As someone who thinks that the issue here is really one of training -- specifically, of training for a stimulus-response reaction of shooting when hands get out of sight in cases where weapons are considered likely -- I've tended to dismiss or downplay the idea that racism is much at the back of these issues. Many, many people disagree with me about that. I would say that it is the most commonly held opinion among the 'great and the good' that America is still suffering from a simmering racism that has never been expiated through all our suffering.
I believe racism exists. I grew up in a county in Georgia where the Klan recruited openly, wearing their robes but not bothering with their hoods because they didn't think what they were doing was shameful. I just don't see racism like that any more, except in fringe cases. For example, in both the Stone Mountain rally here in Georgia, and the "Traditional Workers Party" rally in California, the members of the pro-white racist groups were vastly outnumbered by the anti-racist groups. In Stone Mountain, all the arrests were of anti-racists. In California, the police elected not to protect the white separatists.
Last night I was reading an article at the Huffington Post that investigates a suggestion that one of the slain Dallas cops was a "proud, open white supremacist." The HuffPo author ultimately approves the idea, saying that the signals individually could be dismissed, but that all together they are demonstrative.
Here is the alleged evidence:
These strike me as a collection of false positives, none of which should individually or collectively be taken as evidence of racism.
Support for Donald Trump is apparently taken to be prima facie evidence of racism, as is the display of any sort of Confederate flag. There are plausible non-racist reasons for either, to say the least that might be said.
I don't know who Pastor Greg Locke is, but I'm not a Protestant evangelical, and my guess is that he's known for more than just being opposed to trans* issues. I don't see how that's relevant to whiteness anyway; lots of trans* people are white. It's relevant to traditional Christian culture. Many Americans from traditional Christian faiths feel under siege on these issues, and some of the rhetoric has been angry, but it's got nothing to do with race.
Same deal with a Crusader tattoo. Chris Kyle had one. Was it about race issues in America? Of course not. It was about 9/11, and the sense that the West was under attack from radical Islam. Islam is not a race, and although many people would like to run "Islamophobia" in with racism, the comparison isn't plausible. Race is an invented, pseudo-scientific category that refers to nothing actually real in the physical world. Islam is a real thing. Anger at Islam for events like 9/11, or Orlando, or San Bernardino, or Chattanooga, or Fort Hood, or... well, anyway, it's not difficult to understand the anger. Maybe Muslims worldwide have some valid reasons to be angry with America, too, such as a sense that we are polluting their culture with images they find pornographic. Either way, it's got nothing to do with racism.
What they are calling an "Iron Cross" is properly called a cross formée or cross pattée. There are two of them on the sidebar here, one red and one white. It's a traditional piece of Christian heraldry, much older than and quite apart from any use by Germans, quite apart from any use by bikers (such as myself) or surfers. The Pope wears them on his sash. Others have other heraldic reasons for using them.
So what about the Thor's Hammer? You know, we talk about Vikings all the time around here. In the last week, I've had a post about the Viking ship sailing across the Atlantic and another about Wagner's Ring. Others inspired by such things include noted Roman Catholic J. R. R. Tolkien -- if you read the Silmarillion, note the character of Tulkas the Valiant. There's a very popular television show right now about Vikings. Interest in such things has been intense since about the middle of the 19th century, and for good reasons. The sagas and poetics have proven tremendously inspiring, and they are even today a continuing source of high art. That it may appeal more to people who have a sense of kinship with the Vikings is no more racist than the fact that Beijing opera appeals mostly to Han Chinese. Beijing opera has a kind of universal appeal -- witness Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, or for that matter Xena, Warrior Princess -- but it also has a cultural context that makes it more resonant for those within that culture. That's not shocking.
False positives are not helpful. Let's not magnify the perils of racism in our imagination, but rather fight it forthrightly where it unambiguously exists.