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NDE are the national educational radio network presents special of the week. This is the second of two programs from a teaching on racism in Montreal recorded for us by the international service of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The speakers are Jean Maxwell Cohen of the McGill School of Law Dr. Laura McGill and David Lewis a member of the Canadian Parliament representing the New Democratic Party to open. Here is Dean Maxwell Cohen to speak on historical perspectives of racism subject. Tonight's discussion has a particular kind of relevance to those who I'm asked who worry about the good society. Who worry about the integrity of. Of the good society whatever that may mean. And think of the common denominator which unites most of humanity. Simply because they are humans. When I was asked therefore to address
myself to some of the problems in this area. I thought it might be desirable to take a look at the problem of race. I have no competence to discuss this in any anthropological or other terms and perhaps in my own field the field of law. But I can't discuss the policy problems that lie behind the role that race plays in legal ideas or the legal impact upon racial relations unless I myself have a certain working assumptions about the historical process by which we've arrived at our contemporary thinking on these matters. Let me perhaps suggest water to pur spectrums on the historical process. It seems to me that. The literature of mankind what it wherever one looks. It's filled with evidence that ancient peoples understood the differences between themselves and that
hate and fear was the classic dilemma of the relationship between the stranger. The strange tribe one to the other. Indeed one has only to think of the the level of group cruelty in intertribal or or warfare of any kind so far as it's reported in antiquity. Balanced by a peculiar concession I think to the theory of hospitality to the stranger to see that the human dilemma one treats the stranger. Somewhere between cruelty and hospitality is a very old dilemma. And to that extent the human condition in this area of the race being a symbol for something that a stranger something that is that is uniquely yourself or uniquely not yourself is a very old bit of symbolism and it has political and legal significance not merely for antiquity but for our own time.
If one thinks of the European variation on this great human theme. I can think for example of two or three media. Pieces of mental shorthand that perhaps bring some of these ideas immediately to mind. Oh the Roman the barbarian and the way in which Rome viewed itself the way in which it viewed its legal system as a pic of its own citizens and the legal systems of the rest of the areas it had conquered the next Barbara as belonging not to the Roman citizens in due course of course there was an assimilation of Roman law too to the non Roman law but one must see in that very deep insight that historical fact a way of looking at themselves we and they the Romans and they the barbarians that had significant serious debate both in terms of what they descended from and in terms of what Europe eventually moved into one Caesar and they were Nation ship and maybe even post medieval Europe in the relations of Christian to Jew.
This is a very old problem. It's less racial perhaps in any technical sense but one cannot it seems to me escape the extraordinary phenomenon in West Europe. The peculiarities of the relationship of Christian to Jew though it was trans racial in some ways it was also. It seems to be racial in other ways. And the whole mystique I think of Modern anti-Semitism can't really be understood without seeing it's a profoundly deep roots in Jewish Christian relations from the early medieval period onward. The European variants of course are the things we know best but they are by no means the only evidences of the historical processes at work in defining race and creating legal consequences and political consequences. One is only think for example a tribal Africa part of the modern dilemma tribal Africa. Is that the nation state in modern
Africa is a highly artificial success our two great colonial systems. Often the boundaries of which cut across normal human race integrated relationships of the Somalis for example in East Africa find themselves in three different sovereign states. Their natural unity would be somehow in and presumably a nation state of their own. These lead to all kinds of juridical as well as psychological problems and political problems of very considerable importance. In India there are an immense network of relationships. Which which probably over a long period of time. Perhaps the most classic illustration of the ending is the role of untouchability. This is perhaps less a racial matter than a matter of the stands on other grounds but the kind of consequences for a great minority it seems to me to be analogous to the kind of problems which which race questions have given rise to.
