Swedish Racism: Engineering a False Image of Democratic Solidarity

Essay 3 (part two)
Swedish systemic racism: An academic perspective

After completing my work at the Board, I returned to my position at Mid-Sweden University and continued to participate in public debates regarding racism and the political oppression of minorities in general and Muslims in particular. Writing against anti-Muslimism and racism was not appreciated and even the seemingly free media showed little concern about the increasing tides of racism in the country. As mentioned in my second essay in this series, after the end of my governmental investigation in 2006 and the seizure of power by the neoliberal Alliance government, systemic racism was reinforced. Even the Social Democratic party did not do anything with my investigation’s suggestions for combating systemic racism in the country. Instead, because of decreasing electoral support for the Social Democrats, this party supported systemic racism and wanted to abandon its more inclusive Palme-era policies. Many researchers who had contributed to the governmental investigation uttered difficulties they faced in their universities because of their participation in the “Kamali investigation.” This made me more convinced about the need for antiracist education and research in a time of growing political racism in the country.

I started working for the establishment of a global and antiracist profile in the Social Work program at Mid-Sweden University. This created a huge opposition and led to internal conflicts at the department. My adversaries tried to mobilize colleagues and students against the new profile. Fortunately, my name and reputation, which attracted many students to Mid-Sweden University (which was a marginal university in the northern part of the country), prevented my opponents from being successful. However, they continued their opposition to the anti-racist profile and toward me as the one responsible for its existence. The leadership of the university told me that they were aware of the conflict but that they wanted me to continue since the Social Work specialization at our university had become very popular and was attracting students from across the country. A few colleagues, who were led by a professor and the head of the department who saw their privileges threatened, started using different tactics for delegitimizing the profile and me. They had help from the local leader of The Swedish Association of University Teachers and Researchers (SULF), who worked at the department. She had negative attitudes towards our antiracist education and both me and many students have several times reported her to the head of the department and to the Dean of the university, but nothing happened because of her powerful position at the university. On the contrary, when she together with a couple of her allies at the department reported me to the university for “dictatorial leadership” in autumn 2011, I was called to the Dean who warned me for not being a democrat and that I had to work in accordance with “Swedish values”. He also informed me that the University had been several times contacted by politicians who accused me for “brainwashing students” with my lectures and books.

Fortunately, the Dean quickly left his position and thanks to the Vice Chancellor’s support for our attractive profile, the opposition was temporarily halted. This, along with the increasing popularity of our specialization, provided the antiracist education profile a short time to flourish. It became one of the most attractive academic specializations in the country. However, SULF and its leader, together with a couple of colleagues and external racists who were powerful agents, continued their opposition by trying to influence students, colleagues and university leadership. Many students warned me and my colleagues about such individuals’ attacks against me and other colleagues who worked to develop our antiracist profile. Students have been told that they would not get any job in Sweden due to the antiracist emphasis of their Social Work training.

Unfortunately, the political development in Sweden during these years went against our antiracist profile and the antiracist movement in the country. The increasing racism that led to the entrance of the racist party, The Sweden Democrats (SD), into the parliament in 2010 and its increased electorate support from 7.5 to almost 18 percent in the election of 2018, provided racist groups within the university increasing opportunities to become harsher on antiracist colleagues and programs. In regard to increasing racism, I was interviewed by a local journal in the city of Östersund, where Mid-Sweden University is located, and said that the real danger from racist groups was not exclusively coming from SD, but from the established parties, which are going to adopt SD’s racist party program based on their populism. One of the professors who was against our antiracist profile said to me that my observation was not ok to say publicly against established parties and that I had “disturbed sentiments” among leading persons at the university. When I mentioned to him my constitutional right to publicly utter my opinion which was based on my European research, he warned me of not believing in the “political correct world” but considering the powerful centers where our destinies are decided.

The new Vice Chancellor (VC) of Mid Sweden University who took office in early 2017 and who on his Facebook supported one of the racist Sweden Democrats’ (SD) allied parties, the Christ Democrats, started his campaign for eliminating our global and antiracist education. He started by ordering the “total stop” of accepting new students to the Social Work program and ordering an investigation against me and the antiracist academic specialization. He did this despite the evidence that our specialization was one of the most attractive educational programs of social work in Sweden. The investigation was conducted by a company called Kontura International during 2017. The investigation, which was based on interviews with colleagues at the department and the review of many documents, did not fulfill the VC’s desires or support the VC’s campaign. On the contrary, I received huge support from my colleagues at the department. I reported the VC for racism and discrimination, which was reported in the press. VC ordered the university to not doing anything about it.

During the same time, I had a research project on neoliberalism and social work in which more than 35 researchers from the Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden participated and the results became published in the spring of 2018 in an edited book by Routledge. One of my colleagues who had almost daily contact with the university leadership and who was one of the sincere supporter of our profile, hinted to me that the university leadership in general and the VC in particular were not happy about the book and that the book reinforces their understanding of me as a communist and Islamist who stigmatizes Sweden.

