In Australia, Anti-Immigrant Racism Is Everywhere

While we often, in immigration and citizenship policy, compare ourselves with Australia, the political culture and overall dynamics are quite different, even if we also see mainstream Canadian politicians flirting with the far right or presenting their positions in a somewhat xenophobic manner:

Words from a vile manifesto, written by an Australian, have been floating around the internet following the New Zealand terrorist attack that saw 49 people killed at mosques during Friday prayers.

It calls Islam a “savage belief” and the “religious equivalent of fascism.” “Worldwide, Muslims are killing people in the name of their faith on an industrial scale,” it reads. “The entire religion of Islam is simply the violent ideology of a sixth century despot masquerading as a religious leader, which justifies endless war against anyone who opposes it and calls for the murder of unbelievers and apostates.”

But it wasn’t written by the alleged shooter, Australian citizen Brenton Tarrant. It was written by an Australian politician.

Sen. Fraser Anning also tweeted, even before Friday’s death toll was public, “Does anyone still dispute the link between Muslim immigration and violence?” That link is Fraser Anning, and people like him.

Anning—the Aussie Steve King, perhaps—is a now-independent senator who is too racist even for the extremely racist party that elected him. Elected in 2017 as a One Nation party replacement candidate (after “free speech” crusader Malcolm Roberts was caught up in the citizenship debacle), Anning chose to sit as an independent, then opted to join another fringe party, until he was kicked out of that one too, for his infamous speech calling for a “final solution” to the Muslim immigration problem.

His latest comments have been roundly condemned by everyone in Australian politics—by the prime minister, the recent ex–prime minister, the soon-to-be prime minister. Prime Minister Scott Morrison tweeted that Anning’s comments were “disgusting” and “have no place in Australia, let alone the Australian Parliament.”

Anning and Tarrant may be extremists, but they are extreme representatives and undeniable products of a racist Australian culture—one that is at best quietly tolerated and at worst wildly stoked by politicians, not to mention a Rupert Murdoch–fueled mass media. Whether it’s demonizing asylum-seekers, demonizing African youths, demonizing Indigenous Australians, or demonizing Muslims, racism is insidious in the mainstream culture.

Note that while Anning’s 2018 final solution speech was condemned, he wasn’t removed from Parliament over it. A man who made an approving Hitler reference remains an Australian senator, a tacit endorsement of his bigotry. Politicians are falling over themselves to condemn Anning now, amid another open show of racism, but there seems to be no rush to condemn the dog whistle kind going on in the media every single day.

The alt-right has a strong presence Down Under, inviting figures like Milo Yiannopoulos to speak and holding fascist rallies—one of which Anning defended attending earlier this year. (Anning was also expected to address a meeting of neo-Nazis with Hitler fan Blair Cottrell later this weekend.) It’s alive and thriving online, a community that Tarrant was reportedly a part of. This report dives into one of the favorite memes of the Australian far right, one recently used by Tarrant both on the forum 8chan and on Twitter. It shows a highly stereotypical Aussie bloke, wearing Outback get-up, brandishing the bottle of a popular Aussie beer, with the caption “hold still while I glass you.” The same meme is frequently used by the Dingoes, an online group known for anti-Semitic views. Lest you think this is a murky subculture, a onetime Labor Party leader has appeared on the Dingoes’ podcast. That leader, Mark Latham, is now a One Nation candidate.

Latham, admittedly, has fallen far in the years he has been out of politics. But this excellent tweet thread from Guardian columnist Jason Wilson, who covers the far right, chronicles the horrific racism even mainstream figures have engaged in. “Remember when the Australian Senate almost passed a literal white nationalist meme?” he tweeted. “Remember all the free media Milo and Lauren Southern got? Remember ‘African Gangs’? Remember ‘white farmers’? Remember the Soros conspiracy theories during the SSM referendum?”

I don’t speak for all Aussies when I say I was not surprised to learn the shooter in the mosque attack was an Australian—but I do speak for many. Tarrant may have been radicalized online, but he was emboldened by the words surrounding him on national platforms, by right-wing commentators writing in major newspapers that a “tidal wave of immigrants sweeps away our national identity” (this from one of the most well-known “journalists” in Australia). His article was called “The Foreign Invasion.” Tarrant’s manifesto is called “The Great Replacement.”

Other parts of Tarrant’s manifesto echo words by other public figures. Australia, you may recall, is not in Europe, but Tarrant refers to himself as European and treats Australia as an outpost of Europe. One recent former prime minister seems a little obsessed with Australia being part of “the Anglosphere,” while Anning was ultimately kicked out of his second party for continuing to distinguish between “European” and “non-European” migration.

The nationality of the other suspects has not yet been revealed, so it’s hard to speculate on any extent to which New Zealand’s own alt-right was involved. I often tell Americans that New Zealand is Australia’s Canada, a better, more progressive version of Australia with a reputation as a welcoming place. The relationship between white and indigenous New Zealanders is much better than that of many colonial societies, but it still leaves a lot to be desired. Ironically, the National Front, a far-right group with only about 1,000 members, is said to have been influenced by the Canadian alt-right—the Lauren Southerns and Stefan Molyneuxes and Jordan Petersons—to adopt a “pseudo-academia, clean-cut appearances.” New Zealand journalist Paula Penfold spoke to i24 on Friday, saying that while New Zealand is not known for hate crimes or mass violence, “there has been knowledge of white supremacy in Christchurch for some decades now. We’ve never seen violence like this, but there is a sense now that this is a situation that has been building.”

As Joshua Keating noted Friday, “New Zealand has had one of the fastest-growing immigration populations among developed countries in recent years, much of it from Asia. This has led to at least some political backlash, with [Winston] Peters’ New Zealand First party calling for immigration restrictions and accused of fomenting racism. Police clashed with right-wing nationalists who rallied outside the Parliament in Wellington in 2017.”

The world is again in shock, but it’s no surprise that Tarrant was Australian. After all, as he wrote in his manifesto, he was a “regular white man from a regular family.” So true.

Source: In Australia, Anti-Immigrant Racism Is Everywhere

Passed over, bullied, mistaken for janitorial staff. Black women sue Ontario public service alleging systemic racism

A case to watch:

Two Black women employed by the Ontario public service (OPS) are suing their unions and the provincial government, alleging they suffered years of systemic racism and discrimination while their complaints were ignored, disbelieved or met with reprisals — and ultimately led to them being suspended or forced from the workplace.

In a statement of claim filed Feb. 25 with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Jean-Marie Dixon and Hentrose Nelson accuse the provincial government of allowing an organizational culture that “fosters racism, dysfunction, discrimination, harassment, racial bullying, and abuse of authority/power.”

“Anti-Black racism, and racism in general, along with white privilege and white supremacy, are pervasive and entrenched within the OPS,” they allege, referring to the government workforce of more than 65,000 public servants employed by ministries, agencies and Crown corporations. (According to a glossary in their lawsuit, they define white supremacy as a “racist belief that white people are superior,” which is “ever-present in our institutional and cultural assumptions” and confers structural advantages to white people.)

They further allege that despite ongoing efforts to seek help from senior management, “Black and racialized employees, particularly Black women, continue to be subjected to individual, systemic, and institutional racial discrimination and racial harassment.”

Their unions, meanwhile, have failed to adequately represent them because they are influenced by the same “culture of systemic and institutional anti-Black racism,” according to their statement of claim.

Dixon and Nelson’s legal action comes one year after they organized a meetingbetween several OPS employees and government officials that triggered a temporary halt on the suspension of racialized employees — a moratorium that was quietly lifted in July.

Their lawsuit also intends to challenge the way these kinds of allegations are handled in Canada. Many of their claims relate to issues covered by their collective bargaining agreements, but the “law is designed to keep these sorts of disputes … out of the courts and sent instead to expert labour and human rights tribunals,” says David Doorey, a labour and employment law professor with York University who is not involved with the lawsuit.

