H/T to all the Black academics I've learned from by osmosis over the years for putting me on this train of thought, but I'm seeing how deep it goes right now
American "whiteness" is based on... nothing, culturally
We described ourselves as "white," and we stopped remembering ourselves as a people with a strong sense of history and community. We stopped remembering what it meant to be "Italian" or "Danish." To be "white" meant giving up the things that made us lower than others.
I think this is why there's such an explosion of weird new churches in the US. People, separated from their complex, organic communities through immigration and assimilation, are desperate for a sense of belonging. We forgot what our shared histories and values were, so we form new ones that are based on nothing more than what we all have in common
This is why Black culture is so strong and why white supremacists keep trying to destroy people's sense of what it means to be Black
If someone asks me "who are your people," I would say that I'm a Mormon. I share my known, distinct ancestors with other Mormons. They gave me my history, family and sense of ethics--not just my family's religion. It's one of the things I fear about the LDS church courting status with the evangelical right wing, while young "Mormons" leave the church. If we are not "Mormon," then who are we? If the institution defines the culture, will people who leave it be culturally destroyed?
I keep dunking on evangelicals without explaining anything but the reason I'm comparing them to "white people" as a culture is because American evangelical Christianity is based on nothing. There's very little theology, ethics, or curiosity about it. It's based on entertainers, charisma, and "spiritual experiences." It's based on being "saved" and "loving the lord" but not being able to explain what that means. It means not thinking about it, but knowing you're special.
So that's why it's easy for extremism to seep in. When people don't know who they are, a leader with enough charisma can TELL them who they are.