Men of Colour and Peacekeeping Violence

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  Shrene Razack

excerpted from : Shrene Razack, "Outwhiting the White Guys:" Men of Colour and Peacekeeping Violence, 71 University of Missouri Kansas City Law Review 331-353, 331 (Winter 2002) (163 Footnotes Omitted)


What can we know about men of colour who engage in acts of violence against lower status groups? Exploring this question in the context of the violence of Canadian peacekeepers who were on peacekeeping duties in Somalia in 1993, I critique Nancy Ehrenreich's notion of "compensatory violence," where men of colour are thought to compensate for their diminished status as men through engaging in acts of violence against lower status groups (in Ehrenreich's examples, principally women, but also other men of colour). I offer some thoughts on how we might consider the violence of men of colour in the peacekeeping context without excusing, pathologising or exceptionalizing their behaviour, and importantly, without obscuring the highly racial terms of the encounter between Canadian peacekeepers and the Somali population. Instead of a compensatory framework, I propose an anti-colonial one. The terms and conditions of membership in a white nation include that men of colour must forget the racial violence that is done to them, as Abouli Farmanfarmaian observes. But passing as 'ordinary' men requires more than an act of forgetting. I suggest that joining the nation also requires that men actively perform a hegemonic masculinity in service of nation. Compensatory theorists suggest that men of colour have the most to gain from engaging in hegemonic practices such as violence. In this article, I argue that they have as much to gain as anyone else - no more and no less - and further, their investment in such hegemonic practices can also be undermined by their own experiences of violence.

To join the nation you must forget the violence done unto you, much as joining the family requires forgetting the possible violence of abuse, incest, and neglect.