Special Report: Anti-Racism

There Are No Neutral Bystanders to White Supremacism

It is impossible to be neutrally or passively not-racist in a racist system. You are either working to dismantle the racist system or else you are supporting the continuation of that system.

By Ryan McGreal
Published June 02, 2020

The anti-racism protests unfolding around the world are an entirely understandable outpouring of grief and rage and determination from people who have had enough of being systematically and repeatedly discriminated against, targeted, harassed, affronted, assaulted, traumatized, tortured and murdered with impunity by the agents of a racist, white supremacist culture that sees only the colour of their skin.

In just the past several days, white vigilantes hunted down and lynched a black man for jogging in his own community; police brutalized and lynched a black man accused of passing a counterfeit bill; and a white woman weaponized the police against a black man who politely asked her to put her dog on a leash.

And don't think things are different in Canada, as the family and loved ones of Regis Korchinski-Paquet can tearfully attest. The same systematic racism is also disproportionately killing black and brown people in Canada.

Each of these injustices and atrocities echoes and recalls all the similar injustices and atrocities that have continued to play out day after day, week after week and year after year. George Floyd was not the first person to beg a police officer not to murder him with the words, "I can't breathe," and he likely won't be the last.

And these protests are happening during an infectious disease pandemic that is disproportionately falling on people of colour and on poor and working-class people, whom the government has decided are expendable as they rush to re-open the economy long before the disease is under control.

Even worse, the government is bowing to pressure from angry white men who storm state capital buildings with assault rifles and scream in police officers' faces and are called heroes and very fine people by the openly white supremacist president.

Let me be clear: it is not my place to lecture a traumatized community from my position of unearned white male privilege about how they ought to stand up for themselves against being literally hunted down and murdered. Yet it needs to be pointed out that the protests have been passionate and intense and primarily non-violent.

The dignity and restraint of these non-violent protests is remarkable in the face of what they are protesting - especially in comparison to the anti-lockdown protestors demanding a haircut and equating wearing a face mask with tyranny.

Where there has been violence, much of it has been a reaction to the violent, authoritarian police over-reaction to the demonstrations as they indiscriminately smash protestors and journalists alike with tear gas, rubber bullets, armored vehicles, billy clubs, fists and boots.

Much of the violence has has also been provoked and incited by agents provocateurs as well as by white supremacist "boogaloo boys" agitating for a race war.

In addition, malicious actors hoping to sow as much fear and chaos as possible have been flooding social media with fake imagery (like a widely circulated photo of a burning McDonalds that was actually from a fire in 2016) and other divisive propaganda to make the protests seem a lot more scary and violent than they are.

And of course, violence is more 'exciting' than peaceful protest so the news media disproportionately focus on violent acts instead of representing the protests more accurately and comprehensively.

The sporadic looting of a few random opportunists amidst this global outpouring of resistance against racial oppression is nothing compared to the wholesale looting of the fundamental promise of opportunity, prosperity and justice by the billionaire class and its aspirants over the past four decades.

Remember: the loudmouth pundits decrying violence the most obnoxiously today are many of the same people who castigated racialized athletes for silently kneeling with great humility to protest police brutality. Their outrage is born of entitlement: they fundamentally don't believe people of colour deserve justice.

As anti-racist activists remind us, it is impossible to be neutrally or passively not-racist in a racist system. You are either working to dismantle the racist system or else you are supporting the continuation of that system.

It is incumbent on all of us - and particularly on white people who experience the unearned benefits of white privilege in a racist culture - to commit to being actively anti-racist instead of standing by and being a bystander to racism.

There has never been a worse time to claim you don't know what to do. If you can read this article, a world of resources is at your disposal. Begin by googling "how to be anti-racist" and start getting educated. Learning to become an anti-racist is the work of a lifetime, and it can start today.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By Blotto (registered) | Posted June 02, 2020 at 20:56:48

Remember Covid-19 and stay 2m apart? According to Dr. Tam its now ok to go out and protest. We are getting played.

ROBERTO WAKERELL-CRUZ ✝️ @Robertopedia · Jun 1 Dr Tam: Go to protests, but don’t yell. Yelling can increase the risk of spreading the virus.

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By Ryan (registered) | Posted June 03, 2020 at 09:29:39 in reply to Comment 130626

It really isn't that hard to understand. What Dr Tam is saying is that she recognizes people have a right to protest and demonstrate against racist police brutality, but that protestors should take measures to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission - like distancing, wearing a mask and avoiding shouting.

After all, COVID-19 is not the only pandemic killing and maiming Canadians.

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