Super Happy Fun America (SHFA)’s recent “straight pride” parade in Boston has come and gone—but the ideology that inspired it lingers, and it is not limited to the parade’s homophobia. It was just one of many events that signal growing support for a troubling brand of nationalism that places differential value on humans based on race, citizenship and class.
Founders of SHFA have ties to far-right organizations, and Boston Pride has called the organization “a group of white supremacists” and accused them of attempting to bait LGTBQ and racial and ethnic minority communities. Reports indicate that marchers in the “straight pride” parade carried signs and rode floats that featured slogans like “Trump 2020,” “Build the Wall” and other Trumpisms.
Much has been said about the places where Trump’s rhetoric, anti-LGBTQ and anti-feminist backlash and white nationalism connect—but I also immediately noticed that worries about women’s fertility featured prominently in SHFA’s event. And that’s no surprise.
As I describe in my book Childfree by Choice, controlling women’s fertility has long been a priority for white nationalists. Panic over its decline is reflective of the very fear evident in SHFA’s signs and floats and in Trump’s rhetoric. Their fear that one day white citizens will be outnumbered by America’s more recent immigrants and people of color was palpable.
Indeed, birthrates are falling—and as a result, if you believe the lamentations of some pundits, so, too, is the sky. According to a report released by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, last year the U.S. saw its lowest number of births since 1986. Demographer Dowell Myers calls the trend a “national problem” and a “barometer of despair.” Independent Women’s Forum policy analyst Patrice Onwuka blames rhetoric from the left and says declining birth rates could have “devastating economic impacts in the future.”
Fears over who reproduces, and how often, date back to long before this most recent wave of worry.
Take, for example, the eugenics movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries: a large-scale, systemic effort focused on shaming white, middle- and upper-class women into having children while simultaneously preventing immigrant and African American women from doing so, often without their consent and sometimes even without their knowledge. In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt admonished whites for failing to do their part for the nation when he described voluntary sterility as “the one sin for which the penalty is national death, race death; a sin for which there is no atonement.”
While the term “eugenics” may have fallen out of favor, the ideology driving it has not. Trump’s claims about his own “good genes,” his attempts to end DACA or his desire to limit immigration from, in his words, “shithole countries” like Haiti and those in Africa prove that racism is alive and well in America today—and so is a corresponding fury over native-born, white women’s failure to reproduce at rates deemed acceptable by those afraid of being outnumbered. This is the basis of the so-called “replacement theory” spreading on the far right.
Of course, finding ways to welcome those who wish to immigrate to the U.S. is a simpler and more effective way to promote population growth. Immigrants are also absolutely making America great—according to a 2018 report from a research group at the Brookings Institute, immigrants across educational categories have a more positive fiscal impact in the U.S. than do native-born Americans, increase innovation and are far less likely than native-born Americans to commit crimes or be incarcerated. They are also increasing the U.S. population: According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. sees a net gain of one person every 13 seconds.
SHFA and its “straight pride” parade reminded us that racist nationalism is alive and well in the U.S. Ironically for those who played a hand in making it possible, this misguided view of our national identity—and not some women’s choice to forgo parenthood—may ultimately lead to our demise.