Kyriarchy in Canada: where oppressions intersect

Complaints overwhelm human rights watchdog (Toronto Star):

Ontario’s newly streamlined human rights watchdog is swamped with allegations of sex, race and disability discrimination, the Star has found.


Tribunal decisions show that women, minorities and the disabled are most vulnerable to discrimination by employers, landlords and businesses. In some cases both the victim and the defendant belong to racial minorities but are from different backgrounds.

One complaint example is of a Chinese doughnut shop owner blatantly expressing her hatred of “Turkish” people and calling a customer a “gypsy”. Another is of a company policy banning three Muslim women from speaking French (which happens to be one of the official languages of our country), as well banning the microwaving of foods that fit the criteria of “You don’t know until you smell.”

Another example:

• A black couple received $5,000 and a letter of apology after they were ignored at a restaurant they had gone to as part of a corporate training session.

After arriving, the couple were asked several times by restaurant staff if they were aware they were standing in a private function area. The couple twice showed them their tickets – and finally propped the tickets on their table.

The waitress ignored them but served drinks to all the white people at the table. Finally, a white person had to order drinks for them. Later, the manager tried to apologize for his staff’s behaviour, saying the black couple was dressed better than the rest of the group and suggesting the woman looked like she could be a “lady of the night.”

At the end of the evening, the manager stopped the couple at the elevators and tried to give them some souvenir boxes, which he said would be good for storing drugs. They told him they didn’t use drugs. The manager insisted they take the boxes.

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Racist white man attacked Asian Canadians with pickup truck.

Ontario man jailed for attack on Asian anglers (CBC News):

[A white] Ontario man has been sentenced to two years less a day in jail Friday for attacking a group of Asian anglers and their friends in 2007.

Justice Alfred Stong also sentenced Trevor Middleton, 23, to three years’ probation after he has served his sentence, and 240 hours of community service helping seniors and people with mental disabilities. Middleton will also be required to attend a cultural awareness course, and he’s been banned from driving for 10 years.

According to Justice Stong, since some of the victims were Asian Canadians, what made them stand out visually in the overwhelmingly white town must have been their “culture”, which was made conspicuous by the fact that they were trying to fish from a dock in Lake Simcoe, Ontario, alongside their white friends.

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How to: Make your blog’s images more accessible

This tutorial explains how bloggers can make their images more accessible for people with visual impairments by adding ‘alt-text’. While most web accessibility tutorials assume that the all creators of web content code in raw HTML, it is 2009, and most bloggers today probably do not know HTML.

This tutorial also assumes that the blogger uses a blogging software (such as WordPress) and creates web content through a graphical interface. While this tutorial uses WordPress examples, the vast majority of this tutorial is applicable to any blogging software, content management system, and even to those who build webpages from scratch.


Understanding how to add ‘alt-text’ requires understanding how to edit a post in HTML mode, as well as understanding the structure of a HTML tag. These two prerequisites will be explained first. The content of this tutorial consists of the following sections:

  1. Accessing the HTML of your post
  2. Understanding HTML tags
  3. Adding ‘alt-text’ to images

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“I only read Playboy for the articles.” – a study on unconscious bias

The conceit of deceit (The Economist):

YOU are deciding between two magazines to read. The one you choose just happens to feature photos of women in very small swimsuits. But you do not, you claim, pick that particular magazine for the bathing beauties; it happens to have more interesting articles, or better coverage of copper mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. You will say this even in the midst of a lab experiment that has been set up so that the only possible difference between the two magazines is the presence (or absence) of swimsuits.

Such was the finding of Zoë Chance, a doctoral student, and Michael Norton, a marketing professor, both at Harvard Business School. The pair were investigating how people justify “questionable” behaviour (Mr Norton’s word) to themselves after the fact. They asked 23 male students to choose between two sports magazines, one with broader coverage and one with more feature articles. The magazine which also happened to contain a special swimsuit issue was picked three-quarters of the time, regardless of the other content. But asked why they chose that particular magazine, the subjects pointed to either the sports coverage or the greater number of features—whichever happened to accompany the bikinis.

This may not seem surprising: the joke about reading Playboy for the articles is so old Ms Chance and Mr Norton borrowed it for the title of their working paper. But it is the latest in a series of experiments exploring how people behave in ways they think might be frowned upon, and then explain how their motives are actually squeaky clean. Managers, for example, have been found to favour male applicants at hypothetical job interviews by claiming that they were searching for a candidate with either greater education or greater experience, depending on the attribute with which the man could trump the woman. In another experiment, people chose to watch a movie in a room already occupied by a person in a wheelchair when an adjoining room was showing the same film, but decamped when the movie in the next room was different (thus being able to claim that they were not avoiding the disabled person but just choosing a different film to watch). As Ms Chance puts it: “People will do what they want to do, and then find reasons to support it.”

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Do all white people have white privilege? Why?

Q: Why do all white people have white privilege, even though not all white people are well-off?

A: White privilege is different from having money, and white privilege is different from class privilege. When ‘white privilege’ is discussed, whiteness is not a proxy for wealth. All white people have white privilege, not some or most white people. Saying that all white people have white privilege is not lumping all white people together. It is not denying that individual white people may have other disadvantages due to gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, or class.

Because this idea is often misunderstood when communicated through prose, a mathematical equation may be more accessible and precise for some audiences. Let a person’s total privilege be represented as:

p = Aw + Bx + Cy + Dz + …

where A, B, C, and D are some positive constants,
w is whether or not the person is white (or how much the person can pass for white),
x is whether or not the person is male (or how much the person can pass for male),
y is whether or not the person is heterosexual (or how heterosexual the person is),
z is how much the person is able-bodied.

For all white people, w = 1, and the first term (white privilege) is A.
For all non-white people, w = 0, and the first term (white privilege) is 0.

Notice that saying that all white people have white privilege is not saying that the total p for every white person is greater than the total p for every non-white person. It just means that every white person has the advantage of A. White privilege is one dimension of privilege, and it holds for all people who are white.

Of course, the above equation is just an expression or model of how white privilege fits together with other privileges, not a proof of the privileges. The purpose of expressing it in an equation is to clear up the misunderstanding that saying that all whites have white privilege is equivalent to saying that all whites are the same.

For more concrete examples of white privilege, refer to the Daily effects of white privilege section of Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”. (Update: For a 2001 version, see How I Benefit From White Privilege by Laura Douglas.)

One caveat of expressing privilege as the sum of the different dimensions of privilege is that it does not account for the intersection of race and gender, gender and sexual orientation, or multiple combinations of oppression. A person who deals with multiple levels of oppression is actually dealing with something more complex than the sum of its constituent parts.