Don’t Have People in Blackface at Your Birthday Party
Welcome to another edition of This Week in Racism. I’ll be ranking news stories on a scale of 1 to RACIST, with “1” being the least racist and “RACIST” being the most racist.
Neo-Nazis Are Attacking Anti-Racist Activists in Calgary
We’re being attacked, Bonnie Devine thought as a brick shattered her living room window, only inches above the couch where she slept.
It was just past 5 AM on September 29, and luckily the brick-throwing vandals didn’t break through the second of two window panes, which would have sent deadly glass shards cascading upon her.
The mother of four calmly checked on her four boys before inspecting the damage. A brick lay broken in half on the lawn outside. Three of her car tires were slashed. The next day, the fourth tire blew out while she was driving with her boys.
The attack follows six years of white supremacist violence against her family, which they link to 26-year old ringleader Kyle McKee.
“This time it’s a brick,” she pondered. “But who knows what it’ll be next time.”
Amidst a rising tide of hate activity in Canada, the couple have been targeted again and again for their activism with Anti-Racist Action Calgary.
Over six years, they’ve faced death threats, fire-bombing, home invasions, and horrendous beatings—the worst of which saw a group of thugs break into their home in 2010, jumping on Bonnie’s husband Jason—along with a friend of his—and battering them so severely with hammers and bats there was blood smeared on the walls.
“They tried to kill me by beating my head in and beating my body,” he recalled.
Here’s What’s Happening on the Internet’s Most Racist Forums
These days, you can call someone a cum bubble that was sharted out of a dead hooker’s crusty asshole and chances are you’ll walk away with a high five. But call someone the N-word, and you’ll be dropped faster than Paula Deen’s hottest potato. Racism really is the last taboo—and that’s a good thing. In fact, earlier this month, Slate examined the waxing and waning power of profanities over time and concluded that cuss words related to religion (“damn,” “hell”) and body functions (“dick,” “shit”) are losing their shock value, while racial slurs are becoming more and more provocative. In other words, as we become more secular, immune to gore, and open to freaky porn, we’re also becoming less OK with bigotry. Again, this is a very good thing.
I Joined a Bunch of Gay Conversion Groups
The last few months have not been kind to the gay conversion industry. The loudest mouthpiece for the trade, Exodus International, disbanded after the ex-gay ex-president of the organization, Alan Chambers, issued a letter of apology for the “shame,” “false hope,” and “trauma” Exodus caused, which admitted that “reparative therapy” didn’t work. On top of that, the State of California banned the practice for minors and the federal government started recognizing same-sex marriages with the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.
To get a better look at the state of the industry before it takes its final bow, I decided to join several gay conversion groups. I am a straight male, however, for the sake of this piece, I presented myself as a malleable young man with a history of homosexual behavior, looking to acquire a taste for female genitalia.
Conversion groups differ in their methods and supposed “causes for homosexuality,” but the one thing they can all agree on is that two dudes doin’ it is totally gross.
SETTING CAPTIVES FREE
The first group I joined was an online one called Setting Captives Free.
It was about 2 AM when I created my account. I was tired, buzzed, and ready to be ungayed.
Setting Captives Free is a 60-day Christian course of reading scripture and answering both personal and religious questions. To help you along the process, members are assigned an email mentor, whose job it is to send daily inspiring emails of salvations and are there 24/7 to answer any questions or concerns.
Day one started with a nice introduction by founder Mike Cleveland and author Shon Bruellman. They informed me, despite what I have been told, I don’t have a “homosexual gene.” In fact, I can be set free “by the way of Jesus Christ and the cross.” I was encouraged to discuss my sexual history with my mentor, but to eschew the graphic because “Satan has received enough glory and attention in our lives.”
Why Is Anti-Muslim Violence Only Now Being Classed as Terrorism?
Last Friday, a nail bomb exploded outside a mosque in the West Midlands town of Tipton. The blast came about an hour after the funeral of army drummer Lee Rigby—the latest in a broad series of attacks on Britain’s Muslim community since the soldier’s murder in May outside his barracks in Woolwich, London.
Britain’s Islamophobes haven’t just been leaving nail bombs around ex-industrial towns in the Black Country. Since Rigby’s murder in late May, aggression toward the Muslim community has included: an Islamophobic social media free-for-all, attempts to pull off hijabs in the street, phoned-in death threats, and various attacks on mosques, ranging from racist graffiti to arson and petrol bombings.
But do I blame Rigby’s two alleged murderers—both Muslim—for this swollen wave of anti-Muslim sentiment? No. The bigotry existed well before the murder, it’s just that the climate is now far more conducive for those who spout it to leer their way out of the woodwork, confusing Sikh temples with mosques and repeatedly spelling Qur’an wrong on Twitter. It was against British law to be Muslim until 1812, but the community has never been viewed as anything but “the other” in this country.
