The Racist Roots of ‘Cuck’ (the White Supremacist’s Favorite Insult), Explained

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

So, can I say something?

Sure!

OK. Well, sometimes I feel like you do these explainers about things that aren’t even really explain-worthy things. Like, you’re the one making the thing a thing by explaining the thing. Today, for instance.

Oh, so you don’t think “cuck” is a thing?

I don’t. I think you’re making this shit up, actually.

I wish I were. (Or is it “I wish I was”? I’ve never quite known.) But no, cuck is absolutely, definitely, totally a crucial part of the “alt-right” lexicon. So crucial, in fact, that I take back what I just typed. I’m glad I’m not making this up. I’m goddamn verklempt I’m not making this shit up. Because it’s an unambiguous white supremacist tell. And it provides a shitload of insight about where their true anxieties lie.

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But just in case you’re still not sure it’s a thing, here’s a report of Steve Bannon allegedly calling Jared Kushner a cuck behind his back. Here’s alt-right leader and aggressively frequent “L” taker Richard Spencer calling another conservative, Jack Posobiec, a cuck for a reason I’m not even going to bother to click on to know. Donald Trump was referred to by white supremacists as both a cuck and an anti-cuck for his remarks about Charlottesville, Va. There’s even an entire Wikipedia page for “cuckservative”—a portmanteau of cuckold and conservative.

OK, OK, OK. I’ll concede that this is a thing? But cuck, cuckold, cuckservative—what do all of these even mean? 

Well, a cuckold is simply a man whose (female) significant other is sleeping with another man. Taken further, it can also signify a man who is unknowingly raising a child who isn’t genetically his. For years, it’s been weaponized as an insult insinuating that a man was emasculated and humiliated.

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White supremacists have adopted this term to describe white conservatives they believe to be sellouts (hence cuckservative). But any white person who doesn’t follow their beliefs could also be a cuck. Cuck is pretty arbitrary.

I see. So how is this a racial insult? Nothing you’ve said so far would seem to give this slur a racial background and/or connotation.

The white supremacist’s prime objective is to keep white institutions and white blood “pure” by any means necessary. They believe whiteness is the God-given standard—as if God is an empty Clorox bottle filled with vitiligo-infected mice—and any dilution of this purity is a sin.

And white people who don’t believe this—who don’t seem to be as committed to the preservation of whiteness as them—are, in the white supremacist’s mind, fine with nonwhites infiltrating their land, replacing their institutions, taking their jobs, breathing their air and, most importantly, sleeping with their women. Basically, any white man who doesn’t commit his every thought and dying breaths to preventing black and brown men from intermingling with white women is a cuck—a man who is clearly cool with savages ravaging through “their” women.

So basically, all of this is due to race-based sexual anxiety?

All of it? No. I know some are just still really sore about Mace Windu. But for many of the type of men who use this insult, their biggest fear is reproductive irrelevance, which they believe would eventually happen if the country continues to brown.

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Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that cuckolding—where a (usually white) man’s “wife” has sex with another (usually black) man—is actually a quite popular porn genre: a phenomenon that provides a remarkably detailed moving picture of what the white supremacist believes would happen. And there’s no doubt that the increasing use and prominence of “cuck” as an insult is at least partially based on that imagery. Thanks, Pornhub.

But if it’s a popular porn genre, isn’t it possible that some of these white supremacists are fans of it, too?

See, there you go making a thing that’s not a thing a thing again.

Um, that was you before, not me.

Whatever.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a columnist for GQ.com, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)

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DISCUSSION

king-beauregard
King Beauregard

“I wish I were. (Or is it “I wish I was”? I’ve never quite known.)”

Oh Damon thank you so much, I’m always in a mood to explain subjunctive mood.

In English there are three moods:

- Indicative: describes the world as exists around us. “The cat is lazy.” “Grocery store potato salad is just fine.” (Outright lies are still indicative mood; the intention is to describe the world, even if some fact-checking is in order.)

- Imperative:commands. “Leave me alone.” “Let’s go.”

- Subjunctive: describes the world as it ISN’T. Can be used in hypotheticals, wishes, decrees, and procedural motions. Subjunctive is primarily recognizable by conjugating the verbs strangely, but not so strangely that you’re necessarily aware that you’re doing subjunctive at all.

There are a couple different ways to construct your subjunctive. If you’re doing wishes and procedural motions and such, it will be like “long live the king” (notice how it’s not “long LIVES the king”), “thy kingdom come” (not “thy kingdom COMES”), “I move that this matter be tabled” (not “this matter IS tabled”).

But the more common way to do subjunctive is the cause-effect variety, where you’ve got an “if” clause with a past-tense-looking verb that is actually present tense subjunctive, and a “then” clause with a future-tense-looking verb that is actually ALSO present tense subjunctive. “If I were rich I would own a boat” — there’s a cause and effect feel to it, as if a past condition is leading to a future event, but in reality both clauses are present tense. Think of it as, “in the alternate universe in which I am rich, I own a boat”.

We covered this in eighth grade German class and I can assure you it caused a great deal of consternation for like a week. At least, in German, the subjunctive verb forms are different enough that you can’t NOT be aware something strange is happening. In English you do the exact same things as in German, but it’s not as obvious, and so in English you can go for a very long time not even being aware that subjunctive mood is happening.