Stuff POC do: restrain ourselves

When I checked Stuff White People Do and saw a post originally titled, “Stuff White People Do: Laugh at Asian English”, I felt racism fatigue, and responded with a half-hearted and uninspired, “I am offended at your post,” followed with a description. I fully expected to be accused of looking for racism again by some commenter in a comment that closely followed mine, which has become almost a tradition at Stuff White People Do. (Sometimes this commenter is Macon D himself.)

Unsurprisingly, I was accused of “looking for something to pounce on Macon for” by a commenter named “haley” half an hour later. Surprisingly, however, the normally-defensive Macon D took my complaint seriously and tried to think of alternative ways of phrasing the title. In the end, Macon D actually took my suggestion seriously and changed the post’s title to “Stuff White People Do: Laugh at “Engrish”.”*

I’m not entirely sure what happened, but perhaps my uncharacteristic comment, which left me vulnerable to the accusation of oversensitivity, didn’t trigger a defensive reaction on the part of Macon D.

Normally, I almost never criticize racism with “I am offended” or “I take offense”, because when racism is framed as “something that offends people”, then accusations of racism are portrayed as “political correctness” catering to the hypersensitivities of minorities who supposedly always force the majority to accommodate them. Even when I almost never use the terms “offense”, “offended”, or “offensive”, people have told me that I was oversensitive about racism, that I need to grow up, that I cannot always break down and cry every time someone is not sensitive to my feelings.

The people who say these things appear to think that racism occurs rarely, and that when a non-white person complains about allegedly “trivial” instances of racism, it means that she is like a young child who hasn’t yet learned that not everyone in the world is obligated to be nice to her. In reality, however, I have experienced racial microaggressions since childhood, and I am well aware that the world is not a safe space for people of colour with respect to race. I point out racism not because I’m noticing it for the first time, but because I want to bring it to the attention of others who have grown up shielded from the daily realities that people of colour have to endure. I point out racism because I want to point out injustice, not because I am some selfish oversensitive child who wants the world to revolve around me and my feelings.

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When Muslims cry “freedom of speech!” … opponents cry “freedom of speech!”

Four Muslim, law students from Osgoode Hall Law School at Toronto’s York University filed a Human Rights Complaint against Canada’s Maclean’s magazine on December 4th, 2007. In a Maclean’s article titled “The future belongs to Islam” published in October 2006, Mark Steyn had argued that Muslims will eventually take over the Western world. The Osgoode law students, on March 30, 2007, had asked Maclean’s to “publish a response to Steyn’s article from a mutually acceptable source.” Maclean’s refused, allegedly claiming that they “would rather go bankrupt,” which resulted in the law students filing the Human Rights Complaint.

Here is an interview with one of the law students, Khurrum Awan:

When the interviewer asks Khurrum how to strike a balance between human rights and free speech rights, the Osgoode law student responds:

I don’t think that this issue is about freedom of speech versus minority rights. This is really about the right of communities to participate in our national discourse on issues that relate directly to us. […] We just simply want to extend free speech to make it more inclusive of the communities in question. And if we do that, we don’t have to, you know, get into this false trade-off that we always assume that somehow free speech and minority rights — or free speech and multiculturalism — are somehow diametrically opposed.

What is ironic is that while many of the critics of the Osgoode law students criticize them for suppressing freedom of speech, the Osgoode law students claim that they are filing the Human Rights Complaint on behalf of freedom of speech (i.e., the right to publish a counter article in Maclean’s). While many critics accuse the Osgoode law students of censorship, the Osgoode law students feel that they themselves are being censored.

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