Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Part 3: Racism in Canada

Somehow the news just keeps revealing the deep-seeded racism that exists in leaps and bounds in our society, all coated over with a deep self-belief that we are somehow a tolerant and accepting society.

This quick blog makes for a the perfect part 3 of my trilogy on race and the construction of authenticity in Canada. Check out Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

A recent news article on sparked a massive wave of comments. It was in regards to a UofT student who was seen on a terrorist video from Somalia and has been rumored to have been killed in a battle with insurgents.

Off the bat, I am against violence, especially when done in the name of religion. Secondly, I am against the way the word "terrorist" has been used to construct the "bad guys" who are always Othered through race, language, religion, etc... Presidents and soldiers can senselessly kill people but they are never constructed as terrorists, put on watch lists or have their travel restricted.

Beyond this, I was appalled (though not really shocked) at the comments on the story. They speak powerfully to what I have already discussed in terms of creating "real Canadians" and "fake Canadians", all under the auspices of multiculturalism and tolerance.

One commenter says: I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm all for immigration but not including the following: Somalians, Tamils, Haitians and any other ethnicity that thrives on cultivating old battles on our soil. I know that not "all of them are radicalized" but enough of them are, and worse, those who aren't can and will be turned by others who freely enter our borders to do so.

He begins by stating his tolerance (he's "all for immigration") and then proceeds to spew one of the most openly racist and exclusionary statements I've heard in a while. He places violence in the hands of racial minorities, fueled by their hatred for others, disrespecting our soil. He tries to appear conciliatory by recognizing that "they" are not all "radicalized" but that so easily they'll all flip - like they're the 12 yr. old who will do anything if their friends tell them so. You want to exclude whole groups on the basis of.... violence? Exclude Americans then. Their gun violence is the highest in the world and they "cultivate old battles" in places like Iraq. Or how about any other nation that has had civil war (Canada can be included in this)? Oh, and for the record, my brother-in-law is Tamil - guess I should keep an eye on him in case he "turns"... it'll have to happen sooner or later.

In response to another comment that perhaps this man's experiences in Canada pushed him to extremism: WHAAATT!?!?!?! This is one of the most insane things I've heard. Canada has opened their doors and their hearts to allow these people into our country, many of them escaping a futureless life, poverty and persecution. How dare you make ignorant comments with a bite to the hand that feeds you.

Canada is constructed as the benevolent, gracious host who should be thanked. Not only did we "allow" certain undesirables to enter but we "opened our hearts" to all the Orphan Annies of the world, giving them a chance at a better life. They escape their "futureless life" (somewhere else) to come to Canada and a.... place where their credentials ignored, their job prospects truncated, their knowledge devalued... a futureless life? They escape poverty (somewhere else) to come to Canada and have.... poverty? They escape persecution (somewhere else) to come to Canada and.... face persecution? I'm certainly not trying to diminish the experiences of people who indeed have faced hardships in countries torn by war, famine, globalization, etc... but Canada is no walk in the park for immigrants (the article actually states that the subject of the story was born in Canada but most posters just assumed he was an immigrant - no way he was a "real Canadian"). Canada is loving and peaceful and people should thank their lucky stars to be here, subsequently showing their gratitude by never disagreeing with a thing, speaking English upon arrival, buying all their coffee at Tim Hortons and joining a local hockey or curling rink.

A final commenter stated: This man was not Canadian in any way shape or form. By calling him a "Canadian", CBC, you have degraded the word and yourself.

How do we define a Canadian? Born in Canada? Has a Canadian passport? Believes in peace, love and donuts? Speaks only English or French (preferably English)? Is White or at least acts as White as they can? Is being called "Canadian" some badge of honor that one has to win or earn? When a White soldier goes to Afghanistan and commits some crime do we question his nationality, wonder if perhaps he was never really Canadian to begin with? So many questions...

As a summary: Dionne Brand, a relatively famous Black Canadian writer, writes in one of her poems - "I don't want no fucking country". It's really not hard to see why certain individuals wouldn't want to align themselves with Canada, when in return Canada doesn't really want any part of them.


Michelle said...

Excellent post as usual. I like you blog because you make the readers think of things they otherwise may not. Especially those of us who live in small town white farmer/miner filled hockey playing Saskatchewan.

The Renegade Librarian said...

Wow, I can feel your righteous anger burning from Victoria!