“Race” for the Primitive

Imagine that you’ve met the love of your life; you’ve begun cohabitation or even married and settled into your lover’s home within the local community. One day there is the equivalent of a knock at the door of your love nest and an unexpected letter arrives. It is addressed only to you, not your partner. As you read the letter you come to understand it is an eviction notice, concluding with the statement, “We trust that you understand the seriousness of this letter and will govern yourself accordingly.”

You have been given ten days to pack up and leave or your name will be publicly posted on a list for the rest of the community to view, including those who anonymously tipped the authorities of your presence in the first place.

What kind of hell is this? It sounds like some horror from more primitive times, but it happened within the last two weeks to 26 non-Indians living with their Mohawk partners on the Kahnawake Indian reservation southwest of Montreal, a modern metropolis among the four largest in Canada.

This past week, South Africa celebrated the twentieth anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, and along with that it continues to celebrate the end of apartheid, which Mandela is credited for helping to bring about. Racial segregation, which few thinking individuals would miss, is still a chosen institution in Canada.

The reservation system is an official manifestation of racism. Racism does not only apply when in a negative context. Just because the “elders” of a tribe have worked out some deal with their modern counterparts in the Canadian federal government does not make the deal, or the choices and actions leading up to the reservation system, non-racist. Using politically-correct terminology does not elude the fact that it is racism by another name, just as “affirmative action” and “reverse discrimination” are often used in a racial context in an attempt to redefine the related actions.

A logical reality-based conceptual definition of “racism” would have to centre on using “race,” which would include any race by the way, as the criteria for determining individual choices and actions. For example, if you, as the aforementioned lover left holding the eviction notice, chose your Mohawk partner because he, or she, was Mohawk, and not because you shared other more significant values and interests such as the same attitude toward politics, family or career, or just because you enjoyed each other’s company and could not imagine life without the other,  you would have been making your choice of partner based on race, and that is a racist decision—a benign application to be sure, and probably a very impractical one.

Many dictionaries, especially modern ones appearing on the internet, offer the rather fuzzy definition that “racism” is usually taken in a negative context. Such irrationality in the compilation of dictionaries certainly represents a cultural failure, if not a scholastic one. The negative context to which they refer also typically implies that guilt-ridden Western cultures are the only perpetrators of racism. Here is something to think about. Is there anything more universally racist than ascribing all negative racist decisions or policies to Caucasians and portraying, as is often the case, only so-called visible minorities as the victims of racist choices and actions?

Racism is not a prerogative of any particular race, but it is one of individual choice. No racist government policy will ever come about without a sufficient number of racist individuals’ advocacy. This is why racism will never be eradicated completely. There are degrees of rationality among individuals and some individuals will never come to understand that the unique, essential characteristic distinguishing all members of the human species from other biological species is the possession of a rational consciousness. It is certainly not the color of skin or the tribe accidentally born into.

While most of us would prefer that racism could be eradicated, it can only happen in a completely rational society founded on the principles of individualism rather than collectivism. The institutionalization of tribalism, one of the more primitive forms of collectivism, will certainly retard cultural evolution. A sophisticated culture must evolve over time—as knowledge of the nature of man must evolve—and is probably centuries away from any on earth today; all cultures in this context at least are still quite primitive.

Eradicating racism will not be accomplished by legislative decrees foisted on individuals by collectivists in political power. The imposition of rules or laws on “what to think” cannot be imposed from “above” as is apparently contemplated by anti-discrimination laws. Such decrees are as primitive in their conception and stated aims as the unfortunate nonsense represented by the racist actions of the tribal council of the Kahnawake Indian reservation.

I conclude with a few quotations taken from reportage by the National Post. I think they reveal ignorance across a broad spectrum about racism, rights, and morality, as well as varying degrees of rationality possessed by those to whom the comments are attributed.

“We sound like a bunch of Nazis here, but really, they shouldn’t be here based on any law, Canadian or Kahnawake.” –Joe Delaronde, political press attaché, Kahnawake Band Council.

