Anti-racism Frequently Asked Questions
FAQs are devided into three main parts: (1) Defining Concepts and Terms, (2) Theories, and (3) Myths About Hate Groups.
Defining Concepts and Terms
See Anti-racism Training and Concepts - A Seminar organzied by CAERS, Simon Fraser University and the Government of British Columbia for more details.
The conscious or unconscious attribution of generalized characteristics of a whole group to all its members. Stereotyping exaggerates the uniformity within a group and its distinction from other groups.
A frame of mind which tends to pre-judge a person or group in a negative light. This negative judgment is usually made without adequate evidence. These negative attitudes are often not recognized as unsoundly based assumptions because of the frequency with which they are repeated. They become "common sense"notions that are widely accepted, and are used to justify acts of discrimination.
The denial of equal treatment, civil liberties, or opportunity to individuals or groups with respect to education, accommodation, health care, employment, or access to services, goods, or facilities. Discrimination may occur on the basis of race; nationality; gender; age; religious, political, or ethnic affiliation; marital or family status; Sexual orientation; physical, developmental, or mental disability.
A set of implicated or explicit beliefs, assumptions and actions based upon and ideology that on racial or ethnic group is superior to another and which is evident in organizations or institutions and their programs as well as individuals and individual behaviors.
The acknowledgment that racism exists in our society, and recognition that racism is perpetuated through uneven distribution of power. It promotes the elimination of all types of racism and the unlearning of racism. Anti-racism seeks to identify and change policies and practices that promote racism, as well as provides skills and strategies for changing attitudes and behavior.
A verbal or physical expression of racial or ethnic bias. Any behavior which expresses a negative attitude, disparagement or hatred toward a person or group’s race, color, or ethnocultural heritage.
Myths About Hate Groups
Hatred is caused by ignorance and fear
The media has almost exclusively focused on the most sensational aspects of hate group recruitment and this has contributed to the myth that members of racist hate groups can simply be dismissed as a collection of uneducated kooks, loonies or fools. However, as Barret (1987) and Aho (1990) show membership in racist hate groups is not correlated with low intelligence or low levels of formal education. According to Barret (1987: 35-39) study of the racist right in Canada, fully 62% of the members of hate groups he interviewed had attended university, college or had technical school training. Aho's (1990: 139-146) detailed study of the racist right in the United States confirms Barret's findings. Research shows that hate groups recruit from every occupational level and they target bright, educated young men and women. For example, the White Aryan Resistance Movement is designed to draw blue collar workers while the CAUSE Foundation attracts lawyers. The presence of professors, teachers and lawyers in extreme right groups is not a new phenomenon. From the Anti-Asiatic Exclusion League to the fascist parties of the 1920s and 1930s, members of racist groups in Canada have been drawn from every stratum of society. Racism and bigotry are often not about ignorance and fear but are based in profit, power and control.
It's best to ignore racists
Many law enforcement agencies, elected officials and the media have fostered the myth that the best strategy for dealing with hate groups is to simply ignore them. It is argued that giving racists and homophobes attention simply rewards them for asocial behaviour and helps them attract youth. Ignoring hate groups relegates them to the junkyard of history. In fact, the mainstream media has seldom devoted serious attention to the problem of hate and how youth are recruited because they do not want to be bothered by the expected deluge of letters and calls from racists objecting to news coverage. Many in the news media have simply capitulated to the threat of law suits and economic boycotts by the far right. To compound the problem, some community groups have also lobbied the news media to ignore incidents of hate group activity. Some groups fear that reporting of incidents will give hate mongers a forum and increase their ability to recruit. In addition, some government bureaucrats have also attempted to prevent discussion about hate group activity because it causes fear. While the concerns of some ethno-specific organizations, editors, bureaucrats and law enforcement can not easily be dismissed, they represent only one part of the spectrum of opinion on effectively combatting hate groups. The overwhelming belief expressed by community leaders and experts in the field is that exposure, not concealment, is the best strategy to combat organized hate to undermine their ability to recruit youth and commit further violence.
