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SREXXX10.1177/2332649214555031Sociology of Race and EthnicityBlee and Yates

Race, Ethnicity, and Social Movements

Sociology of Race and Ethnicity

The Place of Race in

2015, Vol. 1(1) 127­–136
© American Sociological Association 2014
DOI: 10.1177/2332649214555031

Conservative and Far-right sre.sagepub.com


Kathleen M. Blee1 and Elizabeth A. Yates1

This paper explores current understandings and proposes new directions for research on the place of
race in rightist social movements in the contemporary United States. We examine two broad categories
of rightist movements. The first is white-majority conservative movements that deny their participation
in racialized politics but in which race is implicit in their ideologies and agendas, such as the Tea Party.
The second is far-right movements that explicitly espouse racist ideologies and agendas, such as neo-Nazi
groups. For conservative movements, we examine the extent to which racial factors shape agendas and
motivate participants. For far-right movements, we examine how they define race and seek to enact their
racial goals. We point to productive possibilities for new research on the racial positionality of scholars of
social movements, the relationship between rightist movements and larger social trends, and processual
and longitudinal aspects of rightist movements.

racist, white supremacy, conservatism, social movement, violence

Race is implicated in a range of contemporary conservatism and anticommunism of the mid–twen-

rightist movements in the United States. This is tieth century Old Right (Ribuffo 1983) and the social
most obvious in far-right movements that promote conservatism of the New Christian Right (Blee and
overtly racist agendas, but race also is salient in Creasap 2010; Diamond 1998; McGirr 2001). Our
conservative mobilizations that disavow racial focal movements are just one segment of modern
motives or consequences. In both cases, the place conservatism, a broader category that also includes
of race is not fully captured by examining how multiracial movements to oppose same-sex mar-
movements frame their intentions and agendas to riage and abortion; movements that preach racial
their supporters and audiences. Understanding race reconciliation and the need for whites to expunge the
in rightist politics requires attention to the range of “sin” of racism (Allen 2000; Bartkowski 2004); and
factors identified in social movement studies and movements that mostly ignore race, such as those
the sociology of race and ethnicity. opposing climate-change research or seeking bans
We take the opportunity in this inaugural issue to on the inclusion of sexuality or evolution in public
provide an overview on race in contemporary U.S. school curricula (Irvine 2002; Lewis 2005; Lienesch
right-wing movements and suggest directions for 2007; McCright and Dunlap 2003; Smith 2008).1 As
future research. Since the literature on rightist move- an example of a primarily-white conservative
ments is vast, we focus on two broad movements in
which race is significant, but in different ways. One University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
is conservative mobilizations whose members are
Corresponding Author:
mostly white and in which racial themes and agen- Kathleen M. Blee, University of Pittsburgh, Sociology,
das are largely implicit. These movements are the 2217 Posvar, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA.
product of a dual political legacy, forged in the fiscal Email: kblee@pitt.edu
128 Sociology of Race and Ethnicity 1(1)