But Dixon and Nelson allege their many attempts to seek justice — including through their unions, internal workplace processes and the human rights tribunal — have been “ineffective” so their “only viable recourse” is through the courts.

“It’s been very, very traumatic,” Dixon said in an interview. “When you’ve worked so hard, as I’ve worked — I put myself through school, I got here on my own and on my own merit. And someone can take that from you.”

“No dollar amount could fix the irreparable damage,” Nelson said. “I think about how my life has been altered; I can’t get it back.”

The lawsuit’s allegations have not been tested in court and the respondents — the provincial government, Association of Law Officers of the Crown (ALOC), and Association of Management, Administrative and Professional Crown Employees (AMAPCEO) — have yet to file statements of defence.

When reached by the Star, government spokesperson Craig Sumi with the cabinet office declined to comment on a matter subject to legal action but said “ending system (sic) racism” is a top priority.

“While the organization has made a lot of progress, we continue to hear that OPS programs and policies are not addressing the concerns of racialized employees, particularly Indigenous and Black employees,” Sumi said in an email. “The organization is committed to working with our employee networks to make significant progress toward building a more diverse, inclusive workplace where everyone feels comfortable and welcome and is able to fully contribute.”

Both unions named in the lawsuit said they take discrimination complaints “very seriously” and will continue to represent Dixon and Nelson, who remain members. But ALOC “strongly denies” allegations that it discriminated against Dixon and “will defend itself before the courts,” president Megan Peck wrote in an email.

“In representing Ms. Dixon, ALOC has always acted, and will continue to act in accordance with its legal responsibilities, which include the duty to represent Ms. Dixon without discrimination,” Peck said.

A spokesperson for AMAPCEO, Anthony Schein, declined to comment on Nelson’s case but said as a policy matter, the union’s view is that the OPS “continues to struggle with systemic discrimination.”

“For decades, AMAPCEO has been advocating for the OPS employer to end systemic discrimination within the OPS and promote equity in our members’ workplaces,” he wrote. “To this end, AMAPCEO ably responds to individual members’ situations through our dispute resolution process. We also push the employer to address systemic issues.”

In their 113-page statement of claim, Dixon and Nelson allege a pattern of anti-Black racism and harassment that followed them across departments and persisted throughout their public service careers.

Dixon and Nelson, both in their 40s, joined the OPS in 2002 and 2004, respectively. Dixon is a single mom and lawyer with the Ministry of the Attorney General whose office deals with seized property stemming from illegal activity. Nelson, a married mother of three, most recently worked for the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, where at one point she was “the only Black employee in an administrative role,” she writes in her claim.

Both women allege the racism they experienced took many forms, everything from bullying and micro-aggressions to racist comments, including from a white female manager who said she “feared” Black women and a colleague who complained about the “face” of the office changing after racialized women were newly hired.

Despite being diligent employees, they were denied professional opportunities, over-scrutinized and subjected to “anti-Black stereotypes and tropes,” according to their claim. Nelson, whose most senior role involved financial reporting and budget management, alleges she was once mistaken for janitorial staff and routinely given “office housework” that wasn’t assigned to non-Black staff — for example, cleaning a dirty basement storage room, or ordering taxi chits and monitoring print supplies, “while a white woman, junior to Hentrose, assumed more meaningful responsibilities.”

Dixon alleges she was also treated with unnecessary suspicion (for example, she was not trusted to maintain custody of valuable credit cards that had been seized for a case she was working on) and “unwarrantedly” labelled as “loud,” “rude” and “aggressive.” At one point, according to her claim, another Black lawyer told Dixon her office colleagues were “organizing or orchestrating acts of discrimination and harassment against her” and told him to “participate in marginalizing Jean-Marie or he would receive the same negative treatment.”

Both women sought help from managers, filed complaints with an internal workplace discrimination program, and grieved through their unions. But according to the claim, none of these measures were effective and speaking up only made matters worse.

Nelson alleges that “as a result of anti-Black racism,” she was demoted to a junior position in 2015 and ultimately forced from the workplace by “mobbing, harassment, discrimination, hostility and ongoing mistreatment.” According to her claim, she also became critically ill in 2011 and delivered her baby prematurely at six months.

Dixon alleges her complaints of anti-Black racism were interpreted as “reverse racism” against Caucasian people and caused her displacement across four ministries. According to her claim, managers eventually “engaged in reprisal” by initiating a workplace complaint against her on behalf of staff who “made false allegations” about her conduct — a complaint that led to her suspension in 2016.

Neither have since returned to work. Nelson is currently on an unpaid leave of absence and Dixon, despite being reinstated in October 2017, says she has been unable to return to work due to a workplace-induced disability. She is still being paid, however.

Both women allege they are now suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, loss of income and other harms, and are seeking $26 million in damages, along with several public interest remedies.

When reached by email, their lawyer Ranjan Agarwal with the firm Bennett Jones, declined to comment on active litigation.

In recent years, OPS leadership has acknowledged the equity challenges within its own ranks, where racialized workers comprise 23 per cent of the workforce but only 17 per cent of directors, 12 per cent of assistant or associate deputy ministers, and 9 per cent of deputy ministers, according to a 2017 “diversity and inclusion” report. “To create an equitable OPS, we need to recognize that there are systemic racism barriers that prevent people from reaching their full potential,” the OPS stated in its anti-racism policy, released last year under then-secretary of cabinet Steve Orsini, who retired in January.

The anti-racism policy found that 23 per cent of Indigenous employees and 25 per cent of Black employees reported experiencing discrimination, compared to just 13 per cent of the general OPS population. Employee survey results have pointed to systemic issues as well and in 2017, Black employees reported discrimination at nearly twice the rate of OPS employees generally. Last year, according to more than 3,600 survey respondents, race was the leading cause of discrimination next to age.

A Star analysis of data obtained through freedom of information legislation also shows that provincial ministries were named in at least 136 complaints filed with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario between mid-2008 and 2017, where someone alleged employment discrimination based on race, ancestry, colour, ethnic origin or place of origin. These accounted for roughly a quarter of all employment-related human rights complaints filed against the Ontario government during this time period.

Black employees have been particularly vocal in raising concerns through various forums, including town hall meetings organized by the Black Ontario Public Service Employees Network. On Jan. 18, 2018, more than 20 Black employees, including Dixon and Nelson, also confronted government officials face-to-face, including Liberal MPP Michael Coteau, who was then leading Ontario’s anti-racism directorate.

During the emotional meeting, the group of mostly Black women described experiencing racism on the job and being systematically passed over for opportunities. They said their concerns were ignored or mishandled by senior managers and, in many cases, led to their own suspensions or firings.

“These people that are putting us through this … none of them are ever demoted. We are fired,” one woman said in a video of the meeting posted online. “There’s a lot of Black people in the same position as I am, where they have ambition and they want to be promoted, and they’re not promoted at the same levels as our white counterparts.”

At the meeting, the group demanded a moratorium on the suspension of racialized employees — which was publicly announced the following day by Orsini. Behind the scenes, his office also emailed government ministries to request a list of cases where “someone we presume to be a racialized employee is suspended or off work,” according to internal documents obtained through a freedom of information request. About a week later, 52 cases had been identified.

Sumi said the moratorium allowed the government’s Public Service Commission to “assess the scope of the issue” while providing a central mechanism to assess new cases involving possible suspensions. It was formally lifted on July 27, 2018 after the government completed its review, he said.

In their statement of claim, Dixon and Nelson point to numerous reports, surveys and investigations that suggest the government’s efforts to address systemic racism within the OPS have “proven futile.”

