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Facebook recently updated its content policy to prohibit and remove groups promoting white nationalism and white supremacy. Among the Canadian pages removed and banned from the platform were Faith Goldy; an alt-right, anti-immigration political commentator with ties to neo-Nazis, who believes we are in the midst of a white genocide, Soldiers of Odin; an anti-immigration, anti-muslim vigilante group known for their terrorizing “street patrols”, and Kevin Goudrea; an actual neo-Nazi who has been endorsing hate-based violence since the 1980s. Many, if not all, of the banned groups are self proclaimed nationalists. These should be obvious, cut-and-dried examples of racist extremism, yet some people still disagree with the bans, citing an impending loss of “free speech” (see: Hate Speech). Facebook is a private company and as such is well within its rights to remove or censor any person or group they choose, which makes the free speech argument kind of invalid in and of itself. But the pushback does serve to highlight how prominent and mainstream the problem really is.
Why are some people so mad at the call out of white supremacy and white nationalism? It’s worth taking a more basic look into what white supremacy actually is. It’s not limited to white hoods and cross burnings, or swastika tattoos and skinheads, although we do have all of that here too.
In the very simplest of terms, white supremacy is the fundamental belief that white people are superior to those of other races.
White nationalism is essentially a sub-category of white supremacy, wherein its supporters seek to maintain white cultural, political, and religious dominance within historically white societies.
So, if you feel like white supremacy and nationalism are extremist viewpoints that exist exclusively in hate groups and the darkest corners of the internet, take a look at the comment section on a local news article about refugees or immigrants from a predominantly Muslim country. Or, ask your conservative uncle how he feels about the Black Lives Matter movement. Could what you see and hear in those spaces fit into either ideology? Do the comments imply that Canada's identity is at risk of being erased by allowing other cultures and beliefs to coexist with ours? Does your uncle scoff at the idea of Black people campaigning against being murdered by white police officers, quick to argue that "all lives matter"?
Take a drive through rural Alberta and see if you can spot a Confederate flag on someones pickup truck (spoiler: you will). Maybe your friend's dad wears a “Make America Great Again” hat. What do you think those things are symbolic of to a Canadian who doesn’t live in a formerly Confederate state, or who isn’t governed by Donald Trump? What are they saying by proudly displaying the flag of an army that fought for slavery and segregation, or by wearing a hat that advocates for a president with an extensive portfolio of racist assertions, policies, and supporters?
White supremacy doesn’t have to fit a rigid definition of extremism to be real and dangerous. When you start to take into consideration how prevalent moderate white supremacy is, it brings some clarity as to why so many white people conflate the censorship of hate groups with their own loss of free speech.
It’s important to remember that as white people, we benefit every single day from a system built on white supremacy and racism, whether we intend to or not. It’s our responsibility to be allies to those disenfranchised by this system and to actively fight against it. By advocating for the free speech of extremists, and by either excusing or buying into a more moderate rhetoric, we are giving hate and racism a space in our society that it doesn’t deserve.
So, are you a part of the problem?
Lemoreaux, Mack. “Soldiers of Odin Edmonton Chapter Shuts Down, Rebrands As ‘Canadian Infidels’.” VICE, https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/xw9pwj/soldiers-of-odin-edmonton-chapter-shuts-down-rebrands-as-canadian-infidels. Accessed 26 April 2019
Lemoreaux, Mack. “Two Canadian Neo-Nazis Are Under Investigation For Post-Christchurch Acts.” VICE, https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/nexymw/two-canadian-neo-nazis-are-under-investigation-for-post-christchurch-acts. Accessed 26 April 2019
Taub, Amanda. “‘White Nationalism,’ Explained.” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/22/world/americas/white-nationalism-explained.html?_r=0. Accessed 27 April 2019