Institutional racism and white privilege run Keswick, Ontario.

Korean boy can only watch as others go to school (Globe and Mail, May 2, 2009):

Earlier this week, the boy’s father received a couriered letter from the York Region District School Board. It said the school’s principal, Catherine McGinley, was recommending the discipline committee mete out the harshest possible punishment when it meets on May 13. She asked that the 15-year-old be expelled not just from Keswick High, but from all schools in York region.

“It was horrible. It was a big shock,” the boy’s father said.

Yesterday afternoon, spokesman Ross Virgo said the board meant to retract that letter, that it was sent in error and that its contents were no longer valid. He said the case is being investigated further, and that the recommendation of expulsion is no longer in effect.

But no one had told the boy’s family, who were still mulling over the letter’s devastating implications late yesterday.

They said that they feel as though some combination of forces is trying to run them out of this rural, mostly white town, particularly in light of attacks on Asian fishermen in the nearby Lake Simcoe area in 2007.

[…]

His father said the school doesn’t seem to understand the impact of the racial comment. Afterward, a vice-principal asked his son why a Korean was upset about being called Chinese.

“Probably they don’t realize how much it hurts when someone makes a racist comment,” his father said. “My son said, ‘I felt all the way down, like I am nothing, on the floor. Like they’re the master and I’m the slave.’

His father said he will continue to fight for his son.

Maybe they’re trying to force me to move to another area, I don’t know … I’m not going to give up. If I give up, no other Asian can ever come here and feel safe.


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White people cannot know how it feels to be a person of colour.

Sometimes a white person may declare that she knows how it feels to be a person of colour, because she has spent a lot of time amongst people of colour. Other people of colour may then declare that she does not know how it feels, because she is white. The white person may then think that she is being discriminated against because of the colour of her skin, that those who accuse her of not empathizing are just making assumptions based on stereotypes about white people.

However, the argument that a person would know how it feels to be of group X because she spent a lot of time with people of group X is fallacious. If you are not of group X, then spending time with people of group X does not change the fact that you are not of group X.

For example, most people would agree that if a visible person of colour spent a lot of time with white people, it does not follow that the person of colour must know how it feels to be white. Some white people find the reverse idea more plausible, because they believe themselves to be raceless or even racially disembodied.

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Whites, men, and heterosexuals are ignorant and uneducated.

Non-white minorities, women, and homosexuals are knowledgeable and educated. However, the power of knowledge is not enough to bring down systems of oppression.

Women know more about men than men know about women. Non-white minorities know more about whites than whites know about non-white minorities. Homosexuals know more about heterosexuals than heterosexuals know about homosexuals. Women, non-white minorities, and homosexuals are on average more knowledgeable and educated about sexism, racism, and homophobia than men, whites, and heterosexuals, respectively.

On average, the oppressed group’s understanding of their oppression is cognitively complex and well-developed, while the oppressor group’s understanding of how they oppress is superficial and undeveloped at best, non-existent at the worst. Yet sexism, racism, and homophobia remain.

Additionally, the oppressor group assumes that the oppressed group is oppressed because they are uneducated and unknowledgeable about issues of gender, race, or even the nature of their own sexual orientation. The oppressors assume that they themselves are in power because they are more educated and knowledgeable, and that they have a responsibility to “teach” or confer knowledge to those who are oppressed. They assume that the oppressed are the ones who need to change. They assume that the oppressed needs to change and become more like men, whites, and heterosexuals.

It is the oppressors that need to change, to learn, and to educate themselves. Unfortunately, the oppressor group tries to ‘help’ the oppressed without even this basic piece of knowledge. They are ignoramuses in this knowledge domain, but they are too ignorant and prejudiced to consider this possibility.