Protesting Against Gay Pride Was Super Boring
This past weekend was the Los Angeles Gay Pride Parade, and as always with large-scale gay events, a group of antigay Christians turned up to yell at everybody. I spent the day with them.
The day got off to a pretty miserable start, with the guy with the mic screaming, “You’re a wicked, evil, twisted abomination! You deserve AIDS!” at this old man.
Then this lone counterprotester showed up.
His sign read “St. Paul was a closet case” and he was shouting a bunch of stuff at them about pork: “Why don’t you get a fucking life you pork-eating fucking pigs, I hope the Muslims blow you motherfuckers up and you burn in hell you fucking pigs.”
The curse words seemed to genuinely upset the anti-gays. One of them started shouting, “There’s laws against cussing in public! It’s illegal for you to say the F word to me!”
Then the police came over and broke it up, making the counterprotester go and protest from the end of the block.
Then the second group of counterprotesters arrived. These guys had giant rainbow flags that they held up in front of the antigay protest to block them from the view of anyone marching in the parade.
Even though they’d only been there for about 30 minutes, the majority of the protesters seemed pretty bored by that point. I got to chatting with this lady.
She told me that her name was Angela, and that she liked my shirt. I almost reciprocated the compliment out of politeness, but then I realized that her shirt said “REPENT FOR JESUS” and stopped myself.
America Needs a New Outrage Machine
Yesterday Michele Bachmann—the Republican congresswoman from Minnesota who has been called “controversial,” among other adjectives—announced that she wouldn’t seek a fifth term in the House of Representatives. She was potentially facing an ethics investigation into her campaign spending in the last election cycle, and she only won by a couple percentage points last time, so it’s not surprising she ducked out when she did—she’s basically quitting before she can get fired.
Bachmann being Bachmann, she didn’t frame it that way. In an eight-minute video on her website, the only concrete reason she gave for leaving her post was, “Eight years is also long enough for an individual to serve as a representative for a specific congressional district.” She went on:
I fully anticipate the mainstream liberal media to put a detrimental spin on my decision not to seek a fifth term. Since I was first elected to Congress many years ago, they always seem to attempt to find a dishonest way to disparage me. But I take being the focus of their attention and disparagement as a true compliment of my public service effectiveness.
About that “public service effectiveness”—in her role as a legislator, she did essentially nothing. Of the 58 bills she sponsored in her six years (and counting) in the House, exactly one passed and got sent to the Senate, and that was one of the many bills with the goal of repealing Obamacare that have no chance of becoming law.
Bachmann’s role in the political ecosystem has nothing to do with laws though, and hardly anything to do with policy. Her job is to be crazy, and she’s amazingly good at it.
'Triple Hate' is a four-part documentary about Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Memphis City Council, the Klan, the Crips, Ulysses S. Grant, racism, and the specter of history. It will be airing every day this week, only on VICE.com.
Watch Part 1
Here Comes the White Safety Patrol
Matthew Heimbach insists he’s not a racist. This comes as a surprise to his fellow students at Towson University, in the suburbs of Baltimore, where Matthew has formed a group called the White Student Union that advocates for “persons of European heritage”—what most of us call “white people.” It also comes as a surprise to the African American students who feel targeted by the night patrols the senior history major began conducting in March. The patrols target supposed “black predators,” Matthew wrote on the WSU’s website, citing (among others) a case in which an African American man pulled out a knife and his penis, and wagged both at a co-ed couple who were copulating in a parking garage. “White Southern men,” he wrote, “have long been called to defend their communities when law enforcement and the State seem unwilling to protect our people.”
Also surprised by Matthew’s claim that he’s not a racist is Duane Davis. “You are a fat, racist little bitch,” the scrappy, dreadlocked man told Matthew one sunny Tuesday this April. There was a rally going on, organized by the Student Government Association and the Black Student Union. In a field behind Duane and Matthew, about 100 students protested the White Student Union by reading unity-themed slam poetry from a microphone. When Matthew showed up on the edge of the crowd, a dozen protesters had come to confront him. Down the façade of a parking garage, a banner unfurled reading, wsu gtfo (translation: White Student Union Get the Fuck Out).
“There’s no need to insult me,” Matthew told Duane, who looked one wrong reply away from punching the 21-year-old.
“I’ve killed people,” Duane said. “In self-defense… But I’ve killed people.”
Matthew has the look of someone who’s been bullied his whole life: he puffs out his chest to hide an abundant belly, wears unfashionable drugstore spectacles, and on this day sported what vaguely resembled a Morrissey T-shirt.
“Who is that on your shirt?” Duane said, jabbing Matthew in the chest. The onlookers leaned in to hear the answer.
“Ian Smith,” Matthew said, before rattling off the biography of the former prime minister of Rhodesia, a white supremacist who resisted efforts to end white rule there in the 60s. “He’s one of my heroes.”
A svelte woman in a dashiki interrupted. “If you were dying and needed a heart transplant,” she asked, “would you accept one from a black person?”