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.

Another thing that bothers me about this poster is that it seems like they just took the American concept of “African American” and Canadianized it as “African Canadian”. If this is actually what happened, then it’s so ironic that it’s not funny, coming from the Canadian Centre for Diversity. I am not black, but I will just quote something from Wikipedia which confirms my understanding of Canadian ethnic identity:

Unlike in the United States, where African American is now one of several generally accepted terms, Blacks of Caribbean origin in Canada largely reject the term African Canadian as an elision of their Caribbean heritage.

[…]

Many Canadians of Afro-Caribbean origin strongly object to the term “African Canadian”, as it obscures their own culture and history, and this partially accounts for the term’s less prevalent use in Canada, compared to the consensus “African American” south of the border.

“Black Canadian” is also the name of one of the twelve visible minority groups defined by Statistics Canada.

Perhaps by “African Canadian”, the Canadian Centre for Diversity really meant to distinguish African Canadians from Canadians of Caribbean descent, but this would make the poster even more enigmatic, as it is unclear why a White Canadian would identify as “African Canadian” specifically versus “Black Canadian” in general when she encounters injustice. (On the other hand, if the poster did mean, “I am Black Canadian when I’m encountering injustice,” it is still unclear why this group is singled out, unless we assume that black people symbolize victimization.)

Am I the only one who thinks that this poster is inappropriate and racially insensitive? I am concerned about racial prejudice and discrimination in Canada, but just the poster makes me want to stay clear from this organization.

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

  1. Kathy Says:

    I didn’t like that poster, I saw it somewhere else, on another blog. To me, it’s inappropriate, insensitive, and privileged. White people think they can just wear somebody else temporarily, plus this is a dishonest attempt to both shun their own whiteness, as well as imply that white racism is somebody else”s problem.

    What ever happened to the idea of justice and activism? The empathy part of that poster is all that would have been needed.

  2. uppitybrownwoman Says:

    I think I recall seeing an ad for it on television some time ago. I have little words to describe how I feel about this. This is the type of racism that’s embedded in the Canadian nationalist narrative – “multiculturalism” and “diversity.” There is no addressing of white privilege, like Kathy said above, and quite frankly, it is an expression of white privilege since privileged people are seen as the default, upon whom oppressions can be layered on. Meaning, the white woman in the poster you linked above is raceless.

  3. Restructure! Says:

    @Kathy: Do you have a link to the other blog post that talked about this? I tried Googling for the phrase “I am African Canadian when I’m encountering injustice” but I couldn’t find anyone else who blogged about it. I didn’t know there was someone else who was annoyed by it enough to blog about it.

    @uppitybrownwoman: Thanks for the tip. I don’t have a TV anymore so I would probably miss stuff like that. I looked at their website now and they linked to their commercial: diversity_psa.mov, which also makes me cringe. Anyway, thanks for the feedback. I was wondering whether the poster was blatantly absurd and the “diversity” people who made it somehow didn’t see it that way, or if I was the only one who thought that way.

    Yeah, this is so Canadian: paying lip service to diversity without addressing white privilege. They “provide innovative programs that teach Canada’s youth how to overcome fear and prejudice through information, education and involvement,” but I’m worried about what kind of information and education this centre can teach our youth, especially since many of our youth are Canadians of colour.

  4. Kathy Says:

    Restructure!
    I think I saw it at ResistRacism, maybe Resistance posted it, or something very similar. I will look over when I get the chance.

  5. jwbe Says:

    when it comes to some ads one can only wonder what is going on in such brains creating an ad.
    In Germany, the German Unicef once had a campaign, which was only full of sh*t:
    http://derbraunemob.de/deutsch/index.htm
    (Scroll down a little, then there will be the English text)

  6. jwbe Says:

    sorry, wrong link.
    http://derbraunemob.de/deutsch/content/sogehtsnicht/content_daneben_unicef.htm

  7. Nquest Says:

    I’m with Kathy. It’s obvious the attempt was to show empathy but, at the same time, it trivializes what/who it seeks to empathize with. I mean, if they wanted to use the empathy statement — “put yourself in someone else’s shoe” — why not have a graphic showing that or some picture showing the White character standing with the African they supposedly empathize with?

    With the poster highlighted here and JW’s link, it makes you wonder why there is such distance between the White characters and the people they supposedly empathize with. Seems to me that its hard to persuade [other White] people to empathize with marginalized group X or promote “diversity” when the White characters aren’t don’t see the importance of putting those types of images (as corny as some of the existing ones are) front and center and, more importantly, putting the group to be empathized with front and center.

    Just looking at the images and putting the captions in the background, I’m reminded of the theme from Macon’s thread about Elizabeth Hasselbeck. This poster is yet another example of White people “insisting on occupying center stage.”

