“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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Canada is multicultural, not anti-racist.

Mollena sells actual RACE Cards (TM) to play. (Photo by Colm McCarthy)Canada is an officially multicultural country, but multiculturalism does not address racism.

The Continuum on Becoming an Anti-Racist Multicultural Institution shows six stages from being a monocultural institution to becoming an anti-racist multicultural institution. Canada appears to be at Stage Three:

3. Symbolic Change: A Multicultural Institution

  • Makes official policy pronouncements regarding Multicultural diversity
  • Sees itself as “non-racist” institution with open doors to People of Color
  • Carries out intentional inclusiveness efforts, recruiting “someone of color” on committees or office staff
  • Expanding view of diversity includes other socially oppressed groups

But…

  • “Not those who make waves”
  • Little or no contextual change in culture, policies, and decision making
  • Is still relatively unaware of continuing patterns of privilege, paternalism and control

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Auto-exoticism is Asians performing Chinese New Year for a non-Asian classroom.

Once a year, dmp and her mom performed Chinese New Year for her 98% non-Asian elementary class. Afterward, she went to her grandparents’ house and celebrated Têt, the real New Year’s.

dmp writes:

I learned a new word today. Auto-exoticism (n.): the idea in which the minority culture accepts and internalizes perceptions of itself from the dominant culture. It is performance intended for consumption, it is a sign given to minorities to express their minority status. It is touting Chinese take-out (that isn’t really Chinese) over your family’s home cooking and tossing around fortune cookies (and those weren’t actually Chinese either) and associating yourself with being “Chinese” (even though you aren’t) because it made you more understandable, and calling your family’s most important holiday Chinese New Year because it’s a catch-phrase that everyone understands.

Link: At Home We Called it Têt

(via Who I am When I’m (not) With You)

Vancouver 2010 pretends indigenous people have institutional power over Canada.

The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics opening ceremonies were skillfully-done Canadian propaganda. The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) did so many things right for the opening ceremonies with respect to indigenous-related symbolism. However, the main problem with the opening ceremonies were that they gave the impression to the rest of the world that the Canadian government respects the rights of indigenous people, when indigenous peoples are the most marginalized ethnic groups in Canada.

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White people do not understand PoC’s existential angst.

Existential angst is portrayed and experienced as individual suffering. In white-majority countries, white people tend to think of other whites as individuals with individual identities, but they tend to think of people of colour as a collective with a collective identity. Thus, white people from white-majority countries tend to think that people of colour cannot experience existential angst.

However, the problem is that people of colour think of ourselves as individuals with individual identities. (Or at least I do, and I assume that other people of colour do too until proven otherwise, because I consciously reject stereotypical assumptions of questionable origin, not because I actually have access to the minds of other people of colour.) Individuals of colour can experience existential angst, and in addition, our consciousness of ourselves as individuals regularly clashes with our consciousness of how society views us as a collective.

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White people’s family roots are deeper than those of ethnic minorities.

Another example of white privilege and othering is when white people assume that racialized people have deeper roots and stronger family ties than white people. The othering is based on the notion that “non-white” people are foreign people, and that “non-white” people have a stronger ethnic identity because we are more homogeneous and monolithic in ways of thought. White privilege allows white people to ignore the ways in which a white-majority society encourages only white families to lay down their roots and blossom, while historically, it enacted laws to extinguish and suppress “non-white” and racialized families.

White Americans envy African Americans for having “roots” in “Africa”, while ignoring the fact that Africa is a heterogeneous continent (like Europe), and that most African Americans cannot trace their African ancestry precisely because of white racism and slavery. It is no accident that African Americans are more likely to find documents attesting to the existence of their white ancestors. White Americans whose ancestors have been in the United States for multiple generations are the ones with the deepest roots, the ones whose histories were allowed to be recorded, the ones who own property passed down from generations, when all this was denied to non-white people.

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White Anti-Racists who hope to be White Saviours believe in White Supremacy.

White people like the white saviour narrative, because they can identify with the white protagonist, who is absolved from white guilt and becomes a white hero for people of colour to worship. When the white protagonist joins the group of people of colour, white people imagine that it is possible for a white person to purge his whiteness, and hence, to free himself from white guilt and responsibility. Paradoxically, not only does the white protagonist rid himself of white guilt, but he also becomes the hero, the saviour, the superior group member because he is white.

Moreover, in the white saviour narrative, all the people of colour collectively bow down or even prostrate before the white protagonist to symbolize the white person’s superiority over all people of colour (such as in Avatar, after Jake Sully tames the Toruk), and to indicate the submission of people of colour to white leadership. The white protagonist is smarter, better, faster, or stronger than people of colour because of his whiteness. The story’s internal logic requires a reason for the white protagonist’s unique superiority, so it is usually his white culture that makes him superior. Superior white culture takes the form of symbolically white technology (telescopes, rifles, Western marksmanship in Dances With Wolves), white skills (American military training in The Last Samurai), or white knowledge (scientific reasoning from the white protagonist in Avatar, who happened to be characterized as being below-average in both science and reasoning).

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