Among them is a confidential 2017 report leaked to the Star, which described a “toxic” work culture within the Ministry of the Attorney General’s civil law division, where Dixon’s office is based. According to Leslie Macleod, a lawyer and former bureaucrat hired by the government to conduct the report, racialized staff within the division reported being marginalized, over-scrutinized, and “perceived and treated as less able than their white counterparts.”

Some racialized staff were told they “got in” because of their race and people felt “unsafe and targeted by colleagues and insufficiently supported by management,” Macleod found. Racialized women felt particularly disadvantaged, she added.

“It was said that when racialized women do get good files, there is an undercurrent of ‘why is she getting good files?’ — something that is not questioned when a senior white male is assigned a high profile case,” Macleod wrote.

In November, the government also publicly released an external review of the government’s workplace discrimination and harassment prevention (WDHP) policy and program “through an anti-racism lens.”

The program is meant to resolve cases of workplace discrimination within the OPS but in their statement of claim, Dixon and Nelson — both of whom launched WDHP complaints — criticized such internal processes as “ineffective in addressing racism.” Lawyer Arlene Huggins, who was hired to conduct the external review, said the government triggered the probe because of its “strong perception” the WDHP program was actually “exacerbating or perpetuating the challenges” of employees struggling with racism.

For her final report, Huggins examined 72 cases and related files; she also chose 13 cases for closer examination, which primarily involved Black women with “significant years of service.” She said employees reported several issues, including WDHP advisers who did not seem to understand the program, lacked training in unconscious bias and anti-Black racism, or pressured employees into excluding important details from their complaints. Some people said they were “yelled at, interrogated and treated like a criminal,” according to Huggins’ report.

Employees also described negative experiences that were “particular to them being Black women,” Huggins wrote; for example, labelled “argumentative, difficult and unco-operative” when they articulated career goals, accused of playing the race card when they complained about unfair treatment, and perceived as ineffective managers.

The WDHP policy does not apply to systemic barriers, yet those barriers played a “material role” in these WDHP complaints, Huggins concluded. Participants she interviewed complained of an “inherent and unconscious bias and anti-Black (or anti-racialized) animus.”

“One complainant with almost 20 years experience reported 58 unsuccessful (job) competitions since 2008,” she said.

In their lawsuit, Dixon and Nelson write that the provincial government is one of Canada’s largest employers, “entrusted with extraordinary power and influence that affect and impact the lives of all Ontarians,” so its actions are particularly consequential.

“Racism is a public health emergency,” they write. “But based on the actual and lived experiences of Black people, there is much skepticism about the commitment or ability of current institutions to address systemic and structural anti-Black racism in Canada.”

Source: Passed over, bullied, mistaken for janitorial staff. Black women sue Ontario public service alleging systemic racism

Black RCMP officers say they endured racism ‘on a regular basis’

Not a new issue:

Current and former black RCMP officers say they’ve regularly endured racist treatment from their colleagues and are calling for Canada’s national police force to improve its treatment of visible minorities.

Alain Babineau, who retired from the RCMP in 2016 after a 27-year career and now lives in Ottawa, told Radio-Canada one of his bosses nicknamed him “black man,” and that racial slurs were common.

“The word n–ger was used on a regular basis,” he said.

One example he shared occurred in Quebec City in 2008 at the Sommet de la francophonie, a meeting of representatives from French-speaking nations.

“There were a lot of African countries visiting Quebec City, and a group of RCMP members were talking about their VIPs from Africa and using the N-word and making jokes and so on,” he said.

“I told them, ‘First of all, I’m extremely offended by what you’re saying. And, number two, these are our clients.

“Of course [they said], ‘We’re just joking around’ … their jokes are not always the funniest.”

‘I had so much pride for the RCMP’

Radio-Canada spoke to other black RCMP officers, including two who agreed to speak anonymously because they fear reprisals from their employer.

CBC and Radio-Canada have agreed not to name them or say where they work.

“Over the years, members have called me ‘black bastard,’ ‘uneducated black man’ and again recently ‘n–ger,'” one officer said.

He added that after working in several communities across Canada for over 15 years, he’s tired of the racist treatment.

“I had so much pride for the RCMP,” he said. “Now, if someone asks me what I do, I say I work for the government.”

The other officer said he wished his colleagues would stand up to defend him, but the RCMP workplace culture is not friendly to people who complain about racism.

“I heard the word ‘n–ger’ more often in the RCMP than in the general public,” the officer said.

While CBC and Radio-Canada have chosen not to disclose the details of these incidents to protect the officers’ identities, the events have been corroborated with documents and witnesses have confirmed what happened.

Other officers who had agreed to talk to Radio-Canada changed their minds at the last minute.

Allegations ‘deeply troubling,’ RCMP says

In a statement to Radio-Canada, the RCMP called the allegations of racism “deeply troubling” and said all forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.

Both the RCMP and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said they’re taking steps to address the situation.

The police force said it routinely uses what’s known as “gender-based analysis plus,” or GBA+, to “assess how men, women and gender-diverse people experience policies, programs and initiatives.”

“The ‘plus’ in GBA+ acknowledges that this analysis goes beyond biological sex and gender differences and also examines the impact of other identity factors such as race, ethnicity, religion, age and mental or physical disabilities,” the RCMP said.

Watchdog board created

Goodale’s office brought up a new interim civilian watchdog board his government created for the RCMP to help rid it of bullying and harassment.

Its members will be named by April 1, and Goodale’s office said it’s aiming “to appoint members who represent the diversity of Canadians.”

The officers who spoke to Radio-Canada want the RCMP to do an in-depth study of visible minorities in the RCMP, citing a recent Ottawa police diversity audit as one example of something the RCMP could adapt.

The RCMP declined to comment on whether it would take a similar step.

In 2015, the RCMP’s then commissioner admitted there were racists in the force.

“I understand that there are racists in my police force. I don’t want them to be in my police force,” Bob Paulson told a group of First Nations leaders.

Visible minorities underrepresented in RCMP

Babineau now works as a volunteer adviser for the Montreal-based Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations.

He said, while he believes individual acts of direct racism have decreased in the RCMP over the years, systemic racism is still a problem.

Visible minorities, excluding Indigenous people, make up 22 per cent of Canada’s general population, according to the 2016 census — but only 11 per cent of the RCMP’s workforce as of 2018.

In this sense, the RCMP is more representative than the typical Canadian police force. In 2016, the most recent year this national data was available, eight per cent of all Canadian police officers were visible minorities.

However, while there are now more women and visible minorities in the RCMP’s leadership, visible minorities remain absent from the three highest ranks.

“There are now many women in the highest ranks of the RCMP. That’s a good thing,” Babineau said. “The same thing should be happening for racialized people.”

Source: Black RCMP officers say they endured racism ‘on a regular basis’

MP says feds stall promise to act on anti-black racism one year after Trudeau pledge

Money was in the 2018 budget so it appears the issue is more with respect to implementation. Given the previous hollowing out of the multiculturalism program and the time needed to rebuild capacity, not that surprising expect perhaps to MPs and stakeholders:

Federal efforts to address systemic issues affecting black Canadians appear to have stalled one year after the prime minister made it an issue, says the head of Parliament’s black caucus as he put words to simmering frustrations with the slow pace of change.

It was a year ago that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for action to ensure equal opportunity and treatment for the more than one million black Canadians to address the “very real and unique challenges that black Canadians face,” including anti-black racism.

The cross-party caucus chairman, Greg Fergus, a Liberal MP from Quebec, described Sunday how the words were the culmination of a long lobbying effort that included politicians from different parties, political assistants and grassroots organizations.

Fergus said he thought the speech would mark a change in how the federal government interacted with black communities.

Instead, he said, the bureaucracy, which moves the machinery of government, doesn’t seem to have responded.

“I thought once you get the prime minister saying it, the whole system responds. But I have discovered how mistaken I was,” Fergus said during a panel discussion at a national summit Sunday.

