Thursday, January 7, 2021

Confederate flag in US Capitol, and other "not racist" myths we tell ourselves.

This is my opinion, and it is a controversial one. Skip this article if you will feel triggered by a conversation involving the confederate flag, and because of that be unable to read the entire thought before jumping to conclusions.

As I watched what was happening in the US Capitol yesterday, I noticed some familiar themes.

One of them related to a series of photographs of the flag of the Confederate States of America being flown outside and within the halls of the US Capitol.  It disgusted people because it is seen as a symbol of white supremacy. The USA fought a civil war and won against the separatists that fly that flag, which to most people that means that they aren't the white supremacists. Never during the civil war did that flag fly in the capitol, and yet it flew yesterday because of a riot incited by opportunistic politicians.


Canadians regularly tell a similar story, of how they (well, their British loyalist ancestors) fought a series of wars against the separatists (American Revolutionary War, War of 1812, etc). They feel it is those separatists who are white supremacist racists, and those of us not on that side of the negotiated treaty border are therefore not racists or white supremacists.

Last Monday I wrote an article discussing how I consider Canada to be a subsidiary of the British government that is an ongoing example of systemic white supremacy.  The United States and Canada are similar in this respect.  Even if the USA wasn't created by the UK parliament (British North America Act, 1867 , Canada Act 1982), it was still British settlers that created that non-domestic government.

While the history of Mexico is quite different, I would summarize the history of Europeans on the rest of Turtle Island fairly simply:

  • When they first started to visit Turtle Island, Europeans had legitimate trade with Turtle Island nations.
  • Europeans consider themselves separate from nature and superior to everyone else, so decided they didn't need to pay for land or resources they extracted from Turtle Island to bring to Europe.  They started colonies, also not paying for land or resources.
  • Europeans kidnapped people from Africa and elsewhere to bring to the colonies, not being willing to pay for labour.
  • Various Europeans fought each other, each allied with different Turtle Island nations at different times, to be the exclusive European trade ally and have colonies on this continent. With the end of the Seven Years' War (1756–1763), it was pretty much only the British that were left on the largest part of the mainland (There are still colonies elsewhere near the mainland, such as the French colony of Saint Pierre and Miquelon near the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador).
  • A subset of the colonists objected to paying taxes to pay for all those wars so that they could have free land and resources, so started a revolutionary war (1775–1783) to not even pay taxes. The United States were allowed to claim independence, and took control over a large portion of what the British considered British North America.  (It is worse than that: they also objected to recognizing any human rights being applied to Indigenous peoples, French and Catholics)
  • The Slavery Abolition Act 1833 was passed in the UK after many decades of debate.  The debate within the USA was also fierce, and a set of southern US states fought for independence from the USA between 1861 to 1865 so they would not be forced to finally pay for labor. The Confederate States of America lost that war, and were not allowed independence.

I disagree with those who believe that the Confederate States of America and its flag represents white supremacy, but the rest of USA or British North America (Canada) does not. The fact is, the entire concept of having Europeans come to Turtle Island and seek to impose their governance systems on the peoples of this homeland is pretty much the definition of white supremacy. Immigrants to USA or Canada aren't immigrating to any of the domestic governments, but foreign European derived governments.

There are many symbols of this white supremacy.  For many First Nations, the primary symbol of white supremacy is the Christian Cross. For others it is the British, US or Canadian flags.

I understand that people are upset that the flag of the Confederate States of America was flown in the US capitol yesterday.  What I find frustrating is that there is outcry if any of the other symbols of white supremacy are even questioned.  If we want to reduce the white supremacy on Turtle Island we need to recognize all the symbols of white supremacy, not only the symbols that "lost" and thus we can pretend the problem is in the distant past.

There is a different image of white supremacy that was circulated yesterday, and that was the difference in police presence between the unarmed peaceful Black Lives Matter protests and the armed angry mob yesterday.

People locked in western worldviews are indoctrinated to focus on individuals, and thus want to either blame Donald Trump and/or the specific people who entered the capitol buildings yesterday.

The reality is that it is the systems of the United States and Canada that is the problem, not individuals who happen to have been granted citizenship by these systems.  Unless we stop our tunnel vision on individuals and start paying attention to systems, there is no mechanism to deal with white supremacy on Turtle Island or anywhere else.

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