Joined: 16 Dec 2009
|Posted: Mon Sep 04, 2017 12:22 pm Post subject: How the original sin of white racism fuels radicalism
|This is an important article by Jonathan Kay ... who recently stepped down as editor of The Walrus because of "cultural appropriation" issues.
It illustrates a few things. First and most obviously, how the Canadian left is dominated by the American left. They are now agitating to take down statues in Canada! White nationalists are a problem in Canada? It also makes a fetish of 'white guilt'. But isn't that a racist concept right off the hop?
Kay is interesting because he wrote against the idea of "cultural appropriation", and he raised such a storm of protest that he resigned what is probably one of the more significant editorships in Canada.
I would say that he is a center-left guy, and while he's sypathetic, he also sees that these new ways of genertating victimhood are devastating to free inquiry.
|Jonathan Kay: How the original sin of white racism is fuelling radicalism on the left — and the right
By Jonathan Kay
In 2015, a group called Friends of Sir John A. Macdonald staged a party in downtown Toronto to celebrate the 200th birthday of Canada’s first prime minister. Tickets were $130. The dress code was “Victorian top hats & long dresses – or your own national dress.”
This was just two years ago. But it feels longer than that. In the current political climate, with its relentless emphasis on Canada’s history of residential schools and colonialist crimes, celebrating Macdonald’s birthday in 19th-century formal wear is a risky move.
If a white painter inspired by an Anishinaabe artist can get her vernissage shut down for engaging in “cultural genocide,” who’s to say a Macdonald bash in period costume won’t be likened to Holocaust remembrance in SS cosplay.
Speaking at that 2015 event, Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor made glancing allusion to the fact that Macdonald was “on occasion perceived to be insensitive and flawed.” But the main thrust was that our first PM was a progressive – “the first government leader in the world to attempt female franchise.” Such a speech now seems unimaginable. Last week, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) advanced a motion demanding the removal of Macdonald’s name from schools, to “recognize his central role as an architect of genocide against Indigenous peoples.” Activists in Regina, likewise, are seeking to remove a statue of Macdonald from a park. And councillors in Victoria are mulling the fate of a Macdonald statue outside city hall.
The issue is purely symbolic. But symbols are the binding agents that hold nations together. Macdonald was the founder of our political order. To blacklist him as a génocidaire is to reject the very idea of a Canadian project. Historical revisionism of this type easily morphs into a sort of social panic among intellectuals, whereby any form of patriotism is stigmatized as thought-crime, with pride in country cast as pride in ethnic cleansing.
Which is why so many of this year’s Canada 150 activities felt awkward, or descended into farce. At high-concept spoken-word events here in Toronto, orators denounced our country as a racist, colonial, settler state, with some refusing to stand for the national anthem, leaving mortified audience members staring at their shoes. The most popular local Canada 150 attraction was a giant floating duck, which bobbed innocently around the harbour without casting moral judgment on the pale-faced onlookers desecrating traditional Ojibway lands.
ETFO’s timing was impeccable – just three weeks after Heather Heyer was cut down during a rally by white nationalists who’d assembled in support of a bronze version of confederate leader Robert E. Lee. Never have our “beautiful statues and monuments” (to borrow Donald Trump’s phrase) been more vulnerable.
Like many of Trump’s hardcore base, these haters are swept up in their own dangerous and deeply regressive form of social panic. And Donald Trump, true to form, is playing to it masterfully, using the statues as symbols of a traditional America under siege by sinister multiculturalists. “This week, it’s [the statue of confederate leader] Robert E. Lee,” he told reporters on Aug. 15. “Is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?” If Fox & Friends ever gets around to covering the ETFO, you can bet the President will be tweeting, “Just as I predicted!”
These two forms of social panic – among the left in Canada, and the right in the U.S. – may come off as diametrically opposed. Yet they are both symptoms of the same larger, centrifugal phenomenon: In the age of social media, ordinary centrists – moderate Republicans, Red Tories, suburban Democrats and Liberals – have increasingly opted out of the culture wars.
It’s not so much that there has been an upsurge in radicalism. It’s that radicals on both sides now punch far above their weight, because they are the only ones engaging intensely with the world of ideas, while the rest of us watch Netflix.