Several months later, I had a dispute with a doctoral student who stereotyped Iranian and Middle Eastern women as ignorant and backwards. A few weeks later the VC reported me to the police because the PhD-student, who was aware of my conflict with the VC, falsely reported to the VC that she had heard that I had threatened to kill the VC. The police dropped the charge just after a few hours because of the lack of any evidence about the accusations against me. Notwithstanding, the VC decided to suspend me from my job and start an “internal investigation.” As a reaction, my colleagues reported the VC to the court for his dictatorial and unfair accusations against me and published the ordeal in the press. The Mid Sweden University scandal was frequently discussed in the media.

However, the VC and his faked investigation and accusations failed and the State Responsibility Committee (Statens ansvarsnämnd), which is the Swedish government’s employers court, rejected any objectivity in those accusations and ordered the university to change its decision of suspending me from my job. However, I decided to leave my position at Mid-Sweden University in early 2019, a few months after the court’s decision, as a protest against increasing systemic racism at Mid-Sweden University; this increasing systemic racism does not tolerate any opposition. So did a couple of my colleagues at the department too. The VC, who had presented himself and the university as agents of “regional economic development” in “close cooperation with regional companies,” had seen me as a danger to the white neoliberal Swedish society and its structural and institutional racism. As a result of changing the leadership of the university and forcing many antiracist persons to leave the university, he succeeded to adjust the university to the “academic-industrial-military complex”, which in a post-9/11 world considers non-Western individuals with Muslim background as a “danger within”, as Giroux argues in his work.

My case and the climate within academic institutions is by no means unique. Back in 1993, Leslie Stuart discussed the “diminished capacity” of universities to be free and critical institutions; Stuart argued that universities in have been part of the Cold War and provided their services to the military. The post-9/11 world is witnessing increasing anti-Muslim and racist sentiments, as Giroux (2017), myself (2009), and many other critical scholars have shown. In the era of the frontless “war on terror” immigrants in general and Muslims in particular are not to be trusted (Kamali, 2015)and the securitization of “Western societies” necessitates exclusions of critical and antiracist scholars from universities, favoring the access of the white national affluent population to scholarly positions. This is based on the concept known as the “coloniality of power” (Quijano, 2008). As Gutiérrez Rodríguez (2016) argues in reference to Bourdieu’s Homo Academicus, universities reflect deeply entrenched social inequalities marked by class, race, disability, and migration. Universities are privileged sites for the reproduction of white national elites (Pusser & Marginson, 2013).

Positioning me as “unwanted” in Swedish academic institutions has little to do with my person as an academic, but with what I am, namely a person with immigrant/Muslim background who is engaged in antiracist research, education, and activism. The racist acts and practices of Mid- Sweden University’s leadership should be understood in a wider historical and political context. I am currently analyzing interviews, which I have conducted among other academics with immigrant backgrounds in Sweden. The situation is unbearable for many who say that you have to either accept the racist and neoliberal hierarchical system at the university or put yourself at risk for many years of confrontations, isolation and accusations of being a deviant and incompetent academic. This can happen because many academics – whites and non-whites – keep silent about institutional and structural racism in the academia. As Albert Einstein says: “The world is in greater peril from those who tolerate or encourage evil than from those who actually commit it.”

Although the Swedish political and institutional racism has done everything in its power for isolating me and other antiracists, I feel myself more empowered than ever. This is not only because I am continuing doing my antiracist research and publications, but also because, as Einstein puts it, “my consciousness of belonging to the invisible community of those who strive for truth, beauty, and justice has preserved me from feeling isolated.”

Masoud Kamali
Uppsala, January 2020

Masoud Kamali has received his professorship in Sociology (Uppsala University), Social Work (Mid Sweden University), Middle Eastern Studies (South Denmark University) and International Migration and Ethnic Relations (Stockholm University). His recent publications include: Neoliberalism, Nordic Welfare States and Social Work (Routledge, 2018) and “Revolutionary Social Work: Promoting sustainable Justice” (Critical and Radical Social Work, 7(3), November 2019).

Swedish Racism: A False Image of Democratic Solidarity

Essay 3 (part one)

Swedish systemic racism: An academic perspective

The ways Swedish structural and institutional racism functions and hides itself behind the old mantel of its reputation—as a country of solidarity and equality—is discussed in this essay by providing examples of my own personal experiences in Swedish academia. In my first essay some months back I elaborated how Sweden has tried to hide the structural and institutional racism behind its famous image of solidarity and equality. Although the Swedish welfare state has never been free from white racism, indeed quite the contrary, there have been individuals in the leadership of Sweden’s Social Democratic Party, such as Olof Palme, who tried to combat racism both nationally and internationally. I wrote that twenty years after the assassination of Olof Palme, it became crystal clear to me that members of the democracy that I once believed in would invest far more energy and resources into denying harsh inequities than becoming the democracy that Palme stood and died for. Swedish political and academic institutions, which bear much responsibility for the reproduction of racism in the country, “shoot the messenger”, as Swedes say. In other words, instead of enacting policies and practices that combat racism, there has been a systematic response to discredit me and numerous others who took action against Swedish racism. (On systemic racism theory, see here)

In my second essay I presented the growing political mobilization and rhetoric against antiracism. This included increased character assassination of me and delegitimization of my governmental investigation on structural discrimination in Sweden as well as mainstream political attempts to situate disenfranchised immigrants as blame-worthy agents who caused their own structural discrimination and marginalization. In my second essay I also wrote about the growing transitions of mainstream political parties (including the Social Democrats) to be aligned with a far-right wing political agenda. This is a period during which politicians, who once offered moral and ethical political arguments about the human/civil rights of immigrants, embrace the ideology of realpolitik.

