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Since separatism is predicated on separation of sovereign powers, white separatism is incompatible with white supremacy, which is predicated on a single sovereignty. According to most standard dictionaries Racial segregation and apartheid speak of a society within which racial discrimination takes place, whereas separate sovereignties imply separate societies.
White separatism originated as early as the writings of Thomas Jefferson when he said:
- Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate, than that these people are to be free; nor is it less certain that the two races, equally free, cannot live in the same government. Nature, habit, opinion have drawn indelible lines of distinction between them.
This view was reiterated at the dawn of the civil rights era when Abraham Lincoln, addressing the African American community wrote:
- There is much to encourage you. For the sake of your race you should sacrifice something of your present comfort for the purpose of being as grand in that respect as the white people...General Washington himself endured greater physical hardships than if he had remained a British subject, yet he was a happy man because he had engaged in benefiting his race, in doing something for the children of his neighbors, having none of his own. The colony of Liberia has been in existence a long time. In a certain sense it is a success. The old President of Liberia, Roberts, has just been with me--the first time I ever saw him. He says they have within the bounds of that colony between three and four hundred thousand people, or more than in some of our old States, such as Rhode Island or Delaware, or in some of our newer States, and less than in some of our larger ones...The question is, if the colored people are persuaded to go anywhere, why not there? Address On Colonization To A Deputation Of Colored Men. Washington, August 14, 1862. 
Contemporary White Separatism
Outside of some isolated and relatively minor examples in former colonies in Africa, such as Orania in South Africa, white separatism remains primarily a reaction in the United States to the American Civil Rights Movement. White flight, as a passive reaction to that movement, has an active counterpart in white separatism. Contemporary white separatism is therefore conflated with active reactions to the civil rights movement. Among these active reactions is a resurgence of white supremacy.
While presently there are several self-proclaimed white separatist groups it is controversial that they are white separatist as opposed to white supremacist groups. This represents a profound change from the 1800s during which racial separatism, as exemplified by Jefferson and Lincoln, was normative. While there have been repeated overtures toward mutual recognition between black separatists and white separatists in various parts of the world, primarily the United States, formal mutual-recognition with other racial separtist groups still eludes white separatist groups that may actually exist at the present time.
Discussions of white separatism are generally difficult due to a conflict between two points of view, each accusing the other of supremacist hypocrisy:
- Those opposing white separatism generally claim there are few if any white separatists -- only white supremacists claiming to be white separatists.
- The white separatist general counter-claim is that by denying self-determination to whites, their opponents are ideological supremacists not unlike theocratic supremacists -- that multi-racialists seek to impose universal multi-racialism due to their belief:
- That multi-racial societies are morally superior to mono-racial societies and
- Their moral superiority justifies universal enforcement of multi-racial standards.
Kevin Alfred Strom , on the National Alliance's white separatist radio program American Dissident Voices , defined the difference between white separatism and supremacy this way:
- "A supremacist—of whatever race—is distinct from a 'separatist.' A separatist may believe that his race is superior to other races in some or all characteristics, but this is not his essential belief. The separatist is defined by his wish for freedom and independence for his people. He wishes them to have their own society, to be led by their own kind, to have a government which looks out for their interests alone. The separatist does not wish to live in a multiracial society at all, so he naturally has no desire to rule over other races—since such rule necessitates the multiracial society the separatist wants to avoid at all costs." 
Sociologists Betty A. Dobratz and Stephanie Shanks-Meile contend that terms such as "white separatism" and "white nationalism" are euphemisms that have been adopted by what they refer to as neo-nazi and racist groups as a tactical move in order to make their views seem less extreme. The Center for Democratic Renewal likewise called the term "white separatist" a "media gloss."  Proponents claim that their desire to remove themselves from integrated society and segregate removes the possibility of subjagating other ethnicities, and thus has no relation to supremacy at all. They often say they have no desire to intermingle with other races at all, neither to harm them nor to force them into slavery or other such conditions.
Light-skinned people are found among many ethnic groups, and the genetic basis of light pigmintation is not exclusive to any one particular racial category. Generally, white separatists claim genetic affiliation with Anglo-Saxon cultures, and sometimes to beliefs asserting ancestory with the Semitic peoples of the Christian bible. White separatists are often found among Christian Identity groups, some of whom refer to the United States as the "Zionist Occupation Government" and propose a "White" homeland in the northwestern corner of what is currently the United States of America.
- "white separatist: a euphemism for white supremacist. The label has been adopted by individuals and organizations to obscure or present a more benevolent facade for the beliefs in racial segregation and/or neo-Nazism." 
The National Alliance, a white separatist group which is often accused of being white supremacist and neo-nazi, has referred to Adolf Hitler in an editorial as being the "greatest man of our era" , but still claims not to be a white supremacist group and dismisses all criticism of this type as part of a "Jewish plot" to suppress the "racial defense mechanisms" of white people by accusing those who believe in "white separatist ideals" as being "white supremacists". .
The separation between separatism and supremacy continues to be unclear. A contemporary example which received press attention came during the campaign for the 2004 Arizona Proposition 200, Protect Arizona Now (the law restricts access by illegal aliens to services). National Advisory Board Chair Dr. Virginia Abernethy responded to a journalist's questions about her allegedly supremacist views by stating that she considers herself a separatist, not a supremacist. "I'm in favor of separatism -- and that's different than supremacy. Groups tend to self-segregate. I know that I'm not a supremacist. I know that ethnic groups are more comfortable with their own kind." East Valley Tribune: "Migrant foe tied to racism, news update", 11/5/04 While this statement appears to show indifference to those of other races, Dr. Abernethy has written elsewhere that European-Americans have made the greatest contributions to society and so they must strive to maintain adequate fertility to continue the race. Chronicles:"Homosexuality, In the Cards: Hanging Ourselves", 3/04 Abernethy is a leader in ethnic pride groups like the Council of Conservative Citizens that denigrate other minorities. This indicates that some self-described "separatists" still consider their race to be at least pre-eminent, if not supreme.
The notorious National Alliance is probably best known for its former leader, William Pierce, who was one of the most recognized names in the White separatist movement (the National Alliance maintains its position is White separatist, rather than white supremacy). Pierce wrote The Turner Diaries and hosted a weekly radio program, American Dissident Voices. Via these outlets, Pierce was able to provide his followers with an ideological and practical framework for committing violent acts. The rhetoric of these groups largely shadows that of Adolf Hitler's in content and in political ideology. Pierce's religion, cosmotheism , was influenced by ideas of "racial purity" and eugenics. In 1997, Pierce stated that:
- "Ultimately we must separate ourselves from the Blacks and other non-whites and keep ourselves separate, no matter what it takes to accomplish this. We must do this not because we hate Blacks, but because we cannot survive if we remain mixed with them. And we cannot survive if we permit the Jews and the traitors among us to remain among us and to repeat their treachery. Eventually we must hunt them down and get rid of them."
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