mobilization, we look at the Tea Party, a large and which racial factors are operative in movement
loosely affiliated network of activists who advocate practices and the beliefs of their participants and
a mixture of libertarian and traditional conservative how these movements address accusations that
opposition to taxation and government-sponsored they are racist. For far-right movements that openly
social welfare, participate in Republican electoral proclaim racist agendas, we show how scholars
campaigns, and mobilize supporters through mass examine the complexities in how these movements
media, social networks, and direct recruiting define and enact racial agendas. We conclude with
(Skocpol and Williamson 2012). ideas for additional research on the place of race in
Our second focus is far-right movements that rightist movements.
explicitly promote racist ideologies and, for some,
goals of violent racial terrorism. Their racial targets
vary but generally include African Americans, Scholarly Approaches
Jews, Muslims, Latinos/as, and immigrants from to the Study of Rightist
Africa, South Asia, and Latin America. In the last
decades, such movements generally have reflected Movements
the political legacies of either World War II–era Scholarship on rightist movements has gone
German Nazism and/or American traditions of through two distinct conceptual stages. Until the
organized racism and xenophobia (Durham 2000, 1990s, these movements were understood through
2007). As such, they include groups that seek an the lens of psychology, even as this framework had
international alliance with pro-Aryan groups been largely abandoned for studies of progressive
around the world as well as intense nationalists social movements. Through a psychological lens,
who want to establish a white homeland in the rightist movements were viewed as the product of
United States (Blee 2002; Dobratz and Shanks- the personality deficits, problematic familial
Meile 2000). Not all far-right movements are upbringing, and stunted emotional responses of
explicitly racist; for example, some radical anti- their members and supporters. By focusing on prej-
abortion movements advocate violence that is not udices, rigidity, and scapegoating, this scholarship
attached to a racial agenda, while vigilante, patriot, left race essentially unanalyzed except to the extent
and militia groups generally disavow racism even that rightist politics reflected the irrational racial
if their anti-immigrant, anti-state, and pro-gun schemas and animus of its adherents.
stances attract racist members (Rydgren 2007; More recently, studies of the right have adopted
Shapira 2013; Stern 1996; Zeskind 2009). As an the social-structural lens commonly used to study
example of a far-right movement, we look at U.S. other social movements. This approach assumes
neo-Nazis, who advocate the violent overthrow of that rightist movements are motivated by the ratio-
the government because of its supposed accommo- nal concerns of their members, advancing beyond
dation to the interests of Jews and people of color. theories of individual irrationality to identify the
Unlike popular conservative movements, the neo- social structures and dynamics that generate group
Nazi movement is tiny and, to minimize infiltration interests, such as economic competition and racial
by the police or antiracist groups, recruits largely domination (e.g., Cunningham 2012b; McVeigh
through direct personal contacts made in the sub- 2009; McVeigh and Cunningham 2012; van Dyke
culture of white power music shows, parties, ral- and Soule 2002). This approach has been extended
lies, and gatherings. by scholars who argue that movements are not the
To orient scholars of race and ethnicity to the product of the immediate and obvious interests of
particular issues of studying rightist movements, its adherents, but rather that participants’ interests
we begin by summarizing the theoretical trends are shaped by cultural factors and moral valuations
and methodological challenges that have character- (Polletta 2006; Smith 2003).
ized this scholarship. Here, we draw special atten- An area of considerable attention today is the
tion to differences in how scholars have analyzed effect of rightist movements on their members.
right-wing and progressive movements and the Rather than assuming that people join rightist
implications for understanding the place of race on movements because they are confused (irrational-
the right. Next, we explore a set of issues that have ity lens) or because they regard such movements as
commanded considerable scholarly attention. For vehicles to promote their interests (rationality-
white-dominated conservative movements which structural lens), this scholarship questions how
generally insist that they are not racially defined, racial beliefs and perceived self-interests are trans-
we show how scholars have explored the extent to formed in rightist politics, a question that lies at the
Blee and Yates 129