    The poster projects the idea that it’s all about her — the White women and how progressive she is.

  8. Restructure! Says:

    @jwbe: Yeah, this Canadian Centre of Diversity poster reminded me of the German Unicef one, which I first saw on Racialicious.

    @nquest:

    I mean, if they wanted to use the empathy statement — “put yourself in someone else’s shoe” — why not have a graphic showing that or some picture showing the White character standing with the African they supposedly empathize with?

    That’s still messed up to me. The bus shelter poster is located in an area of Toronto where there are more POC than white people, and most of the people who see that ad are going to be POC. I’m not sure why the ad should target white people specifically and exclude POC.

    I browsed the site some more to see what the ad was supposed to motivate “us” to do, and I found this gem: The word is DIVERSITY:

    In Your Community:

    > Organize. Invite members from every race, faith and diverse group to join the club. Reach out to the student council, sports teams, the yearbook committee and drama club for ideas and involvement. Write out the goal of the club. For example: “We want to promote diversity and end discrimination in our school.”

    > Ask your friends to bring you to their church, synagogue, mosque or temple so you can learn about their faiths. Of course, you’ll invite them to your place of worship.

    > Read a book about another culture or watch a movie in a different language. (Hopefully, it’ll have subtitles! Or get a friend to translate as you go.)

    > Volunteer at a local community service organization that promotes diversity.

    > Invite a friend from another culture to teach you a traditional dance, how to cook a traditional meal, or play a game.

    > Visit monuments, museums, libraries and community centres that celebrate and educate about different cultures and faiths.

    > Check out ethnic grocery stores and specialty markets. Ask questions about the food, where it’s from, and how it’s prepared and eaten.

    > Take part in anti-racism activities marking International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination every March 21.

    > Print out the Diversity Calendar that highlights all major cultural and religious holidays. Display it in your school and on your refrigerator.

    At home:

    > Next time your family goes out for dinner, choose an ethnic restaurant that you’ve never been to.
    Ask the owner or waiter questions about their lives.

    > Invite someone of a different background to join your family for a meal or holiday. (Please ask if there are certain foods they can’t eat, if they need time for prayer or have any other needs.)

    > Ask your parents to invite your friends’ parents over for dinner. Encourage your parents and siblings to develop new friendships with people of different races and faiths.

    At school:

    > Talk to a new student who’s just arrived in Canada. Offer to explain Canadian customs and holidays, and ask them to teach you about their culture.

    > Expand your lunch partners. Sit with people from different races and faiths. It might be hard to break peoples’ habits, but try.

    > Find out whether your school cafeteria offers options for students of different cultures and faiths who have dietary restrictions. Suggest that the cafeteria serve foods from different cultures.

    > Show films at lunch hour or in class on prejudice, stereotyping, discrimination and racism.

    > Ask your teacher to have class discussions on current local and international diversity issues. Suggest topics for your debate club.

    > Check your school’s policy on handling discrimination and harassment. Ask the principal questions if the policy isn’t clear. Post the policy on the school’s website and on school bulletin boards.

    > Research and publish statistics of your school population based on student race and religion. Celebrate your diversity. The information may help your Canada Club plan activities and set goals.

    > Hold an event. Check out Step 5 for organizing exciting events at school.

    (Emphasis mine.) I think most of it is human relations programming garbage, but now they’re calling us “ethnics” and they want us to act as ambassadors for our race, ethnicity, or culture.

  9. Nquest Says:

    “…most of the people who see that ad are going to be POC.”

    That explains the shameless self-promotion — i.e. the White woman insisting on occupying center stage.

    “…they want us to act as ambassadors for our race…”

    And… why not? That’s what she/they are doing. The shameless self-promotion is all about those Whites being ambassadors of their kindler, gentler, more tolerant race. Isn’t that what the poster ultimately is saying?

  10. Restructure! Says:

    That explains the shameless self-promotion — i.e. the White woman insisting on occupying center stage.

    The ad may be made for Canada in general, which is majority white, but it is still strange that a poster for racial diversity features a white woman. (On the other hand, the headquarters of the Canadian Centre for Diversity is in Toronto, so they should know better, but they don’t.)

  11. jwbe Says:

    when I search for pictures with google with the keyword “diversity” there are many pictures/photos where somebody white, quite often a woman, is in the center of the picture with “diverse people” surrounding her.
    the German add (and some of the excuses on Racialicious, that black-face etc. might not be so known), I think that companies which make their living by creating ads know mainstream quite exactly and this advert doesn’t display ignorance but willful ignorance I think and appeals to white paternalism. The reason behind such ads is the belief that “Africa” needs our European help.

  12. Kathy Says:

    Restructure!