“If there is not buy-in from the public service — if the public service, the machinery of government is not reflective of the diversity of the country, and doesn’t see that the black community is an important community that you want to deal with — it’s like Astroturf … it exists on the top but there are no roots.”

The two-day National Black Canadians Summit, which was the second one organized by former governor general Michaelle Jean’s foundation, kicked off Saturday.

The first summit laid out areas where the federal government needed to prioritize for work or strengthen efforts.

This time around, the aim is to connect different groups to mobilize the voices of the 1.2 million black Canadians to effectively lobby politicians as the country lurches towards a federal election in the fall.

Fergus’s comments put into focus frustrations voiced during the summit about federal efforts under the banner of the United Nations’ International Decade for People of African Descent, which requires governments to address systemic barriers in laws, services and housing, for instance, for black communities.

Fergus suggested his experience over the last year shows that lobbying isn’t a one-time event, but a constant push.

The Liberals have promised $19 million over five years for mental health and youth programs for black communities, and $23 million more over two years that included money for a broader anti-racism strategy, as part of its efforts.

The election is a chance to amplify the voices of black Canadians, said Richard Picart from the Federation of Black Canadians.

“This community, my community, is becoming more active politically,” he said.

“It’s becoming more difficult to ignore the black elephant in the room.”

A lobby day is planned for Monday where dozens of representatives attending the summit will meet with cabinet ministers and MPs to put forward specific asks and put black voices into the political conversation.

“The message is nothing can happen without us. We’re in. We are in and we need to be considered,” Jean said.

“We’re saying here we are and you need to listen to what we are bringing to the conversation.”

The federal government has been able to hire more blacks into the public service, but once in, they don’t seem to rise to the upper ranks, said Liza Daniel, a founding member of the Federal Black Employees Caucus.

She said the employees caucus is finalizing a report about a gathering in Ottawa last month, where participants talked about ways to improve the system for black civil servants.

Source: MP says feds stall promise to act on anti-black racism one year after Trudeau pledge

Why the media loves the white racist story

Thoughtful discussion on how sometimes the focus on the individual provides a means to avoid some of the more uncomfortable discussions regarding systemic barriers:

Racism isn’t new and will not go away. What is new is the interest in pointing it out and calling out its perpetrators through both mainstream and social media. Especially white racists. What explains the need to do this? And why do incidents go viral so quickly?

Take for instance the case of Nick Sandmann, a white teenager from Kentucky whose picture and video many will have now seen. In a video, Sandmann is standing across from Native American demonstrator, Nathan Phillips, who is holding a rawhide drum. Sandmann is smiling or smirking at Phillips. From the videos, we don’t know which it is.

What we do know is that Sandmann has been widely condemned for disrespecting Phillips. Sandmann was wearing a Make America Great Again (MAGA) cap. And many people believe wearing the MAGA cap proves that Sandmann is a racist.

Maybe, as everyone seems loathe to do, instead of asking whether Sandmann is a racist or not, we might ask another question: Why is there so much interest in this story?

Why are so many people interested in pointing out and shaming individual white racists? There have been dozens of these events highlighted on social and mainstream media this year. Here are a few of the incidents that went viral and sparked outrage: a video of Fort McMurray teens mocking Indigenous dance, another of a North Carolina woman’s racist rant and the racist tirade against a Muslim family at the Toronto Ferry Terminal.

Why are people less interested in calling out the systems that prime them to act in racist ways and foster lifelong inequities.

Easy targets

We think the reason lies in the fact that by pointing out other individual racists, people can feel good about themselves without actually doing very much. In this way, individuals do not need to question how they must change their lives to create the more just society they say they want.

White people can feel good about themselves because, unlike what is claimed about Sandmann, they probably aren’t overtly racist.

These days most people are not overtly or publicly racist. And being labelled a racist can lead to social stigma. The individual (who may or may not be white) racist and their story, however, provides easy answers and easy targets.

Structural racism and colonization are not seen as the problem. It also allows people to ignore broader trends, such as the recent rise of hate crimes. Instead the focus is often on the spectacle of the incident and the problem is pinned on just one individual or a group of individuals.

In the Sandmann case, many see the problem as the individual racist, not the context that created the MAGA movement.

Ignored in the process of labelling people racists and shaming them is that the shaming fails to condemn actions. Instead, it focuses on a single person. Condemning people gives them little room to change, grow or learn from their mistakes. Humility is needed on all sides.

The move to innocence

Pointing out and condemning individuals for their racism is popular because it exemplifies what scholars Eve Tuck and Wayne Yang would call a “move to innocence.” Moves to innocence are the rhetorical moves that people use to distance themselves from genocide and colonization.

Those who have privilege and power can just tell themselves that they are one of the “good ones” because they aren’t racist like the people in the videos.

In pointing out others as racist, people don’t then have to ask themselves difficult questions about their own privilege or do the work of fostering social humility. Those of the dominant society don’t have to think about the ways that they benefit from slavery, colonialism and land theft.

They don’t have to think about pipelines and stolen land. They don’t have to think. They can just point.

If we want to move forward, we need to stop taking an aggressive punitive approach to individual racism. This only divides the right and the left. No side is “innocent” when it comes to discrimination or colonization.

Source: Why the media loves the white racist story 

Yes, a MAGA hat is a symbol of hate: Domise

Good commentary by Andray Domise:

A few years ago, a very close friend of mine was hailing a cab off Spadina street, in downtown Toronto. He, a tall and broad-shouldered Black man, was on his way to a social event with an acquaintance, a blonde white woman. They were both well-dressed for nightlife, which is a normal sight for that neighbourhood on a Friday evening. What was not normal, however, was the gaunt white man approaching them wearing Doc Martens boots, a bomber jacket, and a clean-shaved scalp. My friend registered danger just before the skinhead opened his mouth twice, first to shout “Don’t trust that nigger” at the blonde woman, and again to spit in my friend’s face.

Being a dark-skinned man whose personal experience with hate crime stretches back to his childhood (when he was introduced to that ugly word right after being shot in the head by a white teen armed with a pellet gun), my friend didn’t need to have a conversation to assess the character of the man before the assault happened. He knew right away he’d just encountered a skinhead, a self-ordained social enforcer who believes the human species can be ordered by a racial hierarchy—one which places Black people like us below the cutoff.

If the man hadn’t given the game away with the racial slur, it would be ridiculous to try and convince my friend that was, perhaps, not a hate crime. When a person wearing the visual markers of a neo-Nazi passes every other human being on a busy street without incident, but singles out a Black man and a white woman for violence, there aren’t many questions to be asked.

And yet, supposedly sensible people and media outlets are willing to debase themselves by proposing that the Make America Great Again hat, that bright red beacon of racialized aggrievement, is somehow not a hate symbol. The perennial conversation bubbled to the surface again this week after an altercation between members of the Omaha nation (led by longtime activist Nathan Phillips), and a mob of students from now-infamous Covington Catholic high school.

In a nearly two-hour video shot at the Lincoln Memorial, students wearing MAGA hats shouted at the elders, danced mockingly, and pantomimed tomahawk chops. One of them, Nick Sandmann, made his way to the front of the crowd to stand almost nose-to-nose with Phillips and smirk in his face as the elder drummed and sang the American Indian Movement (A.I.M.) song.

By now, nonwhite groups are all too familiar with hate groups and what they’re about. The similarity in their tactics is not an accident. Hate groups typically construct an extremist kinship through shared values, language, and an aesthetic that serves a twofold purpose: to visually signal themselves to allies, and to let their enemies know they intend harm. The skinhead aesthetic—black boots, weathered denim, suspenders, and shaved heads—is one of these. Proud Boys—khakis, beards, and Fred Perry polo shirts—are another.