intersection of microlevel processes of individual scholars likely would have limited access to majority-
mobilization and mesolevel factors of group white groups, especially for studies that probe
dynamics and organization. These studies have issues of race. Despite these hurdles, some scholars
found that far-right movements typically intensify have been remarkably successful in gaining per-
the racial commitments of their members, espe- mission to interview and observe the internal racial
cially by introducing them to conspiratorial logics, dynamics of conservative and far-right movements
such as the idea that Jews are engineering world- and analyzing how such movements frame their
wide racial conflict or that the white race is on the racial ideas to the public (Adams and Roscigno
brink of racial suicide (Barkun 1994; Blee 2010; 2005; Hughey 2012; Miller-Idriss 2012; Simi and
Hughey 2012; Simi and Futrell 2010). There is less Futrell 2010).
work using this approach to study race in conserva-
tive movements, although it is possible that the
racial rhetoric in conservative movements may
The Place of Race in
reinforce members’ associations of crime, poverty, Conservative Movements
and social dysfunction with racial minorities The debate over race in conservative movements
(Hardisty 1999). engages both movement spokespersons and schol-
Scholars who investigate the place of race in ars, particularly on three issues. One is whether
rightist movements confront unique challenges of conservative ideologies are inherently racist. A few
access that shape what can effectively be investi- conservative movements use explicitly racist
gated. Conservative movements often are reluctant appeals, as for instance depicting Latinos/as,
to grant unrestricted access to their organizational Native Americans, and African Americans as lazy,
materials or members to university-based research- satisfied to rely on the largess of government ben-
ers since they suspect that these scholars will seek efits, or perpetrators of voter fraud (Collins 2000).
to elicit racist statements from members or depict However, such open racism is increasingly stigma-
the movement in a negative light. Conservative tized in the larger society, and most contemporary
movements that are heavily funded by corporate conservative movements insist that they do not
elites or right-wing foundations or tied to politi- engage in racial politics but simply favor equal
cians and elected officials are especially reluctant treatment for all, including whites. This claim is a
to disclose information that could be racially sensi- conservative twist on the widespread color-blind
tive. Far-right movements pose even more pro- ideology that regards racism as relevant only in an
found difficulties to scholars of race. Some hide individual, discriminatory context (Bonilla-Silva
themselves from public view, fearing infiltration by 2009). By ignoring how racial privileges and sub-
antiracist activists or police informants. Others ordination are embedded in the social structures
make themselves visible but attempt to threaten or and patterns of everyday life, color-blind ideology
intimidate researchers who are critical, as illus- fits conservative efforts to eliminate government
trated in the libel case brought against a historian policies that address structural racism or benefit
by a major figure in the Holocaust-denial move- racial minorities as a group, such as Affirmative
ment (Emory University N.d.). Action or equal opportunity laws (Bonilla-Silva
In all rightist movements, the perceived racial 2009; Feagin 2006). Moreover, by insisting that the
category of the researcher has a significant effect cultural and moral failures of poor communities
on access to groups and members. Scholars seen as hinder the achievements of their members, conser-
nonwhite or Jewish face the danger of personal vio- vative movements argue that their opposition to
lence at the hands of far-right racist activists who social welfare programs and guarantees of racial
regard them as enemies, although a few scholars equity (such as same-day voting registration, equal
have effectively used their enemy status to elicit opportunity policies, and immigration reform) is a
important information on these movements race-neutral position (Ansell 1997).
(Ezekiel 1996; Shapira 2013). In parts of the far- Another issue is whether individual conserva-
right in which the sense of racial loyalty is surpris- tive activists are motivated by racist animus, irre-
ingly elastic, even scholars perceived as white and spective of the stated ideology of their organization
non-Jewish may be regarded as race traitors and or the ideological claims they make directly (Parker
targeted for violence (Blee 2002, 2000; Twine and and Barreto 2013). This is a contentious issue
Warren 2000). The racial dynamics between among conservatives who, like others who embrace
researchers and participants are less studied for color-blind ideologies, consider as racist only
conservative movements, although nonwhite expressions of individual racial prejudice (Feagin
130 Sociology of Race and Ethnicity 1(1)

