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Letter: History has many skeletons in its closet

The Telegram’s decision to publish Mike Hinchey’s letter on Nov. 18th (“Human rights equity and racism”), in which he openly espoused white supremacist views by comparing the passive processes of multiculturalism and equity to the very real violence of ethnic cleansing, was just another tiring step in the continued parade of self-satisfied men looking to justify their discomfort and confusion in a changing world by way of racist rhetoric.

I suggest that Hinchey tread carefully when invoking the spectre of the past — he may not like what is dredged up in the process.

I feel as if Hinchey’s ad hominem attacks against the other faculty at Memorial University need no sincere response here as they are so clearly bitter and without any shred of evidence. My own connection to Memorial by way of my father, John Hanchar Sr., means that I have no place entering into a conversation on MUN politics, but I am certain that a brief survey of the faculty will reveal a plethora of talented academics who were born off the island — as well as just as many wonderfully talented Newfoundlanders — in teaching and research positions.

What I am specifically concerned with, and what forms the primary subject of this letter, is Hinchey’s complete misappropriation of historical rhetoric for the sake of justifying white supremacist ideals. As an aspiring historian currently enrolled at McGill University, I suggest that Hinchey tread carefully when invoking the spectre of the past — he may not like what is dredged up in the process.

Firstly, I ask Hinchey — as well as any other Newfoundlander proud of their Irish heritage — to spend some time reading the history of anti-Irish xenophobia in North America; it is not a pretty tale. Hinchey, and any white Newfoundlander who feels he speaks for them, need, should they claim to be at all proud of their Irish heritage, to sit some time with the fact that the same hateful language they use today is a close relative of the language used against the economically disprivileged white immigrants in the past.

My family is originally Polish on my father’s side. When researching immigration laws from the turn of the last century, I found myself reading story after story of the trauma and violence inflicted upon immigrants from Ireland, Poland and other countries who were deemed undesirable (which, at the time, could be a result of such traits as epilepsy or paraplegia). That is not to say that these groups have not been subsumed into white supremacy in more recent history, as they clearly have, but rather to ask Hinchey to remember a time when any Gaelic-sounding name was enough to have a prospective employer saying that a job candidate’s qualifications left “a lot to be desired.”

Finally, I am baffled by his completely ahistorical reference to the First World War. Does Hinchey think that equity law is somehow related to the military goals of Kaiser Wilhelm the Second? I would like to remind Hinchey that the destruction of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment was a result of British incompetence in a self-serving Imperialist conflict. It is also important to note that the non-white subjects of British rule provided much of the necessary manpower and natural resources to fuel the war machine to its bloody and horrific victory.

Jingoism may have shifted the historical narrative, but any critical conversation about the First World War must dwell on these very real facts and issues. Hinchey disrespects the legacy of Beaumont Hamel, and I suspect that the young men killed would be more “shocked” by a reference to their awful death that is ill-founded and ill-researched.

The socially conservative often like to fall back on history as a means of supporting their ideas but, as can be seen in Hinchey’s case, this often exposes their fallible arguments to light. I ask that Hinchey take another look at the history and heritage he claims to represent. He might be surprised at what he finds.

 

John Hanchar Jr.

Montreal

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