Dalhousie University is planning on changing the mace that’s used on-stage during graduations.
As part of the university’s “strategic planning” they’ve established a committee and opened up a call for submissions to replace the mace with a different symbol that’s more inclusive and diverse. The second call for submissions is going on right now. When submissions were first opened in March of 2017 they received three submissions, none of which were approved by the committee.
In response to this, the Gazette received an opinion piece that is, well – racist.
There’s no other way to describe a piece that wonders what will happen “if British culture and values are equal to those of Africans or the Mi’kmaq.”
And really, the piece stood no chance. The mace – a weapon – was crafted to be representative of four foundational nations of Canada: the English, French, Irish and Scottish. Any opposition to replacing the mace to make it more inclusive comes from a place of bigotry almost by default.
My first reaction was to just not run it. But doubt started to creep in – if freedom of the press is a core belief, how could a voice be censored? Is censorship okay if the only alternative is opening up the Gazette as a platform for hatred?
Even though this represents a small group of Canadians, these voices exist in our discourse. If they exist, don’t we need to inform the public that they do?
With this in mind my opinion on the piece started to shift. Perhaps it was better if the submitted piece ran, but with a counter piece right by its side. Explaining, point by point, just how bigoted the submitted piece was. That felt good. It felt righteous.
But it’s not necessary.
Those who agree with the bigotry would just be happy that their message got out. Writing it became an exercise in self-gratification. Existing only to appease vanity.
In reality, the argument isn’t worth anyone’s time to refute. Much like refuting climate change denial, there’s no point because the ship with the facts has sailed. It would devolve into an exercise in vanity with two white dudes bloficating (verb: to discourse at length in a pompous of boastful manner, particularly with negative or pejorative implications. To ‘talk shit’ in order to make oneself look good. Cross between bloviate and defecate.) at each other to see who needed bigger underwear.
But it’s still important to address that white supremacy and the alt-right are on the rise. It’s not important to explain why the piece is wrong – we know it is – but it’s important to explain why the Gazette received it in the first place.
It’s an open secret that white supremacy and the alt-right are on the rise, specifically in young, white, men. From the outside, it doesn’t seem to make any sense – why would the group with all the power need to get more power? Clearly it must come from a place of hatred, right? Not to downplay the reason these groups were created in the first place, because in some cases hatred probably was the founding principle. But that doesn’t explain the spike in recruitment and numbers.
What is happening, and what has been happening for a long time, is that legislation and progressive policies have been aimed at helping people who were not white men.
It used to be that if people weren’t white men, then they didn’t exist in society. Gradually society has created laws attempting to bring everyone up to the same level – which for a long time was mostly okay with most white dudes (except for the true believers of hateful ideologies.) The white public at large realized that life was getting better for everyone in society; even though they may have been uncomfortable, they let progress happen.
That used to be okay, or at least, not bad.
On top of this creeping common ground and loss of societal dominance, everyone is starting to feel the economic pinch. Low-skilled resource jobs are dying out. Other low-skilled jobs are being taken over by machines. University doesn’t guarantee a good career. Wages have been stagnating. Cost of living is going up. Life is getting harder for everyone who isn’t making yacht-loads of money.
Where men become vulnerable to the alt-white message is in combining these two things: their life is getting financially harder, and they don’t have policies in place to help protect them.
Those of us who’ve had the benefit of quality education, progressive parents and access to post-secondary understand there may be limited instances where those two things work in tandem to deny a job or two – we understand that we will probably be able to get a job, or more likely a career, because overall, being a white man is still objectively very good.
Those who have not had the same benefits look for answers.
They find them in the institutional and systemic structures of racism Canada was founded on.
Traditionally, the left is the home for people who are looking for equality; where white men are called upon to be allies, to use our positions of influence and privilege to help with the huge gaps in equality that still exist in our society today.
Most of us understand that if the discrimination around carding ends, so too will the other discrimination in policing. Police use discrimination, or, “probability” to make their jobs easier. If we take it out of their toolbox then it’s gone. No higher roadside stops in black neighbourhoods. No being arrested in a domestic call just for having a penis. Stopping discrimination doesn’t stop at ending carding.
The promise of a better future in the abstract is not always good enough. For someone struggling in poverty, who doesn’t have the proper foundation of education; they look for answers now. Those seeking to gain power in white supremacist groups have latched on to this: the few serious issues that white men face. They exploit the desire for these men to have their problems fixed right now.
They offer a tailor-made solution: the problem isn’t you, it’s that your world has been stolen from you. They offer to help take it back.
In order to take it back, the Gazette gets pieces proclaiming that there’s an attack on our British tradition.
Welcome to Canada.