These aren’t political organizations that happen to attract the occasional radical, or unpolished community groups that happen to have a large platform. There is no driving sociopolitical force behind these movements outside of white nationalist ideology, which is why they’re designated hate groups. And they understand this, which is why they’ve spent so much time lately cultivating an everyman aesthetic. Even David Duke famously tried to rebrand the Klan with a kinder, gentler image before leaving in frustration that the message wasn’t catching on. His movement had long passed beyond plausible deniability of their motives.

We know this, yet when people quite logically connect the people who wear MAGA hats with the white supremacist ideology of Donald Trump, this is considered painting with too broad a brush. The same Donald Trump who egged on violence against Black protesters at his rallies, stereotyped Mexicans as rapists, referred to African and African-descended nations as “shithole countries,” referred to Senator Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas,” and for years has rattled off a near-endless litany of ad-libbed comments that place him squarely in the white nationalist camp – that is the Donald Trump with which a person openly signals kinship when they put on that garish red hat in public.

So when a restaurant manager refuses to serve a MAGA hat-wearing patron, or Omaha elders confront a crowd of MAGA hat-wearing students to try and diffuse an escalating conflict before it gets out of control, they’re not making assumptions out of whole cloth. Neither is Alyssa Milano, who tweeted “The red MAGA hat is the new white hood.” They’re justifiably responding the way that my friend responded to that skinhead, moments before that skinhead spat in his face, and the way decent people should be expected to respond to those who publicly align themselves with hate movements. If the people who wear the hat feel unfairly maligned, that’s just plain unfortunate for them. Maybe they should examine their politics, and their own hearts.

In other words: if the hood fits, wear it.

Source: Yes, a MAGA hat is a symbol of hate

ICYMI – Chris Selley: Police carding ought to be an anathema in a free society. How is it still up for debate?

Good commentary:

In the debate over if, when and how police should be able to stop, question and compel identification from citizens, and then store the information they receive in databases, those arguing to allow officers maximum discretion tend to defer to public safety. The more info police have, the more crime and violence and misery they can avert. Conveniently for that view, in the two years since more restrictive rules took effect in Ontario, Toronto has experienced a significant spike in homicides.

Coincidence? Justice Michael Tulloch thinks so. In his 300-page report on the Independent Street Checks Review he oversaw, officially released Friday, Tulloch does a pretty good job busting causation down to correlation.

In 2013, he observes, Toronto police agreed to ramp down “street checks” (an interaction producing “identifying information … concerning an individual … that is not part of an investigation”) and “carding” (when “a police officer randomly asks an individual to provide identifying information when there is no objectively suspicious activity,” and the individual isn’t suspected of or to have knowledge of any offence, and the information winds up stored in a database).

Despite that, the city’s homicide count held steady at 57-59 per annum until 2016, when it spiked to 75. In 2017, the year the rules came fully into effect, the number dropped to 65, before soaring to 96 in 2018 — the highest in a decade.

The number of shooting incidents, meanwhile, has hardly budged since the new rules came into force: There were 406 in 2016, 390 in 2017 and 424 in 2018. Furthermore, some areas of the city where carding was most prevalent — Jane and Finch, Rexdale, Lawrence Heights — saw dramatic decreases in shooting incidents. Whereas getting guns off the street is a common justification for intrusive police tactics, such as New York City’s stop-question-and-frisk, firearm seizures in Toronto skyrocketed after the new regulations came into place. And other Ontario municipalities reported no similar surges in crime. Overall, homicides in Ontario dropped from 2016 to 2017.

In short, it’s far easier to make a case that carding has no effect at all on serious crime than that it has a huge one. But even if previous carding practice had “worked,” even if the new regulation had stopped it from working, it barely even amounts to a defence. As Tulloch notes, “the regulation simply gives effect to the existing law that people do not have to provide their identification when there are no reasonable grounds to believe the person has committed an offence.”

If carding “worked,” in other words, it relied on citizens not knowing or caring about their already-existing right to be left alone whilst minding their own business, or being too intimidated to exercise that right — as well they might be. Politely refusing an armed man or woman’s request to identify yourself is no small thing, all the more so if you have “nothing to hide.”

The problems inherent in such a situation are myriad. There are quantifiable harms: People were denied jobs and security clearances, and in at least one case menaced by child services, thanks to information stored in police databases that implicated them in nothing other than being included in a police database. And there are more existential harms. Imagine growing up with a squeaky-clean nose yet constantly feeling like a person of police interest. It’s profoundly alienating, especially when targets quite logically conclude, based on well-documented statistics if not their own intuition, that they’re being harassed because of their race, skin colour or some other innate characteristic. It’s no less insidious if the bias is unconscious; it might even be more so.

Nothing good can come from it, and plenty bad. It hinders police in solving crimes, for one thing: “When a segment of society believes that it has been unfairly targeted by the police,” Tulloch writes, “it will delegitimize the police in their eyes.” All those desperate calls for witnesses to come forward will be met more skeptically. Tulloch cites research showing “inappropriate interaction with police” can even “desensitize young people from guilt regarding potential acts of crime.”

Tulloch has scores of recommendations, including clarifying what he argues are overly complex rules for officers; requiring officers to tell people when a conversation is voluntary; including written reasons for the existence of any database record; and destroying those records automatically after five years.

As he says, the police have lots of powers at their disposal — including the power to stop and question people if officers have a legitimate, articulable “reason to believe the identifying information would be valuable police intelligence.” That still goes too far for some civil libertarians. But it’s maddening there are still people who object to the very idea of eliminating truly random stop-and-question policies; people who can’t grasp just how anathema that idea ought to be in a free society, how profoundly it undermines the social contract that underpins modern Western policing; people who could actually take issue with Tulloch’s most fundamental recommendation: “No police service should randomly stop people in order to collect and record identifying information and create a database for general intelligence purposes.”

Well, obviously.

Source: Chris Selley: Police carding ought to be an anathema in a free society. How is it still up for debate?

Steven Spielberg on Storytelling’s Power to Fight Hate

Good long read and interview with Spielberg:

Pinchas, how old are you?” Steven Spielberg asked the wall screen, a life-size video image of an elderly man in a cardigan, who blinked and answered without missing a beat.

“I was born in 1932, so you can make your own arithmetic,” responded Pinchas, in a Polish accent.

“He asked me to do the math!” Mr. Spielberg laughed. “How did you survive when so many did not?”

“How did I survive?” the screen responded. “I survived, I believe, because provenance watched over me.”

The chat went on for five minutes, and while the artificial intelligence looked eerily reminiscent of Mr. Spielberg’s earlier films, the goal wasn’t entertainment — it was education. On the sound-sensitive screen was an interactive biography of Pinchas Gutter, a Polish Holocaust survivor and part of a tour the director was leading through the redesigned headquarters for the U.S.C. Shoah Foundation, the organization he founded in 1994 to collect testimony from Holocaust survivors. Now Mr. Spielberg has expanded the foundation’s footprint on the University of Southern California campus, along with its mission and public focus: to fight hate, which he says has become commonplace globally.

“The presence of hate has become taken for granted,” Mr. Spielberg said. “We are not doing enough to counter it.”

The prerecorded video conversation is part of a series using playback technology that invites visitors to converse with 16 survivors of genocide, based on specific word patterns and more than 2,000 questions that vary from views on God to personal history. Earlier this month, the testimony of Pinchas was displayed at the United Nationson the 70th anniversary of the adoption of genocide laws, a storytelling tool to raise awareness.

While the foundation continues to archive stories from victims of anti-Semitism, and advocate on their behalf, it is also collecting what Mr. Spielberg calls “living testimony” from modern genocide victims. “The Holocaust cannot stand alone,” he said with conviction. “We decided to send our videographers into Rwanda to get testimony. From there we went to Cambodia, Armenia — we’re doing a critical study in the Central African Republic, Guatemala, the Nanjing massacre. Most recently, we’re doing testimony on the anti-Rohingya violence in Myanmar and the current anti-Semitic violence in Europe. We’re expanding our scope to counter many forms of hate.”

