Ideas

The Enright Files on Race and Racism

Decades after the civil rights era, the post-colonial movement, and the beginning of the multiculturalism project, racism that had lain in the shadows of Western democracies is out in the open and thriving. On this month's edition of The Enright Files, conversations about the history and persistence of racism and an ideology of whiteness that lies behind it.
Anti-racism demonstrators hold placards and chant during a march against racism on earlier this year in London, UK. (Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

On this month's edition of The Enright Files, conversations about the history and persistence of racism and an ideology of whiteness that lies behind it. 

In 1903, the great African-American sociologist and civil rights activist, W. E. B. Du Bois wrote, "The problem of the 20th Century is the problem of the colour-line."

If he were alive today, he might have written that racism is still one of the great problems of our times, well into the 21st Century, decades after the civil rights era, post-colonialism and multiculturalism. It wasn't supposed to be that way. And at times in this century, it looked like things might be different.

The United States elected a black man as president, seeming to bring that nation closer to realizing Martin Luther King, Jr's dream, in which people would be freed from being defined by their race. Eight years later, London, England elected Sadiq Khan, a Muslim of Pakistani descent, as mayor. France embraced its World Cup soccer champions, largely made up of first and second generation immigrants from France's former colonies in Africa. And Canada celebrated its racial and cultural diversity as its strength. 

But there are many signs that racism is thriving. The Brexit vote and murder of British MP Jo Cox. The waves of anti-immigrant and outright racist political movements throughout Europe. A massacre at an African-American church by an avowed racist. And a new American president, Donald Trump, who seems intent on inflaming racial divisions and reluctant to condemn an emboldened — and sometimes violent — white supremacist movement. And a mass killing at a Quebec City mosque perpetrated by an admirer of that president — not to mention increasing suspicion of immigrants and continued tensions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.

A racism that had lain mostly hidden in the darkest corners of Western democracies has seeped into the political mainstream. 


Guests in this episode:



**The Enright Files is produced by Chris Wodskou.

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