White Power-less

Okay, so sometimes my country is just friggin’ awesome:

A white supremacist rally in Edmonton’s downtown lasted only minutes when the demonstrators fled into a subway stairwell after they were greeted by over 100 anti-racist counter-protesters. Police then blocked subway platform entrances until the roughly two dozen self described white pride demonstrators, most of them masked, were able to leave on a train.

Police spokesman Scott Pattison said at one point as the racist group was nearing the site near Edmonton City Hall, both sides clashed briefly, but police separated them quickly.

So a bunch of cowardly neo-Nazi shitheads decided to put on a “white pride” rally. I have no issue at all with white people showing pride in their accomplishments – there’s a lot of them. “White pride” as a movement, however, has always meant (and continues to mean) overt expressions of antipathy toward other groups. White supremacy is a pathetic and risible philosophy, not only because it is demonstrably untrue (there is no scientific correlation between things that code for phenotypic race and any yardstick by which we could demonstrate the ‘supremacy’ of one vs. another), but because it is often most strongly espoused by those who simply have nothing else about which to feel superior.

When we explored Canada’s black history, we learned that racism is not exactly a recent import to Edmonton, nor is it ancient history. These kinds of demonstrations crop up periodically, flame out and fizzle in places all over the country (a similar demonstration happened in London, Ontario). It is a source of some comfort to know that there is a countervailing group of anti-racist protesters who have no patience for the throwback adolescent bullshit that is the White Power movement.

And they don’t get everything right:

Anti-racist demonstrators ran from entrance to entrance of the subway in an effort to follow the rally, and expressed their frustration at police who were blocking the doors.

“I think it’s a shame that our tax dollars are being used to coddle and protect racist hate groups in our city,” said one anti-racist protester with a megaphone. “Shame on police for coddling extremists. They should be ashamed of themselves,” he added.

If you think it’s a shame for police to uphold the Charter-guaranteed right of free speech, then I’ve got to ask what you think the proper function of police is. I went to a few demonstrations at Occupy Vancouver, and whenever the protest spilled out into the street, police were there protecting us without fail. I sincerely doubt they thought very highly of the demonstrations moving through downtown at peak hours, but they recognized that we had a right to protest, and they defended that. The fact that Occupy is not a hate group is a distinction without a difference with regard to whether or not speech is protected.

The other thing to consider, of course, is what would have happened if the groups had been allowed to clash. Something tells me that the resulting violence would not reflect well on the supposedly benevolent intentions of the anti-racist protesters. “Anti-racist heroes chase off white supremacist goons” makes for a much better headline than “6 injured,1 seriously, as white power group chased down by anti-racist mob”.

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  1. says

    I agree wholeheartedly with this. Also I’ve heard that there is a “white pride” group whose intent is to actually celebrate white achievements throughout history and distance themselves enormously from the nazis, emulating instead celebrations like puerto rican or cuban parades. Unfortunately I think the term “white pride” has been tarnished forever, and rather than save it they should really come up with something else.

    Anywho, it’s always nice to know that, while the unabashedly racist are extremely loud on the internet and when they are on tv, thus giving the impression that there are many more of them than there actually are, they are in fact outnumbered by people who think their ideas are vile.

  2. Enkidum says

    My introduction to activism was in Ottawa in the early 90’s, a protest against a concert that some neo-nazi group was going to have. The three things which made me extremely uncomfortable were (1) some people were clearly there because they wanted violence, (2) most people were not just protesting the concert, but trying to shut it down completely, even though it was inside a private establishment that had been rented for the occasion (weirdly enough, it was the Boys and Girls Club, and I believe the manager did cancel the concert), (3) the Trotskyist Youth League and the Marxist something-or-other were both there, and spent most of the rally trying to convince everyone to kick the other out.

    Well, (3) was mostly just kind of funny in a pathetic way. At any rate, it was a good inoculation against some of the problems and bullshit that crop up in some activist circles. It did end with several nazis running down the street being chased by various thugs on “my” side.

  3. Hank Fox says

    Standing in line at a Greyhound Bus station when I was about 19, I saw a shriveled-up, toothless old guy lash out at a kid in line ahead of him. “I’m WHITE, you m-f- Mexican!”