Let’s see, one law for Kahnawake, another law for Canada, or one law for one national group, and another to ensure racial purity (or superiority) of an ethnic group. The comparison with the National Socialists of Germany’s Third Reich is only differing in details.

“There are other First Nations where, in my opinion, maybe it’s too late. They have been overrun by outside marriage, and a lot of the community members as well as the leadership don’t possess the type of lineage that Kahnawake demands.”—Grand Chief Mike Delisle.

“Type of lineage” has more in common with the breeding of livestock than it does with human progress. Also, at the risk of being petty, just how “Mohawk”-pure can a man named “Mike Delisle” claim to be? Sounds as though there may be some assimilation in his own “lineage”.

“We don’t want to stay 300 years in the past, but we don’t want to be assimilated into the mainstream world either. It’s not our way and it’s not how we think.”—Jeremiah Johnson, 31-year old small business owner in Kahnawake.

Mr. Johnson’s presumption in speaking for the whole tribe—with the possible exception of the 26 who may lose their love mates—is remarkable for its expressed wish to have cake and also eat it, as well as its ignorance of the nature of man. There is no collective consciousness, Jeremiah, so this is just your uninformed opinion.

“It is important for people to realize that whether I like the decisions or not, these are decisions made by First Nations people on their own land. It is not for me to make those decisions, or the Government, and we are not going to be making those decisions.”—Chuck Strahl, Federal Indian Affairs Minister.

Well, no leadership is evident from this leadership figure. The actions taken by the tribal chiefs, and which are supported by many members of this Mohawk reservation, may be legal under the Indian Act of Canada but that does not make them moral. The actions may be well within the area of rights, however.

“I don’t believe groups have a right to survive. I think individuals have a right to belong to groups.”—Julius Grey, a Montreal lawyer specializing in Charter of Rights cases, commenting on the potential for a challenge under the Charter.

He is partially correct. Freedom of association is an exchange having two distinct components. Individuals do have a right to belong to groups. However, groups, which are organized by individuals possessing those same rights, do not have rights at all. The weight of the group, in the jurisdiction of rights, is totally dependent on the rights arising from the individuals comprising the group. They associate with each other to form the group sharing common purposes. As such, they must consent to the membership of any individual. Thus, the racist and reprehensible actions of the Chiefs at the Kahnawake Indian reservation are within the definition of rights. They should not however be officially supported in their tribal policies and membership criteria by the unwilling individuals in the rest of Canadian society, i.e. by force of law giving special privileges, based essentially on race.

©Copyright 2010 Edward Podritske

2 thoughts on ““Race” for the Primitive

  1. I have permitted posting in full of the comment by “Mohawk Artist”. Unfortunately, this individual has either not read all of, or understood my article. Demanding that I do not call the collective group with which “Mohawk Artist” is affiliated “racist”, “Mohawk Artist” then goes on to make several collectivist and race-motivated references and finishes with labelling me as “racist”. I invite any thinking individual to read the comment by “Mohawk Artist” if they have the patience. It should be clear that any analytical response would lead to frustration.

  2. I really find it appalling at the lack of education that most Canadians have. The ignorance and the mighty attitude. Mohawks were not conquered. We are allies. We fought against our own Iroquois people to help make Canada. Then your government created the Indian Act. It is the Indian Act that prevents non-natives to reside on our territory to begin with. We allowed all non-natives that were married prior to 1985 to stay. After that we had to make restrictions to prevent the influx of non-natives within our tiny community. The people being asked to leave never went to the Council to ask to be residents. These people didn’t go to the traditional longhouse and ask to be adopted. They didn’t apply. It is not about race. So you can stop calling us racist. They are NON-MEMBERS, period. I see Canada and USA have immigration, why aren’t you calling them racist. Don’t they have regulations on who is allowed to stay and requirements they must complete in order to become citizens. Same here. Only you want to see it through your Foggy Racist Glasses. We are a minority. We are allowed to survive whether you like it or not. Your race, your government, your attitude, your opinion doesn’t get to tell us we are wrong for wanting to continue with our own culture, our own beliefs, our own language, our own elders, and yes our own Territory. Haven’t you taken enough. When will your greed for property end, when we are all gone?

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