[News] Want to Meet America’s Worst Racists? Come to the Northwest

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jul 8 16:21:36 EDT 2015

  Want to Meet America’s Worst Racists? Come to the Northwest

*Confederate sympathizers have nothing on the ‘Northwest Front.’*


July 07, 2015

Much of the national debate over racism in the aftermath of last month’s 
mass murder in Charleston, S.C., has focused on the South and its 
strange and sometimes jarring nostalgia for the Confederacy. And yet 
tucked away in the Pacific Northwest of the United States is a vicious 
group that most people have never heard of but the nation’s most 
virulent online racists know well (among them, accused South Carolina 
murderer Dylann Roof, who wrote about the group in his now-infamous 

The group is called the Northwest Front and its final solution to the 
race "problem," if you will, is to expel non-white people from the 
Pacific Northwest and to establish a mono-racial republic there.

Racism knows no region, it’s safe to say. While the Pacific Northwest 
can abstain from the debate on the removal of traitorous colors from the 
Capitol grounds—Oregon was the last state in the Union before the Civil 
War’s outbreak, after all—the region bears a racial legacy tinted by an 
ignorance, a decades-old vision of minority-free lands, as stark as any 
in the United States.

To be sure, the Northwest Front represents a fringe campaign, a minority 
of a minority seeking to expunge the Pacific Northwest of any color but 
white. According to Harold Covington, the group’s leader, the union of 
Washington State, Oregon, Idaho and western Montana would be 
“kind of like the white version of Israel. I don’t see why the Jews are 
the only people on Earth that get their own country and everyone else 
has to be diverse.” Covington knows precisely what he’s gone in for: “Of 
course it’s racism. What’s wrong with racism? It’s the purist form of 

Numbers on the Northwest Front are hard to come by—the group does 
without formal membership—but the Southern Poverty Law Center maintains 
Northwest Front as one of the foremost white nationalist groups in the 
region. The group’s reach has as much to do with its push as it does 
with its leader, Covington. While no direct connection between Roof and 
Covington has yet emerged, aside from Roof’s broadsides about Northwest 
Front, circumstance and parallel motivations twin the two.

In 1972, while a member of the U.S. Army, Covington wormed his way into 
his first neo-Nazi organization 
He soon found himself in Bulawayo, Rhodesia (a nation whose colors Roof, 
coincidentally, didn’t hesitate to sport 
While there, Covington managed to start both the Rhodesian White 
People’s Party and the South African Friends of the Movement. But 
Covington quickly outstayed his welcome, and his screeching 
anti-Semitism soon saw him deported from one of the most racist regimes 

Not long thereafter, however, Covington set his sights more 
domestically—and tapped into a vein of racial stratification long 
overlooked within the U.S. For Covington, the Pacific Northwest could 
prove the well-spring for the white supremacists’ dreams. An independent 
/ethnie/. A Rhodesia regained.

But don’t think Covington’s claims—that he can flip the vertiginous 
Northwest into an autarkic ethno-state—are novel. Rather, Covington 
tapped into a racist longing that has long festered in this part of the 
country, a tide of American history that’s never been properly 
addressed. From its earliest American outset, the Pacific Northwest was 
long meant to be a land for the white caste. “Whites Only” writ large.

Look at Oregon 
for instance. As Walidah Imarisha of Portland State University’s Black 
Studies Department told me, “Oregon was founded as a state, as a 
territory, as a white homeland. Folks who answered that call wanted to 
build their perfect white society.” And not in the same vein of a 
three-fifths-clause South, where black Americans would be tolerated, if 
in servitude. Oregon would be different. While the state remained in the 
Union—and actually proved pivotal 
<http://www.amazon.com/Team-Rivals-Political-Abraham-Lincoln/dp/0743270754> to 
Abraham Lincoln’s nomination on the Republican ticket—Oregon’s founders 
mentioned racial unity in the state's original documents. To wit, the 
1850 Oregon Donation Land Act allowed 
<http://kingneighborhood.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/BLEEDING-ALBINA_-A-HISTORY-OF-COMMUNITY-DISINVESTMENT-1940%E2%80%932000.pdf> free 
land to whites alone. And during an 1857 vote on the constitution’s 
formulation, some 83 percent of participants voted to prohibit “free 
negroes” from living or working in the state. Chief Justice George 
Williams, who later served as attorney general for President Ulysses 
Grant, summed the sentiment, lobbying voters 
<https://scholarsbank.uoregon.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1794/4561/83_2_731.pdf?sequence=1> to 
“consecrate Oregon to the use of the white man, and exclude the negro, 
Chinaman, and every race of that character.” According to one researcher 
Oregon was “the only state ever admitted with a black exclusion clause 
in its constitution.” There’s a reason, growing up in Portland, that my 
seventh-grade teacher informed us Oregon was often considered the most 
racist state west of the Mississippi.

