Canada’s Maclean’s has a whiteness problem.

“‘Too Asian’?” was not the first racist Maclean’s article lamenting the quantity of racialized people displacing white people and white power.

In 2006, Maclean’s published “The future belongs to Islam” by Mark Steyn, who assumed that Muslims all over the world were primarily focused on a shared goal of imposing Islamic law globally, and tried to bring to everyone’s attention that the birth rates of Muslim-majority countries were higher than the birth rates of European countries. Steyn also pointed out that although “Africa” has a high birth rate, it is “riddled with AIDS” and “as we saw in Rwanda, [Africans’] primary identity is tribal”. Steyn then invoked a white colonialist narrative by describing Muslim-majority areas as “Indian territory”, “lawless fringes of the map”, and “badlands” that needed to be “brought within the bounds of the ordered world”. He waxed nostalgically about “the old Indian territory”, when “no one had to worry about the Sioux riding down Fifth Avenue”, “the white man settled the Indian territory”, and “the Injuns had bows and arrows and the cavalry had rifles.” His complaint was that “today’s Indian territory”—i.e., Muslim-majority countries (!)—now have nuclear weapons, and “the fellow from the badlands” can now ride planes and travel quickly. Later, Steyn recounted a story in which some youths in Belgium assaulted a bus passenger, alleging that it was not at all surprising that the youths were “of Moroccan origin”.

In other words, Maclean’s has already published an extremely racist (and Islamophobic) article in the past. Four years later in 2010, Maclean’s “‘Too Asian’?” article expresses the same fears about an “Asian invasion” and dismay at the increasing numbers of racialized people in relation to white people within a given population. Not only is Maclean’s “‘Too Asian’?” a repeat of the W5 “Campus Giveaway” program in 1979 that griped about Asians taking up space in Canadian universities, but it is also a repeat of Maclean’s 2006 article that bemoaned the changing of demographics from white to racialized.

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Together, womyn of colour struggle with shadeism.

This well-done, Canadian documentary (20 minutes) on shadeism and light-skin privilege features the stories of young womyn of colour from Toronto:

Nayani Thiyagarajah narrates:

Four women, four stories, all connected to my own. We represent the Caribbean, South America, Africa, and South Asia. We represent Grenada, Venezuela, Trinidad, Angola, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. We represent Canada. Really, we represent an international narrative of sorts, a collective Herstory of womyn of colour. These are my friends, womyn I talk to, spend time with, and share with. And we all share the issue of shadeism from within each of our own cultures. Because of this, I knew it was important for us to come together, to talk about where shadeism comes from, how it affects us, and how we can possibly move forward together.

Link: Shadeism documentary (via Racialicious)

“PC vs. Mac” and Violence in the Congo

People of colour are not a story of suffering . . . Or resistance.

We are multifaceted.

And stories in which we neither suffer nor resist are just as authentic. They are a part of our daily lives.

(Click on “View subtitles” to turn on the subtitles.)

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Anti-racist terminology is not pedantic. The systematicity of racism is visceral, and your skepticism derives from your ethnocentric worldview.

Some individuals believe that the terminology used to discuss racism beyond personal experiences is unnecessarily pedantic and elitist. There are at least two plausible explanations of the reasoning behind this sentiment. One possibility is that the individual in question does not understand the systemic problem of racism, and believes that racism is something that is done by only crazed individuals. This first possibility will be discussed in this post.

An individual who thinks that racism is merely individual acts of hatred by mentally-ill white individuals does not understand that racism is systemic and pervasive. Racism is not exclusive to the political right and political conservatives, and hatred (explicit or implicit) against a racial group x is not necessary for holding racist beliefs about racial group x. Political liberals and even the political left may harbour racist beliefs that are based on misconceptions* about others’ lack of competence rather than hatred. Even people of colour of any political orientation may be racist against their own racial group and other racialized groups because they have internalized the racist belief system that permeates our culture.

If an individual does not understand the systemic problem of racism and believes that racism is about random acts of hatred committed by crazed white individuals, then it is reasonable to infer that she also thinks that terms like ‘systemic racism’, ‘internalized racism’, ‘racialized’, ‘microaggression’, and ‘microinsults’ have nothing to do with reality and are academic posturing. If she does not directly experience systemic racism, internalized racism, racialization, microaggression, and microinsults, then she would probably believe that these are merely theoretical constructs invented by academics in ivory towers. If this individual believes that to use such terms is to complicate things, then she likely has a very simplistic and superficial understanding of how racism works. If an individual does not experience microinsults herself and thinks that the idea of ‘microinsults’ is meaningless academese, then she is merely projecting her own detachment and opaqueness with respect to racism on to the term itself.

That something is ‘complex’ or ‘elusive’ to white people does not mean that it is universally complex and elusive to all humans. There can exist things that are experienced at a very basic level of perception by one group of people, yet not be recognized by another group due to the other’s lack of experience or lack of conceptual background. For example, East Asian cultures generally perceive umami or xiānwèi as a basic taste, but most Westerners would have to expend cognitive effort to taste it as ‘umami’. Moreover, the type of Westerners who would use the word ‘umami’ tend to be more educated than the general population, but this does not indicate that the concept of ‘umami’ itself is elitist and academic.

Ultimately, if an individual feels that terms like ‘systemic racism’, ‘internalized racism’, ‘racialized’, ‘microaggression’, and ‘microinsults’ have empty referents, it is a manifestation of her aloofness, not the academic’s.


* White liberals and white leftists may travel to ‘Africa’ or another geographical region and expect that they can help non-whites, assuming that the problem is lack of ingenuity on the part of non-whites. Often, these self-styled ‘philanthropists’ assume that they are competent enough to solve other people’s problems without researching the situation or without having any working experience in such projects. They assume that poverty in developing countries is about lack of resources and ignore Western complicity, because they would like to maintain their self-perception as white saviours.


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