In this essay (Part one), I focus upon the Swedish university and higher education, as well as the role these institutions play in the reproduction of systemic racism and discrimination against racialized instructors, researchers, and students.

I was born in a middle-class family in Iran during the regime of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who ruled from 1941 until 1979. As many know, this Shah was overthrown in 1979 by the Iranian Revolution. Starting to study sociology in Tabriz University provided me the opportunity to understand the mechanisms behind socioeconomic injustices covered by the glamorous façade of the Shah’s regime. I was very soon drawn into students’ protest movements and subsequently arrested by SAVAK – Sazman-e Etelaat Va Amniat Keshvar (Organization of Intelligence and Homeland Security) in early 1977, tortured and after a very short trial in a military court I was sentenced and jailed until the victory of the revolution in 1979. Continuing my political activities against the new Islamic regime and losing many of my friends in arbitrary executions, forced me to leave the country in 1987. Arriving in Sweden as a political refugee provided me with a new identity and social status, namely being a “refugee” at the bottom of the social hierarchy. I started working as cleaner, janitor and such. Simultaneously, I completed the Swedish requirements necessary for university studies. I had to do so because the Swedish Central Bureau for Higher Education refused to accept my credentials from my earlier university studies in Iran.

I began by studying Sociology at Linköping University and simultaneously Social Work at Stockholm University. I completed my studies in sociology and Master’s Degree in Social Work in 1991 and started working as a social worker in several municipalities. I applied for PhD studies in sociology three times and two times my applications were turned down, because the committee assumed that I had “language problems” with writing a dissertation. More specifically, the committee argued: “based on Kamali’s language problems, he could not be able to write his dissertation in due time”. Except for two members of the committee, who rejected the “language argument”, no one else had any contact with me in order to be able to evaluate my language abilities. I was in contact with a professor with an American background at the Department of Sociology and told him that I was working as a municipal social worker with many Swedish families and that I had never heard anybody complaining about my language ability. He told me that: “You know, you are Iranian, an immigrant, and you have written a Master’s Thesis, which is not appreciated by Swedes”. My Master’s Thesis, titled “Within Social Work Offices”, was a critical analysis of the Swedish municipal authorities’ discrimination against immigrant families. This was not welcomed by professors who saw themselves as the “guardians of the Swedish model.” Thanks to the efforts of the previously mentioned professor and an associate professor with Chilean background who evaluated my Master’s Thesis as excellent and accused the committee of having racist attitudes, I was accepted as a PhD student in the Department of Sociology, at Uppsala University in 1993. However, the acceptance was a compromise and the committee decided also that “Kamali has no right to salary during his PhD studies at the department”.

Initially, one of the professors who had been critical of my application was assigned as my supervisor! He very soon said that he was not able to supervise me since I “did not properly understand Weber”. This statement was made because in my dissertation outline I had criticized Max Weber—a famous founding white Christian scholar of sociology—for his misinterpretation of Islamic societies. I was assigned another supervisor. Because of the lack of graduate fellowship income, I had to work both as social worker in an Uppsala municipality and on a research project at the Department of Law in order to finance my PhD studies. Notwithstanding such problems, I successfully completed my dissertation in 1995. Writing my dissertation in such a short time depended partly on my hard work to counteract the falseness of the institutional racism of some at my department, and partly because I had already completed many necessary courses prior to the Phd committee’s decision. Significantly, my dissertation was published as a book with an excellent introduction by Bryan S. Turner, one of the world´s leading sociologists of religion, who considered the dissertation as one of the best sociological analysis of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

Aware of the existing systemic racism in Swedish academia, which would probably prevent me from getting a job due to my non-west-centric research on Iran and other Muslim countries, I had to pursue a more accepted research path on popular topics such as immigrant integration. Based on one of my publications regarding the integration of immigrants in Sweden titled “Distorted Integration: Clientaization of immigrants in Sweden,” I was hired by the National Board of Health and Welfare in Sweden (Socialstyrelsen) to conduct research on the “cultural role” of immigrant social workers who worked with immigrant clients. I very soon realized that the Board considered immigrants to be “different cultural beings”, who need “culturally competent social workers.” Contrary to the Board’s expectations, the study showed that many clients did not appreciate having social workers with immigrant backgrounds who possessed so-called “cultural competency.” These clients indicated that these workers were harsher on their immigrant clients than native Swedish social workers. Social workers with immigrant backgrounds, on the other hand, said that they felt forced to be harsher toward clients with immigrant backgrounds because they thought that their jobs could be considered not necessary if they behaved like the white social workers with Swedish backgrounds. I was called to a meeting with the head of the Social Work section at the Board who ordered me to not publish the results. They called my findings “non-scientific” and accused me of assuming that social workers with a Swedish background were being racists. I did not accept their unjust exercise of power and told them that the report was a scientific product, that the Board had all the empirical materials, and that if they wanted, they could analyze the material. They did not accept my suggestion and I decided to publish the results of the study as a book.

