The McGill Daily - - Welcome -

In the weeks since the events of Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia, where a Nazi mur­dered one peace­ful counter-pro­tester and in­jured 19 oth­ers, ac­tivists and al­lies have been con­fronting white su­prem­a­cists across North Amer­ica. But even as the far right has had to can­cel dozens of ral­lies in the face of an out­pour­ing of anti-fas­cist re­sis­tance, many cen­trists and lib­er­als have roundly con­demned the ac­tions of the very peo­ple scar­ing racists off the streets. A slew of think­pieces have ap­peared in the main­stream me­dia, ar­gu­ing that anti-fas­cists - or “an­tifa” - are just as vi­o­lent as those they claim to op­pose, and are ac­tu­ally em­pow­er­ing the far right by sup­pos­edly “fight­ing hate with hate”. On the con­trary, anti-facists are putting their bod­ies on the line to fight for sur­vival, hu­man rights, and an end to op­pres­sion, while the far right re­lent­lessly at­tacks peo­ple of colour. Now more than ever, we must refuse to le­git­imise racism, whether it’s be­ing ex­pressed by torch-wield­ing Nazis or by groups who dis­guise their big­otry as mere “free speech.”

First and fore­most, we as a so­ci­ety must rec­og­nize that racist rhetoric is a form of vi­o­lence, and that as such, giv­ing racists space to express their ideas en­ables vi­o­lence. The idea that the pub­lic sphere be­comes health­ier when anti- op­pres­sive and op­pres­sive mes­sages are given equal space also pre­sumes that these two sides have the same so­cial value, but this is plainly un­true. White supremacy has in­flicted im­mense pain and op­pres­sion upon racialised peo­ple the world over, and should never be given room to ex­ist and grow.

More­over, the idea that by deny­ing racists “free speech,” anti-fas­cists are set­ting a prece­dent that could back­fire against op­pressed com­mu­ni­ties is a fal­lacy. We al­ready live in a world where Black Lives Mat­ter is rou­tinely met with a level of po­lice vi­o­lence rarely faced by white pro­test­ers, where en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists are mon­i­tored by the state, and where ex­press­ing anger at the eth­nic cleans­ing of Pales­tine can get you fired. At a re­cent racist “free speech” rally in Bos­ton, white su­prem­a­cists were qui­etly es­corted away in po­lice ve­hi­cles when the event was cut short by coun­ter­protests; mean­while, nearby in Que­bec City, po­lice heav­ily tear-gassed counter-pro­test­ers be­fore pro­tect­ing a far right demon­stra­tion against im­mi­gra­tion.

Fi­nally, we must re­mem­ber that Mcgill is not im­mune to the resur­gence of vi­o­lent white supremacy in the pub­lic sphere. Last year, Is­lam­o­pho­bic, ho­mo­pho­bic, and white su­prem­a­cist fly­ers were posted around cam­pus on sev­eral oc­ca­sions. Ti­tled “tired of anti-white pro­pa­ganda?”, the fly­ers were premised on the no­tion that white supremacy was nec­es­sary to coun­ter­bal­ance pro­gres­sive ac­tivism on cam­pus. Uni­ver­si­ties can be valu­able fo­rums for po­lit­i­cal de­bate and so­cial change, but only if we as a stu­dent body are un­com­pro­mis­ing in our re­jec­tion of toxic ideas. Treat­ing the racist far right like a le­git­i­mate po­lit­i­cal move­ment de­serv­ing of a pub­lic plat­form only makes them stronger. Fight­ing them in the streets does the op­po­site: it re­minds them that every far right rally will be met with a dozen counter-protests, and every act of vi­o­lence will be met with re­sis­tance.

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