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The White Supremacist Movement Visits GRCC: A Look at the (Thankfully) Short History of the White Culture Club

When you think of oppressed populations in the United States, who do you think of? It’s certainly not white people, as the history of race and racism in the United States is clear that over time, white people have been (and still are) the beneficiaries of various forms of white skin privilege. Whether it is in the 1800s and allowing white people to own slaves, in a prison-industrial complex that incarcerates people of color at disproportionate rates, or in discrimination in housing and banking, there is a status quo in the United States that grants considerable rights to people based on their skin color. Of course, this white privilege is not static and it changes—and other factors such as class and heterosexism also play a role—but suffice it to say, as a group white people are by no means oppressed.

However, despite this, in recent years a variety of people on the right have sought to talk about the so-called decline of “white culture.” While this isn’t typically presented in explicitly racist rhetoric, race is never far from the surface when rightwing commentators talk about the “decline of Western Civilization” and “demographic shifts.” This rhetoric has been a prominent part of the anti-immigration movement and is widely acceptable among the conservative right, with figures such as Pat Buchanan and Lou Dobbs making racist statements. In addition to its appearance in the political mainstream, it has become a key part of white supremacist discourse in recent years, with much of the movement shifting from crass racial stereotypes to a rhetoric that emphasizes “pride,” “culture,” and “heritage.”

A recent entry into this debate was the White Culture Club at Grand Rapids Community College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It emerged as an effort that ostensibly sought to “celebrate” “white culture”—invoking images of “pride” and “heritage.” However, as if the group’s name wasn’t indication enough, it would soon come out that the White Culture Club was little more than a front for white supremacists hoping to organize on Grand Rapids Community College’s campus. The group’s leader, James Wisner, was linked to the white supremacist movement and the organization was denied status as an official student group.

Origins of the White Culture Club

The effort to organize the White Culture Club at Grand Rapids Community College first came to light in October of 2009, when The Collegiate (the school’s student newspaper) reported that a student named James Wisner was attempting to form the group.

In that article (“White culture club tries GRCC,” 10/28/2009), The Collegiate reported that James Wisner was having difficulties finding an advisor as people were assuming that the group was “racial” rather than one based on “culture.” However, in the initial reporting on the group, Wisner bemoaned the fact that people were suspicious of his group’s intent. He also criticized the fact that some said he should remove “white” from the title, as he said other groups—such as the Black Student Union—are able to identify with race (clearly, the fact that people of color—and not whites—have been historically oppressed is lost on Wisner). Wisner claimed to have “almost 15 members” interested in forming the group.

An announcement about the group posted on described the group’s intent:

“Grand Rapids White Culture club is a student organization coming out of Grand Rapids Community College. It is here to serve the greater calling of culture and further learning of the European and Germanic peoples now called White by ethnicity. The group and it’s [sic] members will hold themselves to a higher standard of learning and teaching when dealing with the rich and amazing history and culture of the White peoples of both the now and the then.”

While the announcement went onto say that it “will not allow discrimination based on any category such as race, religion or gender,” the group’s politics (or at least those of its founder)—already seeming suspicious when reading the announcement—would become clear in subsequent weeks when the organization was denied official standing by the college.

GRCC Decides Not to Recognize the White Culture Club

Near the end of the fall semester, Grand Rapids Community College eventually decided to deny the White Culture Club status as a student organization. According to The Collegiate (“Student Life Denies White Culture Club Status,” 01/27/2010), Student Life Director Eric Mullen denied the application as “We have substantial evidence that demonstrates your true intent to form this organization is inconsistent with the information presented in your application.” Mullen was further quoted stating “The true purpose of the group is a clear violation of the college’s Equal Opportunity and Non-Discrimination policy.”

In an earlier issue of The Collegiate (“White Culture Club Tries GRCC,” 10/28/2009), it was reported that the organization was having difficulty finding an advisor. All student organizations are required to have advisors and at the time, the only person the White Culture Club could find was a part-time staff member rather than the required full-time staff. However, by the end of the semester, the White Culture Club was able to find a full-time faculty member to fill this void.

