It is not an over-statement to suggest that now, more than ever, we have become aware of the racism which has and continues to infect our society. Whether the systemic racism that has severely limited opportunities or the unhealthy incarceration statistics, Indigenous peoples in our own country have been at the butt end of discrimination since Cartier sailed up the river. In many ways, Canada’s increasing consciousness of this unacceptable practice in our own society owes a debt of gratitude to Donald Trump.
There is little doubt left in anyone who is not thought-challenged that the election of Donald Trump in 2016 enabled so-called White supremacists and other racists to emerge from the fringes and shadows of public consciousness and the American experiment. It is so self-evident that it is now too common-place to come to this conclusion. Four years of his divisive and conflict-ridden rhetoric, his demonizing anyone that was “The Other” and his refusal to condemn the upsurge in White tribal extremism both validated and empowered a rabid constituency. A constituency that had been previously too “out there” to be taken seriously was now given permission by the Inciter-in-Chief to give “voice” to their loss of identify and the gradual death of their “culture” and a Father-Knows-Best White America. The Others, – the job stealers, the non-Christians, the rainbow of skin colours, the gun-controllers, the “socialists” had now become the whipping post for every conceivable White grievance.
In typical neighbourly fashion Canada too became a larger stage for this upsurge and the spotlight shone on a growing number of individual and systemic acts of racism against communities of colour and indigenous peoples.
So what is the purpose in all of this regurgitation of what is now commonly known? It is to ask a simple question. Why has the main stream media become inadvertently complicit in authenticating the very idea of White Supremacy and White Supremacists? Why use the phrases at all? Why not call it a racist movement populated for the most part by racists? In the words of an analogy, why call it an earth-moving device when the word ‘shovel’ will do?
Are the media afraid of being sued? Does the media lack proof of the veracity of the racist moniker? Are they worried their owners and readers are predominantly White and will take offense? Why the default preference for this constant phraseology – “White Supremacists”? Why is the media adding fabric softener to this banal phrase and not substituting the more apt and accurate word “Racists”?
Words matter. They can create, inspire, comfort, hurt and obfuscate. Without becoming too academic let’s consider two definitions. To retain a sense of objectivity and not render ourselves captive to an American source for the definition of these terms, let’s turn to an online, go-to reference Canadians usually use to define terms – The Oxford Languages Dictionary.
A White supremacist is: a person who believes that white people constitute a superior race and should therefore dominate society, typically to the exclusion or detriment of other racial and ethnic groups.
Now let’s sashay over to the word Racist. According to the same source, a racist is: a person who is prejudiced against or antagonistic toward people on the basis of their membership in a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized.
A distinction without a difference? Six of one, half dozen of the other? Or is this a subtle but deliberate whitewash – so to speak, “a cautious attempt to obscure disagreeable or incriminating facts” about a movement. The conclusion? Call them what they are and change the phraseology to White Racists.
Confronting racism in Canada is a sufficiently difficult and unpleasant task without first having to remove the thick blankets of gloss and lustre engendered by a media that panders to gentility instead of brutal truths? Preferring milquetoast to bile terminology in this instance is not an option nor is it helpful in combatting this virulent disease. A racist is a racist is a racist. White supremacy is the veneer!
Beverly Sabourin, retired as the Vice-Provost of Aboriginal Initiatives at Lakehead University, and is a member of the Pic Mobert Ojibwe. Peter Globensky is a former senior policy advisor on Indigenous Affairs in the Office of the Prime Minister and retired as CEO of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. They are the Principal Officers of BASA, an Indigenous consulting firm working in the fields of environment, education, strategic planning and advocacy. They invite your comments at email@example.com