“Oh Canada” rap forgets about black Canadians.

In the “Oh… Canada” rap by Canadian rapper Classified, the white Nova Scotian dispels many stereotypes about Canada. The actual lyrics are great, but the video is 100% white.

One really annoying stereotype that non-Canadians have about Canadians is that “Canadian” means “white”, and Classified’s video ends up perpetuating this stereotype. Understandably, Classified is representing his home province Nova Scotia, when most Canadian rappers are from Toronto or Vancouver. However, for someone living in Toronto and accustomed to racial diversity, the framing of Classified’s video as a neo-national-anthem looks like an erasure of Canadians of colour.

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White antiracists appropriate the words of people of colour to advance their thesis.

When most people imagine a world without racism, they imagine a world that looks very similar to our current world. Indeed, most people think that racism no longer exists today in “post-racial” America or “multicultural” Canada.

However, in a world without racism, people of colour would not be concentrated in subservient positions, and white people would not dominate positions of power. It is not the case that people of colour (e.g., Asians) are serving food to white people because they enjoy being servants, nor it is part of their “culture” to be in the food industry; it is an sign of social inequality that white people are not serving food to people of colour in the same proportion. It is not the case that women of colour are taking care of white children because they are naturally nurturant and self-sacrificial; it is a sign of social inequality that white people are not nannies of children of colour in the same proportion.

Basically, it is not the case that people of colour are underrepresented in the knowledge industry because they could care less about the written word and have a genetic preference for the spoken word. The written words of people of colour are being eschewed because of racism.

This means that antiracist communities should not recreate this same hierarchy in which whites are authorities over people of colour. It is not the job of the white antiracist to extract the words of people of colour, “translate” them into his own words, and “interpret” them within his own framework to advance his thesis. When the white antiracist assumes that the words of a person of colour need to be paraphrased by a white person to count as human understanding about race and racism, it is a reproduction of white supremacy. The words of people of colour are not flora and fauna that need to be recorded and interpreted by a human observer. When people of colour write about race and racism, they are the human observers. White antiracists should not treat the words of people of colour as “raw data” that require intellectual processing.

Unfortunately, too many white antiracists cannot comprehend this.


Related links:

Why I dislike a particular white antiracist blogger

we dont need another anti-racism 101 by Mai’a at guerrilla mama medicine:

and so in my experience, folks can learn all the theory, all the right words, all of it and yet act fundamentally the same, live out the same patterns of thoughts, still hold the same fucked-up priorities. and yet spout all of the anti-racist rhetoric.

[…]

in that they are able to say things like: i realize that such and such is a function of racism and then they continue to do the same fucking thing that they just acknowledged was racist.

this happens all the time. like. all. the. time.

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“Chinese food” in the U.S. is not foreign, but foreignness is not “authenticity”.

My post White American culture is General Tso’s Chicken and Chop Suey has been linked to from various websites. Below I address a common criticism of the post, and I also link to two interesting analyses about the topic.

It’s not about “authenticity” or “appropriation”.

One common misconception was that I was complaining about cultural appropriation, and complaining that Chinese American food was “inauthentic”. This is not true. I posted this comment on Racialicious, but the comment thread is long, so I will repost my comment here for better visibility:

I am not against food appropriation or food “hybridity” (whatever that means). The concept of “authenticity” is flawed, because it assumes that certain cultures remain static and frozen in time, instead of being dynamic and fluid.

Tomatoes were not originally native to Italy; they were first imported from the Americas. Chili peppers were not originally native to India; they were first imported from the Americas. Potatoes were not originally native to Ireland; they were first imported from the Americas.

What I have a problem with is what I outlined in the post. The presumption that I am a food purist and cultural purist (whatever that means) probably comes from the stereotype that people who have beef with misconceptions of food origins are really complaining about “authenticity”. Maybe other people do that, but if you CTRL+F for “authenticity” and “appropriation”, you will find them absent from the actual post.

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White woman: “I am African Canadian when I’m encountering injustice.”

''i am African Canadian when I'm encountering injustice. Put yourself in someone else's shoes. centrefordiversity.ca'' When I first saw this bus shelter poster, I remember it just said, “i am African Canadian when I’m encountering injustice,” without the second line, “Put yourself in someone else’s shoes.”

Without the second line, it was even more incomprehensible to me, and I was trying to figure out what it was supposed to mean. Is the white lady a Canadian of White South African descent, who, when encountering injustice, cries, “You’re discriminating against me because I’m African Canadian!”?

The second line disambiguates the meaning of “I am African Canadian when I’m encountering injustice,” but the statement still does not make that much sense. Ethnicity is not something that can be turned on and off when convenient. If this poster is supposed to be about race, race cannot be turned on and off, either. It is not the case that ethnic or racial minorities can bypass discrimination if they only identified as “White Canadian” when encountering injustice.

The bus shelter advertisement is for centrefordiversity.ca, which explains its vision on its website:

At the Canadian Centre for Diversity, we have a vision: A Canadian society without prejudice and discrimination. A society that celebrates diversity, difference, and inclusion.

It seems quite odd to me that a centre that celebrates diversity has created an advertisement that appeals to White Canadians specifically. As a Canadian of colour, I find something offensive about ethnic appropriation to prove a point. I do not think that White Canadians can understand what it is like to be a Canadian of colour by simply trying to imagine it. Temporarily identifying as an ethnicity that is not yours does not make you understand better.

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White liberals blame white conservatives for white racism.

White liberals blame white racism on white conservatives, and white urbanites associate whiteness with white suburbanites. However, the type of white people that people of colour know in real life tend to be liberal, urban whites, not conservative whites or suburban whites. After all, people of colour in North America tend to live in urban and liberal cities, not white suburbs or conservative rural areas.

When most white liberals think of white racism, they think of the KKK, Neo-Nazis, and Republicans. When most white urbanites think of whiteness, they think of the suburbs, white picket fences, sweaters, sweater-vests, sandwiches, mayonnaise, green lawns and backyards, and Wal*Mart shoppers.   Basically, most white liberals associate white racism with white conservatives, and most white urbanites associate whiteness with white suburbanites. Since white liberals are not white conservatives, it is difficult for them to accept that they could be racist. Since white urbanites are not white suburbanites, it is difficult for them to view their own behaviour as typical white behaviour.

Many white, urban liberals believe that they are transcending their whiteness by ordering General Tso/Tao’s Chicken, buying “curry” powder, taking yoga, wearing “African” jewellery, eating Thai food, drinking “chai tea”, carrying around Sigg bottles with a Buddha design, toting handbags with Ganesh embroidered on it, and hanging dream catchers on their rearview mirrors. That is, liberal, urban whites believe that participating in these activities makes them cosmopolitan and multicultural. However, for most people of colour living in liberal, North American cities, to engage in these behaviours is to engage in typical white behaviour.  In other words, white, urban liberals are unaware of how white their tastes, lifestyles, and thinking are, yet ironically, they believe that they are racially enlightened and culturally aware, and different from other whites.

If you are a white liberal and you think you have an enlightened idea about race, ask yourself if other white liberals would agree with your idea. If you answered yes, your idea is probably not that enlightening.

If you are a white liberal and other white liberals think like you, and you think like other white liberals, it means that you are a typical white liberal. For most people of colour in North America, this means that you are a typical white person.

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