Since that book’s publication, it has become a staple in social Work education in Sweden. (to be continued in part two)

Masoud Kamali
Uppsala, January 2020

Masoud Kamali has received his professorship in Sociology (Uppsala University), Social Work (Mid Sweden University), Middle Eastern Studies (South Denmark University) and International Migration and Ethnic Relations (Stockholm University). His recent publications include: Neoliberalism, Nordic Welfare States and Social Work (Routledge, 2018) and “Revolutionary Social Work: Promoting sustainable Justice” (Critical and Radical Social Work, 7(3), November 2019).

Indigenous Americans Mark Thanksgiving with Day of Mourning


(Image source)

Today, in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Native Americans gather to mark a “National Day of Mourning,” as they have for 50 years. The protests began in 1970 by Wamsutta Frank James and are carried on by his son, Moonaum James.


(Image source)

In an interview with the Boston Globe, James said demonstrators are not against Thanksgiving, but rather want to “correct the history” of the holiday that suggests that the Pilgrims and Native Americans coexisted peacefully. “We’re not there to condemn, and not there to do anything other than point out some truths,” he said.



(Image source)

It’s expected that numerous people will gather today at noon and others will hold rallies at Plymouth Rock and at other places like the site of the Metacomet (King Philip) historical marker in order to remember the Native Americans who died after the Europeans arrived in the 1600s and to highlight the struggles some Native Americans face today.

Indeed, a looming North American anniversary will soon — next year in 2020 — force these issues to be raised even more nationally, as CBSBoston recently put it:

Plymouth is putting the final touches on next year’s 400th anniversary commemorations of the Pilgrims’ landing in 1620. And as the 2020 events approach, descendants of the Wampanoag tribe that helped the newcomers survive are determined to ensure the world doesn’t forget the disease, racism and oppression the European settlers brought.


“Racist” Trump vs. San Juan’s Puerto Rican Mayor

In 1898 the United States provoked a war with Spain, called the Spanish-American War, in further pursuit of its expansionist policies. In the aftermath of the imperialistic war, Spain ceded Puerto Rico and other of its colonies to the United States. Since the beginning of its association with the United States, many US officials (beginning with military and presidential-appointed governors) have long expressed derisive, racist views about Puerto Ricans.

A version of this racialized discourse persists today, and President Donald Trump has been one of its exponents. This is evident in Trump’s controversy with San Juan’s Mayor Carmen Cruz Soto.

Since the summer of 2017 President Donald Trump and San Juan Mayor Carmen Cruz Soto have clashed twice over the adequacy of the Federal Government’s response to the catastrophic damage inflicted by hurricane Maria that year. At that time the Mayor voiced the views of many Puerto Ricans when she stated that the situation in Puerto Rico was desperate (lack of power and shelter in many areas, hospitals that had to be evacuated, limited access to water, etc.) and the Federal Government was slow in its response. Trump took her comments personally, accusing Cruz Soto and unnamed Puerto Rican officials of “poor leadership” and criticizing Puerto Ricans for

not doing enough to help themselves [and] wanting everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort. (Sounds familiar?)

She explained that she was simply asking for help, not saying “anything nasty” about Trump but as we will see shortly, her explanation did not seem to have had an effect on him.

The second encounter occurred this year, when tropical storm Dorian was perceived as a possible threat to Puerto Rico. Trump tweeted:

Wow! Yet another big storm heading to Puerto Rico. Will it ever end? Congress approved 92 Billion Dollars for Puerto Rico last year, an all time record of its kind for “anywhere.”

Cruz Soto was indignant at Trump’s tweet because of its inaccurate facts and racist undertone:

We say to the president of the United States, will his lie ever end? Will that ever end? Will his racism and vindictive behavior towards the people of Puerto Rico ever end? . . . The president continues to spread lies because the truth really does not suit him. As you said, it is not $92 billion. It’s close to 42 Billion. It’s close between $12.6 and $14 billion that’s come to Puerto Rico, and still, things have not worked appropriately. Things continue to change. Different attitudes and different laws and restrictions are brought upon Puerto Rico that are different from any other jurisdiction.

She added these strong words:

3,000 Puerto Ricans [who perished when hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico] did not open their eyes this morning because this racist man did not have it within him to do his job.

As was the case in 2017, Trump reacted to the Mayor’s remarks vociferously:

The crazed and incompetent Mayor of San Juan has done such a poor job of bringing the island back to health.

Then he proceeded to insult Puerto Rico as well when he took a swipe at the Democrats’ attitude toward helping Puerto Rico. The funds they want to send to Puerto Rico, Trump opined, would take “dollars away from our Farmers and so many others.” In other words, Puerto Rico, which is not a foreign country but a US territory, has taken away money that rightfully belongs to American farmers and so many other Americans.

