Racism in Review, A Look Back and a Look Ahead

I’ve been away from the blog for a bit while I finished some other writing projects, but wanted to share with readers a couple of good year-end summaries for 2010. The first is from the good folks at Colorlines who produced this short video (3:44) about the year in race:

The video includes a clip of George W. Bush (on Oprah) saying that Kanye West calling him racist is “disgusting” – not something we talked about here on this blog much, so in case you missed it, you can see it now.

And, the folks over at Mother Jones compiled a list of the year’s worst ‘racist gaffes.’ I wouldn’t call them gaffes so much as telling indications of what goes on in the backstage for whites, but it’s a list worth reviewing. One notable event in news of racism that we missed here is #3 on their list:

The birther conspiracies surrounding Barack Hussein Obama have now thoroughly infected the conservative body politic. But perhaps the most infuriating attempt to cast the nation’s black president as a nefarious, untrustworthy foreigner came from Dinesh D’Souza, the conservative commentator who concluded that the guiding philosophy of Obama’s presidency has been “Kenyan anti-colonialism” in an essay for Forbes. The American Prospect’s Adam Serwer had one of the best takedowns of D’Souza’s “birtherism lite,” describing the writer’s attempt to launder racism of the right through a pseudo-intellectual filter.

The Mother Jones list also notes a rising anti-Asian racism in the form of China-bashing with the tenth item on their list:

Amid all the racist flamethrowing of 2010, politicians managed to achieve a bipartisan consensus when it came to one boogeyman. China-bashing profilerated on both sides of the aisle as candidates blamed the ascendant superpower for America’s economic woes, as Salon’s Adam Hanft explains. Democratic Senate candidate Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) attacked his opponent Pat Toomey as an outsourcing “job-killer” who was even willing “to work for a Hong Kong billionaire who wanted to help the Chinese economy…Maybe he ought to run for Senate—in China.” Incumbent Rep. Zack Space (D-Ohio) similarly slammed his opponent Bob Gibbs as free trader who “wants to increase THEIR standard of living.” Space’s ad concludes sarcastically: “As they say in China, xie xie Mr. Gibbs.” West Virginia Republican hopeful Spike Maynard also piled on: “It’s on our jeans. Even children’s toys. Made in China.” Though the China hatefest ave candidates a handy scapegoat, it didn’t pay off in the end: Sestak, Space, and Maynard all lost in November.

It wasn’t all bad news, though. Harsha of the Vancouver Media Co-Op notes a number victories in her list of “11 Social Movement Successes” for progressive causes, including:

7) Anti-Racism and Migrant Justice: “No one is illegal, Canada is illegal”

The sustained mobilizing of the Education Not Deportation campaign and Shelter Sanctuary Status campaign won major victories in Toronto. The Toronto District School Board provided guidelines to ensure that students without immigration status are not denied access to schools. Similarly, organizing with migrant women has successfully pushed immigration officers out of spaces for women surviving violence. In Montreal, a sanction-busting campaign in support of Abousfian Abdelrazik has openly defied the United Nation’s 1267 no-fly list. Amidst a national border panic, thousands of people in eight cities took to the streets in support of the 492 Tamil refugees aboard the MV Sun Sea. For three months in Vancouver, weekly demonstrations took place outside the detention centre where mothers and children were detained. Widespread opposition to Bill C49, tabled under the banner of combating “human smuggling”, has thus far stalled a parliamentary vote.

Based on historic movements like Anti Racist Action, activists across the country prevented the spreading of hate propaganda. Calgary residents opposed the invitation of anti-Six Nations crusaders Mark Vandermaas and Gary McHale to Mount Royal University, while students at University of Waterloo protested anti-native author Christie Blatchford by chaining themselves to the podium. Victoria anti racists countered a rally by white supremacist Paul Fromm days after the MV Sun Sea landed. Over 2,000 activists rallied to effectively force American conservative Ann Coulter to cancel her appearance at the University of Ottawa. On March 21, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, over 300 anti racists showed in a force of strength to confront an announced neo-Nazi rally in Vancouver, though no white supremacists showed up.

Here’s hoping that 2011 has lots more victories in the work to end racism in all its forms.