2006). Meanwhile, conservative movements often participants in 2011 (Skocpol and Williamson
use cultural symbols to mobilize sympathizers 2012); recent analysis shows its continuing strength
based on cultural identities that are not exclusively, at the grassroots level (Burghart 2014). At the
and likely not overtly, race-based (McVeigh 2014). national level, Tea Party–affiliated politicians, can-
Moreover, emphasizing the racism of conservative didates, and organizations lobby Congress to main-
activists can obscure the pervasive nature of racism tain tax deductions for the wealthy while slashing
across political boundaries (Burke 2013; Hughey federal funding for social services. These national
2010). For example, there is some evidence that leaders operate separately from local Tea Party
conservative movements attract those with racial groups, the latter of which hold regular meetings
grievances, particularly downwardly mobile or with conservative speakers, provide members with
working and lower middle class whites who regard information on how to campaign for conservative
racial minorities as unfairly benefitting from liberal candidates, educate the public on conservative
policies in competition for economic and political issues, and lobby local and state officials on behalf
power (Kimmel 2013). Elite whites, however, also of fiscally conservative policies (Yates 2014).
often support conservative movements without There is considerable debate about the racial
being cast as racists (Lassiter 2007). nature of Tea Party support. On one hand, some evi-
A third issue is how conservative movements dence suggests that racial animosity fueled the emer-
manage accusations of racism, through efforts that gence of the Tea Party immediately after the
may be authentic, strategic, or both. Some conser- inauguration of America’s first nonwhite president,
vative leaders promote the visibility of racial Barak Obama. Indeed, analysts consistently find that
minority members to demonstrate that their move- Tea Party supporters and activists are overwhelm-
ment is not racist as well as to present models of ingly white, and polling data show that Tea Party
racial minorities who have been successful through supporters express greater resentment toward racial
individual effort rather than by depending on gov- minorities than do non–Tea Party supporters, other
ernment policies and programs (Burghart and Republicans, and whites overall. For example, a
Zeskind 2010; Dillard 2001; Hardisty 1999). Other 2010 survey examining racial and political attitudes
leaders address charges of racism by preventing among citizens primarily in battleground electoral
members from making racist statements in public states found that 73% of Tea Party supporters believe
(Prior 2014). And many conservative movements that African Americans merely need to “try harder”
use ideological frames borrowed from racial equal- to obtain equal status as whites, as compared with
ity movements such as the Civil Rights Movement 56% of whites overall. A full 88% of Tea Party sup-
to present whites as victims of current social poli- porters said that African Americans should do so
cies, arguing that whites are subject to reverse dis- “without special favors,” compared with 70% of
crimination in the workplace, deprived of their whites (Parker and Barreto 2013; Parker and Towler
rights, and accused of being racist simply for want- 2010; see also Abramowitz 2011).
ing equal treatment in society (Lassiter 2007; Lio, On the other hand, scholars caution against
Melzer, and Reese 2008; Lowndes 2011). Such according too much importance to racial animosity
efforts have had some success, as evidenced by the in Tea Party mobilization, arguing that racial issues
conservative African American and Latino candi- are complicated by anxieties about wider social
dates who have found support among white activ- changes that affect many social groups. Theda
ists at the grassroots level (Brennan and Sullivan Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson (2012) found that
2011; Vozella 2013). Tea Party activists essentially differentiated
between broad categories of “deserving” and
“undeserving” citizens, a distinction that is often
The Conservative Tea Party Movement racialized but also is frequently applied to distin-
The Tea Party movement began in 2009 to oppose guish among nonracial groups, such as older and
U.S. federal government intervention in the fiscal younger people. Yet as Lisa Disch (2011) empha-
crisis and the federal healthcare mandate. Over sized, the Tea Party’s valorization of hardworking,
time, its agenda has broadened to support strict fis- taxpaying citizens ignores the greater benefits that
cal policies and dramatically reduced government whites have derived from government services and
regulation and public investment. Initially orga- benefits compared with nonwhites. In that sense,
nized by conservative elites, the Tea Party quickly its activists draw from what Meghan Burke
developed a broad grassroots base, with more than (2013:101) described as a “continuum of knowl-
800 local groups and as many as 200,000 edge” in which racialized political beliefs are
Blee and Yates 131

