This article previously ran in the Dose on an unknown date.
‘Our basic message is: guns are fine, but racism is not.’
On the surface, the bearded, tattooed men of Redneck Revolt seem like typical good ol’ boys: They love guns, pickup trucks and keeping the government out of their damn business. But they’re pushing back hard against one major “redneck” stereotype: racism.
So, what is Redneck Revolt? It’s a group of (mostly) white, working-class people who are committed to combating the white supremacists who have become increasingly vocal recently. “Liberty is something that all people are entitled to,” the group says on its website. “Any class, race, or state construct that enslaves and oppresses anyone among us is a threat to the liberty of all of us.”
Redneck Revolt — which now boasts over 30 chapters around the country — focuses on what it calls “community defense.” In practice, this often means supporting groups like Black Lives Matter or just standing up to white nationalists in general — something the group has done in Pennsylvania, Kentucky and elsewhere. Most recently, Redneck Revolt members traveled to Charlottesville to provide food, water and security to the people who protested the white nationalist march on Saturday.
Two Redneck Revolt members were on the scene offering medical support to the victims of the now-notorious car-ramming attack.
Redneck Revolt got its start in 2009, but officially announced itself last year. It defines itself as a far-left, anarchist organization devoted to elevating impoverished workers by redefining the word “redneck.”
This is where the group’s hatred of racism comes from. Redneck Revolt’s website states that bigotry in white working-class communities in rural areas “has allowed the rich to continue to hold onto power.” Forcing poor white people to view themselves as inherently better than other minorities, the group believes, is a way for the rich to keep the lower classes divided.
The group wants to take the word “redneck” back to its original meaning — someone who works outside so much they have a perpetual sunburn. They also point out that, historically, “rednecks” have been leaders in America’s pro-labor movement: In the 1920s, rural white workers in West Virginia wore red bandanas during the famous uprising against greedy coal companies that later became known as the Battle of Blair Mountain.
“Today, the term redneck has taken on a demeaning connotation, primarily among upper class urban liberals who have gone out of their way to dehumanize working class and poor people,” the group’s website says.
Despite having a similar anti-racist stance as other progressive groups, Redneck Revolt’s view on guns sets it apart. They wholeheartedly support the right to bear arms. In fact, the group grew out of the John Brown Gun Club, a gun-training project originally based in Kansas.
“We use gun culture as a way to relate to people,” Max Neely, a 31-year-old Redneck Revolt activist, tells The Guardian. “No liberal elitism. Our basic message is: guns are fine, but racism is not.”
Redneck Revolt may seem strange to liberals and city dwellers; these people are trying to preserve a culture that many of us don’t understand. Those on the left often assume that lower-income rural people are inherently racist, and jump to the conclusion that bigotry is all “rednecks” have to offer.
Of course, this isn’t true. Rural residents built this country from the ground up. They are the salt of the Earth. They have their problems and their unsavory characters like anywhere else, but that doesn’t mean their culture should be relegated to the waste basket.
It has a lot to offer, and Redneck Revolt is going to prove it.