When one comes to a reasonably well developed country like Canada where. On the whole the level of domestic law domestic domestic social organization is quite high. But where there were are many and perhaps profoundly arm solve problems. In the poverty sector very special problems arising in French English relations very special problems arising with respect to the the the Indians and to a lesser extent Eskimos. One might ask the question How far can one say that the present generation of thinking about these matters in Canada have expressed themselves a new legal ideas a new legal policy. The most serious effort to examine this question of race and law in Canada was perhaps the effort to do so in terms of the work of the Committee on hate propaganda. In my opinion
the attempt to find some answer to the enormous explosion in a rather minor way but intensely in the Toronto area to some extent of the Montreal area and a few other places in Canada between 1959 and 1965 the attempt to do something about this led to a serious study of what is hate propaganda What is it based on. Does it have what is it. It's racist implications. And how do you deal with these things in terms of law. The effect of these studies made for that committee seems to me are highly persuasive and they lead at least to two or three major conclusions. One is that any serious psychological estimate of the effect of racist propaganda hate propaganda. Suggests that we are all more vulnerable than we really know to that kind of propaganda. And that the classical civil libertarian argument that you could leave
these particular kind of charges in and be in the community to work themselves out in normal debate simply do not bear examination upon serious psychological study. In other words we no longer can take for granted the classical postulates of the civil libertarian period. We know too much about the extent to which you can in fact affect people by the existence of hate materials. And this is the essential psychological finding of the hate propaganda report and this report was duplicated in many ways and in several studies in other countries in the world. There's nothing new about this. What is new is do you when you inherit a classical libertarian civil libertarian tradition such as we do in the Anglo Commonwealth world do you begin to translate this new psychological knowledge into norms of law. Or do you face an old fashioned debate which says no free speech and the writing of documents the publication of materials must be allowed.
Short of libel and obscenity to run its own particular course in a free society. Or do you in fact take the risk of saying no democratic society or no minority or no individual need suffer the slings and arrows of malicious materials. It's no part of the democratic process no part of legitimate debate. The committee came to the conclusion and I hope that the Canadian community has come to the conclusion that any new insights we have into psychological and political processes deriving from the racist experience leading up to World War Two deriving from our better psychological knowledge of the past 50 or 60 years the conclusions inescapably are that we have a right to experiment with laws which will restrain this kind of behavior. In short the exploitation of race differences the effort to suggest that that race is a ground for describing minority describing conditions of
inferiority for creating a political tensions is no part of the democratic process. The dean of the McGill School of Law in Montreal Maxwell Cohen. Next from this Canadian teacher Ian on racism. Canadian educated and author of many books on the French fact in Canada now head of the Institute of French Canadian Studies at McGill. Dr. Lori a lot here. When I was invited to participate in this teaching on racism I did not and was not made aware that my particular sphere of authority would be the educational aspect of it I thought that. COHEN And I would argue about hate literature but I find that I've been assigned to speak about the educational system and since I've discovered that it's politically sound and prevents an exercise in lunacy to listen to the students I have therefore decided
to accept their terms of reference. I have been asked to speak. And to participate on a panel on racism and to prepare for a kind of 15 minute overture. And again as a French-Canadian to be done from the bows I obeyed him. And. I I will of course speak to you in English which is after all the rule of a bilingual country. Racism appears to be to me a mighty world. It connotes an organized body of hatred and also a definite plan of action. The very word is massive and it is frightening. I am reminded as I looked at that work at the argument that there is no genocide in B Africa because no one can find in the archives or in the cubby holes of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Nigeria a detailed plan for the final solution of the evil people. On the stood in this massive
way I suppose I can say that our present educational system is capable of dealing with. And does not encourage massive racism. I will Mr. Chairman if you allow me I do not want it. I do not want to understand it that way. I remember a few years ago there was a great debate in Montreal about the extermination of the Jewish people and the guilt to be associated with it. It appealed to one of the debaters that the killing of six million Jews was worse than the killing of one Jew. And to the other debater that the horror of one extermination of one human being was so horrible. If horror can be more or less horrible as to prevent an awareness of more extermination and I am somewhat inclined to agree with this latter pronunciation or at least pronouncement. I also remember having something to do with the putting a well-known Nazi on the so-called hot seat to the shock of thousands of people. And I
remember a man writing to me to give me hell about this but he called back later to say that he had stopped in a hotel in the Laurentians and there was no room for him in that hotel even though those who came after him found ample room is name which was recently recognized as a Jewish name. Must have had I felt in my slight mind something to do with it and he understood disband what was obvious and is obvious to me that you can march as easily towards a racist society as you can run towards it. Consequently I may not be interested in or even aware of the massive racism about me but I am deeply aware of the inclination towards prejudice which surrounds me daily and which I suspect inevitably leads to resume. With all that this means inclination to prejudice deliberately fast and encourage inevitably leads to racism.
