Belew 2018

From Projecting Power


Formation of the White Power Movement:

  • The white power movement united a wide array of groups and activists previously at odds.
  • They were thrown together by tectonic shifts in the cultural and political landscape.
  • Narratives of betrayal and crisis cemented their alliances.

Attitudes towards the State and National Identity:

  • The white power movement did not seek to defend the American nation, even when it celebrated some elements of U.S. history and identity.
  • Instead, white power activists increasingly saw the state as their enemy.
  • Many pursued the idea of an all-white, racial nation, transcending national borders to unite white people from the US, Canada, Europe, etc.

Erosion of Confidence in the State:

  • At the end of the 1970s, many Americans lost faith in the state that they had trusted to take care of them.
  • Loss in the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal undermined their confidence in elected officials.
  • White power activists responded to Reagan's first term with calls for a more extreme course of action, plotting to overthrow the government.

Extent and Nature of the Movement:

  • While white power was certainly a fringe movement, it surpassed earlier mobilizations.
  • Membership alone is a poor measure, with records often destroyed or hidden.
  • Estimates suggest about 25,000 "hard-core members" in the 1980s, with additional attendees at rallies and events.

Relationship with Conservatism and Political Ideology:

  • While overlapping with mainstream conservatism, the movement emphasized a radical future achievable only through revolution.
  • Most activists agreed that achieving their goals would require drastic measures beyond political conservatism.

Religious and Ideological Components:

  • White power religious radicalism emerged from Cold War perceptions of communism as a threat to Christianity.
  • Many believed in white supremacy as a component of religious faith, integral to the movement's broader revolutionary character.
  • Christian identity and other white theologies fueled the belief in ridding the world of the unfaithful.

Evolution and Impact:

  • Another unifying feature was its strident anti-communism.
  • White power capitalized on broader cultural paramilitarism, intertwining masculinity with militancy for violent ends.
  • Through unity, revolutionary commitments, and organizing strategies, white power represented something new, not merely a resurgence of earlier Klan activity.
  • It encompassed a wider range of ideologies and operated both in public and underground.

Response to Changing Societal Dynamics:

  • White power also responded to evolving meanings of state, sovereignty, and liberal institutions, particularly after the 1960s.
  • Dwindling economic prospects became intertwined with cultural backlash.
  • White power qualified as a social movement through central features like inner circle figures, public displays, and wide-reaching social networks. 
  • White power activists used a shared repertoire of actions to assert collectivity, often attempting to hide their activity.
  • They rallied openly, formed associations, and self-published writings to spread their message.

Impact and Confrontation:

  • "Bring the War Home" follows the formation of the white power movement, its war on the state, and its apocalyptic confrontation with militarized state power.
  • The story of white power as a social movement exposes broader enduring impacts of state violence in America, echoing the catastrophic ricochet of the Vietnam War.

Chapter 1: "The Vietnam War Story"[edit]

Vietnam Veterans

  • Louis Beam returned home from Vietnam, accounting for the killings of twelve to fifty-one "communists" in 1968.
  • Beam logged more than a thousand hours shooting at the enemy and transporting his fellow soldiers during the eighteen months he spent in Vietnam
    • Weaponizing his story from the war allowed him to spark a white power revolution by militarizing the renewed Ku Klux Klan.
  • The war served to polarize political groups on both ends of the spectrum as veterans entered critical roles in organizing politics and culture.
  • Beam pushed forth a story about government betrayal, soldiers left behind, and a nation that would never value his sacrifice.
    • Veterans within the white power movement thus signify a larger narrative regarding their claims on society and the aftermath of war.