The 10,000-square-foot space — which opened to the public last month — is a far cry from the organization’s beginnings following “Schindler’s List,” in 1993. Mr. Spielberg sent an army of videographers around the globe to record Holocaust survivors’ stories. Betamax tapes of the interviews were stored at his Amblin Entertainment offices on the Universal Studios lot, and then at a storage company before the foundation’s move to U.S.C.’s Leavey Library in 2006. (There are a little over 51,000 recordings of Holocaust survivors in the visual history archive, a staggering 115,000 hours.)

Today the group has 82 employees and an annual budget of about $15 million, which includes $3 million from the university. It also has received millions in donations. Its new home — part office, part media lab — is packed with video testimonies from 65 countries in 43 languages, along with survivor-inspired artwork (a hanging steel sculpture by the British artist Nicola Anthony incorporates phrases from filmed testimony.) Visitors can tour the offices Monday through Friday, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

“Everyone thinks the Shoah Foundation is about archiving the past but it’s about understanding empathy and using testimony to shine a light,” Stephen D. Smith, its executive director, said.

Reflecting its founder’s legacy, the organization has produced multiple films, including the recent documentary “The Girl and the Picture,” about 88-year-old Xia Shuqin, who witnessed the murder of her family in the Nanjing Massacre in 1937. It was directed by Vanessa Roth, whose mother was an interviewer for the foundation in the early 1990s. “The Last Goodbye,” a virtual reality memorial screening at Holocaust museums in Florida, New York, Illinois and California, takes audiences into the Majdanek concentration camp in German-occupied Poland, with Pinchas Gutter as guide, using thousands of photos and 3-D video to explore a railway car, gas chamber and barracks. David Korins, the scenic designer of the musical “Hamilton,” is now the foundation’s director of museum experiences, with the goal of getting the collection of archival footage into more museums.

Rising anti-Semitism is providing fresh impetus for the foundation’s relaunched efforts. “Not only are people willing to forget about the Holocaust, they’re willing to deny it,” said Aaron Breitbart, a senior researcher at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the human rights organization that has worked with the foundation since the 1990s. “The Shoah Foundation has made a great contribution in that battle for memory.”

The relaunch coincides with the theatrical rerelease of “Schindler’s List.” In her 1993 review of the film for The Times, Janet Maslin wrote: “Rising brilliantly to the challenge of this material and displaying an electrifying creative intelligence, Mr. Spielberg has made sure that neither he nor the Holocaust will ever be thought of in the same way again.”

The film ran in about 1,000 theaters in mid-December and was screened free for students nationwide. Although it was digitally remastered in 4K resolution, Mr. Spielberg said, “I didn’t touch a frame.” The original version of the film is currently available on Netflix.

A quarter century on, it remains a complex depiction of Nazi horrors.

“We were surprised that somebody even attempted to make a film about it,” said Renee Firestone, 94, whose story is told at the foundation.

Despite the expansion, some challenges remain, Mr. Smith said. Most testimonies are unavailable online, which means they can only be seenat the foundation or the 146 partner libraries and universities (links are free for families of those interviewed). There are no transcripts of the recordings yet, but the foundation is spending $10 million building a free online platform for researchers, schools and the general public starting in late 2019, Mr. Smith said.

Days before Mr. Spielberg’s 72nd birthday, wearing a suede jacket and 1860s-style boots from his 2012 opus, “Lincoln,” the director munched a granola bar at the foundation’s headquarters. The color of his beard is now saltier, he has a few more inches around the middle, but his gray-green eyes still shine boyishly when he’s discussing his foundation and his seminal film. These are edited excerpts from that conversation.

Why expand the mission of the Shoah Foundation?

I think there’s a measurable uptick in anti-Semitism, and certainly an uptick in xenophobia. The racial divide is bigger than I would ever imagine it could be in this modern era. People are voicing hate more now because there’s so many more outlets that give voice to reasonable and unreasonable opinions and demands. People in the highest places are allowing others who would never express their hatred to publicly express it. And that’s been a big change. There’s all kinds of efforts to take the truth and subvert it to twisted ideology. We saw it happen in Europe first, in France, then Poland again — I never thought it would come back home to us like it has existed over the last two years.

Many groups are clamoring that they have it harder than others — how do we overcome that?

We can commiserate with each other about suffering and pain, but we should never compete that way. Being marginalized, being discriminated against, having racist and anti-Semitic slurs hurled is something that unites [all people]. Everything against black society is also against the Jewish community. Everything against the gay and lesbian, LGBTQ community is against black and Jewish communities. Hate is hate and the spillover makes us all responsible for watching each others’ backs and standing up for each other. None of us could ever be bystanders again.

How can Hollywood combat this?

Look how many movies are now telling the stories of women. There’s a huge shift that is gender-centric, and we saw it happen at the beginning of the Harvey Weinstein downfall. Storytelling is fundamentally human. But the art of listening is what I’m hoping the Shoah Foundation is able to inspire.

[In 2018, Amblin Television, a division of Amblin Partners, Mr. Spielberg’s production company, was one of three parties to a $9.5 million settlement agreement with an actress on the CBS show “Bull” who was dropped after she confronted its star about inappropriate comments. A representative for Amblin declined to comment, directing inquiries to CBS, “the sole owner of the show.”]

You are rereleasing “Schindler’s List” after 25 years. Do you believe it can still make an impact?

At the Tribeca Film Festival, I experienced my first audience in 25 years watching “Schindler’s List.” It was a full house, and the reaction — I turned to Kate [Capshaw, his wife] and said “Oh my God, they’re still listening.” With this renewed cycle of hate, and initiatives at the Shoah Foundation, I thought it could open up a conversation that genocide can happen anywhere when an ordinary society goes wrong. Charlottesville and the aftermath made a huge impact on wanting to reissue the film.

If you made the film today, what are the things you would have changed?

No. There’s nothing I would have changed, absolutely nothing. I stand by the film as it has stood its own test of time.

What sticks with you 25 years later about filming in Poland, where the carnage happened?

In four months’ filming in Krakow, the hair on the back of my neck never went down. It was really hard every morning to simply get out of the car and walk to the set. I wanted to use the locations where Schindler stayed in Krakow, including the Jewish Ghetto, even shooting very close to the Płaszów forced labor camp. We shot just outside Auschwitz, building a barracks and backing the train into Auschwitz proper, so when the train exits Auschwitz, it appeared in the film as if it’s entering the death camp. That was one of the coldest nights I ever experienced. That mournful silence within the company of actors — you could hear a pin drop.

The foundation decided to include modern testimonies about genocide when it already has over 51,000 testimonies on record about anti-Semitism. My grandparents were filmed by the foundation in 1996; is video the best teacher?

Look, we’re all storytellers. There’s no one alive who isn’t a storyteller, even if they don’t think they are. Every day is a story. Maya Angelou said: “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”

What are your earliest memories of being different?

My grandmother taught English to Hungarian Holocaust survivors in Cincinnati. I was 2 or 3, and I would sit with them around the table. That’s where I learned my numbers — on the arm of an Auschwitz survivor who showed me the numbers of his forearm. That was my “Sesame Street.” That’s how I first learned to count.

What more can we do? What do you plan to do?

Teachers and parents who need to take responsibility for the acceptance of hatred in the fabric of society. I’m working with the Discovery Channel and the Academy Award-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney on a six-hour study called “Why We Hate.” I’m not planning any more dramatization on the Holocaust itself. I’m putting all my attention on the documentary format.

