U.S. tremors felt in Canada

Annapolis Valley Register - - OPINION - Jim Vib­ert Jim Vib­ert, a jour­nal­ist and writer for longer than he cares to ad­mit, con­sulted or worked for five Nova Sco­tia govern­ments. He now keeps a close and crit­i­cal eye on pro­vin­cial and re­gional pow­ers.

The deep po­lit­i­cal and cul­tural tremors rat­tling the United States th­ese days are send­ing waves crash­ing ashore in Canada. They al­ways do.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ig­nited a resur­gence of Amer­ica’s dom­i­nant cul­tural char­ac­ter­is­tic – white supremacy. His elec­tion ex­alted white priv­i­lege as the defin­ing na­tional char­ac­ter­is­tic and was based on a prom­ise to re­assert its em­i­nence, couched in the phrase Make Amer­ica Great, Again.

That ar­gu­ment is loosely lifted from an es­say by Ta-Ne­hisi Coates, na­tional cor­re­spon­dent for The At­lantic, and can be found ful­ly­formed in a col­lec­tion of Coates’s writ­ing cov­er­ing the Obama era, ti­tled We Were Eight Years in Power (2017, Pen­guin Ran­dom House.)

Mean­while, back in Canada, the na­tional govern­ment is con­duct­ing low- key con­sul­ta­tions in prepa­ra­tion of an anti- racism strat­egy to ad­dress in­sti­tu­tional and sys­temic racism.

Even this timid fed­eral ini­tia­tive has drawn crit­i­cism from po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tors, who are un­able to find ev­i­dence of racism in their im­me­di­ate, pale cir­cles, so de­clare it non-ex­is­tent or unim­por­tant.

They’re joined by such prac­ticed ex­perts on in­tol­er­ance as for­mer Con­ser­va­tive MP and founder of the Peo­ple’s Party of Canada, Maxime Bernier, who took to Twit­ter to con­demn the con­sul­ta­tion as, “More Lib­eral iden­tity pol­i­tics to di­vide us into tribes, buy votes and jus­tify big gov pro­grams.”

In Hal­i­fax and other Cana­dian cities, Hal­loween brought out hooded, fright­ened white boys, who posted crude “It’s okay to be white” signs. The phrase has a long white su­prem­a­cist con­no­ta­tion that it’s not okay to be any­thing but.

The fed­eral govern­ment’s strat­egy isn’t a re­sponse to any­thing hap­pen­ing in Amer­ica. But, given the trou­bling tide run­ning in the op­po­site di­rec­tion, this is a good time to af­firm of­fi­cial Cana­dian fealty to­ward tol­er­ance, di­ver­sity and equal­ity.

White supremacy, as de­fined by Coates, is the prod­uct of cen­turies of un­in­ter­rupted of­fi­cial, hered­i­tary and im­plicit white priv­i­lege. So his use of the phrase isn’t lim­ited to the hate­ful brand as­so­ci­ated with neoNazi-white-na­tion­al­ists – groups in which Trump finds “some good.”

“Racism is not merely a sim­plis­tic ha­tred. It is, more of­ten, broad sym­pa­thy to­ward some and broad skep­ti­cism to­ward oth­ers. Black Amer­ica lives un­der that skep­ti­cal eye,” Coates writes.

And in that char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of racism, Canada shares an ig­no­ble her­itage with Amer­ica.

When the po­lice con­duct ran­dom street checks in Hal­i­fax and other Cana­dian cities, black Cana­di­ans and in­dige­nous peo­ple are dis­pro­por­tion­ately tar­geted. They fall un­der the skep­ti­cal eye of law en­force­ment.

Crimes com­mit­ted by white peo­ple are uni­ver­sally seen as an in­di­vid­ual pathol­ogy, but that’s not the case when race is in­tro­duced. When a crime is com­mit­ted by a black or abo­rig­i­nal Cana­dian it be­comes as­so­ci­ated with that com­mu­nity.

The vast ma­jor­ity of white Cana­di­ans be­lieve racism is much less preva­lent in Canada than it is in the United States.

Cana­di­ans from mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties have a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence and con­sis­tently tell re­searchers that racism is as com­mon in Canada, where it comes in more in­sid­i­ous, covert wrap­ping.

In the U.S., hos­til­ity to­ward mi­nor­ity eth­nic and re­li­gious com­mu­ni­ties has taken a de­cided turn to the hor­ren­dous since Don­ald Trump suc­ceeded Amer­ica’s only black pres­i­dent, Barack Obama.

The num­ber of hate crimes and the pro­lif­er­a­tion of known hate groups are sharply as­cen­dant in Amer­ica, and a sim­i­lar, while less pro­nounced trend is ev­i­dent in Canada. In both na­tions, black cit­i­zens are the most likely vic­tims of racially- mo­ti­vated hate and Jews are the most likely vic­tims of re­li­gious hate crimes.

In re­cent days, Amer­ica has again ex­pe­ri­enced ap­palling, hate- based vi­o­lence, most trag­i­cally against the Jewish com­mu­nity in Pitts­burgh.

Only those who refuse to see fail to draw a di­rect line from the pres­i­dent’s prin­ci­pal po­lit­i­cal de­vice – ac­ti­va­tion of white Amer­ica’s fear and loathing of all but white, Chris­tian Amer­i­cans – and the na­tion’s de­scent into its con­tempt­able past.

Trump ex­plain­ers like to blame his elec­tion on work­ing class whites, whose cul­pa­bil­ity they ex­cuse by re­fer­ring to the work­ing man’s dis­lo­ca­tion from the old Amer­i­can dream. The truth is that ev­ery eco­nomic strata of white Amer­i­cans voted, in the ma­jor­ity, for Don­ald Trump, and no Amer­i­cans are more dis­lo­cated from the Amer­i­can dream – how­ever it’s de­fined – than are African Amer­i­cans, but that didn’t con­vince them to sup­port Trump.

To­day, Ge­or­gians of colour are once again be­ing de­nied vot­ing rights. The African-Amer­i­can can­di­date for gov­er­nor of Florida is sub­jected to the basest racial in­vec­tive and stereo­typ­ing by the pres­i­dent him­self.

Amer­ica is rot­ting from the head down, and while the Cana­dian govern­ment’s anti- racism strat­egy is a faint- hearted de­fence against con­ta­gion, it is some­thing, which makes it bet­ter than noth­ing.

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