shaped by genuine economic, political, and social such as white supporters of the Reconstruction
concerns as well as by racial ideologies promul- state (Chalmers 1987). In its next incarnation in the
gated by conservative media and social networks. 1920s, the KKK attacked both African Americans
and Jews, along with Catholics (Blee 1991;
The Place of Race in McVeigh 2009). Klans of the 1960s returned to a
focus on African Americans as their racial enemies,
Far-right Movements drawing on the racial tensions of desegregation
Unlike conservative movements, far-right groups conflicts across the nation (Cunningham 2012a).
openly advocate white and/or Aryan supremacism; The most recent Klans, influenced by neo-Nazi
some seek to harm, even exterminate, their racial ene- doctrines, have mainly targeted Jews as the antago-
mies. Despite these extremist goals, such movements nistic racial category, viewing people of color as
often mix mainstream and extremist frames in mes- inferior but manipulated by Jewish conspirators
sages to supporters and the public, both adopting lan- (Durham 2007).
guage from the Civil Rights Movement to mobilize
whites as a racial interest group (White Americans)
and declaring whites to be on the verge of “race sui- The Neo-Nazi Movement
cide” (Berbrier 2000; Morris and Fleming 2014). A variety of groups that espouse Nazi ideologies
Far-right movements have used different under- have emerged in recent decades, including racist
standings of race over time. Until recently, most skinhead gangs, the Aryan Brotherhood and related
extreme racist groups relied on essentialist defini- prison networks, Nazi-oriented white suprema-
tions of race, insisting that biological differences cists, and Christian Identity networks that regard
account for racial disparities in social life. Far-right Jews as the literal, biological descendants of Satan
activists thus regarded policies such as equal (Barkun 1994; Zeskind 2009). All neo-Nazis iden-
employment laws as both objectionable and futile tify Jews as the central racial enemy, and most
since they insisted that whites were biologically describe the U.S. government, especially at the fed-
superior. These activists also saw race as stable and eral level, as Jewish-controlled or ZOG (Zionist
starkly dichotomous: People were purely white, Occupied Government). They vary in the extent to
descended from northern Europeans, or they were which they express ultranationalist and xenophobic
not (Durham 2007; Gardell 2003; Ignatiev 2008; sentiments, especially toward immigrants, or seek
Nagel 2003). to participate in a global project of pan-Aryanism
In the last few decades, far-right movements with neo-Nazis in Europe and other regions. In the
that aspire to recruit larger numbers have shifted to United States, neo-Nazi groups attract substantial
a cultural definition of race they consider more numbers of women, especially to the younger seg-
compatible with mainstream beliefs. These move- ments of the movement such as skinheads (Blee
ments continue to defend white supremacy but 2002). Outside the United States, neo-Nazi groups
trace it to a racial culture that values perseverance, have been disproportionately male, although this is
achievement, and adherence to the rule of law. beginning to change in European groups (Blee and
Moreover, some far-right adherents use a fluid Linden 2012; Miller-Idriss 2012).
sense of race. They regard as white only those who Racist ideas are not necessarily what bring peo-
work toward white supremacism, so whites who do ple into neo-Nazism. Indeed, research finds that
not support white superiority are considered to be recruits to such groups were not necessarily more
essentially nonwhite. Oddly, the reverse can be true racist or anti-Semitic than similarly situated others
as well. People who appear nonwhite can be con- prior to joining. Rather, many learned these beliefs
sidered white if they support white supremacism by participating in racist groups. In that sense, racist
and its activists (Blee 2002). beliefs can be as much effects as causes of participat-
The groups deemed enemies of the white race ing in neo-Nazism. One reason is that neo-Nazism
vary somewhat among far-right groups. African exists in an intense culture of violence that can be a
Americans and Jews are the most commonly powerful lure to potential recruits, especially young
regarded as enemies. Yet, whether Jews or African people, by suggesting that such groups confer both
Americans are considered to be the most perni- protection and empowerment. Recruits enter for the
cious group changes over time. For example, the violence and learn the racism. The other reason is
original Ku Klux Klan (KKK) of the post–Civil that neo-Nazism today is highly conspiratorial. Only
War South directed its malevolence toward African when recruits are brought into its “secret knowl-
Americans and the political allies of former slaves edge” about race are they given details of supposed
132 Sociology of Race and Ethnicity 1(1)

