Archive for December, 2007
Yesterday, I caught a screening of “The Great Debaters,” the new Denzel Washington film (produced by Oprah), and it’s definitely worth seeing despite some minor flaws. The film, which Washington both stars in and directs, depicts the story of the 1935-36 debate team from historically-black Wiley College, of Marshall, Texas. While it has been criticized for being a formulaic underdog movie, under Washington’s skillful direction the film manages to transcend the formula to tell a compelling story. The young actors at the center of the film do an excellent job in their roles; Jurnee Smollett is particularly compelling in the role of Samantha Booke (a composite based on Henrietta Bell), and her “time for justice is always right now” speech is stirring.
There are some historical inaccuracies in the film, some of which are more distracting than others. On the less-distracting end, a number of the characters in the film are composites of actual people and the chronology of events are condensed for dramatic effect. For example, as Herb Boyd notes in the scene where the teacher Melvin Tolson (an actual person, played by Denzel Washington) mentions the Harlem Renaissance as a contemporary “revolution,” when in fact, most of the writers and cultural events associated with it had died or moved away from Harlem by 1935. Those are minor and do not distract from the overall narrative of the film. Somewhat more distracting is the exposition early in the film (again, by Washington’s Tolson) about the “Willie Lynch” letter, supposedly written by a slave-owner in 1712 and who’s name is alleged to be the origin of the term “lynching.” There are several aspects about this reference that are historically inaccurate. First, there’s no reference to this ‘letter’ prior to the mid-1990s. Second, the letter (or speech, in some versions) is believed by historians such as William Jelani Cobb of Spelman College to be a hoax. Filmically, the reference to lynching works as it foreshadows later events in the film. And, perhaps more to the point, Washington’s film is intended as a Hollywood-narrative, so the standards for historical accuracy in the piece are somewhat less stringent than if it were intended to be a historical documentary.
The fact that the historical reality of lynching appears in this mainstream feature film is more than noteworthy, it’s truly remarkable given the way it’s portrayed. The young debaters and the teacher are on a late night drive to a debate match through the back woods of East Texas when they happen upon a lynch mob of whites and the hanging, burned body of a black man. As they narrowly escape the lynch mob, the reverberations of that act of terrorism shape the rest of their interactions with each other as well as both the content and performance of the subsequent debate matches. The scene between the two young debaters (Denzel Whitaker and Nate Parker) is as powerful as anything I’ve ever seen on film about the impact of racial terrorism on people’s lives. The juxtaposition in the final debate between the law-and-order Harvard debaters and the we-have-an-obligation-to-resist is both an effective dramatic device and a timely commentary on contemporary racial injustice.
The film is a welcome relief from the usual Hollywood-trope of the white screen savior. Unlike films such as “Mississippi Burning” (1988), where director Alan Parker rewrites civil rights history so that white FBI men are the heroes, The Great Debaters never portrays whites as heroic saviors of blacks. Instead, it accurately excavates the history of black resistance to white supremacist terror and tells an ennobling story. The fact that it can tell this story in way that is both accessible and uplifting to a wide audience is a remarkable achievement.
In a recent piece in the Wall Street Journal, titled “Whitewash: The racist history the Democratic Party wants you to forget,” Bruce Bartlett vigorously criticizes the Democratic Party for its long racist heritage, with an accent on actions before its shift to support civil rights and desegregation in recent decades. There’s been some mention of this in the relatively quiet holiday-blogosphere, including an interesting discussion over at Steve Benen’s Carpetbagger. Bartlett argues that those in the Democratic Party were:
“openly and explicitly for slavery before the Civil War, supported lynching and ‘Jim Crow’ laws after the war, and regularly defended segregation and white supremacy throughout most of the 20th century.”
There is certainly truth to this assertion, though… Read More→
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is one of Arizona’s wonders, right up there with the Grand Canyon. A Google search on Arpaio returns 329,000 hits, including articles in Madrid’s El Mundo, the London Times and the Johannesburg Star. Arpaio owes his notoriety to a series of shenanigans he has committed in his capacity as Sheriff. Two of his better known feats involved resurrecting the chain gang (going so far as to boast of having the only female chain gang in history), housing inmates in tents, and forcing them to wear pink underwear. And, more than two-thirds of those in the Maricopa county jail are pre-trial detainees, so are not convicted of any crime and presumably innocent; but, that is not the way Arpaio treats the inmates in his custody.