What The Ebbs And Flows Of The KKK Can Tell Us About White Supremacy Today

Good long and informative interview with Kathleen Blee:

As long as the United States has existed, there’s been some version of white supremacy. But over the centuries, the way white supremacy manifests has changed with the times. This includes multiple iterations of the infamous Ku Klux Klan.

According to the sociologist Kathleen Blee, the Klan first surfaced in large numbers in the 1860s in the aftermath of the Civil War, then again in the 1920s, and yet again during the civil rights era.

Blee is a professor and dean at the University of Pittsburgh, and the author of Inside Organized Racism: Women in the Hate Movement, as well as Understanding Racist Activism: Theory, Methods and Research. She says the anonymity allowed by the internet makes it difficult to track just how much white supremacist activity we’re seeing today.

But despite this difficulty, she and other experts say there’s been an indisputable uptick in hate crimes — and an overall rise in white supremacist violence: Earlier this fall, a gunman shot and killed 11 worshipers at a Pittsburgh synagogue. In 2017, a clash with protesters at the Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., left one woman dead. In 2015, the shooting at the Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston, S.C., killed nine black churchgoers. And in 2012, a rampage at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek, Wisc., killed six people.

As we consider this spate of racist attacks, we thought it’d be helpful to talk to Blee about the ebbs and flows of white supremacy in the United States — and what, exactly, those past waves say about today’s political climate.

Our conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.


First, can we talk about the various phases of white supremacy in the U.S. throughout history — and what caused those ebbs and flows?

The 20th to 21st century Klan actually formed after the Civil War, during the Reconstruction period. Then it was entirely contained within the South, mostly in the rural South. It [was] all men. There were violent attacks on people who were engaged, or [wanted] to be engaged, in the Reconstruction state, [including] freed blacks, southern reconstructionists, politicians and northerners who move to the South. That collapses for a variety of reasons in the 1870s.

Then, the Klan is reborn in the teens, but becomes really big in the early 1920s. And that is the second Klan. That is probably the biggest organized outburst of white supremacy in American history, encompassing millions of members or more. … And that’s not in the South, [it’s] primarily in the North. It’s not marginal. It runs people for office. It has a middle class base. They have an electoral campaign. They are very active in the communities. And they have women’s Klans, who are very active and very effective in some of the communities. That dissolves into mostly scandals around the late ’20s.

Then there’s some fascist activity around the wars — pro-German, some Nazi activity in the United States — not sizable, but obviously extremely troubling.

The Klan and white supremacy reemerge in a bigger and more organized way around the desegregation and civil rights movement — again, mostly in the South, and back to that Southern model: vicious, violent, defensive, Jim Crow and white rights in the South.

And then it kind of ebbs. After a while, it kind of comes back again in the late ’80s and the early 21st Century as another era. And then there’s kind of a network of white supremacism that encompasses the Klan, which is more peripheral by this time. Also Neo-Nazi influence is coming as white power skinheads, racist music, and also neo-Nazi groups. The Klans tend to be super nationalist, but these neo-Nazi groups have a big international agenda.

Then the last wave is where we are now, which is the Internet appears. The movement has been in every other era as movement of people in physical space like in meetings, rallies, protests and demonstrations and so forth. It becomes primarily a virtual world, and as you can see, has its own consequences — many consequences. It’s much harder to track. And then there are these blurred lines between all these various groups that get jumbled together as the alt-right and people who come from the more traditional neo-Nazi world. We’re in a very different world now.

That’s a long history. You mentioned that, for a variety of reasons, the Klan in the Reconstruction era collapsed. What are some of the factors that contributed to that?

I would say two things that mostly contributed to that ebb over time.

One is the white supremacist world, writ large, is very prone to very serious infighting. Internal schisms are quite profound in collapsing white supremacists, even as an entire movement, over time.

What’s that infighting look like? How racist to be?

No, no. It’s almost always power and money. So, for example, the ’20s Klan — I say “Klan” but in every era there were multiple Klans, they all have different names, they all have different leaders — they are trying to extract money from their groups, and they are all fighting about money …. and then over power, and who controls the power, because white supremacy groups don’t elect their leaders right away. To be a leader just means to grab power and control. So there’s a lot of contention in these groups of control.

It’s not ideas. Ideas aren’t that central. They have these certain key ideas that they promulgated — race and anti-Semitic ideas — but the fine points of ideological discussion don’t really occur that much in white supremacist groups, nor do they get people that agitated. It’s not like in other kinds of groups, where people might have various versions of ideas, versions of ideologies. [The Klan] just have kind of core beliefs. But they do tend to fight over ideas for money, power and access to the media.

So that’s the fighting. The other thing is, in different waves of history, there are prosecutions, either by the police or civil prosecutions that collapse groups and movements. Sometimes, there’s kind of a blind eye to white supremacist organizing, but at other times there is really successful either civil or state prosecutions of these groups that do debilitate them.

How does the longevity of white supremacy or these [hate] groups coincide with who has political power?

It’s very hard to create a generalization here. Certain groups, like the Klan, tend to rise and fall based on the threats to who is in power. The 1870s Klan [was] based on the Southern racial state formed during slavery being threatened by Reconstruction. In the 1920s, the idea was that political power [was] being threatened by this wave of immigrants. The 1920s Klan [was] very anti-Catholic, as well as racist and anti-Semitic. Part of this anti-Catholicism [was] based on the idea that Catholics were going to start controlling politics as well as the police.

There’s some really good analysis by some sociologists that showed that the Klan appeared in counties where there was the least racist enforcement of the law. Because in counties where the sheriff and the county government was enforcing racist laws, there was no need for the Klan.

How does this apply to this more recent wave of white supremacy?

Right now, we have an extremely heterogeneous group that we might call white supremacists. So some of them, probably the smallest group, are nationalistic. And probably the larger group are not particularly nationalistic. This is why it’s hard to make generalizations. It’s not the case that nationalist fervor just finds itself in the white supremacist movement. The person accused of the shooting in Pittsburgh is an example. If you look at [his] writings, they’re not nationalistic, they’re in fact anti-nationalistic. And that’s pretty common with white supremacy today — some of them have this sense that their mission is this pan-Aryan mission. They’re fighting global threats to whites and creating a white international defense. So that’s not a nationalist project, that’s an internationalist project.

And the other reason is there’s this idea among white supremacists in the United States that the national government is ZOG — Zionist Occupation Government — and that’s a shorthand way of saying that the national government is secretly controlled by an invisible Jewish cabal. So some of them will be amenable to very local government … they’ll embrace, and work with, and even try to seize control of the government at the county level. But generally, national politics are quite anametha for those two general reasons.

In the 1920s, synagogues were targeted by the KKK. Can you run through other examples of violence like this?

People will say the ’20s Klan was not as violent as other Klans. But that’s really because its violence took a different form. So there, the threat that the Klan manufactured was the threat of being swapped — all the positions of society being taken by the others — so immigrants, Catholics, Jews and so forth. So the violence was things like, for example, I studied deeply the state of Indiana where the Klan was very strong — pushing Catholics school teachers out of their jobs in public schools and getting them fired, running Jewish merchants out of town, creating boycott campaigns, whispering campaigns about somebody’s business that would cause it to collapse. So it’s a different kind of violence but it’s really targeted as expelling from the communities those who are different than the white, native-born Protestants who were the members of the Klan. So it takes different forms in different times. It’s not always the violence that we think about now, like shootings.

When did we start seeing the violence that we see today?

Well, the violence that we see today is not that dissimilar from the violence of the Klan in the ’50s and ’60s, where there was, kind of, the violence of terrorism. So there’s two kinds of violence in white supremacy. There’s the “go out and beat up people on the street” violence — that’s kind of the skinhead violence. And then there’s the sort of strategic violence. You know, the violence that’s really meant to send a message to a big audience, so that the message is dispersed and the victims are way beyond the people who are actually injured.

