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What's In A Flag?

A Dumpster Fire By Any Other Name...

by Basil Singh

north american society has a cultural identity rooted in ideals of white supremacist violence
north american society has a cultural identity rooted in ideals of white supremacist violence

With all the talk of white extremists going on right now, I thought I'd add a two cents based on my own experience with neo-nazis and general white supremacy.

As a kid, with a newly landed refugee parents, my mom would often be cautious in certain areas of Scarborough with obvious presences of white power graffiti. White power gangs were actively recruiting and pseudo-patrolling areas of Scarborough and downtown TO with major visibility. In my early teens, I was often incidentally around individuals involved in these movements and even sometimes, unbeleivably and strangely enough, hung out with straight up, active nazi skinheads.  These particular boneheads, largely poor and street-affiliated, were different than the new hipster fascists that congealed inside the internet you see in large numbers now, and that difference is definitely of crucial importance, but that's not the point I want to make.

My point is, I hung out with grassroots canadian neo-nazis, I talked to them and I got to know them. The older heads would never compromise their miltant disdain for people of color and talk to me, but a lot of the less embedded and newer kids would. 

The types of things we talked about were more often than not, sort of political – I talked about race and government with many of them. What I took away from it, was that these were poor white people, that grew up in community housing and were disenfranchised. They noticed many of the ways that they were oppressed by the government, pushed down into poverty and they were merely interested in a way to protect themselves and their people in this environment. This dissatisfaction and drive to enact change was opportunistically seized by white power recruiters that went around to high schools talking to young white kids and saying “Who bullies you at school? Are they black? Are they tamil? We got your back.” and from there expanded that simple instance into an entire politic of “all your problems are caused by the Others” instead of the true perpetrators, the state and coercive system of capitalism. They were simply angry and ripe for the brainwashing, lost and misguided to the incorrect solution to their problems.

The reason I want to emphasize my personal experience with them, is that when i was just hanging out with him, I felt they were literally no more “racist” towards me than your average white liberal (not saying they weren't racist, just not exceptionally racist – a white laces, boots & braces neo-nazi even helped me out with money once in a time of need). Yes, they would advocate for their gang members to attack vulnerable people of color in the street. But your average liberal will surely defend the police and prison system with equal faith, which operate to do essentially the same thing (maybe more targeted) but on a much larger scale. Your average middle class liberal will condescend to someone like me more than some white trash neo-nazi when pontificating on the merits of the West, on borders, on “science”, on race because a neo-nazi is straightforward where mainstream white supremacy hides undernearth the White Man's Burden and other moral justification. At the end of the day, I imagine most conversations with either a white liberal or a neo-nazi producing within me similar amounts of frustration. Neo-nazis say what they mean straight up. Liberals are just more circuitous in their thoughts and rhetoric. It could be said that the main difference is that neo-nazis are simply more passionate in their approaches to white supremacy than liberals. They speak more aggressively, maybe because they like Hitler and liberals like to sound like Justin Trudeau when they talk about equal degrees of western chauvinism. The grassroots far-right only advocates for personally committing white supremacist violence, whereas the liberal would rather leave that to the specialists; police departments, border agencies, children's aid, peacekeeping UN troops to do more effectively.

Why is it then that the skinhead is so much more deplorable than the partisan conservative or liberal? Because far-right extremists advocate for insurrection, and the West's status quo sensibilities are so revolted by any notion of revolution (and the risks posed to the normal function of capitalism) that they would disavow any of their radicals. I think a lot of lefty types would have nothing but glowing reviews of nazi counter-protests and ripping down of confederate statues – but it always makes me immediately think, will the same people confront and condemn mainstream white supremacy? Will the same people, and their local governments, rip down Abraham Lincoln statues, John A. McDonald or other figureheads of colonialism and genocide?  Happily share their land and wealth? Why is there a line in the sand where white supremacy becomes too passionate and is all of a sudden revolting? Why isn't protracted white supremacy, committed by smiling white feminists and liberals worthy of the same amount of outrage and disdain? Why are so many people up on a high horse waving the “Kill All Nazis” banner as if burying the KKK in the dirt will even put a dent in global white supremacy? Is it that the appearance of “fighting white supremacy” is more important than the actual meticulous dismantling of it's vast architecture?