Postwar Attitudes

  • Resurgences for the Ku Klux Klan occur more in tandem with post-war effects than with poverty, anti-immigration sentiment, or populism.
  • The cooperation of veterans and civilian Klan members amounted to an overspill of state violence from the war into the threads of American culture, society, and politics.
  • Veterans who joined the Klan after the war played instrumental roles in leadership, providing military training to other klansmen and carrying out acts of violence.
  • War narratives that pushed an understanding of betrayal by the government and suffering laid the foundations of activism for white power.
  • People felt disenchanted from failures to achieve decisive victories after the extensive use of soldiers, bombs, and money.
  • Vietnam differed from other wars in its normal and frequent engagement with civilian violence, mutilation, sexual violence, and other crimes.
  • Defeat served to challenge the image of the American soldier, questioned the global political order, and intensified anti-communist sentiment.
  • Vietnam Veterans Against the War lead anti-war demonstrations, denounced the war, and moved to provided assistance to those who had suffered physical effects from exposure to chemicals during the war
    • During this period veteran groups such as prisoners of war/missing in action (POW/MIA) gained major political lobbying power.
    • Veterans who formed part of the white power movement used the Vietnam war to anti-government sentiment by telling stories of war soldiers who had met gruesome injury and death, faced hardship, insects, abandonment, rot, and disease.
    • Many American soldiers who came home after the war were spat on and called baby killers. Their service was not appreciated and those that were left behind as prisoners of war were abandoned and forgotten. The ones who came home were denied homecoming parades and their place in public memory.
    • The Vietnam war story served a vital role in the white power movement although many things that were said regarding the war were contested

Reactions on the Home Front

  • Martha Rosler made the series "House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home," which combined war violence with suburban domestic spaces to highlight the dissonance between warfare and those calling for war from home.
  • Other veterans led anti-war demonstrations and mobilized for better treatment of veterans suffering physical, psychological, and political detriments.
  • Mass attention shifted to veterans' poor treatment by society after returning home, further painting a narrative of betrayal and corruption by the American government.

Impact on White Power

  • The war engendered a culture that became symbolically iconic for men to reference as a driving political narrative.
    • Many who joined the white power movement but had not been directly involved with military service had gotten close to enlisting or had an intense interest in the military but had not enlisted because of frustration with how the war was unfolding.
  • Many activists who came out of it pivoted to racist activities and activism for white power following their perception of betrayals by the government and adherence to a potent political rhetoric.
  • Over a thousand occurrences of racial violence were recorded by 1970 both abroad and in the United States.
  • Military service could provide soldiers opportunity to work with diverse people, but nevertheless reinforced racist sentiment and laid the groundwork for racial violence.
  • Rhetoric dehumanizing the Vietnamese resurged in white power groups at home.
  • Anti-war protest contributed to a changing perception of the Vietnam war as one of shame and dishonor. This was supported by increasing media coverage and knowledge of wartime atrocities by American soldiers, flipping the narrative to be against war as a whole.

Beam's Writing

  • Beam consistently called for violent infliction on civilians at home as a response to the government's abandonment of soldiers in Vietnam.
  • His writing reflects a tension between a man wrestling with the violence of war and a leader of the white power revolution inciting further violence.
  • He claimed the war continued on long after its end, even as the rules and political landscape had evolved. He called for the violent murder of everyone that had sent soldiers to Vietnam, which appealed to greater audiences of the white power movement.

Chapter 2: "Building the Underground"[edit]

  • Louis Beam in 1977 purchased 50 acres of swampland using the Texas Veterans Land Board Grant
  • He created a training facility which transformed Klansmen into Soldiers
    • Curating a paramilitary that was unified by a white power movement, would implement various methods to target undocumented immigrants such as a Klan border watch
  • Southern Poverty Law Center banned paramilitary training, further fueled this movement
  • Shared acts of violence, such as the harassment of Vietnamese refugees tied members together to share a common purpose

Beams Creation of His Own Group

  • In 1968, he joined the United Klans of America, but left due to the governments interference
  • He searched for other opportunities, exploring five options, but they each had a problem that made them not desirable to join according to Beam
  • Instead he created his own group
  • The Vietnam war was utilized as the basis of his actions and narrative
    • He believed the war wasn't over when he returned home in America, which he used as a excuse for his violent actions
    • In 1975 he affiliated his independent Klan with the Knights of the Klu Klux Klan
    • Managed by David Duke, claiming they did not advocate for the denial of minority rights but the rights to only associate with white people
  • Beam felt he had the right to defend his race against immigration, which he viewed as a threat
  • Although they put up a soft public front, they had several violent underground activities and violence was the basis of their ties; Beam even had kill zones throughout the US