Trump took the opportunity presented by these events to insult Puerto Rico further:

Puerto Rico is one of the most corrupt places on earth. Their political system is broken and their politicians are either Incompetent or Corrupt. Congress approved Billions of Dollars last time, more than anyplace else has ever gotten, and it is sent to Crooked Pols. No good.

As Cruz Soto stated, Puerto Rico has been a victim of Trump’s racism, which unfortunately has been evident in Washington’s dealings with Puerto Rico over the years. Trump, however, has been one of the most vocal in expressing these attitudes. His cutting criticism of San Juan’s Mayor, his labeling Puerto Rico (without evidence) one of the most corrupt places on earth, his lamenting that funds that would go to aid Puerto Rico take dollars away from Americans (Puerto Ricans are US citizens!), all add up to manifest instances of racism.

Among the comments Trump made is the assertion that he is “the best thing that’s ever happened to Puerto Rico.” How is that? After insulting Puerto Rico and Puerto Rican officials, after speaking of aid to Puerto Rico as if it were foreign aid? Trump has a knack for denigrating areas heavily populated by people of color in the periphery of as well as in the US proper (Baltimore, for example) when their leaders are at odds with him.

One can only conclude that Trump’s reaction does not augur well for Puerto Rico. Racist episodes are likely to occur again.

Skin Color Discrimination: The Latino Case

Results from a Pew Research Center survey show the persistence in the United States of an association between Latinos’ skin color and their experiences of white (and other) discrimination.

Sixty-four percent of dark-skinned Latinos reported they had experienced discrimination or unfair treatment from time to time whereas the corresponding figure for those with lighter skin was 50 percent. Dark skin was associated with stereotypes. Fifty-five percent of Latinos with dark skin said that people have reacted to them as though the Latinos were not smart, vis-à-vis 36 percent of those with light skins. Additionally, fifty-three percent of Latinos with dark skin stated that they had been victims of slurs or racist jokes, while the comparable figure for light-skinned ones was 34 percent.

The survey also asked Latinos what race people would assume they were if they walked past them on the street. Seventy-one percent said others saw them as Hispanic or Latino, 19 percent as white and approximately 5 percent as members of other races (the report does not mention the remaining 5 percent, although it is safe to assume that they were survey non-responders).

Among Latinos who reported being seen as People of Color, 62 percent stated that they had experienced discrimination while the corresponding figure for those saying they were perceived as white was 50 percent. Finally, Latino respondents said that when they are perceived as People of Color, individuals were more likely to view them with suspicion or treat them as not being smart. The question arises whether the effects of skin color and speaking Spanish might be cumulative. However, the Pew survey does not report such data.

It is important to emphasize that although dark-skinned Latinos were more likely to be victims of discrimination or arouse suspicion, both light- and dark-skinned Latinos reported substantial rates of negative experiences. Thus, while lighter-complected Latinos might manage to escape discrimination more frequently than darker ones, they are still Latinos and their skin color is not sufficient to save them completely from the consequences of white racism.

And note too the direction in which this racialized colorism always operates: Lighter/whiter is always better than darker/browner-blacker. White racial framing–prizing white/lightness in physical look–has affected how most people frame and think for centuries, in the US and abroad.

Log Cabin Republicans: Gay Racism

In July of 2016 the Log Cabin Republicans, an LGBT Republican organization, criticized the Republican party for putting forward what they called “the most anti-LGBT platform in the party’s 162-year history.” Gregory T. Angelo, the president at the time mentioned how, included within the Republican platform, you will find “opposition to marriage equality, nonsense about bathrooms, an endorsement of the debunked psychological practice of ‘pray the gay away’ — it’s all in there.” During this time, the organization declined to support then Republican candidate Donald Trump, finding his candidacy unpredictable and therefore unsupportable. Yes, to the amazement of a small bunch of conservative LGBT folks and the bewilderment of the rest of us who have known this for quite some time, the Log Cabin Republicans learned that the Republican party was anti-LGBT. Surprise!

Then something happened. On August 16th, 2019, the Log Cabin Republicans, to the shock and awe of no one really, reversed course and endorsed Donald Trump for reelection in 2020. While the organization has never really been a staple of the Republican party, it has gained a stronger footing in recent years. This can be attributed to several factors, including an increasing number of US Americans supporting LGBT rights, and the public bluster of President Trump, whom Angelo described as “perhaps the most pro-LGBT presidential nominee in the history of the Republican Party.” This supposed pro-LGBT stance can be attributed to Trump’s 2016 Republican National Convention acceptance speech, where he stated that he would do “everything in my power to protect our L.G.B.T.Q. citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.” As such, the Log Cabin Republicans felt like Trump kept his promise and here we are, at their surprising (but not so surprising) support for President Trump.

