Proud. Unapologetic.” As a public institution, most bulletin boards at Portland State are open for general public use.
The flyer found outside Smith Memorial is an advertisement for Cascadia, a relatively new and obscure self-described “alt-right” movement based in the Pacific Northwest. It has no relationship to the Cascadia bioregional social movement.
The alternative right is a disparate movement of right-wing and far-right ideologues who reject traditional conservatism in favor of chauvinistic nationalism. The movement is particularly active on social media and uses memes to spread its message. Some in the movement are white supremacists and white nationalists although others reject this as an identifying trait.
On its website, Cascadia says its mission is to promote a “white ethnic consciousness.” The mission statement goes on to list grievances about perceived discriminatory policies toward whites, the decline of traditional family values and the loss of national sovereignty through foreign influence and mass migration.
PSU President Wim Wiewel said he was unaware of the flyer or group in question but mentioned that there was a similar incident in 2015 in which an anonymously-run and now defunct Facebook page called “PSU White Student Union” attracted controversy. At the time, PSU issued official denunciation of the page and had its General Counsel file a cease and desist claim with Facebook for the page’s unauthorized use of the PSU brand.
Christopher Broderick, associate vice president of University Communications, informed the Vanguard that Cascadia is not a recognized student organization. “There are 200 campus clubs that are registered and that’s not one of them,” Broderick said.
Cascadia refused to speak with the Vanguard except through email correspondence using a moniker. Herrenvolk is a coordinator for the Oregon chapter of Cascadia who identified himself as a 26-year-old male. He categorically denied any accusation that Cascadia is a white supremacist or neo-Nazi group. Instead, Herrenvolk identified the organization as white nationalist in nature.
“People are joining our movement because, like every other race, they want to advocate for themselves,” Herrenvolk said. “Modern academia is ripe for the picking given the current politically-correct and openly white-hating agenda that is pushed.”
The group’s potential sympathies with neo-Nazi ideology is also hinted at through the alias chosen by its representative. The term “Herrenvolk” was popularized in Nazi-era Germany and translates roughly as “master people” or “master race.”
Herrenvolk said Cascadia has “a few dozen members” at each of the large universities in the Pacific Northwest and “a few hundred” members overall. He did not provide any evidence for the claims.
Nationalism vs. supremacism
Dr. Eric Kaufmann, a professor of politics in Birkbeck College at the University of London, studies ethnicity-based identity politics, particularly of majority groups. Kaufmann explained that the difference between white supremacism and white nationalism is not merely a practice in semantics although the ideologies can intertwine.
“White supremacy is about a belief in innate white superiority over other races,” Kaufmann said. “The litmus test for racism is irrationality, not racial self-interest.”
Kaufmann explained that nationalists are concerned with territorial community and political aspiration. White nationalism frames these goals within a white racial context.
While opponents of all white-identity movements may disregard the semantic and ontological differences of these concepts, Kaufmann stressed that it may lead to a political and social misdiagnosis. “If an ethnic group feels discriminated against, powerless, or if it feels it is losing some aspect of its identity, these can fuel demand for ethnic politics,” Kauffmann said.
Herrenvolk exploited the nuances in these terms by speaking in a rational, intellectual and even egalitarian manner. “We would prefer if all races could rule themselves,” Herrenvolk said. “Forced diversity only leads to conflict and distrust, not only for whites, but for all other races as well.”
Dr. Winston Grady-Willis, director of the School of Gender, Race and Nations at PSU, contends that black nationalism is not akin to white nationalism. “Generally speaking, black nationalism here in the U.S. has concerned itself with establishing independent black cultural, political, social and economic institutions,” he said. “It asserts the right of self-determination.”
Grady-Willis explained that while some black nationalists have called for racial separatism vis-a-vis a black nation-state, the movement is not monolithic and at its core is opposed to institutional racism.
Herrenvolk said Cascadia’s advocacy of self-determination is the same. “Why would any race want to be a minority?” he asked. “What would be most advantageous is for all racial groups to have their own respective nations where they can rule themselves in whatever way they see fit.”
Despite expressing sentiment for equal self-rule, Herrenvolk later dove into darker pseudoscientific claims about racial hierarchies. “Evolution did not stop when humans left Africa,” Herrenvolk said. “To assume that different breeds of dogs can have different temperaments and intelligence, but different races of humans cannot is ignorant at best, and lying at worst.”
While companies such as Ancestry and 23andme advertise DNA testing that aids in determining one’s ethnic heritage, the genetic markers they look for merely indicate which populations share related DNA, rather than establishing objective criteria as to which populations should be counted as distinct races.
According to a 2004 Nature Genetics review of scientific literature on human genetics spanning decades of research, roughly 85–90 percent of genetic variation is found within individuals belonging to a particular continental group, while less than 15 percent of variation is found distinguishing these groups as separate populations. In other words, the genetic differences spanning our own so-called racial group are greater than the genetic differences that vary from one race to another.
To Herrenvolk, the biological evidence which deconstructs race seemed largely irrelevant. He pointed to select social science research which show disparities in IQ scores across a variety of racial categories in large-N studies. Most scholars attribute these variations to environmental factors such as development and education access while others contest the concept of measurable intelligence itself.
Herrenvolk claimed that East Asians and Jews have “evolved” to have higher IQs, but the white race is uniquely responsible for the fruits of Western civilization, such as enlightenment thinking.
A cultural revolution
As the politics of division is used by leaders and activists across the political spectrum, Cascadia is strategically seizing the moment to recruit disaffected whites through social media and clandestine outreach campaigns.
“The left has overplayed their hand,” Herrenvolk said. “Promoting ‘diversity’ to the Nth degree, forcing down the throats of our youth that whites are evil and can do no good, and pushing degeneracy of every form.”
Herrenvolk issued an ominous warning toward the end of the email exchange: “There will be a cultural revolution, and it will not be the one that the left has dreamt of, a-la Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein, but a resurgence of rightist politics.”
In the end, Cascadia’s image of a strong, unapologetic and proud white man in the flyer is contrasted with the reality of the group’s anonymous online correspondence.
Editor’s note: We initially included a note about the illustration’s “stylistic overtones of Nazi-era propaganda.” The article is now updated to include further contextual information.
The Vanguard is committed to seeking truth and reporting it. If you have any information about this group or movement, contact the Vanguard. For those who feel alarmed and unsafe by learning of such a presence in the PSU community, we encourage you to utilize the resources on campus. Many of these resources can be found here: PSU Office of Global Diversity and Inclusion.