The Hidden Job Market – Whiteness Has Its Privileges

© Copyright 2010 by Joseph Worrell. Reproduced with permission on Restructure!.

In February 2006, The Canadian Labour Congress presented a disturbing study on Canadian workers. The report maintained that Canadian-born visible minorities faced the highest barriers to steady, well-paying jobs of any group in the country.

Post 911 Arab-West Asians came in first with a 14% unemployment rate, Blacks at 11.5% and Latin Americans at 10.5%. Aboriginal Canadians also failed to reap many job rewards but statistics curiously grouped them with unemployed Euro-Canadians.

The Labour Congress’ study caused a bit of quandary, except among those who are already “in the know” about the dilemma.

Leslie Cheung, of Simon Fraser University, declared the report could not disavow “workplace inequality with education disparities because non-White Canadians are better educated as a whole than native-born Whites and immigrants”. The Labour Congress predicts the situation to worsen as huge numbers of non-White young people enter the job market.

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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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British employers racially discriminate against job applicants with African and Asian names.

Undercover job hunters reveal huge race bias in Britain’s workplaces (18 October 2009):

A government sting operation targeting hundreds of employers across Britain has uncovered widespread racial discrimination against workers with African and Asian names.

Researchers sent nearly 3,000 job applications under false identities in an attempt to discover if employers were discriminating against jobseekers with foreign names. Using names recognisably from three different communities – Nazia Mahmood, Mariam Namagembe and Alison Taylor – false identities were created with similar experience and qualifications. Every false applicant had British education and work histories.

They found that an applicant who appeared to be white would send nine applications before receiving a positive response of either an invitation to an interview or an encouraging telephone call. Minority candidates with the same qualifications and experience had to send 16 applications before receiving a similar response.

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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.