I asked myself the question of whether I am surrounded by that inclination and I have no doubt about it. For instance I find it odd that on the television networks of this country there is not a single negro who is an announcer who presents a case in front of the public not a Chinese person for that matter or anybody of that kind of physical description. I find that on. Surely there must be talented negroes in this country who would like to become announcers. I find it also odd as I am surrounded that there are people who say to me that jobs are closed to them for various reasons which have absolutely nothing to do with their competence. I find it odd for instance that American subsidiaries in Canada will not hire war resisters who have immigrated to this country and who are definitely a landed immigrant in the fullest sense of the world. I am amazed that this even becomes more pronounced when the person involved happens to be a Jew or Jewish person or a Negro person. Then I went on to ask myself whether the
educational system of which I was a part and courage is this kind of inclination. And again I had to come to the answer yes. For instance at McGill there are fraternities which decided to man Scala or race or religion will determine is acceptability as a man. Why the university tolerates them even on the fringes of its life. It's completely beyond me. I am even told that the people. I am even told that there are people who can telephone or write to this university and say that they will rent a room only to white gentiles. Why do university tolerates this is again completely beyond me. I am surprised that Miggles community has so few Jews for instance on its board of governors. Isn't that a deliberate act I asked myself to ask them only because they are Jewish would be somewhat foolish. But to pass them over because they are as the university appears to do it seems to me to be criminal.
I come from a society largely which is educational system was deliberately fostered in order to encourage and form of other of some form of out of prejudice. After all the Jews killed Jesus Christ and one was reminded of it constantly. What does that do to a child if not to develop in him a kind of inclination towards considering the Jews as being in the MKL to the society in which he lives. One learns English largely from people who can hardly manipulated and who consider the Prost Protestant views of the English language as being more predominant or more important than their cultural than its cultural values. These tend to suggest I think to a very large degree. However I agree with Mr Cohen that we have come a long way but there are still remains I think in my mind. Many question marks. No doubt many learn more than experimental colleagues will find ways and means to question or diminish some of the impact of the question marks. But the essence remains. Something somewhere
happened to create what I call an inclination towards racism. I submit that this something is made up of the following. Here at McGill and within the entire context of the educational system of this province all of this country and these five somethings are I think as follows. There is a poem song for exclusiveness and in the process of having a punk Chancellor exclusiveness that wants totality of one's little communal life becomes the sum total of one's awareness of life and one relates to other human beings or other groups of human beings in terms of that exclusiveness the end result I think is to boost up the exclusiveness into a dominant way of life which to a very large degree is encouraged by a massive use of propaganda in terms of textbooks a massive use of propaganda in terms of personal experiences on the part of teachers and the massive use of the
community of scholarship the community of the academic life and terms of reference of this massive exclusiveness the re Secondly I think too much of an accent she wishin on that if he found us. Why understand that nationalism respond to must be founded on differences because they are. If there are no differences then there are no nationalism as the case may be. But it seems to me that sometimes we tend to push a game into new norms and patterns which are of their own become a sort of social law a sort of cultural last number which become dominant and in that process of accentuating like the fans or the people in other groups of people and the terms of reference of the cultural life become largely obsolete to that group of individuals the community which has that fair amount and the end result is a massive process of unconscious because one has been actually made them acclimatized to it and inclined towards it of some form of prejudice.