The Klans

  • The Klan Paramilitary camps sought to copy army training-one surge of violence was to carry out the past excitement of "army scenes"
    • Veterans made up a large majority of the third Klan resurgence
  • Klansmen asserted they were doing the workings of the state by participating in the Klan border watch
  • They sought to intimidate immigrants to an extent in which they would be worried to cross because of the Klans Border Watch
    • A reporter went undercover as an undocumented immigrant, and heard several violent stories about the Klan border watch that induced fear in these immigrants


  • Beam advanced as Klan leader and sought to expand his camp, Camp Puller
  • Expansion was dependent on two factors, social and financial investment, which came from a close group of Klan supporters
  • In the fall of 1980 however Camp Puller had several parental complaints and undercover reports which drew attraction to it
    • They were teaching high-schoolers horrific violent acts such as decapitation, hijacking airplanes etc.

Klan Continuation

  • The camps were also preparing for antigovernment combat, and prepared to rage a race war
  • Due to economic crisis, the refugee's were seen as potential economic competitors
  • There were tensions arising given that refugees were receiving support from the government, whereas veterans were seeing a lack thereof
    • This narrative was used by Klan members to fuel their racism
  • The Klan further promoted violence against the Vietnamese refugees by putting forth racist tropes
    • Claiming they carried several diseases-increase harassment toward Vietnamese fishermen
  • In Santa Fe on February 14 roughly 300-400 people attended a Klan rally
    • During this Rally the Klan gave the government a deadline to remove the Vietnamese fisherman out of the golf, if not the Klan would then step in and take action
    • The deadline was May 15
  • Robed Klansmen went on bay patrol, there was sympathy for white fishermen
    • During the patrol they had a lynched Vietnamese refugee hung
  • The threats intensified
    • Due to this the Vietnamese community gathered and filed a harassment suit
    • Many Vietnamese refugees tired of dealing with this harassment, in March of 1981 offered to leave on the condition that the White people buy the boats back
    • Since they were overcharged, few white boatsmen could afford to buy back
  • As depositions began the Klan employed intimidation tactics to make the Vietnamese refugees fearful
  • Beam responded by using the Vietnamese war as basis for his actions
  • The court ruled in favor of the Vietnamese, claiming the Klan did pose as a threat
    • As a result they prohibited many of their actions, including boat burning, wearing Klan robes in a group larger than two people, etc
  • McDonald, the judge, received threats posts ruling
  • Mark White, Texas District Attorney in June shifted the focus from Vietnamese fisherman to the larger issue at hand, the paramilitary camps
    • White claimed they were in violation of the law by doing such
  • These were not the only problem, there were several similar sites participating in the same sort of combat training
  • On June 4, 1982 McDonald ruled they must stop paramilitary training, rallying in public with their guns, etc in Texas
  • The white power movement had already been fueled across the nation in different states by the time this decision was made
  • Beam resigned as Grand Dragon of Texas KKKK but hinted the movement was continuing in the Northwest
  • His ten month sentence was appealed
  • The FBI decided the Texas KKKK was not worthy of further investigation and moved to focusing on the Northwest
  • Beam continued his mission to kill communists as he did in Vietnam

Chapter 7: "Race War and White Women"[edit]

Main Argument:

Women were central to the white power movement. White women played a crucial symbolic and practical role in the white power movement of the 1980s. This was exemplified during the 1988 Fort Smith sedition trial of movement leaders.


  • In the 1980s, the white power movement emphasized the symbolic importance of white women's reproduction and the creation of a white homeland in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Symbolically, the white power movement invoked the purity and vulnerability of white women to justify its ideology and violence. Leaders portrayed the movement as necessary for the defense of white women from the threats of interracial relationships, non-white birth rates, and government/Zionist betrayals.
  • White women were instrumental to the movement's operation and growth. They created important social ties through marriage, supported paramilitary activities, and spread propaganda. They framed their roles as wives and mothers of the white race. Mothers of future Aryan warriors.