Ironically, in the same month that Log Cabin Republicans endorsed Trump, CBS News reported that his administration moved to eliminate “nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people by adding religious exemptions to an Obama-era 2014 executive order which “prohibited discrimination in hiring on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity.” You read that correctly. The same organization that declined to support Trump previously and found the Republican platform to be the most anti-LGBT, now endorses Trump right as his administration works to remove LGBT protections. This, on top of the fact that Trump has nominated several anti-LGBT judges to courts across the US, initiated a ban on transgender soldiers in the military, and whose Vice President is one of the most extreme anti-LGBT Vice Presidents on record. So what gives? What made the Log Cabin Republicans reverse course? One way to make sense of this is to use the concept of “interest convergence.” According to the late great Law Professor Dr. Derrick Bell, when white people, in general, only support racial justice because there is something in it for them, this becomes interest convergence. For example, in the 1954 case of Brown v. Board of Education that found “separate but equal” unconstitutional, Bell argued that United States had an interest in presenting itself to the world and the Soviet Union as pro-civil and human rights and that this was the real reason behind it finding the law unconstitutional and not because all of a sudden the US become enlightened and found black people as equal to whites. Now let’s take the same rational behind the concept and apply it to the Log Cabin Republicans and Donald Trump but instead of the interests being in racial justice, lets imagine that it is racism.

In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Robert Kabel and Jill Homan, the current chairman and woman of the Log Cabin Republicans, argued that while they don’t agree with everything the Trump administration is doing, they support Trump’s push to end HIV in 10 years and his protections of LGBT families. While on the surface these policies seem to protect all LGBT people, they are really aimed to attract white gay men.

For instance, while new advances in science and technology have decreased HIV infection rates in the US, these medicines are more likely to be in the hands of white gay men than men and woman of color, the group most likely to be infected by HIV. It also doesn’t help that in March of 2019 the Trump administration proposed huge cuts to Medicaid and Medicare, which provide health coverage to many poor people, and people of color. The result of which Jen Kates, from the Kaiser Family Foundation, predicts will work against the Ending the HIV Epidemic program. As she said for NBC news, “With infectious disease, pulling back resources historically has led to increase in infectious disease.” Surprise! Who would have thought that stripping health care from the most vulnerable people will result in higher infection rates? Being that more and more LGBT people are young, of color and from a lower income group, they will be most likely harmed by such cuts, resulting in less access to prevention medications. Still, by making the call to end HIV and making sure that white gay men have access to such resources while gay people of color don’t, the anti-LGBT Trump administration and the pro-LGBT Log Cabin Republicans found a converging point for their interests.

Similarly, their interests converged for the call to end the criminalization of homosexuality globally. NBC reported that a young, gay Iranian man was hung to death as a result of the country’s anti-homosexuality laws. The Trump Administration took the opportunity to claim that their random push to decriminalize homosexuality globally was because of this incident. In reality though, the Trump administration wants to end the Iran Nuclear Deal and wants other countries to join suit and to impose economic sanctions on the country. European nations have been hesitant to do so and so the administration is using human rights, in the form of a global push to decriminalize homosexuality, as a point of agreement with these countries on Iran. Thus, once again, interest convergence explains this scenario better than the Log Cabin’s claim that Trump has kept his promise to the LGBT community.

It makes little sense for the Trump administration to claim a moral superiority over countries that outright kill homosexuals when their policies are anything but friendly to LGBT folks. Research shows that when “transgender youths are allowed to use their chosen name in places such as work, school and at home, their risk of depression and suicide drops.” That is, being able to use the name that matches their gender identity literally saves their lives. Still, in November of 2018, the Trump administration pressured the international 4-H youth organization to remove a policy that asked the local programs to “treat all students consistent with their gender identity and allow them ‘equal access.’” This disparity between claiming to be for LGBT people and doing things that harm LGBT people can be concealed under the guise that Trump is fighting to protect queer lives by pushing for the decriminalization of homosexuality.

The Log Cabin Republicans interests converged with the Trump administrations once again over families. According to Robert Kabel and Jill Homan, Trump has supposedly done much to protect LGBT families. One just has to wonder though, which LGBT families are they talking about? The Muslim ban proposed by Trump tore apart families. The concentration camps that currently house immigrants are similarly harmful to families. And the Trump family separation policy that takes children from their parents at the border clear rips families apart. In case the Log Cabin Republicans forgot, many LGBT people are Muslim, Latino, and immigrants. It seems like these families were forgotten. Or, surprise! They weren’t even considered in their endorsement because they are not the sort of LGBT families Trump or the Log Cabin Republicans care about.

Using interest convergence, we can now see why the Log Cabin Republicans endorsed Trump. Even though many would see Trump’s words, policies, and actions, as harmful to LGBT people, in reality, they are particularly harmful to LGBT racial and gender minorities and not so much gay white men, whom make up the majority of the organization. In fact, it is in their shared whiteness that the Trump Administration and the Log Cabin Republicans have a joint interest. So, of course they would endorse Trump. His racist actions and policies hurt people the Log Cabin Republicans could care less about. At least, it’s not a surprise anymore.

Jesús Gregorio Smith is an assistant professor of Ethnic Studies at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. His research centers on the intersections of race, gender and sexuality and how they impact health.

