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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 10/9/17

Dismantling White Supremacy

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Reprinted from popularresistance.org By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese

Last weekend, tens of thousands of people marched in Washington, DC in the combined March for Racial Justice and March for Black Women. Native Americans joined black and brown people to lead the march.

At the march, Rev. Graylan Hagler said, "White Supremacy has been given aid and comfort by a so-called president and so-called administration, and so-called leaders of that ideology are comforted and feel that they are back as a centerpiece of American political life."

From coast to coast, it is true that white supremacists are active and are being more visible than they have in decades. This weekend, Richard Spencer held another torch rally in Charlottesville. In Houston, fascists attacked a left-wing book fair, and the book fair organizers had to take action to protect attendees while police did not respond. Similar events happened in Portland, OR, San Diego, New York and Washington, DC.

Not all events are successful. In San Francisco, International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU Local 10) members and allies prevented a right-wing racist and violent group from holding a rally, thwarting the group at every attempt. And sometimes, white supremacists have to go to great lengths to hide their gatherings. David Lewis reports on how he infiltrated a secret convention in Seattle and saw how fascism is growing in Seattle the liberal city of the Northwest.

White supremacy is not new, and it manifests itself in many ways, not only in overt white supremacists, but also culturally and systemically. With the rise of open white supremacy, there are discussions about and controversy over how to respond.

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Is there room for racism in civilized debates?

This issue is particularly pertinent for us right now because a local Baltimore League of Women Voters chapter is holding a series of panel discussions on immigration to which they invited speakers from anti-immigrant white supremacist groups that are listed as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The initial panel was protested by the local Green Party and others after The League refused to dis-invite the speaker and he was prevented from completing his presentation. He left the event.

This sparked discussion in our community and raised many questions: Was this an infringement on his right to free speech? Is this starting a slippery slope to shutting down people's right to free speech? Should he have been allowed to speak and then challenged during the question and answer period? What is hate speech and should it be prohibited?

We speak about this topic as two white European-Americans who were raised in middle class households that condemned discrimination and bigotry. We have experienced white privilege throughout our lives. We are engaged in ongoing education about white supremacy and how we end it. Our thoughts are:

First, it should be clear that in a legal sense, individuals do not violate another individual's right to free speech. The right to free speech is guaranteed by the First Amendment, which prevents the government, not individuals, from infringing on a person's right to free speech. As long as the government protects the First Amendment, there is no slippery slope. Whether the government does protect free speech at present is a whole other conversation.

Second, when it comes to what private organizations do, this is another matter entirely. Organizations and institutions do not have a requirement to include those who espouse hate. They are not required to give a platform to or legitimize white supremacist views. In fact, one could argue that it is anti-social to do so. Professor Matt Pratt Guterl, from Brown University, explains it well in "How American's Faith in Civilized Debate is Fueling White Supremacy." when he writes about a debate between WEB DuBois and racist Lothrop Stoddard in 1920"s describing it as based on "the bizarre premise that there are two sides equally deserving our attention." No, the white supremacist view should not be given legitimacy.

The essential idea is that the question of whether or not racism and white supremacy should exist has been answered. We have already agreed that we have equal human rights, even though we have not yet achieved them. Guterl writes that "Institutions should remember, though, that they exist to foster new ideas and better understandings" and that "mindfulness, civility, and respect are more closely aligned with oft-celebrated concepts like diversity and inclusion."

Guterl writes about a public debate between W.E.B. Du Bois and a racist, Lothrop Stoddard. He concludes, "We should hear this story and think, with horror, of the obscene false equivalency at the heart of this confrontation -- the bizarre premise that there are two sides equally deserving our attention. We should think it a travesty that a man of Du Bois's erudition and intellect should have to prove that his race deserved to survive."

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Margaret Flowers, M.D. is a pediatrician from Maryland who is co-director of Popular Resistance and coordinator of Health Over Profit for Everyone Campaign.

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