Yes, white nationalism is a real problem. But remember that the actual number of alt-right protestors in Charlottesville was relatively small, and attendance at follow-up events was pathetic. Images of pot-bellied white men carrying Nazi flags make for sensational Facebook click-bait, but the data show no spike in old-school KKK-style racism. (Only 9% of Americans, for instance, say that intermarriage is bad for the country, down from 14% during Barack Obama’s first term.) If this constituency has become more prominent and influential in recent years, it’s because online outlets such as Breitbart, Reddit and The Rebel allow them to form echo chambers without going through traditional gatekeepers; and because video footage amplifies the emotional impact of their hate.
Meanwhile, traditional conservatives are now playing defense full-time, distancing themselves from a U.S. President who has disgraced their ideological camp. In Canada, in particular, the dialogue on the right is almost entirely about how to cope with the toxic spillover from the lunatics running the White House. There’s little motivation for anyone thoughtful to raise their voice. When’s the last time you heard a mainstream Canadian conservative advance a genuinely new policy idea?
Among writers and editors on the left, the problem of centrist reticence arises from the (entirely defensible) idea that the most morally urgent problem in our society is racism. According to the most doctrinaire view, the role of a white writer or editor is to either uncritically boost the voices of blacks and Indigenous people, or simply shut up and get out of the way. One may still witness sparks of intellectual vibrancy among Jewish, Muslim and immigrant writers – who are unburdened by any ancestral or creedal linkage to residential schools. But Canada’s WASP firmament now exists as a sad wasteland of white guilt. And most of its aging giants, including the Rosedale socialites who once proudly paraded around in Victorian garb on Macdonald’s birthday, are grabbing wildly at the ankles of whatever anti-racist cause happens to be trending strongest on their Facebook feed.
This agonizing over the original sin of white racism also allows sentimental social justice proponents to make excuses for even the most extreme forms of Antifa violence – on the theory that criticizing the savage beating of a right-wing protestor by a left-wing mob would somehow play to the advantage of neo-Nazis.
There are signs, however, that thoughtful people are beginning to find their voice.
It was interesting to observe, for instance, that the ETFO motion received a cold response from government leaders – including Justin Trudeau, who declared that Macdonald’s name would not be removed from any building or program under federal control. Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne said the same thing about her province’s schools (although, true to form, she drenched her statement in much politically-correct bafflegab). Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall asked, in not entirely un-Trumpian tones, “Is it not a short walk between the calls to remove the name of our first prime minister from schools, to the closing of the Lincoln memorial in Washington D.C.?”
These politicians are accountable to the silent majority – including those who don’t have Twitter accounts – which helps explain their position. Yet even the liberal Toronto Star has critiqued the ETFO proposal, publishing at least three articles rejecting the de-Macdonaldification of public institutions. At the very least, I’m just glad that the Star and other outlets seem prepared to discuss the subject rationally – something that would have been impossible last spring, at the high-water mark of Canada 150 social panic.
If things do indeed turn around in Canada, much of the thanks will be owed to Indigenous intellectuals, who (unlike me) have the moral authority to set the terms of debate – just as it is moderate Republicans in the United States who have the sole power to reign in the Make American Great Again extremists who’ve hijacked the GOP. No less an expert than Sen. Murray Sinclair, chair of the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission, sensibly declared that tearing down statues of Canadian historical figures would be “counterproductive” to reconciliation efforts. And journalist Robert Jago urged groups such as the ETFO to spend more time on the real problems faced by Indigenous communities, and less on virtue-signalling their progressive attitudes on “flavour-of-the-month” causes.
We need more voices like this. Ashamed of right-wing xenophobia, and intimidated by leftist dogmas, too many Canadians have ceded the marketplace of ideas to the fringes. To speak common sense in this age requires courage, but it is the only way to return intellectual life to sound moorings.
This is Made in the USA Canadianism. Yuck.
I dunno. I am only responsible for what I did, and I never did anything bad or even mean to a native person. Even though I am white, I never owned a slave, nor did anyone in my family. Never. So why are you attempting to allocate guilt on a racial basis, if you're against racism, Mr Kay?
If you really want to end racism, you could start by stopping allocating things on the basis of race.