Bridges Across Savage Inhumanities

“The camps set up for Japanese Americans, like the camps we are currently forcing asylum seekers into were awful, but they are not engines of genocide.”–Evan Gerstmann

I mourn the way some persons, in general, and some persons who are Jewish, in particular, claim ownership of words like “Concentration Camp” (as if many other peoples have not been systematically corralled and detained in unsanitary, malnourished, dehumanizing prisons/penal structures); and words like “Genocide” (as if the cruel erasure of the aborigines of Tasmania never happened; as if we merely had a nightmare about the reduction of 90% of many North American Indigenous peoples via warfare, biological warfare, policies of extermination, disease, policies of termination, etc. And these are just a few examples). Though the word “genocide” was coined in the wake of Nazi atrocities against Jews, Roma, and others, there have been many, many, more genocides (as well as many more concentration camps). Yes! The Jewish Holocaust of Nazi Germany is among the most inhumane atrocities out there, ever. But I mourn the tendency of some Jews to claim ownership of these words because doing so builds barriers instead of bridges among those who have also suffered very savage inhumanities. We need to learn the lessons of these atrocities instead of engaging in what Elizabeth Martinez has referred to as the “Oppression Olympics.”

Even the initial concentration camps of the Third Reich, as dehumanizing as they were, did not start out as death camps. Persons incarcerated could be and were killed/murdered by German officials; but the “Final Solution” came later. Scholars disagree over that actual start of the “Final Solution,” but it was with the implementation of the “Final Solution” around about 1941 that the atrocities of the Third Reich hit even more horrific heights. (See Holocaust Encyclopedia here)

We must remember that the atrocities of the Third Reich happened in stages. We have to be mindful of those stages. We must do all in our power to make sure that the detention camps at the southern border of the U.S. today do not descend into bureaucratized death camps!

There are many crimes of Western imperialism dating back to the late 1400s. If we look carefully and critically at Spain’s Encomienda system imposed upon the Indigenous Peoples in “Hispaniola” in the late 1490s and at the Praying Towns forced upon Indigenous Americans during the early Massachusetts colonies of the mid-1600s, we will probably find concentration-like camps that descended into death camps. Many millions of indigenous people died or were killed as a result of violent European invasions of the Americas.

However, of this I am sure: There were horrific concentration camps that descended into death camps before the cruelties of the Third Reich. For example, there are the horrors of the British Raj and the death camps of Lord Lytton in the mid-to-late 1800s. (see source here).

The British would go on to use concentration camps at the turn of the 20th century for the Boers and Native South Africans. Then the British seemed to say, “tag you’re it” to the Germans. In the early 1900s the Herero and Nama death camps (especially Shark Island) happened in the country today known as Namibia; the Herero and Namaqua concentration/death camps occurred 30 years before the Third Reich. These death camps were, actually, a German colonial invention. But these British and German penal structures still post-date the U.S. reservation system imposed upon Native Americans (which included concentration camps and prisoner of war camps). And although the internment camps that imprisoned Japanese Americans did not descend into death camps, they were definitely concentration camps.

In short the concentration camps of the Third Reich were extraordinarily anti-human and atrocious in their scale and impact. But so were some of the concentration camps that preceded the Third Reich.

I agree with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s application of “concentration camps” to the anti-human detention camps currently being used to imprison US immigrants and refugees, almost all people of color. And I pray and protest that the migrant concentration camps do not evolve into death camps or camps linked to the earlier genocidal practices.

Dr. Lory Janelle Dance
Associate Professor of Sociology and Ethnic Studies
Associate Director of the Institute for Ethnic Studies
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Visiting Senior Researcher
Human Rights Studies Program
Lund University, Sweden

Latino Peoples’ Resistance to Language Silencing

Research Joe Feagin and I conducted revealed that when silencing attempts are directed at Latino peoples they frequently do not accept them meekly but are likely to respond against the perpetrators’ command in strong terms. Here is an example: A Cuban-American executive and his wife, though fluent in English, spoke in Spanish to their son so that he would learn the language. They were at Disneyworld and after he spoke in Spanish to their son an unsavory silencing episode occurred that could have turned into a tragedy. He described it as follows:

I had a really bad experience at Disneyworld . . . . My son at the time was three . . . . He jumped the line and went straight to where there was Pluto or Mickey Mouse or something and I said “[Son’s name], come back,” in Spanish and . . . ran after him. And I heard behind me somebody say, “It would be a fucking spic that would cut the line.” Now my wife saw who said it, and I said ”Who said that?” in English and nobody said a word. And I said [to my wife], “Point him out, I want to know who said that,” and she refused. I was like, “Who was the motherfucker who said that?” I said, “Be brave enough to say it to my face because I’m going to kill you.” You can see me, I’m 6’3’’, 275 [pounds]. Nobody volunteered . . . . [Interviewer:] So nobody stepped up? No, no and there was a bunch of guys there, and I would have thrown down two or three of them; I wouldn’t have had a problem (pp. 49-50).

The executive was willing to confront the perpetrator physically. Fortunately, the situation did not reach that point, but he stated in unequivocal terms his opposition to the treatment received by his child from a white bigot.

A recent silencing episode resulted in a surprising and delightful case of resistance. The victim of the silencing attempt relates the episode as follows:

This man just asked me to “please stop speaking Spanish” on this plane to NYC (in his defense it’s very early and he’s racist) so the man next to him STARTED SPEAKING SPANISH and then the flight attendant [started speaking Spanish as well].

