Why Trump’s Proud Boys comments threaten us all


Gwen Tucker, Staff Writer

I, for one, was not surprised when Donald Trump avoided condemning white supremacy at the first presidential debate on Tuesday, Sept. 29. I’ve listened to his rhetoric and seen his white supremacist supporters rally with tiki torches for more than four years. If there’s one thing politicians know, it’s that you can’t alienate your base. I also wasn’t surprised when Trump asked the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.” But, even without knowing exactly who the Proud Boys were, I was immediately terrified. Terrified not only for myself as a Jewish woman, but my neighbors and peers of marginalized identities in Evanston. The Proud Boys are a white nationalist hate group that threaten all of us. 

Founded in 2016 by Gavin McInnes, the Proud Boys don’t outwardly label themselves as “white supremacists”. Instead they call themselves “western chauvinists” that spread “anti-political correctness” and “anti-white guilt.” By using more coded terms instead of outrightly championing racism, the Proud Boys have gained far more acceptance in mainstream conservatism. But make no mistake, the views they harbor are incredibly offensive and harmful. They align with neo-Nazi groups and marched at Charlottesville in 2017. They openly deny the Holocaust, brag about rape culture and call for violence against those in the LGBTQ+ community. Anti SemitismAntisemitism, Islamophobia, homophobia and other forms of oppressions are foundational parts of their belief system. 

After being told to “stand back and stand by,” during the Sept. 29 debate, the Proud Boys reacted with immediate celebration and triumph. Not only are they selling merchandise with the quote from Trump turned into a slogan, but Joe Biggs, a Proud Boys leader, essentially said that the President gave them the go-ahead to attack others, which makes him “so happy.”

For years, Trump’s presidency has given voice to a rising amount of mainstream white nationalism. Now, by saying the Proud Boys should “stand back and stand by,” he is basically asking them to interfere with the electoral process and incite violence in the case of a Trump defeat. This violence will be directed against many marginalized communities. As a Jewish woman, the white supremacist and antisemitic rhetoric spouted by the Proud Boys threatens my existence. When McInnes states that the reason he’s sexist is because “women are dumb,” it’s clearly patronizing and disrespectful. When they say during a podcast entitled Daily Shoah that 90 percent of their members “would tell you something along the lines of ‘Hitler was right. Gas the Jews’,” the physical fear I feel is overwhelming. The calls for violence during and after the election only make it worse. Not only is their ideology scary, but they have been given the go-ahead to incite violence from the most powerful person in the country. I know that I’m far from alone in my fear, especially in Evanston. Many people who hold marginalized identities are put in harm’s way from this threat of violence.

So, what can we do? First, it’s imperative that those who can vote, vote. It can absolutely be frustrating to be berated with countless calls to vote when it seems like electoralism can’t rescue us from this doom, but it’s truly necessary. It’s the bare minimum, as we can’t have a President that actively encourages white supremacist groups. More importantly, and far more long term, we have to stand up against white supremacy in all of its facets. Show up for your friends and family, show up in the streets, and make your voices heard. In a community like Evanston, so many of our lives are in danger, lives of people who belong to marginalized communities. We have to continue to show up for each other. Our action has never been more important.