White Women as Symbols

White power propaganda and rhetoric emphasized the purity, chastity, and vulnerability of white women.

  • White women were portrayed as "the mothers of future Aryan warriors" who needed to be protected.
  • White power iconography showed white women at the center of unified Klan and neo-Nazi groups and included depiction of the Virgin Mary.
  • The protection of white women, white children and domestic spaces was used as a justification for racial violence throughout U.S. history.
  • The movement connected the symbolism around white women to broader societal debates of the 1980s related to women's changing roles, reproduction, and the family. Issues like the ERA, abortion, contraception, welfare, and immigration were framed as threats to white women's fertility and the white birth rate.
  • The movement placed importance on white women as reproductive vessels for the race.
  • The white power movement strategically leveraged existing cultural ideas about protecting white female purity and fertility as a call to action and as a way to widen its appeal. The symbolic white woman helped to unify and motivate the movement.

Women's Activism and Support Roles

White women were active participants in the white power movement of the 1980s, even though their roles were restrained and controlled by the male-dominated structure.

  • Women attended and even co-owned paramilitary training camps. While the men focused on weapons and combat training, women learned survivalist skills like canning food, making supplies, and preparing for nuclear war.
  • Women provided support behind the scenes to enable the men's violent activities. This included disguising male activists, driving getaway cars, destroying evidence, transporting people and weapons, designing group medallions, and proofreading major movement writings.
  • Women helped unify the movement by forging social connections between factions through Marriages and romantic relationships.
  • Some women produced propaganda aimed at other women in the movement.
  • During the 1988 sedition trial of white power leaders, the presence of supportive wives and sisters in the courtroom helped create sympathy for the male defendants and made the movement seem less threatening to the American public.

The Fort Smith Trial and Sheila Beam

The wife of white power leader Louis Beam played a significant role in the 1988 sedition trial of movement leaders who were charged with conspiring to overthrow the govement. Beam and others were ultimately acquitted.

  • Sheila and Louis had initially fled to Mexico to avoid trial. Mexico cooperated with US law enforcement and arrested them. After they were extradited back to the US, Sheila became the face of the movement while her husband was held in jail.
  • During the trail, Sheila was portrayed as an innocent victim of government persecution. She performed the narrative of vulnerable white womanhood who was a devoted wife, devout Christian, and pure Sunday school teacher.
  • During the arrest in Mexico, Sheila had shot and injured a Mexican police officer. After she was extradited, she claimed she had been sexually assaulted in Mexico and abused by the police. Her perceived purity and image of a victim conferred an innocence-by-association to her husband and the other defendants.
  • American mainstream media coverage portrayed Sheila and the movement sympathetically.
  • After the trial, the white power movement used the Beams' story as vindication. Their story was used to mobilize new recruits. Sheila's experience fit neatly into the central narrative of white women as victims in need of protection from the tyrannical government.


  • Sheila Beam’s narrative of “endangered white womanhood” resonated with the mainstream.
  • Journalists repeated Sheila Beam's account of mistreatment without much critique. Instead they focused on her injuries and fragility rather than the charges against her husband.
  • Louis Beam's defense was centered on his role as a protective husband and father and a traumatized Vietnam veteran.
  • Anti-miscegenation ideology and the trope of black male threats to white women persisted in 1980s culture.
  • To appeal to broader anti-government sentiments of the time, Beam invoked his duty to defend the Constitution and popular sovereignty over the federal government.
  • The prosecution faced major challenges:
    • Jury selection was rushed by a sympathetic judge which resulted in a jury that was also sympathetic to the defendants.
    • The prosecution's case was weakened by the exclusion of evidence by the judge.
    • Two jurors became romantically involved with defendants after the trial which suggested bias in the jury’s decision.
  • The white power movement used the victory to mobilize recruits and push its message further into the mainstream.
    • Leaders of the movement pushed the verdict as a triumph of popular will over government persecution.
    • The movement united with new neo-Nazi skinheads and militia members in the early 1990s.
    • Activists made use of stories of victimized white women like Sheila Beam to justify violence against the government.