    It was sort of an eye-opener because looking at him I thought it was probably the only thing he had to feel good about. I can never see “white rights” people without seeing that pathetic old man.

    Martin Mull did something funny some years back, “The History of White People in America.” One segment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxa0iVgGmtU

  4. Stuart says

    “… because it is often most strongly espoused by those who simply have nothing else about which to feel superior.”

    I have to disagree with this. In my, admittedly limited, experience, white power types are capable of feeling pride in just about anything, no matter how ridiculous. You haven’t truly experienced the pathetic banality of these people until you’ve listened to one of them brag for 20 minutes about his shoe size.

  5. says

    Sorry for the OT: Crommunist, if you have a chance, could you write something about Bill C-31, the “Refugee Exclusion Act”, recently introduced by the Harper government and currently pending before the Canadian Parliament? This bill would, among other things, impose mandatory detention for many refugees arriving in Canada (along the lines of the existing policy in Australia), and eliminate rights of appeal and deny many refugees a fair hearing on their asylum claims. It’s a racial justice issue – I maintain that anti-immigrant laws are grounded in racism and xenophobia – and a serious human rights issue.

    Detention of refugees and undocumented immigrants has led to appalling human rights abuses in Britain, in Australia and around the world, and has created a multi-billionaire immigration detention industry, with companies like G4S and Serco profiting from locking up immigrants in appalling conditions in privately-run detention facilities. Bear in mind that, in the case of refugees, we’re talking about people who are fleeing horrific persecution in their home countries, including in many cases torture, rape, death threats and arbitrary detention, and who are often suffering from PTSD; they’re then faced with the need to navigate a confusing and unfamiliar foreign legal system in order to make their asylum claims, and the system treats them like criminals merely for having crossed a border. Don’t let Canada go down the same road as other countries in abusing and dehumanizing immigrants.

  6. says

    I’m really glad the police were there. When I first saw this story I was really worried the WS were going to get mobbed which would just have looked horrible for everyone.

  7. pondoro says

    This reminds me of the white pride march that happened in Calgary a few years ago. I was living in Kensington at the time and the local white pride group decided to have a march. As I recall there were about a dozen men in boots and masks, and a much larger crowd of angry people shouting at them for the length of the parade.

  8. Blue Harland says

    Rascists and Fascists have no right to speak or organize. It may not be the law, but the Canadain people have shown time and again that they capable of defending their right to live in a society without these scum. Good on you Edmonton.

  9. Pteryxx says

    Seconding this, with the caveat that we don’t get to tell the Crommunist what to write, on pain of otters.

  10. tariqata says

    Seems to me that it’s not just the fact that ‘white pride’ as a name has been tarnished forever (though I certainly agree it has!). It also seems unnecessary to ‘celebrate white achievements’ and, I’m guessing, culture (whatever ‘white culture’ is), in the same manner as Cuban or Puerto Rican parades because the accomplishments and cultures of white people have never not been celebrated.

    It’s one thing to do things that help feel connected to our ancestry and heritage – I’ve had a lot of fun at events like the Celtic Roots festival in Goderich – but I can’t say I feel like people of European descent need to raise awareness of ‘our’ historic achievements, as if the rest of the world has been ignoring and/or suppressing and/or actively working to prevent them until now.

  11. F says

    Well, Walton only asked, but nevertheless, I’m willing to suffer the pain of otters as judiciously delivered by Ian in the stead of anyone else.

  12. left0ver1under says

    White supremacy is a pathetic and risible philosophy, not only because it is demonstrably untrue (there is no scientific correlation between things that code for phenotypic race and any yardstick by which we could demonstrate the ‘supremacy’ of one vs. another)

    Well…whites *do* make up a disproportionately large percentage of known serial killers worldwide. We’ve got non-whites beat on that one.

  13. F says

    I’m always amused by the fact that these “white pride” people are so proud that they frequently must wear masks.

