If you want to be a racist, then own it


One of things that, if the issues were not so serious, would be comical about the recent spate of actions by neo-Nazis and white supremacists is how they try to hide their true intent under innocent-sounding explanations. For example, we suddenly find that the people who oppose the removal of statues of Confederate heroes are really just ardent devotees of history, and their only interest is in making sure that the history of the country is accurately represented. Advocating racism? Oh, heavens, no! How could you possibly think that? Then there are those who want to wear or fly the swastika symbol. They stoutly deny that they are doing so to promote Nazi ideology but insist that it is merely a religious symbol.

Consider how Keith Lipiec, who got into trouble with his employer for flying the Confederate flag on his truck at his job worksite, defended his actions.

Lipiec claimed that he didn’t have any political views on what happened in Charlottesville.

“Yeah, some guy ran over a whole bunch of people, so be it. It happens every day,” he said.

“There’s good and there’s bad [with the flag] — same as the swastika, and the Nazis, and that flag. That was stolen from the religious people that actually believed in that symbol and everybody mistakes it for Hitler and the Nazis, and it’s not even true.”

Poor Lipiec, unjustly vilified when all he wants to do is correct historical distortions and restore the swastika to its rightful place as a religious symbol before it was ‘stolen’ by the Nazis.

It is true that the swastika originated as a sacred symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism. But the Nazis thoroughly obliterated that association a long time ago. The swastika today, unless seen on ancient temples and documents that predate the Nazis, is undeniably associated with that ideology and, like the Confederate flag, is an unavoidable symbol of racism.

Gerald Horne, a professor of history at the University of Houston, told CBC News in a previous interview that the Confederate flag was flown in 1861 when southern states were trying to secede from America because they thought incoming president Abraham Lincoln would abolish slavery. This clash was one of several factors leading to the U.S. Civil War.

The flag was symbolic of preserving slavery, and that meaning remains today, Horne said.

“The confederate flag stands for slavery,” Horne said at the time. “It stands for backwardness. It stands for reactionary politics. It stands for going backwards.”

If people want to be associated with those symbols, they should own the meaning.

Comments

  1. mnb0 says

    “unless seen on ancient temples and documents that predate the Nazis”
    Nope. In Suriname you can see the swastika on hindu temples build well after 1945. However it’s never in a white circle on a red field.

  2. efogoto says

    You can also see swastikas on the highly decorated lorries of India … but, as, mnb0 says above, “never in a white circle on a red field.”

  3. cartomancer says

    Actually, as with so many simple geometric symbols, there have been dozens if not hundreds of independent inventions of a four-armed symbol of this kind, all across the world. They are not all somehow descended from the Hindu/Buddhist Svastika. In fact it is a curious accident of 19th century Classical studies that we use the word swastika for these symbols in the West at all. Up until the late 19th Century we tended to use culturally specific terms for each instance – in Greek art it was the Tetragammadion (four letter gammas in a circle), in Medieval heraldry it was the Fylfot (“four foot” from Anglo-Saxon), in Japanese religious symbolism it was the Manji, and so on.

    The man we have to thank for the ubiquity of the word swastika today is none other than Heinrich Schliemann, the famous archaeologist and rogue relic hunter whose excavations at Hissarlik in Turkey to find the city of Troy were the toast of high society at the end of the 19th Century. He found thousands of examples of the symbol on the various layers of excavation at Hissarlik, and decided (on very little evidence) that they must be linked to Hindu culture. The dominant paradigm in German Classical studies at the time was philology, and particularly the recent piecing together of the Indo-European language family – through painstaking comparisons of Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Sanskrit and other ancient literary languages. So tying ancient European and Indian cultures together was all the rage in German academic circles. Contemporary British archaeologists in India had already been uncovering ancient examples of swastikas in their early excavations in the Indus Valley. Thus Schilemann chose to call the symbols he uncovered in Turkey Swastikas, using the Sanskrit word, rather than Tetragammadia as we might expect in a Greek context.

    The work of German philologists, anthropologists, archaeologists and ancient historians at this time, sad to say, fed directly into the growing ideas surrounding race, origin and ethnic identity that would give rise to the Aryan movement and German ethnic nationalism thirty years later. So Schilemann’s identification entered the popular vocabulary and became strongly linked to the Nazis soon after.

  4. says

    “There’s good and there’s bad [with the flag] — same as the swastika, and the Nazis, and that flag. That was stolen from the religious people that actually believed in that symbol and everybody mistakes it for Hitler and the Nazis, and it’s not even true.”

    It’s funny how this guy, who’s totally not a Nazi, just happens to have a defense of Nazi symbols ready to go at a moment’s notice.

  5. says

    The swastika today, unless seen on ancient temples and documents that predate the Nazis,

    Or at Hindu weddings. I had been at a friend’s wedding 3-4 years ago and I guess one might call it a diffuser that had about 4 small swastikas cut out of it. I was tempted to post a picture on Facebook and joke that I had always suspected my friends to secretly be Nazis.

  6. johnson catman says

    “Yeah, some guy ran over a whole bunch of people, so be it. It happens every day,” he [Lipiec] said.

    Yeah, people get fired from their jobs every day. So be it.

  7. says

    It’s really fascinating to me. They know racism is bad and racists are bad people so they don’t want to be called racists no matter how racist the words coming out of their mouth are. Self-described “race realists” are like this.

  8. busterggi says

    hey now, the swastika wasn’t limited to Hundus and Buddists, it was used by many First nations peoples in North America long before that Italian guy claimed he discovered it. And right up until WWII it was a popular good luck symbol in the US – including on tokens by many businesses, even Jewish owned ones.

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