Trudeau's white supremacy game

Perhaps the two most harmful myths in modern society is that only racists traffic in racism and that white supremacists are a handful of disorganized actors.

In her book Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America, Kathleen Belew shatters both illusions.

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Racism is deeply embedded in global and Canadian life, from historical injustices to present-day prejudices at the personal and community level.

White supremacists are numerous, well-organized and well-financed, not in the United States but also in Canada and around the world.

Although Belew focuses on the 20 years in the United States between the end of the Vietnam War and the Oklahoma City bombing, she stresses that the American white power movement consistently flares up after significant armed conflicts.

The Ku Klux Klan was born in the aftermath of the American Civil War, first led by a Confederate general. The Klan enjoyed enormous mainstream popularity in both Northern and Southern states during the 1920s, after the First World War.

A similar bump was seen after the Second World War but it was the national trauma of Vietnam, combined with significant social and economic disruption, that give birth to modern American white supremacy.

The 9/11 attack and conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan energized white supremacy for a new generation.

Belew's exhaustive research unveils white supremacy as a durable social movement that comes with its own defining texts, its own intellectual leadership, its own communications and cultural platforms, as well as a variety of different sects providing numerous entry points.

The unifying ideal bonding the movement is the unshakeable conviction that white peoples around the world are in danger of being wiped out by the growing, invading hordes of black and brown populations. Their hatred of other races is seen as a matter of self-defence.

Whether he knew it or not, when Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president by declaring that Mexicans are surging into the United States to rape American women, he was tapping into a powerful white supremacist sentiment around protecting the sanctity of white femininity.

The Canadian Press reported this week that the federal government has been pushing its international allies to recognize white supremacy as a global security threat but has been met with opposition, most importantly and least surprisingly from the Trump administration.

This is not to say that Trump and his political allies are racists and white supremacists.

Rather, they are shielding those who are, by buying into the myth that when these people shoot up black churches and Jewish synagogues, bomb federal buildings, stage public protests and clash with civil-rights activists, they are just a handful of bad apples, violent lone wolves making "good people" with similar convictions look bad. It's much easier to limit the problem to disturbed individuals and ignore the underlying racist stereotypes and white supremacist infrastructure which nurtured those people and gave their hateful fanaticism a home among like-minded believers.

The Justin Trudeau government should be commended for pushing the United States to politically recognize a significant domestic security threat (the FBI and other American law enforcement agencies have been diligently disrupting white supremacist groups for decades).

Full marks to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland for speaking out about white supremacy at the United Nations and working with other foreign governments against these violent hate groups.

This noble and important international work is overshadowed, however, by the mounting efforts of federal Liberals to use white supremacy as a political weapon against Andrew Scheer's Conservatives. Despite the fact that the Liberals have their own tarnished record of business deals and friendships of convenience with intolerant individuals and organizations, Trudeau has already signalled his intention to tarnish the Conservatives as alt-right conspiracy nutjobs.

That's a dog whistle, of course, because what his supporters hear is that Conservatives are racists, white supremacists and a threat to Canada and Canadians.

Besides being ridiculous, this kind of political rhetoric is harmful and dangerous.

There are plenty of rational reasons to disagree with Trudeau and his government.

Opposing his stance on gun control doesn't make one a gun-loving lunatic building a weapons cache in time for the impending apocalypse.

Opposing Liberal policy on refugees and immigration (never mind Trudeau's own flip-flops on the issue) doesn't make one a xenophobe.

Opposing his version of Indigneous reconciliation doesn't make one a racist.

Opposing the carbon tax doesn't make one a climate change denier.

Trudeau is right to shine a light on the dangers of white supremacy but to smear political opponents with that brush to fuel his re-election efforts is shameful.

-- Editor-in-chief Neil Godbout

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