By Meghan Conley
Cross-posted at The Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights (IREHR).
In February 2018, the Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP) kicked off a multi-state campus tour, entitled “National Socialism or Death,” at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK). Thus, Tennessee’s flagship campus became the latest in a long line of universities recently targeted by white nationalist and white supremacist groups. These organizations want to recruit and build a following on campuses across the United States. They also seek to undermine the credibility of institutions of higher education. This article outlines TWP’s recent incursion into Knoxville and the community’s responses.
The Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP), co-founded by Matthew Heimbach, is a white nationalist organization. It advocates for the creation of an independent whites-only nation-state. Core to white nationalist belief is the notion that the United States was built by and for white people. Notably, this idea has purchase even in academic circles, albeit thinly veiled under the guise of Western European culture and values. TWP also believes that white people—defined as “the descendants of indigenous Europeans”—should dominate the nation’s political, economic, and social spheres.
In their own words, TWP wants a “Homeland for Whites, governed and built by and for our people.” Heimbach has never articulated how this whites-only homeland would be established—an end to non-white immigration? the forcible removal of non-white people? genocide? In his mythology, however, its creation is imperative.
Groups like TWP frame non-white immigration and multiculturalism as “white genocide.” They deliberately misrepresent the fact that genocide is a violent means of forceful annihilation through mass murder. In addition to their hostility toward people of color and non-white immigrants, TWP is openly antagonistic toward Jewish people (their platform declares war on “international Jewry” and members refer to the Holocaust as the “Holohoax”), LGBTQ+ people (whom they refer to as “degenerates”), and feminists (really, all non-traditionalist women).
TWP became active in Knoxville in September 2017, and Heimbach has previously visited the area to speak to other white nationalist groups and attend Stormfront’s Smoky Mountain Summit.
Meghan Conley is a founding member of Allies of Knoxville’s Immigrant Neighbors (AKIN).