    “The word is diversity” from that website is very disturbing. It can cause a lot more harm by first of all, invading people’s right to privacy and sanctuary, but worse is that some” well meaning” white people will go try some of these suggestions and then try to take over and tell how everything should be done, I have seen that before, and ResistRacism has a really good post about a white woman who invades a college Black Student Union. I will look for the link asap. I am busy this weekend.

  13. Lxy Says:

    To me, this ad raises the larger issue that mainstream concepts like diversity, the melting pot, colorblindness, multiculturalism, or worst of all, post-racalism are really political scams.

    Cut through the feel-good “we are all just human” rhetoric, and one sees that these ideas are effectively used as forms of “racial management.”

    That is, their political function is to implicitly maintain and uphold White dominance by managing people of color, who can represent everything from a politically unruly threat to a domesticated Other whose experience and culture can be appropriated.

  14. Nquest Says:

    LXY, interesting point.

    Out of curiosity, I wonder how much of the “racial management” is a conscious idea, at least for some. What I’m asking is whether the attempts at “racial management” are, for the lack of a better word, a “natural” reaction to any form of protest or advance from the Other, domesticated or otherwise.

    Getting into JW’s idea of Eurocentric thinking as a root issue, it would seem to me that even many well-meaning Whites don’t even see a problem with White dominance if they see it at all.

    I’m the master of oversimplified critiques (lol). One of the simple points I make which deals with White dominance is the fact that, on a national scale, no matter what problems was caused/allowed by the federal government as far as racism is concern, the institution remained the same: it was White majority rule before the civil rights era and White majority rule afterward.

    Whether as cause or correlation, you hear very little said about fundamental change of that nature which is a striking irony when you consider the proposed/instituted power sharing in the Iraqi government created for the very purpose to attempt to avoid one group ruling disproportionately over others as the Sunnis used to comprise the ruling group in Saddam Hussein’s time.

  15. Lxy Says:

    At the US elite level, I think that racial management is definitely a conscious strategy of control that the American establishment uses.

    Look at how this establishment responded to the racial rebellions of the 1960s and 1970s. They used a iron fist/velvet glove strategy. The iron fist was American state repression of various radical groups like the BPP among others and included the FBI’s infamous domestic counter-insurgency program COINTELPRO.

    The velvet glove was to cultivate and coopt minority elites into White establishment and groom them to be a buffer class that functioned as the proverbial House Negro to the various communities they came from.

    Today, political concepts like colorblindness, diversity, and post-racialism are the updated versions of this latter legacy of White racial management and control.

  16. Kathy Says:

    Here is the link to the post at ResistRacism about Beth Rankin trying to take over a student union.

  17. Kathy Says:

    Nquest,
    I believe that the white construct is/was created to control people’s minds, that’s why tv and the main stream media are such powerful tools.
    Maybe it’s a way to prevent coalitions of people who are interested in the things talked about here, honesty, justice. fairness, instead of greed, and power. I think I read that the planations in Hawaii kept records of the ways in which they would use certain groups of people purposely, maybe it was Tanaka, who wrote about that?

  18. Restructure! Says:

    Kathy,

    Beth Rankin is a White American undergraduate at Kent State. The bus shelter poster shows a white model who is supposed to be White Canadian, and was created by some advertising people for some Canadian organization. Yeah, it has the same general theme, but the resist racism post is not about this poster.

    Beth Rankin is worse than Macon D, though.

  19. Kathy Says:

    Restruture, i can’t help laughing a little bit, I know the difference, I just posted that link about Beth Rankin to illustrate the point you were making about white people invading space, you are right, Beth Rankin is worse than Macon D, that is hard to do, laughing a little bit, sorry.

  20. Restructure! Says:

    Oh, sorry. I thought that link was a follow up to your comment, “I didn’t like that poster, I saw it somewhere else, on another blog.”

  21. Kathy Says:

    yes , i did see it on another blog.

  22. Alston Adams Says:

    If it is inappropriate for whites to try on racial clothing, as it were, what do you think of Jane Elliott’s brown eyes/blue eyes experiments?

  23. Elton Says:

    And here I thought the USA had a monopoly on racism cluelessness.

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    […] White woman: “I am African Canadian when I’m encountering injustice.” by Restructure! Posted in Debunking, White People Studies. Tags: Canada, Canadian, community, critical leftists, cultural community, democracy, ethnicity, Fathima Cader, homogenization, identity, Judy Rebick, media, multiculturalism, Noaman Ali, Ontario, othering, politics, privilege, race, racialization, racism, reverse racism, Sri Lanka, Tamil, the left, Toronto, white, xenophobia. No Comments » […]

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  26. Count Nibbler Says:

    Not to be rude but that woman in the photo doesn’t look like she is of European descent at all. She looks like some kind of Arab or Middle Easterner to me.


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