Self-congratulatory complacency about rising hate is a serious problem that can lead to more “alt-right” disasters in the wake of the Brexit vote in Great Britain, the rise of Donald Trump, and rejuvenated white supremacist groups everywhere, guest speaker Nesrine Malik told delegates on Tuesday.
In a hard-hitting speech that urged delegates to look inward, the popular Guardian columnist called on union activists and other progressives to take more responsibility in combatting xenophobic racism, Islamophobia, and anti-immigrant bigotry. Otherwise, she warned, we’ll see more outcomes like Brexit/Trump.
“Such events could not possibly have snuck up on us,” said Malik. “We were not victims, we were accomplices. We tend to think that people carrying tiki torches got all their influence from right-wing sources. But they’re also empowered by our general silence: those who are not affected by these events dismiss the bigots to the fringes.”
Malik challenged delegates to subject themselves to what she called The Dinner Table Test: how normalized has a previously shocking thing become, she asked, when people no longer flinch at it?
“The next time you hear a bad comment, don’t just roll your eyes or let it pass,” she said. “The trick is to look at someone who is different from you and understand that it is in your interest to protect them.”