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Poland’s failure to condemn white supremacists means normalized hate rhetoric

Though+45+counter+protestors+were+arrested%2C+none+of+the+white+nationalists+were+taken+into+custody.
Though 45 counter protestors were arrested, none of the white nationalists were taken into custody.

Though 45 counter protestors were arrested, none of the white nationalists were taken into custody.

Though 45 counter protestors were arrested, none of the white nationalists were taken into custody.


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On November 11, Poland’s Independence Day, the general march and proceedings were interrupted by a group of 60,000 white nationalist protestors in Warsaw. These protestors marched down the streets with flags, banners and flares, chanting charming phrases like “Death to enemies of the homeland” and “pure Poland, White Poland.” While the president condemned these racist ideologies, the Polish Foreign Ministry still called it “a great celebration of Poles, differing in their views, but united around the common values of freedom and loyalty to an independent homeland.”

Yikes. White supremacists are bad enough, but a government that fails to adequately address it is almost as bad.

This is a situation which is eerily similar to the recent events in Charlottesville, as well as Trump’s response to the event, in which he said there were bad people on both sides and chose to talk about the threat of the “alt-left.” In both situations we have a presentation of hateful rhetoric by a group of white supremacists, a group of counter-protesters and a significant political response which fails to sufficiently condemn the former.

This failure is more than a small, unfortunate oversight. In trying to align hate rhetoric with free speech or a difference of views, we validate the perspectives which actively contribute to the harm and oppression of already marginalized groups. This is the effect of normalization, which takes something which is considered outside of the accepted social norm and integrates it into a regular part of society. Normalization can be a great thing, such as the normalization of queer people in media or of women in positions of power. But, as is the case here, normalization can also be harmful.

This is because, rather than calling this out and saying this is wrong, we allow it to continue by conflating it with opinions, which it is not. An opinion is preferring waffles to pancakes or thinking that winter is the best season. An opinion is personal, and does not infringe upon the lives and wellbeing of others. An opinion is not thinking one race is superior to others, or that LGBT+ people are satanic, or that women should be subservient to men; these are issues of morality, and these affect marginalized groups on a day-to-day basis.

Because of this, it is important to recognize the difference between rhetoric which insists upon equality and that which relies on the subservience of other groups. The former is seen in LGBT+ rights groups or racial equality groups like Black Lives Matter: they seek not to infringe upon others, but to assert their right to life and fairness.

This is a concept of morality, but for the advancement of a marginalized group. Compare this then to the fascist groups that call for Islamic genocide or argue for the eradication of Black people. Again, this is a moral issue, but it focuses on the continued oppression of certain groups.

We cannot allow people to think this is an acceptable way to think or act. These actions, these thoughts, must be condemned and called what they are: hateful rhetoric. No longer can we normalize oppression. We cannot tolerate intolerance.  

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Poland’s failure to condemn white supremacists means normalized hate rhetoric