White Supremacy Gangs: Skinheads
Social stratification that exists within informal groups and subcultures is one of the most topical, yet ambiguous and contradictory issues. Exploring social stratification of informal groups and subcultures gives an insight into cultural specificity of a certain community. Moreover, it contributes to better understanding of the phenomenon of the society as such. Apparently, processes of globalization and rapid technological development, though being controversial, have been met with a great deal of disapproval and pushback. Thus, the structure of social group and movements has become ramified. White supremacy gangs and Skinhead movement in particular are typically addressed as one of the most dangerous. This is a rather unfair observation in a sense that the issue of Skinhead movement tends to be prejudiced, let alone one may find the fact that black skinhead groups do exist within the framework of Skinhead movement quite absurd (Willis, 1993, p.373). Therefore, it is possible to assume that the issue of white supremacy gangs/skinheads is in a need of thorough research and reconsideration.
Kevin Borgeson and Robin Valeri (2005) distinguish several main groups within the white supremacy gangs/skinhead movement, namely: Traditional Skinheads who claim not to support anti-semitic and racist movements, Neo-Nazi Skinheads who are viewed as the most radical group, Skinheads against Racial Prejudices (S.H.A.R.P.), Gay Skinheads, and a group that is generally termed as Other Skinheads (p. 45).
As far as the problem of white supremacy gangs at large is concerned, it is important to admit the following. Ku Klux Klan, above all, is counted among the oldest, most influential, and radical white supremacy movements (Burris, Smith, & Strahm, 2000, p. 218). Neo-Nazi wing is regarded as the number two group within the framework of white supremacy gangs’ movement. The branch is claimed to spring out in the 1950s (Burris et al., 2000, p. 218). The movement is believed to gain momentum after Rockwell’s assassination in 1967 (Burris et al., 2000, p. 218). On the one hand, the neo-Nazi philosophy’s impact has grown in significance due to “a rapid rise in support for neo-Nazi groups and politics in Europe since the breakup of the former Soviet Union and the reunification of Germany” (Burris et al., 2000, p. 218). On the other hand, racist skinheads described as “one of the fastest growing and most violent of white supremacist groups” contribute greatly to dissemination of the Nazi ideology (Burris et al., 2000, p. 218). Racist skinheads constitute “the third and newest wing of the white supremacist movement” (Burris et al., 2000, p. 218). Christian identity theology and “revisionism”, i.e. the Holocaust denial, are essential distinctive features of all white supremacist movements (Burris et al., 2000, p. 219). Having conducted a thorough analysis of the white supremacist movements’ featured Internet sources, Burris, Smith, and Strahm have arrived at a following conclusion. The structure of the white supremacy movement as such is ramified and heterogeneous. The white supremacy movement in the United States of America includes the following groups: holocaust revisionists, Christian identity theology, overt neo-Nazis, hard-core white supremacists, soft-core white supremacists, foreign (non-U.S.) nationalists, racist skinheads, bands, music, labels, music zines, books, and other merchandize (Burris et al., pp. 221, 222). The last two groups appeal to material and commercial aspects of the white supremacist movement.
Evidently, the Skinhead movement has originated in Great Britain. Economic distress, high unemployment rate, rapid pace of industrialization, and technological development can be viewed as possible causes for the appearance of white supremacy gangs/skinheads (Lakes, 1999, p. 26). In this regard, Raymond A. Calluori (1985) claims the following: “the Skinhead subculture, which emerged from the East End of London in early 1968, was a symbolic attempt to recover the traditional working-class way of life that had been seriously eroded by the effects of social change” (p. 46). However, back in the late 1970s, the history of the Skinhead movement in the United States of America has become rich as well (Borgeson & Valeri, 2005, p. 46). Having analyzed web-sources dedicated to the traditional Skinhead movement, Kevin Borgeson and Robin Valeri (2005) admit the following: “Traditional skinheads’ ideology manifests itself mostly through affection for “music (ska and Oi!), beer, skin history, tattoos, and motor scooter”; traditional Skinheads are believed to coin the term ‘crucified skin’ in order to disambiguate the real essence of Skinhead movement; female representatives of the movement are believed to fulfill themselves mostly through this particular group (p. 46). Violence, racism, hate crimes, and political partiality are often attributed to neo-Nazi Skinheads (Borgeson & Valeri, 2005, p. 47). Gay Skinheads are notorious merely for their sexual orientation. The S.H.A.R.P. movement is claimed to be organized in 1987 in New York City. The group is said to make TV and radio appearances to improve the image of the Skinhead ideology, which have failed to reach the desired effect (Borgeson & Valeri, 2005, p. 47). Going by the intent purpose of each group, it is possible to resume that American Skinhead movement cannot be regarded as a cohesive whole “with single identity” by any means (Borgeson & Valeri, 2005, p. 47). Judging from the analysis of the web-content dedicated to Skinhead movement, one can assume that traditional and SHARP skinhead groups deal with the ideological background of the movement to a greater extent if compared to any other group that exists within the Skinhead subculture (Borgeson & Valeri, 2005, p. 49).
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Speaking of traditional Skinheads’ affection for music and leisure, it is important to admit that hardcore clubs are typically referred to as the “magnets drawing together a variety of skinhead and punk style groups” (Willis, 1993, p. 366). Heavy metal music, in turn, is regarded as the essential element of the Skinhead culture. Specifically, a recent research proves that heavy metal music contributes to promoting angriness among the youngsters “about the futility of their circumstances”, cynical perception of the world, and, as the result, alienation “from the social nexus of family, school, and community” (Lakes, 1999, p. 24). However, considering the problem of why so many youngsters are so fond of heavy metal music, it is important to understand that “a) hard music offers a wide range of ideological positions, even within the same musical genre, and (b) young consumers of music are often critical of or indifferent to the politics of the music they listen to” (Clark, 2001, p. 55). Dylan Clark (2001) tends to believe that the youngsters are by no means “the passive recipients of all that they see and hear” (p. 58). In this regard, Clark (2001) admits, that their “attitudes, no matter how cruel, can only be understood in the context of their usage” (p. 55). What is meant here can be interpreted as follows. Leading one’s own life, spending one’s own time, and choosing books, music, and films to one’s own liking among the youngsters are predetermined by the setting (society, family, and friends), as well the young person’s own perception.
As far as the issue of style is concerned, it is important to admit that military outfit and Doctor Martens shoes are accessories typically associated with skinheads (Willis, 1993, p. 370). It is also worthy of note that a well-organized infrastructure has been developed within the framework of Skinhead movement, particularly neo-Nazi skinheads. The point is that a chain store system has been built by racist groups, offering a wide range of products, including attributes, accessories, and weapons (Lakes, 1999, p.21).
Taking all the aforementioned facts into consideration, it is important to admit the following. Social stratification and presence of white supremacy gangs in particular constitute one of the most controversial, yet topical issues of the modern society. Reasons for the appearance of white supremacy gangs and Skinhead movement in particular are merely ideological and economic. The ideological constituent of Skinhead movement accords with the neo-Nazi principles. However, the vast majority of the Skinhead movement rejects any philosophical, ideological, or political influences. This reveals the non-agreement that exists within the Skinhead movement. Hypothetically, vision and understanding of the nature of white supremacy gangs testify to the lack of knowledge average citizens have on this particular matter. At the same time, researchers admit that both white supremacist and Skinhead movements have established a well-developed commodity circulation system.