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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People of colour are not born with racial identities.

Some white people appear to think that non-white people have a strong ethnic or racial identity by default. They may think that if a non-white person is unaware of her race or ethnicity, it is a result of white interference. However, ethnic and racial identities are socially constructed, not genetically inherited.

Infants of colour, for example, are born without knowing their race, their ethnicity, their culture, or their history. These things are learned. Learning culture may involve learning skills, learning history may involve learning knowledge, but learning racial and ethnic identity often involves the internalization of social categories of difference and otherness.

Perhaps white adults have a weak sense ethnic and racial identity—if they have any at all—because they have not had the same experiences with being othered and being different.

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Anti-racism is not human relations programming.

White people often associate antiracism training with learning about and respecting the differences between white and non-white cultures, between Western culture and non-Western cultures. The goal behind this “cultural sensitivity” training is to ensure that white people do not unintentionally offend people of colour. I will refer to this type of training as human relations programming.

Essentially, for whites, the purpose of human relations programming is to minimize the possibility that people of colour would file a racial discrimination complaint against the company, or on the societal level, its purpose is to prevent a racial revolt or “race war”. Sometimes, a white person who feels guilty about racism attempts to be antiracist by being extra-nice to people of colour. In other cases, a white person who realizes that she did something racist to a person of colour will try to ameliorate the transgression by, again, being extra-nice. If the white person and the person of colour become on friendly terms, the white person may perceive that her racial transgression has been forgiven. If the white person believes that her racial transgression has been forgiven, it usually relieves her of her guilt and restores her self-identity as a “good person”.

However, the problem with this model is that racism is more than cultural misunderstandings between whites and non-whites; racism is more than just acts that offend people of colour. Racism is inequality, inequity, and injustice that are built into our society which values whites over non-whites. Racism is not “subjective”; it is “objective”. That is, racism is not perception; it is reality. There are real inconsistencies between how society treats whites and non-whites, and these inconsistencies are due to conscious and unconscious in-group/out-group categorization.

Racism is not just about personal relationship problems between white and non-white individuals due to racial differences. Racism is systemic. The problem is not difference; it is inequality. The solution to the problem is not to accept differences; the solution to the problem is to eliminate inequality.

White people use human relations programming to protect themselves from racial anger.

Some white people’s focus on and preoccupation with human relations programming appears to indicate a deep-seated, subconscious fear of an oncoming “race war”, in which people of colour will eventually revolt violently in response to centuries of white oppression. For white people who conflate antiracism with human relations programming, the worst outcome of systemic racial oppression is racial violence. In other words, white people who focus on human relations programming are concerned (subconsciously) with their own safety as a racial group, and their goal is to maintain social order. The current social order, of course, is the status quo that upholds white supremacy. Thus, to focus on human relations programming is to protect the white supremacist system from being overthrown, to placate people of colour with kind words and prevent them from rebelling.

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Most Japanese Canadians are Canadian-born.

If you ask an Asian in Canada, “Where are you from?”, the person may be take offense at being assumed a foreigner because of her race, or she may be happy to tell you about her motherland. Foreign-born and native-born Asian Canadians are different. They should not be lumped together and treated the same.

Although you cannot tell if an Asian individual is foreign-born or Canadian-born by looking at his physical features (being born and raised in a Western country does not change small, slanted eyes into large, round eyes), we have data on Asian Canadian visible minorities as an aggregate and where they are from.

2 in 3 Japanese are Canadian-born:
Canadian-born, 63.2%. Foreign-born, 36.8%.
1 in 4 Chinese are Canadian-born (“Canadian-Born Chinese” or “CBCs”):
Canadian-born, 25.5%. Foreign-born, 74.5%.
1 in 3 South Asians are Canadian-born (so-called “Canadian-Born Confused Desis” or “CBCDs”):
Canadian-born, 29.3%. Foreign-born, 70.7%.

On average, 3 in 10 visible minorities were Canadian-born. The breakdown of the Canadian-born percentages across the individual visible minority groups are shown below.

Visible minority group Percentage Canadian-born Canadian-born occurrence
Japanese 63.2 2 out of 3
Black 44.3 9 out of 20
Southeast Asian 31.2 1 out of 3
South Asian 29.3 1 out of 3
Arab 27.0 3 out of 10
Filipino 25.6 1 out of 4
Chinese 25.5 1 out of 4
Latin American 21.1 1 out of 5
Korean 15.0 3 out of 20
West Asian 14.8 3 out of 20

(The “Canadian-born occurrence” column is an extrapolation from the percentage, not explicitly listed in the analysis series article.)

Sources: