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Aug 24 2011

Post Racial: Montana style

One of the more odious lies we tell ourselves when discussing race happens when we ascribe ourselves the label of “post-racial”. While we don’t tend to use it as part of our collective lexicon here in Canada, it gets a lot more traction in “Obama era” America. The general thrust of the phrase is that people these days don’t really ‘see’ race, and that the labels are thereby not useful. We can stop talking about race (or, more accurately, we don’t have to start) because it has no power as a sociological phenomenon anymore. Of course, the evidence is stacked miles high to suggest otherwise, but it is a comforting lie.

My contention has always been, and continues to be, that we have learned how to talk about race in code, and to obscure our own racist tendencies from nearly everyone – particularly ourselves. I occasionally speak of small groups of people who are not interested in even pretending to hide their racism, rather reveling in it. Another example has crossed my desk:

A new flag with an old message is flying in Montana. Montana Creativity Movement members bear as their standard a banner marked with a W for the white race. The W is topped by a crown symbolizing elite status and with a halo representing the sacredness of the race they worship. They count chapters in Billings, Laurel, Lockwood, Miles City, Bozeman, Butte, Helena, Missoula, Park City and Shepherd. “We are your neighbors, your best friend, your co-workers, etc.,” organizer Westin Adams said. “The only difference is we are loyal to our racial family.”

There is a canard that comes from the more intellectual wing of the white supremacist movement (the phrase “world’s tallest midget” comes to mind…) is that if self-identification along racial lines is valid for people of colour (PoCs), then so too should it be for white people. There is nothing inherently wrong, they say, with celebrating ‘white pride’ or ‘white power’ – it is merely a celebration of the achievements of ones ethnic forbears. In a facile and pedantic sense, this argument does have some merit. There is nothing wrong with being proud of being white; conversely, there is no virtue in being ashamed of being white. Any statement of ‘white pride’ that is a reaction to being made to feel ashamed of one’s white ethnicity is entirely reasonable and defensible.

However, the terms ‘white power’ and more recently ‘white pride’ have connotative associations that are anything but reasonable and defensible. The ideals embraced by the Montana Creativity Movement (MCM, hereafter) are not a simple matter of being “loyal to (their) racial family”, as they would like to represent themselves. Their beliefs are inextricably wrapped up in doctrines of racial supremacy:

The group’s name stems from the idea that the white person is the “most creative, productive and intelligent creature Mother Nature has produced in … 2.3 billion years,” Klassen wrote in his autobiography. Creators shun marriage between those of different races, embrace anti-Semitism, reject Christianity and other religions (save worship of the race) and take as their motto “RaHoWa” (racial holy war).

At this point I have to walk back a bit from some of my more leading anti-theist statements and admit that people are capable of adopting monstrous beliefs that are entirely ancillary to theistic religion. Any idea that is inured from criticism and granted truth axiomatically can lead to this kind of abdication of humanistic principles. Faith – that willing suspension of rational thought – is not necessarily only centred on a deity. MCM’s belief system is clearly an exercise in a priori “backfilling” to justify an already-held conviction that white people are somehow more creative, productive and intelligent than their dusky brethren. This belief is non-religious, despite their invocation of the idea of a holy war. They should and must be thought of as distinct from, for example, the KKK – an explicitly Christian organization (although one that operates well outside of what would be considered the mainstream of Christian thought, to be sure).

That digression aside, it is important to note that while many of us are busy patting ourselves on the back for how ‘post-racial’ we are, there is quite another segment of society that is deeply invested in the concept of race. There are those in my camp, who think that a productive and open discussion of race is essential to making any progress on tackling the glaring inequalities that fall along racial lines. There are also those who wish to bring race into focus in order to use it as a weapon against those who are different. To carve into society a new version of the Great Chain of Being, with their own group at the top.

While I am usually quick to dismiss this kind of overtly-racist self-aggrandizing as the juvenile chest thumping of a pitiful group of backward people, such dismissal is perhaps doing my own argument a disservice. These are not ‘bad people’ in the colloquial sense – I am sure they are kind, caring and generous people who are otherwise upstanding citizens. However, their adoption of this collection of noxious and bizarre beliefs has led them to compartmentalize their otherwise moral instincts when it comes to issues of race and adopt a Hitlerian view of human subspeciation:

Klassen in “The White Man’s Bible” spelled out a scale of whiteness, with black people at the bottom as “barely human, but more correctly subhuman or humanoid,” white people as the “very top pinnacle” and “mud races” categorized between the two. “One of the beliefs Creators have is RaHoWa, racial holy war where creators believe there will be a worldwide ethnic cleansing that will leave only white people with everything on the planet,” McAdam said.

Add to that their agitation for political recognition and the fact that their expansion is speeding up and we are left to conclude that our conceit and posturing to this supposed ideal condition of “colour blindness” is anything but ‘post-racial’. The existence of these groups should be seen as a sign that we have not yet freed ourselves from our historical fascination with racial supremacy, and that more work, not less, is needed if we are to give ourselves a chance at a future that is more safe and more just.

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2 comments

  1. 1
    Jadehawk

    this reminds me of the dude who once told me there are no events celebrating white culture… a couple weeks before the town we lived in had their Scandinavian heritage celebration

    anyway, colorblindness is at least for now a completely irrational concept. I vaguely recall reading an article about parenting that showed that racism needed to be actively countered for children to not behave in a racist manner; merely raising them in “colorblind”, multiracial environments without ever having a conversation about racism didn’t work.

  2. 2
    Crommunist

    I remember reading that too. The conclusions bothered me a bit, because they weighed heavily on hypothesizing that the parents were subconsciously modeling racist behaviours. While it’s certainly possible, it leaves open the idea that it was just that parents aren’t “non-racist” enough, which is a fallacy. It leaves open the door for those arch-liberals who see racism as an expungable flaw borne of malice, rather than something innate and cognitive.

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