The push to make racial division a top priority in public life goes by many names: anti-racism, neo-racism, the elect, critical race theory, identity politics, wokeness. It has been hard to pin down precise language to describe what’s going on in governments, big businesses, media companies, school boards, and universities. I’d like to suggest a new term: remixed racism.
Remixed racism borrows from the racism of the past and reintroduces it to modern audiences with a new, faux progressive style. Like a top forty single that samples a golden oldie, remixed racism changes the tempo, speeds up the chorus, and maybe even has a rapper spit a hot sixteen bars. But in the end, it has the same foundation.
Canada’s federal government has brought remixed racism to Global Affairs Canada under the guise of anti-racism training. Canadian officials in Ottawa are being taught that perfectionism, a sense of urgency, individualism, worship of the written word, and objectivity are characteristics of white supremacy culture. In other words, the Government of Canada is using taxpayer dollars to teach that race and culture are one in the same, and certain ideas associated with hard work, science, and democracy are incompatible with non-white cultures.
Does this racism sound familiar? It should. Social Darwinism was based on similar notions that some races were of a lower “intellectual standard” because of cultural differences. Government of Canada anti-racism training also reflects the paternalism found in colonial writings, such as British politician Thomas Macaulay’s 1835 memo titled Minute on Indian Education. This memo argued Indians were in need of white saviours because they were culturally incompatible with science, due to their “monstrous superstitions” and “false history, false astronomy, false medicine.”
What exactly does Global Affairs Canada think is going to happen when their diplomats and officials carry this paternalistic attitude with them overseas? Picture Canadian representatives telling the nations of Africa and Asia that the foundational idea of civil rights, individualism, is white supremacy. Or imagine Canada’s trading partners being informed that they might be white supremacists if they demonstrate a sense of urgency or fondness for objective reasoning. And what might the world’s Christians, Muslims, and Jews who believe in holy scriptures think of the Government of Canada labelling worship of the written word as “white.”
Canada’s struggle with remixed racism doesn’t stop in Ottawa. The City of Hamilton has brought us back to the “anti-miscegenation” era of pre-1967 USA with its decision to distribute COVID-19 vaccines in a manner that would divide families and households by race. On April 24, the city offered vaccine appointments to residents in five postal code areas, but specified that only “Black and other racialized populations/people of colour ages 18+” could receive the vaccine (i.e. no white people). These municipal officials showed absolutely no concern for what their approach would mean for multi-racial families that include white people living in the same home with people of colour. The City of Hamilton’s disregard for such families is a remix of Jim Crow-era hostility toward multi-racial families.
The New Yorker is also in on the remixing. Quoting a sociologist from the University of Oklahoma, the magazine’s recent attack on Christianity went so far as to argue that “the greatest ethnic dog whistle the right has ever come up with is ‘Christian,’ because it means ‘people like us,’ it means white.” Subordinating Christianity to racial politics is a familiar theme from the 1800s and prior. Conflating the Christian identity with white identity is something you’d expect from colonial forces and slave owners. It even harkens back to 20th century racism, recalling the scene in The Godfather where mafia bosses argue Black Americans don’t have souls. But when you remix it for today’s woke audiences, one of the world’s largest magazines has no problem peddling prejudice.
Remixed racism is still racism. Resisting this political agenda starts with calling it out for what it is.