Arpaio has found a new cause célèbre that will score high with many voters: the so-called “illegal” problem. The latest episode of “illegal” persecution is taking place just outside Pruitt’s furniture store in Phoenix, even as I write this. Latin American day workers congregate in some parts of town looking for work. After the Phoenix police moved them out of a Home Depot, they dispersed to areas in close proximity, including the area near Pruitt’s. Pruitt’s owner hired off-duty Phoenix Police officers to “protect” customers from day laborers. When Phoenix authorities put an end to this, Arpaio jumped into the fray with alacrity. He had 160 officers deputized as federal immigration agents.
A New York Times reporter who witnessed Arpaio’s deputies in action wrote:
“They’ll pull a car over for a traffic infraction, then check everyone’s papers. They say they act on reasonable suspicion only — if they see a shirt or shoes like those worn south of the border or hear Spanish. They say it isn’t profiling.”
While Arpaio, who loves the limelight, is basking in the attention he is receiving, Latin Americans are suffering the consequences of his sham. Members of a Latino congregation in a nearby Lutheran Church no longer drive to services, they walk. They fear Sheriff Joe, their pastor said.
Arpaio’s parents were immigrants from Naples. There was a time when Italians were not considered white in the United States. They worked in unsanitary and dangerous places that killed them disproportionately. Some were lynched in Florida and Louisiana. Their pain and suffering was deplorable. The Italian immigrants were human beings who deserved better, as do the Mexican day laborers in Maricopa County. A piece of paper has no bearing on it.
~ José A. Cobas
Program in Sociology
School of Social and Family Dynamics
Arizona State University
‘Tis the season for year-end lists and remembering those we lost in 2007. Given that, I thought it was important to remember a few of those who worked for racial justice that we lost this past year. This list of ten people, some of whom you’ll recognize and some you may not, are in no particular order.
#10. Vernon Bellecourt, who Read More→
As I’ve written here and elsewhere, there’s an intriguing and not-well-documented connection between extremist white supremacists and more mainstream expressions of what Joe refers to as the ‘white racial frame.’ Most of the time, whites tend to disavow any connection to extreme groups, so I’m always intrigued when these ruptures appear, particularly at the level of presidential politics. And, this week the Chicago Tribune is reporting that Ron Paul is keeping a $500 donation from Don Black, white supremacist founder of “White Pride World Wide,” the largest white supremacist online portal.
“As Paul’s campaign explained, it plans to keep the money because that will reduce the cash Black has to spend on spreading his controversial ideology by $500.
And, according to the campaign, another good will occur. Paul will have $500 more with which to spread his libertarian message of freedom from big government, including his opposition to the Iraq War.
One freedom Paul has comes from the unlikelihood he’ll receive his party’s nomination. If he were a real threat to be the Republican nominee, he would’ve given back the money immediately since no top tier candidate would want to take a chance on losing the big prize because of the kind of controversy surrounding this kind of controversy.
But a lot of money is given to candidates by supporters with views out of the mainstream, views many other Americans would find objectionable. That’s a given. The only difference is that Black doesn’t hide his views.
Still, the unwritten rule in politics is that when you find yourself getting money from someone controversial because of what they do or say, someone with views repugnant to most Americans, you give their cash back like it’s radioactive.
Paul’s approach is certainly unorthodox, like so much about the man. That doesn’t necessarily make it wrong. And because it’s so different a way of handling such a situation, it presents an opportunity for a discussion about what’s right and wrong in such situations. In short, it makes you think.”
So, according to Mr. James, Ron Paul’s “unorthodox” approach gives us all something to think about. Alright, let’s think about this. What could be wrong about accepting a donation from Don Black? Maybe it’s the fact that it suggests an implicit endorsement of his views. Perhaps the discussion to have, and not the one on anybody’s presidential platform, is the one about the centrality of racism in the U.S. and how we go about dismantling it, or at the very least, taking some small steps toward dismantling white supremacy by having a serious discussion about reparations. Unforunately, I don’t think that’s the kind of conversation that Ron Paul’s actions are going to facilitate, if the comments over at The Swamp are any indication, such as this one:
With all the black on white murder, rapes, carjacking, home invasions, etc, racist organizations like the Nation of Islam, Zebra murders, racist NAACP shysters, 250,000 black on white murders since MLK marched on DC, don’t tell me about racism. The black man and his left wing anti-white white shysters who run our media and banks are the racial genocidists. How much money is being sent to the mulatto Obama from racist Nation of Islam? How many racist dollars were given to Richardson from the racist La Raza? Screw the news – a revolution is happening on the street and white people are rising to oppose the civil and human rights abuses by africans against us – march march march!
