Wade Page was not a random killer. He had a network, a plan, and a support base.
Starting with a tattoo on his arm, we see the signs of neo-Nazi indoctrination: a Celtic cross emblazoned with a ‘14,’ referring to the fourteen-word slogan “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children,” commonly attributed to David Lane, a founder of white supremacist organization The Order. As the singer-songwriter for the neo-Nazi Punk band ‘End Apathy’ based in Nashville, NC, Page played to white supremacist crowds (one photo clearly indicates the presence of violent Hammerskins) and hinted at his horrific suicide mission. From the End Apathy song ‘Self-Destruct’ on the “Violent Victory” vinyl release:
Running out of Patience/Waiting for ‘That Day’/Just when things are going good/I’ll f— it up some way/If I can’t move forward/I know I can move back/Blow the band money at the bar/I’m on the Attack
That Page was a neo-Nazi is not a surprise to anyone; the surprise and shame, frankly, is how willing we have been to ignore the culture that nurtures it. Are Sikhs suddenly more at risk than they were on Saturday? No—the risk of violence against any subaltern group has always been present, just ignored.
Since September 11, 2001, prejudice, violence, and racial profiling against South Asians has soared to new heights, much of it manifesting as Islamophobia. Some of the public conversation has (to the dismay of many of us) been diverted toward understanding the difference between Muslims and Sikhs, as if the religion of the victims ought to make any difference at all. Either way, paranoia about the Other has driven some to support of undemocratic laws against minorities, and others to violence. While organized nativism might use this flame-filled rhetoric to fire up their base, the Wade Pages among them hear an urgency that cannot be answered sitting down.
The prejudice can be named any number of ways—racism, nativism, xenophobia, or Islamophobia—the underlying current is the same: a racialized idea of who is ‘American,’ who holds dominion over that identity, and what ought to be done about it. If immigrants can be recast as ‘invaders,’ racist murderers can be recast as heroes. The more that any group of people—immigrants, Muslims, or anyone else—is spoken of as an existential threat, the more Wade Pages, JT Readys, Anders Breiviks, or Shawna Fordes there will be to act against it. Wade Page was not the first—not even the first in a while—and without serious thought to how we perceive our country and ourselves, he may likely not be the last.