The silencer did not anticipate that there we other Spanish speakers nearby. One can only imagine his reaction when confronted with a joint resistance response. As the number of Spanish speakers in the US is augmented with the immigration from Latin America, and since there are no indications that tolerance of Spanish will increase among whites and others, one can expect episodes of the silencing-resistance dialectic to become more frequent.

Since it would be absurd to expect a people to become crypto-speakers of their own language, it seems as if an increase in tolerance for Spanish among those who blindly oppose it is the only solution to defuse a potentially dangerous situation. We can start by electing politicians who hold a pro-Latino platform and display an interest in speaking Spanish in public and thus will promote its legitimacy.

Silencing Spanish Speakers

CNN reports an act of silencing Spanish that took place at a Burger King restaurant in Eustis, Florida on July 6.

Two white customers became upset because a manager had a brief conversation in Spanish with one of his employees. After the employee left, the customers told the manager they wanted to complain. Thinking they were dissatisfied with their meal, he offered to give them credit or a free desert. One of the customers explained that their complaint was about the manager’s speaking Spanish. They said that he shouldn’t be speaking Spanish but “American English” instead because “we’re in America.” The manager said, “No ma’am, I don’t,” and one the protagonists told the manager to go back to Mexico. The manager responded “”Guess what ma’am, I’m not Mexican [he is of Puerto Rican descent] but you’re being very prejudiced and I want you out of my restaurant, right now.” The customers responded that what they meant was that the manager should speak Spanish at home, not in public places like the restaurant and added they would leave after they finished their meals but left soon thereafter left after the manager threatened to call the police.

This was an episode in silencing. Joe Feagin and I discussed silencing in our book, where we point out that silencing is related to beliefs in the White Racial Frame that define vernacular Spanish as not having legitimacy in the United States and others have the authority to interfere in conversations in Spanish and demand that the speakers stop and switch to English.

As we said in the book and have repeated elsewhere, silencing is on the surface absurd since it demands that people abandon their language, the one they feel comfortable speaking, and switch to English, a foreign language. It is in fact an extreme act of denigration against Latinos, a rooted people in the US, and their language, which is equally rooted. On the surface it is white elite racism in its purest form: claiming white supremacy over vernacular Spanish on utterly racist, xenophobic, and irrational grounds.

Spanish as Old Respected Language: Why Not Now?

The Spanish language has followed two paths in the history of the United States: early on as a respected language and more recently as the derided vernacular of a racialized people. The majority of the sociological literature has focused on the racialization of Spanish and skipped over the “acceptable” roots of the language in this country. But both coexist today and the former’s status cannot be properly understood without consideration of the status of the latter.

The respectability of Spanish can be traced to early colonial days. Both Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson stated that the study of Spanish would be beneficial to young men interested in commerce and Jefferson included Spanish in the curriculum that he designed for the College of William and Mary. By the nineteenth century Spanish-language instruction was adopted by many institutions of higher education, including Harvard University and other Ivy League schools and Spanish-language newspapers were published in New Mexico, Louisiana, and other areas of the United States.

Spanish remains “respectable” in academic and artistic areas, but since the end of the war between the US and Mexico in the 1840s there has been a significant white racialization of Spanish as the language of conquered Latino peoples. Even as millions of former Mexican citizens, most of whom spoke Spanish as their native tongue, were incorporated into the United States, the dominant White Racial Frame declared vernacular Spanish as foreign and not belonging in the United States.

Such assertions are simplistic and inaccurate. They represent justifications of the subjugation of Latino peoples and lack a factual basis. Historian Rosina Lozano explains the complex history of Spanish in the US and its legitimacy (pp. 4-5):

After the passage of centuries, Spanish became the native language of Spanish settlements in Louisiana, parts of the future U.S. Midwest, and the future Southwest, and the lingua franca for many American Indians who lived among these Spanish-speaking settlements. Over the course of the twentieth century, migration to the United States from Latin American countries has replenished Spanish’s place in the country and bolstered perceptions of Spanish as an immigrant language, distracting most from its earlier manifestations. This long exposure to the Spanish language makes it part of the nation’s fabric.

Although I have not conducted a systematic study, it seems to me that recently the racialization of Spanish has been fused with the xenophobia that has made “Latino” and vernacular Spanish coterminous with “illegal” and the rejection of immigrants entails the rejection of their everyday language.

Research that Joe Feagin and I have conducted shows that Spanish speakers “caught” conversing in their own language are admonished to “speak English, this is America.” In other words, Spanish does not belong in the United States as a vernacular and neither do you as a Latino. This situation approaches lunacy. The deep rootedness of vernacular Spanish in North and South America is undeniable and its rejection as a legitimate everyday language in the US defies its importance in areas such as politics, business, and the media in North and South America. These are positions incongruent with the facts but consonant with a White Racial Frame that provides an ideology that supports the exploitation of a vulnerable proletariat.

I would venture a guess that, in the eyes of the white elite, the Spanish language as an academic and literate language that does not challenge their interests, will remain respectable while vernacular Spanish, the language of the oppressed, will continue to be a handy tool to deride Latinos/”illegals” for a long time. That is, the treatment of Spanish in the US by whites is about a log more than language. Try white racism.