Of course, this is not what all the comments are like, but I think it gives a sense of the sort of “conversation” sparked by Ron Paul’s candidacy; and, to paraphrase Mr. James, it makes you think about the ways the easily-disavowed extremist white supremacists are connected to mainstream political campaigns and reporting about those campaigns.
There is a new report from ColorLines and The Chicago Reporter who conducted a joint national investigation of fatal police shootings in America’s 10 largest (more than 1 million) cities. Two significant points emerge from the report:
African Americans were overrepresented among police shooting victims in every city the publications investigated.
Latinos are a rising number of fatal police shooting victims. Starting in 2001, the number of incidents in which Latinos were killed by police in cities with more than 250,000 people rose four consecutive years, from 19 in 2001 to 26 in 2005. The problem was exceptionally acute in Phoenix, which had the highest number of Latinos killed in the country.
The report points to the “implicit bias” of police toward Black and Latino people, and notes that this can be overcome with a combination of accountability and training, as in D.C. :
Washington, D.C., which had the nation’s highest rate of police shootings during the 1990s, has cut the rate of shootings dramatically through a combination of training and accountability. Others point to a small but growing number of police departments like Los Angeles and Portland, Ore. that are looking not so much at whether the shootings are justified or not, but about the decisions police and supervisors took that led up to the shootings.
Still, the fact is, the mere fact of being Black or Latino in most large cities in the U.S., such as here in New York, means being ontologically vulnerable to being shot by police.
In an Oped piece in last Sunday’s Washington Post Yale Law Professor Amy Chua, author of the interesting book World On Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability (2003), pens a rather nativistic analysis of contemporary immigration.
Chua begins with a loaded question:
“Are too many Third World, non-English-speaking immigrants destroying our national identity?”
Stating the question this way, with harsh and loaded language like “destroying” and “Third World,” already places the discussion in an anti-immigration, old racist frame that negatively characterizes those who are immigrating to the United States from Asia and Latin America.
Then she asks if “all immigrants” are “really equally likely to make good Americans?” and cites the leading nativistic political scientist, fellow Ivy Leaguer Samuel Huntington, who has taken the biased tack that immigrants of today are inferior to those of yesteryear, the latter having allegedly assimilated easily and caused no problems for the country.
Perhaps trying to play down her harsh opening, Chua then tells us that she herself is an immigrant who has done well:
“My parents arrived in the United States in 1961, so poor that they couldn’t afford heat their first winter. I grew up speaking only Chinese at home (for every English word accidentally uttered, my sister and I got one whack of the chopsticks). Today, my father is a professor at Berkeley, and I’m a professor at Yale Law School. As the daughter of immigrants, a grateful beneficiary of America’s tolerance and opportunity, I could not be more pro-immigrant.”
In a classic non sequitur, she then shifts to a somewhat irrelevant discussion of countries overseas, and one that is rather anti-immigrant. She cites oddly selected countries “around the world today” which “face violence and instability as a result of their increasing pluralism and diversity.” She picks on the example of “unassimilated, largely Muslim enclaves that are hotbeds of unrest and even terrorism” in European countries, citing “riots in France last month”–with no reference whatsoever to the high levels of racist discrimination and discriminatory unemployment faced by France’s Muslim population at the hands of whites or of peacefully pluralistic countries in Europe. Then she cites Muslims as the problem again, this time those supposedly soon to be “a majority in Amsterdam and elsewhere within a decade,” with major European cities facing “a profound transformation.”
She claims that “Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union disintegrated when their national identities proved too weak to bind together diverse peoples,” and then cites Iraq as a recent example with “no overarching identity strong enough to unite its Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis.” Not a word is offered in regard to any of her carefully selected examples about the racial and religious discrimination faced by groups that were (are) not dominant in the (ruling) groups in these countries or the political oppressions that caused upheavals in these countries–including the reshaping of Iraq by outside interventions and occupations by European and U.S. armies over the last century.
