In a time of political correctness, partisanship and grievance politics, there’s nothing wrong with challenging the trendy thoughts of the day, which tend to be shallow and short-lived. Kneejerk reactions, common with many issues that raise the ire of those in our social-media era, should always be questioned.
Little of that applies to the current protests about systemic injustices, from racism to authoritarianism as represented by police and law-and-order opportunists such as right-leaning politicians. There are more than a few underlying problems in our societies, most notably the issues raised by Black Live Matters (BLM) and Indigenous rights groups.
That’s what makes Wilmot Township Mayor Les Armstrong’s recent Facebook posting all the more “reprehensible,” in the words of regional Chair Karen Redman.
Armstrong shared a video by a group called Conservative Nation. Under the banner of “White Lives Matter,” the clip calls the BLM movement a lie. Armstrong has remained unapologetic, defending his re-post as a way to generate a discussion of the issues. He maintains that posting the video doesn’t mean he agrees with it, or that it’s even factual.
Invoking the Donald Trump defense – the ersatz president routinely re-tweets the controversial posts of others, often racist, divisive and unfounded (i.e. lies) – seems like an unwise course of action for Armstrong.
Canada as whole, and Waterloo Region in particular, has far fewer issues with racism than exist in the United States, but systemic issues do exist here – they’re have been numerous examples, and most police leaders will acknowledge the underlying faults. Armstrong and others may feel there’s been something of a kneejerk response to the goings-on in the U.S., but invoking the divisive tactics of white supremacists isn’t the way to encourage dialogue here.
In refusing to even acknowledge his posting was insensitive and ill-considered, Armstrong is deaf to the tone of public opinion.
That’s not to say the easily-swayed public is always right, but arguments in favour of greater equality are hardly a fad. Where race is concerned, the battle for equality has been going on for decades, even if you simply go back to the civil rights movements of the 1960s in the U.S. That country’s legacy of slavery goes back centuries, of course, and there are numerous atrocities that occurred long after Lincoln and the emancipation of slaves.
Armstrong should have been mindful of that reality, holding his metaphorical tongue if he had nothing constructive to add to the discussion.
In that vein, his claim that the Facebook post was simply a way to start a conversation rings hollow in that he simply passed along a video without providing any context – or pretext – that would indicate he favours a discourse. Moreover, his tenure as a politician hasn’t exactly been filled with efforts to lead discussions or generate policy, weakening his claims further still.
Even if he chafed at the often-platitudinous stance of his fellow politicians – there are many who’ve never met a bandwagon they’re opposed to jumping aboard – his best course of action would have been to say nothing.
Other local municipal councillors, including some of his colleagues on regional council, have been quick to show support for Black Lives Matter and anti-racism initiatives in general, a fact Armstrong should have noted before doing something guaranteed to draw the ire of both politicians and the public.
Woolwich council’s discussion last week of racial-sensitivity education for local officials and bureaucrats may have seemed like a bit of overkill – systemic racism does exist in the region, as the police acknowledge, and some may hold racist views, but there have been few overt actions at the governance level – but perhaps hit the mark where the Wilmot mayor is concerned.