In my life and my experience of white culture, I've spent time around neo-nazis, liberals, environmentalists, anarchists, all sorts of white people with different politics – and I wouldn't put money on any group of them being more or less “racist” than the other. Racism is more complicated than that and it's much, much more fundamental to western civilization than to rightfully single out one group for it's culpability in white supremacy. That's not to simply to chastise those who would distance themselves from "hatred" with some "you're no better than a Nazi", but to illuminate the bigger picture which contains an understanding that the Canadian and American flags represent much more violence than the Confederate flag or any Nazi insignia. We should not risk the failure or dissolution of a growing interest in the abolition of white supremacy because it's misguided and myopic. The Alt-Right has been taking advantage of the smokescreen of patriotism and nationalism, but the older more classical White Power movements they've been dancing with have done the work for us of exposing patriotism's logical conclusion in Charlottesville. Don't let liberals convince the world “you can't be patriotic and a Nazi” - the Nazi regime itself learned many of it's Eugenic principles and tactics from Canada and America. Neo-nazis are merely being honest about the true intention of settler-colonialism.

People are exceptionalizing and scapegoating Neo-Nazis. Its the wealthy white liberals fault for downpressing the “white trash” while distancing themselves from those people are who are dumb and laughable country bumpkins, leaving them alienated and prone to white radicalization, all the while commiting white terrorism domestically and globally under another flag. Then on top of that, in some sort of exercise in near-sighted identity politics, the american left will exceptionalize and villainize only memorials of the confederacy, and not the north in an attempt to “take responsibility” of the white legacy, throwing large swaths of poor whites under the bus, feeling like their culture is under attack by the over-culture (because in many ways, it is) and the alt-right is now able to opportunistically take advantage of that feeling of victimization. The Alt-Right are largely wealthy, privileged millennial hipsters harnessing the momentum of angry and misguided working class and disenfranchised whites of previous generations, and using the mass communication capability of social media to recruit in large numbers people with poor education, low literacy rates and access to the internet. What business does Richard Spencer have representing poor white's interests? He is even more misrepresentative of average poor whites in the South than much of the KKK, who are wealthy and belong to legacies of dominating lower class whites (such as Trump who's father was likely a klansmen).  This is not to diminish the responsibility of all settlers, even the relatively "poor", for colonization, but to illustrate that the more powerful elements of settler society will hoodwink their own lower classes into protecting and enacting white supremacy while receiving marginal benefits, a dynamic which can be disrupted by proper anti-white supremacist organizing and action.   

If “punching up” is a social justice practice, anti-racist white allies should not bother with knocking down Confederate losers. They should focus on the victors, and writers of history, icons of the Northern states. This is punching up, not an attack on the “bad whites who liked slavery” but an attack on the “good whites” who's crimes go unpunished. This would serve to ideologically indict whiteness as a whole rather than single out elements of scapegoated white society and history. Any unwillingness to do so is only indicative of a lack of self-criticism on the part of white allies and racialized demographics receiving comforts and benefits under white supremacy. In terms of advocating for genocide, murder, racism – all the things that make the KKK and the Alt-Right and Nazis deplorable, “anti-racists” would be wiser off to look at where these horrifying 'extremist' movements originate and the sources of heartwrenching moments like the terror attack in Charlottesville – capitalism itself and the very foundation of North American society. The outrage at neo-Nazis among people right now likely comes from a place of compassion and desire for peace and social justice, but these ideals will never be within grasp until we understand that these people only vigorously act out the principles that built these societies and we begin to enact profound change at the most fundamental level.

"George Washington was a slave owner ... So will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson?" - President Donald J. Trump


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Basil Singh (Dev Gill)
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