Chua switches next to a rhetorical question from the extreme right:
“Does this mean that it’s time for the United States to shut its borders and reassert its ‘white, Christian’ identity and what Huntington calls its Anglo-Saxon, Protestant ‘core values’?”
Even stating such an extremely racist question like it is legitimate puts this racist framing of immigration back into the minds of readers, although Chua does reject this view with two good points about immigrants who were not white making major contributions to the economic health of the United States and about such rhetoric supposedly driving immigrants from the mainstream. This latter point about rejecting the mainstream is actually rather easily refuted by data, which often is in short supply in such arguments. Social science research shows clearly that immigrants of various backgrounds now aggressively seek integration into the U.S. economy and into the English language. English instruction programs in many areas have long backlogs of applicants, and most second generation immigrants (especially today) have long been able to speak English well. Indeed, by the third and fourth generations languages like Spanish are rarely spoken by these Americans, except perhaps to grandparents.
After making these modest points for immigrants, Chua again retreats to the tired rhetoric of the anti-immigration frame:
“Immigration advocates are too often guilty of an uncritical political correctness that avoids hard questions about national identity and imposes no obligations on immigrants. For these well-meaning idealists, there is no such thing as too much diversity.”
Again she uses the straw-man argument and language from the white racial frame, whose contemporary advocates actually created the term “political correctness” in the sense she uses it and who assert that immigration advocates avoid “hard questions” and impose “no obligations on immigrants.” This frame asserts without evidence that (many?) advocates of immigration and other advocates of a diverse United States are just “well-meaning idealists” who cannot envision having “too much diversity.” Where is the evidence for this?
In her rather undocumented analysis, Chua generally sides with those whites who often attack Americans who have worked so hard to bring down the racial stereotypes and racist structures created by 340 years of racial oppression in U.S. society. Somehow, the fact that nearly 90 percent of this country’s history is one of extreme white oppression (genocidal rampages against Native Americans, rape of enslaved and segregated Black women hundreds of thousands of times, and 6000 lynchings, excluding Chinese Americans on racial grounds, racial segregation of Japanese Americans before and during World War II, just to take a few examples), and the fact that this country has only been an officially “free” country since legal segregation ended in 1968, a modest generation and a half ago, are lost in this whitewashed analysis. The hostility and discrimination, and one-way assimilation pressure to conform to a white-normed society (her “national identity” is a white identity, apparently), faced by hard-working immigrants is not even considered as a societal “problem.” The image of a wonderful, tolerant, white-led country suffering great troubles at the hands of relatively moderate rates of immigration (compared to rates of immigrants around 1900) of non-European immigrants is greatly exaggerated if not ludicrous. If these immigrants were white and European, as is clear in both Chua’s and Huntington’s analyses, there would be no significant outcry and no immigration “problem” to be so aggressively and publicly discussed.
Chua’s solutions are also to a significant degree of the white nativist frame. She agrees with nativists who seek an English-only country by proposing that English be the “official national language.” For her, teaching Spanish to Spanish-language children–so they can, in my view, learn their own language better, become better educated, and likely transition more easily to English–is an “indulgence.” She asserts that:
“For many immigrants, only family matters. Even when immigrants get involved in politics, they tend to focus on protecting their own and protesting discrimination.”
For these reasons, apparently, she contends that immigrants must embrace “national civic virtues,” yet she ignores the fact that most already do embrace civic values by getting jobs and working hard, getting educations themselves or putting their children in school, buying housing and consumer goods, and eventually joining political and civic associations the longer they (and especially their children) are in the United States. She again ignores the white-generated discrimination that many non-European immigrants, and their children and grandchildren, face, which gives them good reason to protest.
Then she picks up on yet another them from the white racial frame:
“That the 11 million to 20 million illegal immigrants are 80 percent Mexican and Central American is itself a problem. This is emphatically not for the reason Huntington gives — that Hispanics supposedly don’t share America’s core values. But if the U.S. immigration system is to reflect and further our ethnically neutral identity, it must itself be ethnically neutral, offering equal opportunity to Sudanese, Estonians, Burmese and so on. The starkly disproportionate ratio of Latinos — reflecting geographical fortuity and a large measure of law-breaking — is inconsistent with this principle.”