Let the police deal with it
Law enforcement and education are two of the main ways that Canadians can deal with hate. Unfortunately, hate crime legislation in Canada is weak and education only works when people are ready to learn. To make matters worse, hate groups are well funded and are successfully recruiting alienated young men and women. As a result, the main line of defense against hate groups has been the individuals and communities that are outraged by the re-emergence of racist, fascist groups that want to deny non-Europeans entry to Canada and want to restrict citizenship rights to “protect European values and culture”. Leaving hate groups to law enforcement agencies will not result in the elimination of the climate of intolerance growing in this country. Law enforcement agencies, hate crime units, and government bureaucracies can only deal with the most extreme forms of hate when a law has been broken. Law enforcement agencies can not “expose or oppose” groups or leaders of groups unless a law has been broken. Furthermore, law enforcement agencies can not organize community rallies or anti-racism events. In fact, many victims of hate are reluctant to contact police agencies because of the negative perception of law enforcement agencies.
Not a Canadian problem
Another dangerous myth is that hate groups are not indigenous to Canada. In this view, Canada is a tolerant society and racism and hate group activity are simply exported from the United States, Western Europe, or some other area of the world. In reality, however, Canada is home to some of the worst merchants of hate in the world. Canada is, in fact, one of the top five exporters of Holocaust denial propaganda to Germany where to deny the Holocaust is a criminal offense. German authorities have lobbied the Canadian government to take action against the export of hate material to Germany, but with little or no effect. Canada is also home to hate sites on the Internet, hate Bulletin Board Services, the headquarters of one of the world’s largest production companies for racist magazines and CDs and had the most sophisticated telephone hate message system in North America until it was shut down by the Canadian Human Rights Commission. There is a mountain of evidence that not only are hate groups indigenous to Canada, they have a very long history stemming back to first colonization. To believe that hate is simply a problem that is exported to Canada is dangerous because it ignores the conditions that produce and reproduce hate in our own homes, communities and country..
Hate groups do not create racism
It is often claimed that hate groups do not create racism, but are simply a reflection of a racist culture. While it is true that hate groups would not be tolerated if it were not for culturally based racism, the explicit reason that hate groups exist is to create divisions between groups, foster intolerance, recruit new members and to give a semblance of reason to ideologies of racism, xenophobia and intolerance. In fact, hate groups are not just a reflection of a particular cultural world view, but are active agents in helping to maintain and spread racism, anti-semitism, homophobia and intolerance. Some hate groups are explicit about fostering racism, prejudice and violence as a means of orchestrating a future "racial war." For example, the June 2, 1992 edition of the Church Of The Creator newsletter Racial Loyalty which was circulated in Victoria and several interior areas of the province of British Columbia stated that: "What is good for the White Race is the highest value; what is bad for the White Race is the ultimate sin." The subtitle of the COTC newsletter is "Spearhead of the White Racial Holy War." The subtitle refers to the belief in a "race" war and propagates the notion that it is the destiny of the so-called white race to bring civilization to the world. A further example of the importance of hate groups in creating racism was evident in the so-called Oka crisis in Québec. When the Mercier bridge was blocked by Mohawks on the Khanawake reserve in solidarity over the Oka crisis, members of a faction of the Ku Klux Klan precipitated rock throwing at a cavalcade of automobiles leaving the reserve. While tensions were already high, the presence of Klan members raised emotions and precipitated a violent confrontation, resulting in injury and worsening community relations.
Not well organized
It has been erroneously assumed that hate groups are not well organized nationally or internationally. The examination of hate groups presented in the following chapters challenges this assumption. White supremacy in Canada constitutes an important social movement; as Kinsella (1994) shows, there is a "web of hate" in Canada with international connections. To give just a few examples of this web of hate: Tony McAleer of the Canadian Liberty Net based in Vancouver, BC flew to Auschwitz with John Metzger, the son of infamous Tom Metzger of White Aryan Resistance based in Fallbrook, California to air a live televised show to challenge the history of the Holocaust. To their credit, German authorities arrested McAleer and Metzger and deported them. Second, when Surrey, BC based Odin’s Law held a concert in a local community hall in September, 1997, attendees came from as far away as California and New York state. Pictures obtained by the Canadian Anti-racism Education and Research Society of that event clearly show that at least two of the skinheads charged in the recent killing of Nirmal Singh Gill in attendance. The Toronto based Heritage Front has also held several meetings featuring guest speakers Dennis Mahon of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and both Tom and John Metzger of California. Canadian authorities arrested and deported the Metzgers only after they had spoken to a sell-out crowd. A growing number of Canadians also make annual pilgrimages to the Aryan Nation compound in Hayden Lake, Idaho. In 1996, Charles Scott then resident in Chilliwack, BC, was honoured by Aryan Nations as “man of the year” for his efforts in Canada. Finally, Paul Fromm, a former Ontario school teacher who was fired in February, 1997 for breaching an agreement to not associate with white supremacists, has spoken on a number of occasions at gatherings attended by known racists in the United States, England and throughout Canada. For example, Fromm attends meetings with Christie, Collins, Dumas, Irving, Lerch, Klatt and Pressler, just to name a few. The presence in Canada of a white supremacist social movement with important international ties necessitates a wholesale re-evaluation of contemporary anti-racism theory and practise. In fact, hate groups in Canada produce an alarming quantity of very sophisticated newsletters, journals, books, computer bulletin boards, and web pages of far better quality than anti-racist organizations.