  14. DaveH says

    “I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.” ~ Voltaire (often paraphrased as ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it’)

    The litmus test is when people express reprehensible and repugnant ideas like these “white-pride” ass-hats. In a similar vein, this is why I always get leery around hate speech laws, some aspects of human rights commissions, etc. Note, please don’t confuse hate speech and inciting violence, a sometimes fine but important distinction. Saying “white people are the scum of the earth”, perfectly legal and within your rights, though patently idiotic. Saying “all white people should die”, not so much.

    PS I know that example is extremely uncommon compared to others, that was part of the point.

  15. Pen says

    It reminds me of the constant necessity of turning out to oppose the English Defense League. It nearly always gets rough and the police have sometimes prevented the EDL from demonstrating on those grounds.

  16. says

    I wouldn’t normally be making these kinds of requests, but this is an issue that is extremely important for the lives of refugees and undocumented migrants, a population whose interests are far too often trampled on. Even in the progressive blogosphere, I’ve seen no sign that most people are even aware of C-31. And, not being Canadian or in Canada, I have very little ability to take action on C-31 directly; I’m just using every option available to try to bring it to more people’s attention in the hope that Canadian progressives will mobilize against it.

  17. Pteryxx says

    Walton: I only know about immigrant abuses because of your posting. Maybe you could offer Crommunist or the other Canadian FTB’ers a guest post, to save them time?

  18. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    the Trotskyist Youth League and the Marxist something-or-other were both there, and spent most of the rally trying to convince everyone to kick the other out.

    During the 1970s I spent some time on the fringes of the radical movement. It was quite apparent that the various groups spent a lot of time denouncing each other about differences so obscure as to be invisible to the outsider. I once listened to members of the Socialist Workers Party argue with members of the Revolutionary Socialist League about which group’s Trotskyism was more pure. The minutiae they were debating was so trivial I wondered why they bothered. But it was obviously important to them.

  19. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    Freedom of speech means that the people you would spend hours denouncing at the top of your lungs have the right to proclaim their beliefs at the top of theirs.

  20. tim rowledge, Ersatz Haderach says

    When a movement – X Pride – or organisation – X Defence League – expresses itself primarily in terms of complaints against or hatred of everybody except X, then you can be fairly sure that they’re using ‘pride’ or ‘defence’ in much the same way that countries have used ‘democratic republic of’ over the years. I’d call it ‘ironically’ except that there is no evidence the persons involved have a clue what irony is.

    Humans constantly find new ways to disappoint me. Some of the biggest disappointment comes from the continuing re-use of old ways of disappointing me.

  21. smrnda says

    I recently read a few books about neo-nazi and white supremacist groups in the US, and it seems like a movement of desperate people who need to feel superior to someone to back up some insecurities.

    My problem with ‘white pride’ is that I can’t see any reasonably socially conscious and concerned about racism white person saying that. I wouldn’t say that all ethnic pride among white people is necessarily bad, but Celtic, Slavic, Albanian pride seems to imply a much different meaning – I don’t think someone doing (for example) an Albanian pride event is into much more than awareness of a particular culture and a celebration of it, but the term ‘white pride’ always seems to be connected to racial superiority and either a clinging onto or denial of white privilege.

  22. Zachariah says

    In the western world, celebrating ‘white achievements’ is called ‘history class’.

  23. StevoR says

    @Zachariah : That’s probably, usually pretty much correct description but it it shouldn’t be. Every natuiion, group, pople has ‘history’ and history includes what everyone – women, minorities, non-heteronormative folks do & experience & endure and create and all their interactions with ecah other not just one groups even if the focus is often blinkered and restricted in its teaching.

  24. StevoR says

    Seems to me (from my admittedly priviledged and sheltered position) that a lot of these overt full-on “white supremacist” racist types are just really scared people trying to look scary.

    Their racism is something tawdry and small and pathetic and sad as well as very nasty and ugly.

    They seem to have so much fear and paranoia mixed in with their hatred that you *almost* feel sorry for them. Like bullies who can only feel adequate and happy about themselves by bashing others.

    Then again, I fear racism is a part of human nature and inherent in all of us – myself included – to some degree.

