3 weeks ago
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
The Visibility of Racism
I was alerted to the picture above by a friend who is currently living in Switzerland. It's an anti-immigration poster. To North American sensibilities, it is shocking how blatant the racism is, even after hearing about anti-immigration sentiment (directed largely at Muslims) all over Europe.
Of course, this is not to say that we don't have racism over here. We often have to look harder to find it, but there are Canadian- and American-based neo-nazi sites and forums. Do a Google search for "stormfront". I sometimes visit them just to see what they are talking about. The smarter racists (an oxymoron?) will claim pride in race/culture, but that façade falls away quickly when you read the comments on these sites, which rarely talk about pride and instead are obsessed with hatred and stereotypes so crude, they make stories about the deep south in the 50s sound progressive. I'm not kidding; you couldn't make this shit up if you tried.
I don't believe we'll see an end to racism in my lifetime. I think we need to accept it and continue to deal with it. I'm not talking about being complacent; I'm talking about continuing the fight against it. The fight is never-ending, which is why I'm an activist.
My fantasy would be that all racists might have, say, blue skin, so that we would be able to identify them easily and know who to avoid. The reality is that racism is something that many people know not to reveal. It slips out now and then, sometimes when and from whom you least expect it.
There is a long-standing argument about whether it is better that racism be open or hidden. I have heard that in many parts of the US, visible minorities (most often blacks) still suffer fairly open discrimination; in these cases, many victims of racism say that at least they prefer to know where the racists stand. I've also heard many reports of racism in Canada against visible minorities, but in many incidents there are no open comments - no "hard" evidence. Racism hits the headlines in Canada when a whistle-blower inside an organization makes a public claim of discrimination (which will be immediately denied), or a private email with incriminating comments is mistakenly misdirected. Yes, we do have systemic racism in Canada. But we like to keep it quiet.
Call it Political Correctness if you want, but I prefer it our way. In this day and age, I am comfortable with the idea that racists feel they have to keep their thoughts behind closed doors, that they have to fear being "found out", that they know their attitudes are not acceptable in the mainstream. Keep them on their toes. If they want to teach hatred to their children, they'll also have to teach that these attitudes are not tolerated by the majority.