Nationalist Flyers in the Shelves at Penrose

Nick Maahs

Whitman students returning to Penrose Library after a long summer would have no idea that their favorite study areas were home to right-nationalist groups like Stormfront and AmRen during the months of July and August. Planting flyers in books at public libraries is far from unusual. The venue offers an opportunity for free advertising, even with the ability to target specific groups. At Whitman however, some flyers have drawn worry, as leaflets advocating ideologies of the far-right have been discovered between the pages of books in Penrose library. Upon their discovery, library employees quickly worked to comb the surrounding areas for more in an effort to purge the shelves of the affronts. Some were found, but few appear to have been kept.

One flyer which The Wire obtained directs readers to the website of the American Renaissance, a news agency founded as a monthly magazine in 1990. The flyer intends to satirize modern racial perspectives, depicting an antiquated version of interracial union between a caricatured African man wearing a loincloth and a nude white woman holding a black baby.

AmRen, for short, propagates an approach to societal divisions known as race realism. The group’s website defines this in relation to race issues of the 21st century under a section entitled “The Philosophy of Race Realism”.

“What we call race realism is what was considered common sense until perhaps the 1950s. It is a body of views that was so taken for granted it had no name, but it can be summarized as follows: That race is an important aspect of individual and group identity, that different races build different societies that reflect their natures and that it is entirely normal for whites (or for people of any other race) to want to be the majority race in their own homeland.”

The message concludes,“If whites permit themselves to become a minority population, they will lose their civilization, their heritage and even their existence as a distinct people.”

As the very pillars the group rests upon are grounded in values they themselves pose as regressive, the library’s removal of the flyers is unsurprising. In the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, VA, the flyers were a harsh reminder to the Whitman community that we are not as detached as we might think.

In an email sent out August 14, President Murray laid out the administration’s stance on the events in Charlottesville. That email eventually lead to a further conversation in Reid Coffeehouse, which you can read about on The Wire’s website.

“To see this kind of hatred and violence occur on a college campus is particularly difficult for many of us, but regardless of where it happened, it is our collective obligation to stand in opposition to white supremacists, Nazis, the KKK and other hate groups,” Murray wrote in her email.

Implicit in the phrase “regardless of where it happened,” is the distancing of Whitman from the racial tensions that plague the United States. The discovery of these flyers is a harsh reminder that the Whitman Bubble is not as impenetrable as we previously thought.

Unfortunately, closure will be difficult to come by.

“It’s a very large building with 650,000 books, so they could have been placed years ago…it’s certainly not a point of view that we’re advocating around here, but it’s a building that’s open to the general public, it’s a building that’s open 24 hours a day, so anybody can come in and do things that we may not approve of,” explained Dalia Corkrum, Director of Penrose Library.

A Stormfront flyer found in Penrose Library on October 14, 2017. This is one of several flyer designs placed within books all throughout the library. Front and back of the flyer pictured.