Here, it is who the immigrants are that is the “problem.” She says not a word about how U.S. corporations’ destruction of farming economies in Latin America lies behind much undocumented immigration. It is not the tooth fairy that forces so many Latin American immigrants to come to the United States to get jobs to feed, clothe, and house their often desperate families. Presumably, she has these Latin Americans in mind in a closing sentence as well, when she says:
“Immigrants who turn their backs on American values don’t deserve to be here.”
Again, at no point in her analysis, does Chua discuss the fact that those “American values” have for centuries included much racial discrimination targeting Americans of color, especially immigrants of color. Should not all of us turn our backs on the numerous negative “American values,” which values lead some of us to conduct large-scale discrimination against Americans of color or to invade “too diverse” countries abroad that have not harmed the United States?
The real “problem” of immigration is not immigrants, who are for the most part courageous, family-oriented, economic refugees seeking better lives for themselves. The real problem is the nativist, racist, and anti-immigrant framing, which is too often found in the fearful minds of Americans who cannot see beyond it to a truly democratic multiracial America.
The kind of right-wing anti-immigration bile that CNN commentator Lou Dobbs spews regularly is closely aligned with an organization called The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which has ties to extremist white supremacist groups, according to the SPLC‘s latest Intelligence Report. This is an important connection to document for establishing the links between extremist expressions of white supremacy and the more mainstream, CNN-versions of the same ideas. I’ve suggested these connections in my own work, but there’s not enough done documenting and explaining these linkages. And, lest you think that this sort of thing is only relevant for scholarly discussions about discourse, there’s a story out of Phoenix recently about the death of 18-year-old Joe Arvizu that reminds us all of the relevance of this sort of rhetoric for people’s daily lives. From The Arizona Republic (hat tip to Jesse Wendel of the Group News Blog for bringing this to my attention):
And so the good nuns who run a local hospital – one dedicated to “serving and advocating for our sisters and brothers who are poor and disenfranchised” – did what we do anymore. They packed him up and shipped him off to Mexico – and, as it turns out, to his death.
Jose Abraham Arvizu had the rotten luck to be born about an hour on the wrong side of the border. He and his family came to Phoenix on visas 3½ years ago. His mother, Rosa, told me she and her husband wanted better for their four children than to scratch a life out of the dust. So they stayed.
Joe, as he was called by his friends and teachers, went to North, where he learned English, passed the AIMS test and embraced school life. Even those who didn’t know him knew who he was. He was easy to pick out at school functions, after all. He was the one carrying the American flag.
On Oct. 19, Joe was horsing around with friends at church when he bumped his head. It quickly became clear that something was horribly wrong, and he was rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, where he underwent surgery the next day to stop the bleeding in his brain.
On Oct. 21, Rosa learned that her son had leukemia, but doctors assured her that he would be OK. His chance of recovery, she said, was put at 85 percent.
Five days later, Joe was packed into an ambulance and sent to a hospital in Mexico.
“They said they knew that we couldn’t pay the bill, so they couldn’t continue with the treatment anymore,” Rosa said, through a translator. “I asked for a payment negotiation, but they said that no, we couldn’t make it with the income we have. I didn’t want to make any decision by myself, but they told me the ambulance was ready.”
Over his mother’s objections, Joe was taken first to a hospital in Agua Prieta, then transferred to one in Hermosillo. His mother followed the next day while his father, a bricklayer, stayed behind with their other children.
Joe died on Dec. 3. Rosa couldn’t supply the hospital with blood for a needed transfusion.
The hospital officials involved have a certain amount of plausible deniability here that racism was involved; instead, they insist that it was business as usual. But, in this case, business as usual results exclusively in the deaths of brown-skinned kids, not white-skinned kids, and that, my friends, is pretty much the definition of institutional racism. Under the heading of “less-deniable” is the marked upswing in racially motivated violence against all Latinos, regardless of immigration status, according to the SPLC Intelligence Report:
According to hate crime statistics published annually by the FBI, anti-Latino hate crimes rose by almost 35% between 2003 and 2006, the latest year for which statistics are available. In California, the state with the largest population of Latinos in the country, anti-Latino hate crimes almost doubled in the same period.