Thirdly I find the obsession that Roman Catholics and Protestants in the province and in this country have had with confessional school a completely hindrance to the development of the kind of free and decent society it seems to me that again constant confession ality the accentuation of the confessional differences. The insistence on a body of religious mores which become dominant which become infallibly given which become God centered and God given suggest that everybody also doesn't possess them is on their way to hell and the end result of that kind of manifestation is appalling as well. The response really I think in an educational system largely at this university and in the French-Canadian community of which I come from a dreadful elitist frame of mind. People are always talking in terms of elites well where I come from a Broken Hill it was a restaurant that we went to and it wasn't very good at that. And I have come from a society where people were always really and that the end
result of your arrival into human life. And your participation in the context of life was to do so via an elitist complex. Well the first thing that you discovered in that kind of a society is that the elite constituted not a class but a group apart from the rest of the society which was a peer. And that the desire of all of us was either to become part of that elite group or to gravitate around it with the end result of course that those of us who did not make it felt ostracized and left outside of our educational system was devised until 1964 in this province largely to bring forth priests and lawyers and doctors and other such parasites of society in the system of life. I mean an evaluation of processes of life. The educational system lastly the educational system of this province and of this university which becomes which become
the servants of the norms and the standards of the society or any educational system and the university as this one is which become an instrument of reproduction in children and in students of these very known leads. It seems to me dramatically to some form a gain of exclusivity of validities and some form of nascent prejudice in other words the educational system and the university viewed as it is now view as the transmitter instead of the creator of social values I think contributes to a very large degree to racism and prejudice. All of these characteristics which no doubt can be developed further during the discussion lead in my way of thinking towards prejudice towards prejudice towards racism because they foster an inclination to accepting certain values that tend to suggest norms and
standards of treatment which heart abhorrent to democratic society. And if they are not a born to democratic societies they are at least beholden to me. Thank you. Dr Laurie Lop-Ear head of the Institute of French-Canadians studies at McGill University. And finally from this Montreal TTN on racism David Lutes representative of the New Democratic Party in the Canadian House of Commons in Ottawa. Well there are in my view two fields of action for society collectively through its political agencies both of them very important. One of them I call minor and the other major in the minor field a great deal has been done and I call them minor field the field of legislation where you can
where you can legislate against. Sinful behavior if you like without having to attack the citadels of power in society and in that area. A great deal has been done. I have in mind the legislation in various provinces and in the federal parliament against discrimination in employment against discrimination and housing against discrimination in public places restaurants and hotels. The Bill of Rights which isn't a very great value because it's merely a statute and not in the Constitution. We have set up human rights commissions. There is a federal Human Rights Commission there are human rights commissions in several of the provinces which to a lesser or greater extent do a fairly effective job in enforcing these anti-discrimination laws
very inadequately in most cases because they're not provided with the funds necessary to do a job. They said earlier our system of values regards an expenditure of one point six billion dollars on defense which is in most respects useless as being a much more important priority then. The work of human rights commissions or foreign aid or any of the other social aspects of our life. The other day major field of action in our society in Canada and in the United States we have not done as much and here my socialist bias is as evident as as I can make it in quiet tones. And I refer to the ordering of our economic and social system in our economic and social relationships so as to remove the most
vital kind of the scrim a nation which results in a conflict. The end of which we have not yet seen. The English-French problem is obviously composed of a great many basic and fundamental elements. Basically as I see it and I may be wrong. Basically what is involved in the English French confrontation in Canada is a feeling in French Canon a perfectly justified feeling in French Canada that the social and economic progress of this country has left the French Canadians behind. And I feeling particularly in the middle class of French Canada that they are not playing the same part in the social and economic order in Canada as are their English speaking counterparts. A social order which is based on concepts
and on motivations such as our present social order is based feeds on racism and feeds racism. My contribution to this discussion is to urge you to consider the problems of racism not merely in terms of in terms of difference of color which is important. The difference between identifiable groups which is important or the laws that may deal with discrimination of one sort or another which are important for the equality of language in Canada which is important but to deal also with this question of social conflict and the irrational prejudices leading toward racism in the context of the economic and social order which produces disadvantaged groups which put leaves them behind educationally behind economically behind socially and which therefore nurtures a sense of inferiority in them a sense
of superiority in the other groups and produces conflicts with long ranging consequences. In short I suggest to you that much of the difficulties in the entire international world if you like that Professor Cohen spoke of in Africa or in Asia and the difficult differences and difficulties and conflicts in Canada they arrive not entirely not soley but very largely and very importantly from a twisted system of values. That itself derives from an exploitive social order that cannot but produce these conflicts and make them worse rather than better. I know that's the order itself is fundamentally changed. Mr. DAVID LEWIS Canadian member of parliament from the New Democratic Party in Canada speaking with others at a teaching on racism held in Montreal Quebec and
Special of the week
Issue 20-69
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Chicago: “Special of the week; Issue 20-69,” 1969-04-28, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 9, 2022,
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