Keith St. Clair, a professor at the college, was initially willing to be the advisor for the group. He said that James Wisner told him that he was not a racist, but after speaking with the Director of Student Life about Wisner’s links to organized racism, St. Clair was no longer interested in being the advisor for the group. It’s puzzling that St. Clair could not figure out Wisner’s intent: what else would a White Culture Club be about?

Not surprisingly, James Wisner decried the decision as an example of “racism towards whites” and essentially argued that it was another example of how white people are oppressed. Of course, this is a laughable claim—but it’s the point he was making.

Facebook Profile Cited as Evidence Against Group

Perhaps inevitably given the prevalence of the social networking site Facebook on college campuses, it was that site that led in large part to James Wisner’s White Culture Club being denied official status at the college.

Director of Student Life Eric Mullen said in The Collegiate that, “As you review his Facebook profile, you can clearly see the affiliation with white supremacist beliefs, speech, doctrine, symbols and groups.”

After being told that his social networking profiles (which showed his interested in white supremacy) played a role in the decision to deny the White Culture Club official status, James Wisner said:

“My personal life and things such as my networking sites and what is on them should hold no bearing to how I run my professional organizations such as the White Culture Club… It was tactless to use my personal life against me.”

However, when his social networking profile is viewed, it shows that the White Culture Club was nothing more than an attempt to establish a foothold for white supremacist views on Grand Rapids Community College’s campus.

And just what could you find on James Wisner’s Facebook page?

A glance at James Wisner’s Facebook “friends” list features numerous profile pictures that contain white supremacist imagery. Browsing through his friends list you can see numerous pictures that have references to white supremacy whether they be in the form of Nazi flags, icons of the fascist British National Party (BNP), white pride logos, Nazi salutes, or World Church of the Creator (one of the fastest growing racist groups in the 1990s) logos:

In addition, James Wisner lists himself as a “fan” of various entities linked to white supremacy including the Neo-Nazi band Oidoxie, an academic racist organization called the National Policy Institute, and a so-called “third position” neo-fascist group American Third Position:

Beyond these, on Facebook, James Wisner welcomed Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this year as “James Earl Ray Day” in homage to King’s assassin:

All of this is very much relevant to the discussion over the White Culture Club at Grand Rapids Community College, as it shows that James Wisner is a part of the white supremacist movement.

Context of other White Supremacist Activity at GRCC

In addition to looking at James Wisner’s Facebook profile and his individual goals as leader of the group, the White Culture Club should also be evaluated in the context of recent white supremacist activity on Grand Rapids Community College’s campus.

According to reporting on the liberal blog Blogging for Michigan, a white supremacist group called White Pride Michigan distributed flyers around campus on numerous occasions dating back to December of 2008. One of the flyers read:


Zionist agents control your children through the media

Obama is a ZOG agent working on White slavery

Will you allow your culture and people die? [sic]

Want to learn more? Contact:”

Blogging for Michigan further reported that the leaflet distribution was discussed on’s forum and that one user (who is listed as a “global moderator”) said that they have been distributing flyers at Grand Rapids Community College.

Meanwhile, Grand Rapids Community College’s Collegiate reported that on March 13,  2009, two banners reading “WHITEPRIDEMI.COM” were found hanging from prominent locations on the college’s campus. The Collegiate stated that there were no suspects, but Blogging for Michigan found that responsibility for the banners was claimed on

While it is beyond the scope of this article to present a full account of White Pride Michigan’s white supremacist beliefs, suffice it to say the website was (it is now down) full of white supremacist symbols and its members (who are also active on the racist StormFront message board) have organized various actions, including the distribution of white supremacist music at local rock concerts.

Any reasonable examination of the White Culture Club should include these incidents, as the rhetoric on the flyers (“will you allow your culture and people die?” and the focus on “pride”) is similar to that of the White Culture Club.

Further, the Grand Rapids Community College’s Collegiate has also pointed out that racist graffiti—often using symbols associated with the white supremacist movement—has frequently appeared on bathroom walls at the college.

White Supremacist Groups Form on College Campuses Across the Country

Beyond the context of white supremacist activity at Grand Rapids Community College, the White Culture Club should also be seen in the context of recent white supremacist activity on college campuses in the United States. A handful of white supremacist and racist student groups have formed in recent years.