You see that in the ’50s, ’60s in the South, and you see it now.

I was wondering if we could kind of talk a little bit about the language we use when we talk about mass killings that are related to race, religion or ethnicity — especially about the second type of violence, “strategic violence,” that you describe. I’ve seen people use the phrase “domestic terrorism.” What do you make of that phrase?

Terrorism means violence that’s committed to further a political or ideological or social goal. By that definition, almost all white supremacist violence is domestic terrorism, because it’s trying to send a message, right? Then there’s that political issue about what should be legally considered domestic terrorism, and what should be considered terrorism. And that’s just an argument of politics, that’s not really an argument about definitions right now.

How these things get coded by states and federal governments is quite variable depending on who’s defining categories. But from the researcher point of view, these are terrorist acts because they are meant to send a message. That is the definition of terrorism. So it’s not just, you don’t bomb a synagogue or shoot people in a black church just because you’re trying to send a message to those victims or even to those victims and their immediate family. It’s meant to be a much broader message, and really that’s the definition of terrorism.

I think what we don’t want is for all acts of white supremacist violence to be thought of as just the product of somebody who has a troubled psyche. Because that just leaves out the whole picture of why they focus on certain social groups for one thing. [And] why they take this kind of mass horrific feature … so I think to really understand the tie between white supremacism and the acts of violence that come out of white supremacism, it’s important to think about that bigger message that was intended to be sent.

What are the most effective strategies to combat these ideas of white supremacy, or this violence?

I’d say the most effective strategy is to educate people about it, because it really thrives on being hidden and appearing to be something other than it is. I mean, millions of white supremacist groups have often targeted young people, and they do so often in a way that’s not clear to the young person that these are white supremacists, they appear to be just your friends and your new social life, like people on the edges who seem exciting. … And so helping people understand how white supremacists operate in high schools, and the military, and all kinds of sectors of society gives people the resources the understanding to not be pulled into those kinds of worlds.

Twenty years, or even 10 years ago, I would have said it’s really effective to sue these groups and bring them down financially, which was what the Southern Poverty Law Center was doing.

[Now,] they don’t have property; they operate in a virtual space. So the strategies of combating racial extremism have to change with the changing nature of it.

Source: What The Ebbs And Flows Of The KKK Can Tell Us About White Supremacy Today

Belgium begins long-overdue discussion on racism by looking to its ‘brutal’ past

Recognition and acknowledgement of the shameful parts of history are essential, however painful:

There is perhaps no greater symbol of Belgium’s failure to address the dark chapters of its colonial past than the Royal Museum for Central Africa. This weekend, it reopens after a five-year process to revamp the story it tells — a story many Belgians have never been taught.

The Royal Museum for Central Africa just outside Brussels has long been accused of complicity in perpetuating that distorted history.

Now housed in one of Leopold’s Versailles-like palaces, its roots date back to 1897, when the king built a special tramline so people visiting the World Fair in Brussels could also visit his own exhibition showcasing his colonial exploits.

He even built a “human zoo” of grass huts inhabited by 267 Congolese brought over to be a part of the display.

This is a look at King Leopold II’s original exhibit at the colonial museum. (Wellcome Collection)

There is perhaps no greater symbol of Belgium’s failure to address the dark chapters of its past than the museum, which has maintained its colonialist perspective for all these decades.

“We have one gallery, for example, with the names of the 1,600 Belgians that died between 1876 and early 20th century in the Congo Free State,” director Guido Gryseels said. “There’s not a single mention about the many Congolese victims of colonization.”

Until now.

Gryseels is the man behind a five-year renovation that he insists will “decolonize” the museum in form and message, delivering a more honest narrative when it reopens its doors to the public this weekend.

“That the Congo was not the story of bringing civilization, that it was not a story of eliminating the slave trade, that it was a story of brutal capitalism, looking for resources, looking for profits.”

Leopold’s private agents were given free rein in his African empire. They used slave labour to satisfy Belgium’s hunger for rubber and other natural resources. Those who fell behind in delivering their quotas could be punished with the loss of a limb, or worse.

That these horrors still feel somehow veiled from ordinary Belgians seems extraordinary.

Gryseels says it is an emotional issue for many Belgians, who will have had relatives who worked in Congo in one form or another over the years, in particular after the Belgian government took over from the king in 1908.

“Many people are very nostalgic about the past,” he said. “For many Belgians, our museum is a symbol of the times when Belgium was still a major power, in 1961, one of the richest countries in the world thanks to colonialism. And, of course, now it’s gone down.”

Immigration from Belgium’s former colonies, which also included Rwanda and Burundi, was not actively encouraged before or after Congo gained its independence in 1960.

But the Central African community here numbers well over 100,000 people. Whether to engage with the museum as it tries to reform and rebrand itself has been a difficult question for many.

Artist Aimé​ Mpane won a competition to design an installation for the main rotunda of the new museum.

It will serve as a contrast to statues still in place from the old era, portraying colonizers as civilizers, including a golden piece depicting African children cowering at the feet of a cross-bearing missionary.

A statue of a missionary and a young boy at the museum. (Lily Martin/CBC)

Mpane’s piece, titled New Breath, is a giant latticework head sculpted from wood and placed over a crown etched on the floor of the rotunda.

“I [wanted] to create one big piece that will take the place of King Leopold II,” he said. “That will replace this story, which links us all, with the good and the bad.”

The work also features a plant that seems to grow from the top of the head, in place of a crown, and draws the eye upward.

“There’s always a link between what’s on the ground and what’s in the sky,” he said. “And that’s to show the idea of genesis, of rebirth. We can rise above our past and reach something that’s ours.”

Mpane’s work, New Breath, in the museum’s rotunda. (Lily Martin/CBC)

Mpane says he initially had doubts about taking part, despite reassurances that proper context would be provided for the colonial statues.

“But when I started to dig a bit deeper into it, I realized we’re really talking about our history and we must try to make sense of it. If we don’t take part in it, who is going to do it?”

Return the artifacts

Others say true contrition for the wrongs of the past would require returning all the cultural artifacts taken from colonial Africa now lining the museum’s shelves, from ritual masks and sculptures to tribal drums and a wooden canoe carved out of a single log.

The debate in Belgium comes in the wake of a report commissioned by French President Emmanuel Macron that recommended the return of thousands of items taken from former French colonies without consent.

The report, which was penned by the French historian Bénédicte Savoy and Senegalese writer Felwine Sarr, has sparked debate in other European countries including Germany and Belgium.

The current Belgian king, Philippe, changed his mind and decided not to attend the Royal Museum’s reopening this weekend in the wake of the controversy.

“I think that giving back these works of art is a question of law and justice,” said activist Mireille-Tsheusi Robert, who came to Brussels at the age of three with her Belgian father and Congolese mother.

“The original owners whose objects were stolen are villagers, chieftains, whole villages — in short, a country.”

Keeping the works of art sends the message: “We vanquished them,” she said.

For now, returning the artifacts is a step too far for Gryseels, although he acknowledges the role of the museum in Belgium’s failure to see itself as a multicultural society and to reflect the diversity of its population in its public institutions.

“For the most Belgians, their first encounter with Africa is through a visit of our museum. If then, in this museum, you get the impression that Africans don’t have a culture of their own, that the European view is superior, then you can’t be surprised that that has an impact. So we take our responsibility.”

‘Only ignorance’

To really change though, the country as a whole must take on that responsibility, many Belgians say. To carry it out of the museum and into mainstream society.

Pierre Kompany says he believes his election is a sign Belgium is headed in the right direction.

But he also says the country must work much harder to acknowledge the past if it wants to free itself from it.

“When it comes to history, there is no compromise,” he said. “Only ignorance.”

Source: Belgium begins long-overdue discussion on racism by looking to its ‘brutal’ past