Jewish domination, African American criminality, Twine and Warren 2000). Yet, these ideas are gen-
and immigrant depravity (Blee 2002). erally used narrowly in social movement scholar-
In neo-Nazism there can be a substantial gap ship to understand how race affects rapport and
between the stated doctrines of the movement and access to data. Less studied are the broader impli-
the beliefs of even its most dedicated adherents. The cations of racial position on research outcomes,
propaganda and internal documents of neo-Nazi such as how race shapes the analytic process, mak-
groups promote racial ideas that are little changed ing some aspects noticeable and significant and
from those of World War II–era German Nazism. others seem trivial. As an example, white scholars
Most either applaud Hitler’s attempt to exterminate situated in the largely progressive milieus of uni-
European Jews as justified by the degenerate cul- versities may have limited experience with open
ture of Jews or claim that Holocaust accusations are expressions of racial hostility. Such expressions—
false, part of an effort by contemporary Jews to common in many rightist movements—are likely
extract monetary reparations from Aryan Europeans to be understood as highly significant by scholars.
and promote the interests of the state of Israel (Blee These expressions may prompt scholars to assume,
2002; Zeskind 2009). Even in their daily practices, rather than investigate, that racial hostility is the
neo-Nazis make frequent reference to the twentieth- central factor in movement mobilization or
century German Nazi movement. They greet each cohesion.
other by signaling 88, a coded reference to the Second, studies of rightist movements could
eighth letter of the alphabet, for “Heil Hitler,” and move beyond documenting that race matters on the
display the swastika on their bodies, websites, and political right to examine more extensively the
documents. Yet, at least some ardent neo-Nazis extent to which and how it does. Studies that assess
express quite different racial beliefs in private, even the salience of race across the temporal cycles of
expressing skepticism about the movement’s claims rightist movements might be particularly valuable,
of Jewish atrocity or German military victories. including those that assess changes across the life-
They value the comradeship of these groups but times of groups, the length of activists’ participa-
often have a thin commitment to their racial ideals. tion, and the cycles of rightist activity. Is race more
Moreover, individual neo-Nazis often know little likely to be strategically deployed at the onset of a
about the history they are dedicated to repeating. movement (as a mobilizing tactic) or as the move-
Young skinheads cannot explain why they wear ment is in decline (as a defensive maneuver)?
brown shirts or carve “SS” or iron cross tattoos on Contextual and comparative studies of the right are
themselves (Blee 2002). needed as well. These could assess whether the
place of race varies by location, type of leadership,
fluidity of membership, presence of concurrent or
Directions for Future overlapping movements, level of repression and
Research policing, or the social class and gender composi-
It is clear that race has a place in rightist move- tion of the movement.
ments, even in those that deny involvement in Third, scholars should continue to investigate
racial issues. As the preceding discussion indicates, the relationship between rightist movements and
scholars have made significant advances in under- the societies in which they are embedded.
standing how race is understood in conservative Commentators frequently assert that rightist move-
and far-right activism and how racial appeals can ments are prompted by the structure of racial privi-
advance rightist agendas. In this final section, we leges and disadvantages and that, in turn, such
offer ideas for new scholarship on rightist move- movements exacerbate racial divisions. Yet, there
ments. We begin with suggestions for studies that are remarkably few empirical studies on how this
consider rightist movements as a whole, and then occurs. Scholars might trace how racial ideas and
we outline different possibilities for additional actions flow between movements and the larger
scholarship on the far-right and on conservative society to assess, for instance, how changing soci-
movements. etal definitions of Jews, Muslims, or South Asians
First, there is a need for more attention to racial as white or nonwhite affect and are affected by
positionality in research on rightist movements. rightist movements. Too, scholars could examine
Race scholars have analyzed the considerable com- whether racial conflicts spill over into rightist
plexities introduced into scholarship by contrasting recruitment, how these movements are affected by
racial identities or attributed racial statuses of antiracist organizing or negative media attention,
researchers and those they study (Hughey 2012; and under what conditions rightist movements
Blee and Yates 133