  25. Stuart says

    Obviously, I’m not a mind reader, and can’t be sure what conclusion he intended me to draw, but as far as I can tell the shoe size was not intended to be a stand-in for other body parts. As far as I could tell, he was simply proud of being associated with larger than average numbers, regardless of what those numbers represent.

    Thankfully, he was fired pretty quickly, due to being massively incompetent (in two work days he managed to paint every window frame on an entire building in the wrong paint, repaint them in another wrong paint, and kill the hydraulics in our boom lift, before going home early because he banged his knee on a ladder.) So, I only had a single lunch in which to decode his beliefs.

    I did, however, used to make a practice of visiting the web pages of crazy people, and so I can say with some certainty that he does not appear to be alone – I have read a number of white supremacists online who also found a source of pride in their larger than average feet.

  26. Brownian says

    before going home early because he banged his knee on a ladder

    ‘Superiority’ is poorly defined word among these people. When I used to blog, I wrote a post castigating a now-defunt White Supremacist folk duet’s website for multiple spelling and grammar mistakes (weak tea, I suppose, but I thought it topical to point out that they seemed awfully proud of the language they were barely literate in).

    A day or so later, they’d added me to their “Friends of” blogroll. It took a few more days before they found someone superior enough to actually read what I’d written and realise I wasn’t a friend of theirs at all.


  27. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    I wrote a post castigating a now-defun[c]t White Supremacist folk duet’s website for multiple spelling and grammar mistakes

    It was inevitable.

  28. says

    I’m not saying the “need” to do it, its more of a comment on I suppose theres nothing wrong with having a block party/parade the point of which being “hey! Let’s celebrate the awesome things our culture has achieved, drink and be merry together!” if there is no racism involved. I just thought it was interesting because when I saw the documentary in question, as soon as I heard “white pride” I felt disgust and anger, but when they let the guy talk about it and I realized their intent I thought Hm, interesting, I guess that’s OK then?

  29. says

    They seem to have so much fear and paranoia mixed in with their hatred that you *almost* feel sorry for them.

    Nope, not even close. I see what you’re getting at but I was in Edmonton the last time these sort of idiots were making noise in the late 80’s early 90’s. There was a group of 20 or so of them who hung out at the same bars and clubs that everyone who didn’t dress in a mainstream manner did. They were scary as all fuck, mostly because you knew if anything started you wouldn’t be dealing with one of them, you’d be dealing with all of them.

    It’s pretty heartening to see the response this time. Previously it was only a handful of people from the alternative community who actively opposed the neo-nazis. I wonder if it’s because of the ease and speed of organisation provided by smart phones and the internet or if mainstream culture has really moved along that much.

    I do however share the concern about how far the counter protesters seemed to be willing to go. Chasing them back to the LRT was enough, backing them into a corner with nowhere to run to would have invited bloodshed.

  30. ik says

    I’d say that while yes, that is true, one also likes to be able to celebrate specifically. I’ve never really felt what it’s like to join together with other members of your ancient culture within a society which is accepting but not yours.

    In addition, due to being white having become the norm, an awful lot of really nice European culture is completely lost in the US. It just sort of diffused and evaporated into the air, existing invisibly without anybody knowing where it was from. Ever notice how virtually all woo is based on appropriating Asian and Indian traditions despite the presence of plenty of European superstitions that it could be based on?

    There was a time when I wished I could make the world the way it would have been if Columbus had peacefully traded with the natives of America rather than enslaving and destroying them, and so set a precedent. Unfortunately, I don’t think that ~200 million extra people can be accommodated in Europe or anywhere else.

    A few issues:
    1. Pretty much any being proud has been tainted by racist assholes and I AM REALLY FUCKING MAD AT THEM.
    2. Too much stuff doesn’t work asymmetrically.
    3. Due to history of racism and oppression, it’s extremely hard for one to say that something developed by Europe or that is part of European / American / White American culture is objectively better. (I.E. the “saying atheism is correct = racist cultural imperialism” blowup a few months ago) Postmodernism abuse makes this even worse. This is a big problem if the whole world is to one day recognize rationality.

  31. ik says

    One reason why anti/racist and/or socially conscious people don’t say that is because the denial of that is a shibboleth in the social justice community.

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