Hate groups are assumed to be either strictly racist, anti-First Nations, homophobic, anti-choice, anti-immigration or anti-union. In fact, hate groups are opportunistic and will expand into areas where they can garner support, recruit new members, or raise money because of tensions or divisions within a community. An obvious example of the ability of hate groups to capitalize on current issues is Aboriginal land title. Hate groups are flourishing in the towns and villages dependent on resource extraction throughout Canada. Anti-Native hate groups foster the argument that Aboriginal land title is a “special right” that creates “super citizens”. Hate groups argue that Aboriginal rights will take away jobs from “ordinary” Canadians and will eventually subvert democracy. And, it should be noted that, rather than simply a marginal perspective, the arguments of the Heritage Front, the KKK and a host of other white supremacist organizations regarding Native title have entered the mainstream through some mainstream political parties in Canada.
But hate groups do not just target just people of colour, or Jews, but actively support the most extreme elements of anti-choice groups. A number of former members of the Ku Klux Klan, for example, have direct ties to anti-choice groups. The leader of the Northern Foundation, Anne Hartmann, plays an important role in Realwomen. Bary Wray and Ernie Britskie have also picketed the Everywoman's Health Centre in Vancouver. Wray's brother, Dan, was the Grand Titan of the BC KKK in the 1980s and he now is associated with the Pro-Life Association based in Melville, Saskatchewan. Dan also contributes to The Interim - the Campaign Life Coalition's newsletter. Barry Wray, Al Hooper (another long time member of the BC KKK) and Tony McAleer, a skinhead recruiter, proprietor of the racist Canadian Liberty Net and former manager of the racist rock band, Odin’s Law were charged with assault in 1990 an incident in which a passerby objected to them handing out Aryan Nations propaganda. Realwoman BC President Peggy Steachy has also spoken at events with Dan Wray. One meeting was held at the Croatian Cultural Centre and sponsored by the La Rouche organization and Life Gazette. Steachy is the editor of a pro-life newsletter based in Surrey, BC.
The media has recently begun to portray the Internet as the last bastion of white supremacy. There is even the suggestion that hate groups have moved from “marches to modems”. However, while sharing information and making new contacts on the Net is an important arena of anti-racist struggle, hate groups have never abandoned the streets or meetings in Libraries and community halls. In reality, hate groups are attempting to move from the fringes of society to the mainstream, as they have attempted to do internationally. By running for public office, some hope to raise to benefit from a growing climate of cynicism and despair over joblessness and the perceived failure of democratic institutions to deal with national and provincial social and economic problems. In recent municipal and school board elections leaders of extremist groups have garnered as much as 12 per cent of the popular vote.
Many reporters want to provide members of hate groups the opportunity to explain their actions and philosophy. But uncritical media exposure gives hate groups attention and often raises tensions in the community. Some reporters feed on the frenzy they create and, for the short term, many anti-racists have found themselves portrayed as alarmist, extremist and more of a danger to the community than the hate group(s) they are attempting to expose. For this reason, those who are designated to deal with the media must not over-react, appear defensive or allow themselves to be drawn into a senseless debate. Organizers must simply state and re-state the issue so that reporters can become informed. However, there are some reporters who have experience, knowledge, or simply the common sense to understand the issues. Try to avoid as much as possible reporters who try to divide the community for their benefit or those who concentrate on the most sensational aspects of the story.
Hate groups will also lobby or threaten editors with law suits if they carry anything derogatory about their group or themselves. This strategy usually intimidates writers and editors, making them less likely to cover issues concerning racism and extremism or to not cover issues at all. It is often beyond the resources of small organizations to fight institutional apathy. Find a news outlet, whether local, provincial or national that will report the issues accurately and fairly.
Theories of Racism
You have a Voice!
Send us your arguments for or against these definitions using the forum message board. To join the discussion, or start a discussion topic, click here. You might also want to visit the e-Journal section.