Of course, it’s impossible to establish anything like a causal link between the rise in anti-immigrant rhetoric and the rise in anti-Latino hate crimes, but it’s a pretty damning correlation. And, deaths of immigrants like Joe Avrizu are testimony to the fact that no one needs to be a foaming-at-the-mouth extremist for institutional racism to operate. All you need are pundits to run the ideological justification department, and some petite bureaucrats to operate the machine, and both are all the more effective if they think they’re doing the Lord’s work, as Dobbs suggests in this commentary from CNN back in May, 2007 in which he first quotes a Bible verse from Romans about “Everyone must submit himself [sic] to the governing authorities,” then supports his neocon exegesis with polling data:
A Zogby poll last year asked churchgoers if they supported the House bill that would make illegal aliens return home and reduce future illegal immigration by securing the border and performing checks on illegal employers. Seventy-five percent of Protestants responded that was a good or very good idea, 77 percent of born-again Christians also agreed, and 66 percent of Catholics also backed tougher enforcement measures.
So, I guess from Lou Dobbs’ perspective, the nuns who run the hospital that deported Joe Avrizu really were on God’s errand when they shipped him back to Mexico to die. That’s what I’d called sanctified institutional racism. It’s not always the case that religion is on the side of repressive political regimes; in fact, there’s a long history of liberation theology tied to social justice movements, including the civil rights movement in this country. However, when ordinary people are convinced that they are engaged in doing “God’s work,” or pursuing any “great good,” it makes it that much easier to continue to operate the banal machinery of death camps and deportation.
The following article is embedded with many issues (i.e., No Child Left Behind, institutional racism, racial backlashing, and etc.) that are important and ….. Read More→
I’ve written here before about racism, and responses to it, outside the U.S. One of the similarities is that overt, extreme racists such as white supremacists can be found outside the U.S.; and, there are other responses to racism besides the knee-jerk, absolutist interpretation of ‘free speech’ popular in the U.S.
There are a couple of recent news items that set in rather stark contrast to the “whitewash” response of the U.S. government to racism. In Canada, the Ontario Human Rights Commission says racism was a clear motive behind a number of attacks on Asian fisherman. According to the Canadian Press, a the Commission is preparing a report, investigated in part by Barbara Hall, the chief commissioner who says:
“… interviews reveal experiences of racial harassment, ranging from verbal and physical assaults, to destruction of fishing equipment, to stone-throwing.
The report says the incidents have had “profound impacts” on the people involved, their friends and families, and the Asian Canadian community as a whole.
‘In a society as diverse as ours, we need to learn about each other, from each other and how we can work together to fight racism, discrimination and harassment whenever and wherever it occurs,’ says Ms. Hall.”
The Canadians, once again, get it right. First of all, that there is a commission that is interviewing people about their experiences of racism is a step in the right direction; and, that the people on that commission are taking those testimonies seriously, rather than minimizing them, is another point in their favor. The Canadians also have a much better sense of what it means to have a national approach to racial justice, and seeing that within the context of an international community, than do Americans.
The second news item is from Athens, Greece. The Greek English-language news source Kathimerini is reporting on the case of “inciting racial hatred”:
Lawyer Costas Plevris was handed a 14-month suspended sentence yesterday for inciting racial hatred through his book “Jews: The Whole Truth,” which denies the Holocaust took place.
The court in Athens cleared the publisher, editor and a journalist at the small right-wing newspaper Eleftheros Kosmos that published extracts of the book, which was released in 2006.
Plevris decried the verdict, saying, “Jews are trying to fight me with this trial so they can shut my mouth.” He also accused the Jews of “making a business out of the Holocaust so they can claim compensation from the German state.”
Jewish community leaders applauded the court’s decision. “We thank the Greek justice system for its dignity and for demonstrating that we truly live in a democratic society,” said Moisis Constantinis, the president of the Central Jewish Council of Greece.
The main prosecutor in the case had recommended that Plevris be cleared, arguing that he had “simply written a book,” not committed a criminal act.
This is one of those cases that makes people in the U.S. go nuts because of the prevailing content-free based approach to speech. I raise this example here, along with the Canadian example, to point out how different these approaches are from that in the U.S., and to suggest that there might be something valuable that we in the U.S. could learn from these approaches. In contrast to the excessive focus on individualism in the U.S., the Canadian and Greek examples illustrate an approach to law that beings with an assumption that democracy in a multicultural, pluralist society is only possible within a context in which the human rights of all citizens are protected from racially, ethnically motivated violence and assaultive speech.