Racism Beyond the U.S. & “The Hand”

The Canadian Globe is reporting on a clash between white supremacists and anti-racist demonstrators yesterday:

Assault charges are pending after white supremacists and anti-racism protesters clashed during a demonstration. About 15 Calgary Aryan Guard members gathered at city hall yesterday. They were protesting a Canadian law that lets Muslim women vote in today’s municipal election wearing a burka. Tensions boiled over when a member of the anti-racism group pulled down a bandana covering the face of a member of the Aryan Guard.

This incident intrigued me, not only because of my research on white supremacists, but also the issue of the burka and what Ghassan Hage has written about as

“the function of the hand in the execution of nationalist practices” (White Nation, 2000, Ch.1).

Hage writes that the tearing off of scarfs, or hijabs, is one of the most commonly reported acts of harassment directed at Arab and Muslim Australians, according to the National Inquiry into Racist Violence in Australia. Hage’s focus in the rest of that chapter, and throughout the book (which I highly recommend), is that “the hand,” pulling off the scarf, is part of a nationalist (rather than racist) practice in support of a “fantasy” of a white nation in the face of a multicultural society. Part of what intrigued me about the story from Canada reported above is that it flips this, and here, “the hand” is deployed by the anti-racist protestors to remove the masks of the Aryans and disrupt their disguise.