In North Carolina, Youth for Western Civilization formed a chapter in 2009 at University of North Carolina. As a chapter of the national group funded by the far right Leadership Institute, it used thinly veiled rhetoric around heritage, identity, and cultural pride to advance a white supremacist agenda. The organization used Mussolini’s fasces (the original symbol of fascism) for its logo and had the backing of the Leadership Institute (a far right think-tank). Its first event was a speech by anti-immigrant ex-Congressman Tom Tancredo, followed by a speech by ex-Congressman Virgil Goode a few weeks later. Following protests on campus, the organization was more or less crushed. Meanwhile, it was disclosed that Youth for Western Civilization’s national Vice President Marc Epstein had pled guilty to a hate crime in 2008 for attacking an African-American woman.

Closer to Grand Rapids Community College, at Michigan State University (MSU) in Lansing, an organization called Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) has brought in a long list of speakers connected to the white supremacist movement while presenting white supremacist views. Among the speakers hosted by Young Americans for Freedom at MSU have been ex-Congressman Tom Tancredo, Minutemen founder Chris Simcox and British National Party (BNP) leader Nick Griffin. The organization also sought to bring American Renaissance founder Jared Taylor to campus, but the event was cancelled after Taylor’s involvement in the organized racist movement was highlighted in the campus community. At Nick Griffin’s appearance, white supremacist activists were among the few in attendance. A few months later, MSU Young American for Freedom founder Kyle Bristow was organizing an off-campus talk for Canadian fascist Paul Fromm, showing how white supremacist groups on campus build ties with the broader racist movement. As would be expected, the Young Americans for Freedom was the target of frequent protest and its events were often disrupted by anti-racist protestors, but it did give the white supremacist movement a more mainstream vehicle for publicizing its message.


The efforts to start the White Culture Club should be seen as a serious attempt to promote white supremacist ideas on Grand Rapids Community College’s campus. Whether James Wisner really intended to create the group or whether it was just a publicity stunt to stir up racial tensions with the goal of attracting other students to the white supremacist movement, the debate over the White Culture Club had the practical effect of exposing students to white supremacy. Moreover, in light of other white supremacist activity on campus, it should be taken seriously as a possible evolution in white supremacist tactics in West Michigan.

Moreover, while it is commendable that Grand Rapids Community College’s office of Student Life recognized the White Culture Club as a front for white supremacy, this story should also be read as a cautionary note. Increasingly, white supremacists are trying to use discontent over jobs to recruit new members into their groups and to gain legitimacy for their views. We have seen this in the anti-immigration movement, where white supremacists have used immigration and changing demographics as a way to recruit. Now, we are seeing it as white supremacists and Neo-Nazis attempt to use the economic crisis to their advantage.

In both cases, their rhetoric often invokes images of cultural pride (i.e. “white pride”) rather than the more overt racism of previous white supremacist groups. The white supremacist beliefs are still there, just slightly below the surface. And we need to be prepared to challenge it.

Finally, there is one question that remains about the White Culture Club at GRCC. Why did students not organize to put a stop to the club? On campuses across the country, such a group would be the target of an aggressive campaign aimed at preventing it from organizing. Was this due to the fact that the group never organized a public event or does it have to do with apathy on the part of GRCC students? We likely won’t know, but it merits consideration.

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3 Responses

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  1. A Little Birdy says

    Information on Mike Peterson (alias Ragnar Whiteson), one of the Nazis behind the White Culture Club, the Jackson White Pride March, AND the Collegiate article about the WCC.

Continuing the Discussion

  1. Grand Rapids Community College’s Neo-Nazi Reporter « Michigan Racism Watch linked to this post on 01/31/2011

    […] miracismwatch Leave a comment Go to comments Over the summer, Michigan Racism Watch wrote about the White Culture Club at Grand Rapids Community College. It was an attempt by a GRCC student to start a racist student organization using student […]

  2. Exposing Grand Rapids Nazi Michael Peterson “Ragnar Whiteson” « South Side Chicago Anti-Racist Action linked to this post on 01/24/2011

    […] Ragnar Odinson, or Wotansvolk) would be enough, but it gets far juicier. Early last year, a White Culture Club attempted (and failed) to start up at Grand Rapids Community College. On the Gallows Tree Forum […]