An article came across my desk today and I penned a reply across my social media venues so I thought I’d post it here.
It’s an intro of sorts on white supremacy for white people (or anybody really).
It’s a response to this CBC article about something that happened in a parliamentary committee meeting.
Here’s why Tory MP Michael Cooper should be ashamed of himself, and not the other way around.
The parliamentary committee discussing online hate invited a witness to speak. The dynamics of the relationship shouldn’t be extricated from its context. The witness spoke with vulnerability while representing a marginalized people group discussing hate & racism.
The witness connected dots between online conservative commentators (among other things) & the NZ terrorist shooter, citing the former as a source that radicalized the latter. Cooper vehemently opposed the “link [between] conservatism with violent extremist attacks.”
Here’s why he thought he was right and how his worldview produces blindspots. It has to do with the difference between systematic and systemic racism.
White people think racism doesn’t exist because they themselves aren’t racist. “So long as we don’t see the Klan walking in the streets,” racism is a non starter.
But any woke person of colour would tell you that’s false. (I say woke because it takes a certain amount of stability to get on the train of decrying dominant systems. New immigrants want to fit in and play by the “rules” rather than rock the boat.)
Systematic racism is racism that’s overt and intentional. It’s what we can see clearly on the streets or in print. Cooper is right, conservatism as he would understand it doesn’t appear to be intentionally racist.
Racism works with widespread effectiveness because it is INVISIBLE. That’s exactly how it works in the West (Canada too).
Systemic racism is the unintentional form of racism at work. It is a SYSTEM that undergirds the ENTIRE function of our society.
For example, when I decry WHITE SUPREMACY, I’m not saying white people are white supremaCISTS, but that we ALL participate in upholding white supreMACY–the invisible system designed to uphold particular ideals in politics, laws, economies, religion, and culture. (Specifically, the ones created in whiteness, which is to say the culture built by white colonizers/settlers.)
Here’s the problem.
Cooper’s reaction is based on a belief his brand of conservatism is somehow neutral. That his worldview couldn’t possibly intertwine with whiteness or white supremacist ideology because he, and those around him, don’t commit intentional acts of racism.
And that might be true, but it’s only half of the story. Just because you don’t SEE or DO racist things doesn’t mean racism doesn’t exist (remember the system). It also doesn’t mean you’re somehow neutral. In fact, you (and me) are ACTIVE participants in a dominating system. There is a dominant system in Canada which translates into what we accept as the “Canadian” experience. It’s crucial to notice that the dominant view of “Canadian” is not ubiquitous. At its core it’s designed to exclude and dominate. It wants you to assimilate into a culture of WHITENESS or you’ll be on the outs. What’s the takeaway?
The implication is this: how white Canadians view the world is NOT the experience for minorities. Furthermore, how white Canadians understand the world is not the RIGHT way nor the NEUTRAL way. It’s the DOMINANT & invisible way that everyone needs to work and live within.
Cooper felt threatened and raged on any notion his foundation of whiteness contributes to terrorism. Yet he was simultaneously ignorant of violence perpetuated by systemic white supremacy (of which he’s the primary benefactor), blinded by his own privileged worldview, and used his position of power as a white male legislator to domineer over a marginalized person. Classic move by the powerful preserving power structures even at the expense of abject threats to public safety.
(Note, replace conservatism with liberalism, same same in this context. It’s not the particular ideology that’s the issue here, albeit white supremacists are becoming emboldened by specific policy and rhetoric from conservative political parties.)