Richard Spencer gets his money from family cotton plantation, still thinks whites built America by themselves
White nationalist Richard Spencer likes to go around claiming that white people are solely responsible for creating the immense wealth and power of America, from which it “logically” follows that people of other races need to GTFO. In other news, Spencer’s lavish lifestyle of spewing racist garbage and getting punched in the face is supported in large part by his family’s cotton farm, a federally subsidized endeavor whose lineage stretches back to the time of Jim Crow.
According to a report from Reveal News, Spencer is an “absentee landlord” of a large cotton farm his family owns in a poor, rural part of Louisiana. It was founded too late to take advantage of America’s “peculiar institution,” but it thrived in its aftermath; the region was heavily segregated until recently (Spencer’s mother attended an all-white school that was forcibly integrated by the federal government), and income inequality between blacks and whites was, and remains, stark. Jim Crow laws and lynchings persisted into the Civil Rights era, and in some cases beyond. The Spencer family took advantage of that climate to become extremely rich and prosperous off the backs of poorly paid black laborers. (Until they could mechanize those jobs out of existence, that is.)
Another thing Spencer Farms took advantage of: Federal tax subsidies. Reveal reports that the farm received about $2 million in subsidies from 2008 to 2015. Spencer refuses to say how much of this went into his pockets, but I doubt being a white nationalist is lucrative enough on its own to pay for all those ill-fitting suits.
Given this, it seems especially absurd for Spencer to argue, as he does, that white people didn’t need other races to “achieve” what they did, a fact journalist Roland Martin pointed out to Spencer during an interview on his black-focused “News One Now” program.
In a segment I encourage everyone to watch in full, Martin asked Spencer if he was a white supremacist. Spencer said no, because he doesn’t want white people to rule over other races, he just wants to keep them separate (but, you know, equal):
“We’ve had white supremacy in our past. Whether you think of imperialism, slavery and colonialism has been a disaster.”
At this point, Martin noted that America’s early economic success was fueled by the free labor of enslaved black people, a fact Spencer tried and failed to deflect.
Spencer: White people ultimately don’t need other races in order to succeed or be ourselves. Absolutely not.
Martin: So how do you think America became the greatest economic nation?
Spencer: Not through black people.
Martin: It wasn’t because of free labor?
Spencer: Are you talking about slavery?
Martin: I’m talking about slavery and what happened after slavery, which was slavery by another name.
Spencer: [America because an economic power] through the genius of Europeans.
Martin: How you gonna say that when it was actually King Cotton that allowed america to do so?
Spencer: [says Europeans invented the business model of slavery]
Martin: That’s what allowed America to become the economic power, because America supplied 90% of the world’s cotton. There is no great America…we can’t sit here and talk about that greatness without other people making that happen.
Spencer: White people could have figured out another way to pick cotton. We do it now, we did it previously…our great economy has nothing to do with slavery.
One need only pick up a history book — or look at the history of Spencer’s own family — to see that Martin is right.
Try as he might to dress then up in pseudo-intellectual language, it seems Spencer’s views on race are informed not by a dispassionate analysis of the facts, but a deep history of institutionalized racism that benefits him to this day. It’s not like we need this personal connection to prove him wrong, but the irony sure is delicious.