shape broader public dialogues on race and other conservative movements that seek to educate the
issues. Additional microlevel analysis is needed on public, in contrast to those focused on influencing
how the racial understandings of members are policy makers, or in fiscal conservative groups
affected by their participation in rightist move- compared with social conservatives?
ments, including seemingly color-blind conserva-
tive movements.
Fourth, more research is needed to assess the Far-right Movements
extent and nature of connections between far-right Three sets of issues are particularly urgent for
and conservative movements. Do conservative future studies of the far-right. One is to hone
movements prime some activists to take part in research methods and conceptual categories to the
extremist racist groups, or are the ideologies and changing shape of these movements. Ironically, as
practices of these movements too different to allow scholars of the far-right have moved away from
this to happen? Do racial ideas circulate between individual-level understandings and toward the
far-right and conservative groups, or do these social-structural frameworks of social movement
movements shape their messages and collective studies, far-right racist groups are dissolving into
identities by contrasting themselves to others on loosely connected tiny activist cells and single
the right, as well as on the left? For instance, do operatives known as “lone wolves.” This transfor-
far-right denunciations of conservatives who mation has rendered some of the core conceptual
accept government-promoted ideas of racial inte- categories of social movement analysis less mean-
gration and tolerance, or, conversely, conservative ingful for studying the far-right. For instance,
condemnations of far-right racists as irrelevant defining a “member” or a “leader” is difficult in a
extremists, serve to block ideological transmission highly transient and fragmented movement. So is
across these segments of the right? defining a “group.” To understand the place of race
Due to the significant differences in the place of in this changing movement, it may be useful to bor-
race in far-right and conservative movements, there row the approach of terrorism studies and focus on
also are distinct needs for future research in each brittle networks of people and information rather
type of movement. Below, we outline possible than durable groups and organizations.
directions for both scholars of race in conservative Comparative and international work is a second
movements and those that study the far-right. area in which research on racial movements of the
far-right is needed, especially in light of suggestions
that some far-right leaders are engaged in an effort
Conservative Movements to create a global pan-Aryan movement. Despite
More research is needed on how color-blind poli- some evidence that ideas, resources, and activists of
tics operate in conservative movements. Studies these movements are exchanged across national
could explore in greater detail how strategies of borders, the ties and influences across these move-
what Ruth Frankenberg (1993) terms “color eva- ments are understudied. Such scholarship faces dif-
sion” are used in conservative groups and how they ficult problems, even beyond those of limited
affect members’ racial beliefs. Do racial beliefs access. As Kathleen Fallon and Julie Moreau (2012)
change over the life cycle of the movement? Do have argued, defining the political right can be com-
conservative movements use different strategies of plicated outside the context of stable Western nation
color evasion for internal discussions than when states. So too it can be difficult to define race and
they are framing messages for the public? To what racism outside the historical and political contexts
extent do members reinforce the color-blind ideol- in which these were mapped onto social divisions of
ogies promoted by movement leaders? Do such superiority/inferiority and oppression/privilege
efforts flow exclusively from the top down, or do (Blee and Twine 2001; Frederickson 2002).
they also move from the bottom up? A third area of opportunity lies in the end stages
Scholarship also is needed on the relationship of mobilization in the far-right. The preponderance
between racial frames (or evasion) and the organi- of research has focused on how mobilization
zational characteristics of conservative move- begins, by studying how people are recruited and
ments. How is race discourse affected by the radicalized and how groups and movements are
presence of activists of color? Is color-blind ideol- established. Far less studied are the processes of
ogy expressed differently in centralized move- demobilization, such as how activists exit and how
ments, compared with those like the Tea Party that far-right movements collapse. For racist move-
have significant local autonomy? Does it differ in ments, it is particularly urgent for scholars to
134 Sociology of Race and Ethnicity 1(1)

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