Remarkably, such laws remained in force in Oregon until 1926, allowing a 
white population to steer a demographic legacy apart from other parts of 
the country. At one point, Oregon boasted the highest per-capita 
<http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CB8QFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wou.edu%2Ftri%2Fusp%2F556%2FOregonRacialLaws.pdf&ei=24iRVfPnKYagyASH9YIQ&usg=AFQjCNE7-wX2682KG5ome_k-dTNO2ST6MQ&sig2=6EJ68HyEynRIdCkLdzQO4g&bvm=bv.96783405,d.aWw> in 
the Ku Klux Klan. For good measure, Oregon failed to ratify the 15th 
Amendment, allowing African-Americans the right to vote, until 1959; the 
state also didn’t formally ratify the 14th Amendment, allowing equal 
protection under the law, until 1973. “Oregon was a Klan state—it was as 
prejudiced as South Carolina, so there was very little difference other 
than geographic difference,” Otto Rutherford, one of the state’s leading 
civil rights activists, said 
Despite its current trappings of progress and tolerance, mid-20^th 
  century Portland, according 
<http://www.opb.org/artsandlife/series/historical-photo/oregon-historical-photo-portlands-struggle-for-racial-equality/> to 
Oregon Public Broadcasting, “was still considered the most segregated 
and prejudiced city on the West Coast.” Today, not only does Portland 
remain the whitest major metropolitan area 
<http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/03/24/how-the-whitest-city-in-america-appears-through-the-eyes-of-its-black-residents/> in 
the country, but the city managed to slough its remaining 
African-American population even further in the 21^st  century, dropping 
from 6.6 percent in 2000 
<http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=bkmk> to 
6.3 percent in 2010 
<http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/41/4159000.html>. Seattle’s 
decline has proven even steeper, with the city’s black population 
sagging from 8.4 percent 
<http://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/DEC/00_SF1/DP1/1600000US5363000> to 
7.9 percent <http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/53/5363000.html> in 
just 10 years, with no end to the drop in sight.

All through it, Oregon—and the Pacific Northwest more broadly—remained a 
bastion of white supremacist visions of isolation and conformity. Trends 
<http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2011/winter/extremists-are-coming-together-in-mon> in 
the mid-1980s with Richard Butler, founder of the Aryan Nations, helping 
to push the idea of the Northwest Territorial Imperative, of a piece 
with Covington’s recent push. Butler’s compound in northern Idaho 
eventually fizzled, but his dream, tied directly to the region’s days of 
primordial statehood, has continued.

Indeed, the Pacific Northwest was recently the site of an attempted 
white supremacist bombing that could well have outpaced the carnage 
unleashed in Boston a few years ago. In early 2011 
<http://articles.latimes.com/2012/feb/09/nation/la-na-mlk-bomb-20120209>, Kevin 
Harpham planted a backpack tangled in wire, fishing weights, and rat 
poison along the route of Spokane’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day 
parade. Fortunately, sanitation workers spotted the device before 
detonation. A few weeks later, after Harpham’s white supremacist screeds 
<http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2011/summer/mlk-day-bomb-suspect-has-extensive-wh> came 
to light, officers camouflaged as road workers–and using a backhoe to 
pin his car–grabbed Harpham. But not all domestic terrorists in the 
region, operating under the auspices of white supremacy, are caught 
prior to their crime. A white supremacist and his girlfriend out of 
Washington State recently 
<http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/24/us-usa-crime-supremacist-idUSBREA3N02G20140424> murdered 
a black man alongside a separate 19-year-old, the latter of whom they 
“thought … was Jewish.”

No ties have come to light between any of the criminals and Covington, 
nor between Covington and Roof—though it is worth noting that the 
Northwest Front was apparently recently recruiting 
<http://www.foxcarolina.com/story/26693968/white-separatist-groups-card-ends-up-in-greenville-county-mans-mailbox> in 
South Carolina. But Covington chose his swath of America for a reason. 
Not only does the region’s white supremacist legacy—legal and 
otherwise—linger, but check the latest Census figures. Washington 
State’s population remains only 4 percent black 
<http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/53000.html>. Oregon? Two 
percent <http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/41000.html>. Idaho? 
Eight-tenths of a percent 
<http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/16000.html>. Montana? 
Six-tenths of a percent 

For the accused South Carolina killer, apparently, the Northwest Front’s 
goals were too meek. “I think this idea is beyond stupid,” Roof wrote 
<http://lastrhodesian.com/data/documents/rtf88.txt> in his presumed 
manifesto. “Why should I for example, give up the beauty and history of 
my state to go to the Norhthwest? (sic)”

But other racists have, and they will continue to do so. And we 
shouldn’t forget about them.


/Casey Michel is a recent Master’s graduate from Columbia University’s 
Harriman Institute. His writing has appeared in the/ Atlantic, Foreign 
Policy, /and/ Slate, /and he can be followed on Twitter at @cjcmichel 

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
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