When I discuss racism, I devote most of my time to exploring it in its modern context. This usually manifests itself as systemic practices that result in de facto racism (that is, having the same effect as intentional racism), or as subconscious ideas that amount to the same thing as active prejudice. These kinds of commentaries intentionally neglect the kind of violent or hateful acts that we associate with ‘classical’ racism, because I do not wish to become fixated on a phenomenon that is very cognitively available but far less common.
However, from time to time I feel it necessary to remind you (and myself) that this kind of white-hooded cross-burning racism is still alive and well:
Two Lower Mainland men who police say are in a neo-Nazi group are facing assault charges in connection with disturbing attacks on minorities. The B.C. Hate Crime Team announced the charges against Robertson De Chazal, 25, and Shawn MacDonald, 39, at a news conference in Vancouver Friday. The team, a joint RCMP-municipal police unit, conducted reviews of four assault files dating back to 2008 and unearthed new evidence that led to the charges against De Chazal and MacDonald, who police say are linked to an international hate group called Blood and Honour.
Now, in the interest of fairness I should point out that most Blood and Honour members are non-violent. That doesn’t make them not racist (and I’m sure they’d agree with the label, if not the sentiment attached to it). However, one doesn’t adopt a neo-Nazi stance without the implied expectation that violence will be the result. Nazism was race chauvinism applied through the use of force, and while it’s possible to convince yourself that you’re not worshipping an inherently violent doctrine, I stand among the legion of the unconvinced.
This act doesn’t represent two wayward members of B&H “goin’ rogue” and operating outside the ideology, it’s an example of what happens when you actually take their nonsense seriously. It’s like the Glenn Beck devotees who wonder agape as yet another fan gets caught in an assassination attempt – it’s not that they took things too far, it’s that they were actually listening.
There are also a number of readers from Europe who take times like this to smugly assert that racism is a North American problem. It isn’t:
An Italian gunman killed two street sellers from Senegal and wounded three other people in an apparently racially-motivated shooting spree in the city of Florence before committing suicide, according to police. Gianluca Casseri, 50, who Italian officials described as a right-wing extremist, parked his car in the crowded Dalmazia square at lunch time on Tuesday, got out and started shooting with a large pistol, witnesses said. Two Senegalese men were killed and one was seriously injured. After the shooting, he drove away and opened fire again about two hours later in the central San Lorenzo market.
Racism is not a historical or regional problem – it is a cognitive and psychological one. Because we are all human, and we all have equally stupid brains, it is a problem we all have to learn to deal with. Luckily, there are solutions. Solutions that don’t involve firearms or worshipping Hitler.
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