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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Haiti was the first black country to get its independence.

“Immigrant” Def Poetry by Wyclef Jean (2005):

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On the Internet, I can pass as white, but at a cost.

Even now, when I am part of the anti-racist blogosphere with supposed anti-racist allies, I avoid mentioning my ethnicity on the Internet, because I don’t want people to use that knowledge to guess where I’m coming from, even empathetically. Because they would guess wrong.

A few months ago, I browsed the submissions of the first Asian Women Blog Carnival, and in a post titled On the Internet, Nobody Knows You’re Chinese, aozhoux articulated how I used to feel, and still feel (emphasis mine):

Because there are, in my opinion, possible downsides to owning my Asian-ness. I worry – accurately or inaccurately – that people’s impressions of me might change should they be confronted with the realisation that I am, after all, not white. That anything I say or do may henceforth be conveniently attributed to my Chinese-ness, especially if any of my personal quirks should happen to fall into certain common stereotypes (and oh, some of them do *g*). Even worse, people might go so far as to start projecting their language biases onto me, and then I’d start getting the equivalent of “but you write so well (considering your ethnicity, never mind the fact that you grew up exclusively in white-dominated, English-speaking countries)”, and then I’d… have to kill them.

Perhaps this last point sounds a little absurd, but let’s just say it isn’t coming out of nowhere. I’ve seen a milder variation of this kind of language assumption happen right in front of me on lj, and while the corrections and apologies were gracious all around, it still kind of hurt. And in my personal experience many people, of all ethnicities, still seem to have problems with the idea that someone with Asian features and language ability could possibly be a competent, educated, native speaker of English. While I do understand the balance of probabilities backing that assumption, I’d really rather not have to prove myself every time I attempt to construct a sentence.

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Second-generation visible minority Canadians are more likely to report discrimination compared to their parents.

A higher proportion of second-generation visible minority Canadians reported experiences of perceived discrimination than first-generation visible minorities, according to a 2007 study.

Perceived Discrimination by Race and Generation (graph)

(In my graph, Generation 0 refers to recent immigrants, and Generation 1 refers to earlier immigrants.)

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Whites engage in more racist acts after declaring support for Obama, study finds.

How Obama could be bad for racial equality (BPS Research Digest):

Daniel Effron and colleagues presented dozens of predominantly White undergrad students with one of two scenarios that would reveal their favouritism towards White people: one was a hiring decision, the other related to the allocation of funds to communities. Crucially, the students were asked to make their choices about the hiring or funding either before or after they had declared whether they planned to vote for Barack Obama, in what was then the upcoming Presidential election.

Students who declared their intention to vote for Obama before making the hiring/funding decisions subsequently showed more favouritism towards White people than did students who made their decisions first. A third study showed this effect was particularly apparent among more racially prejudiced students.

“Our findings raise the possibility that the opportunity to vote for an African-American for President could have reduced some voters’ concerns about appearing prejudiced, thereby ironically increasing the likelihood that they would favour Whites in subsequent decisions,” the researchers said.

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You don’t need a white friend to show you’re not racist.

Many white people feel that white people are stereotyped as racists and are victims of racial prejudice. Consequently, many whites assume that non-white people will be racially prejudiced against whites on the basis of their skin colour, assuming that they are racist because they are white.

Of course, most people of colour who were raised in white-majority societies are aware of this, and some of us make extraordinary efforts to make white friends and parade them around to make ourselves appear “not racist”, or at least not racially prejudiced against ‘whitey’. What makes the stereotype that non-whites are racially prejudiced against whites so resilient is that it fits nicely into the stereotype that non-white people always stick together and self-segregate.

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White people like writing as ‘experts’ on non-white cultures.

Stuff White People Like’s #20 Being an expert on YOUR culture is about pretentious white liberals and leftists who consider themselves “experts” on non-white cultures. Unfortunately, whites who self-identify as “antiracist” may still write as “experts” on non-white cultures, and believe that such writings are “antiracist”. At least one white antiracist believes that he has direct access to the mental states of non-white people, as well as unique insights about non-white cultures.

How psychologists accessed the thoughts of others

One problem within the history of psychology has been the problem of how a psychologist can access the mental processes of other individuals. Originally, psychologists used introspection, i.e., they asked subjects to self-report their own mental processes. However, during the behavioral revolution in psychology, introspection as a method of psychological investigation was considered unreliable and unscientific.* During the behavioral revolution in psychology, mainstream psychologists studied only human behaviour and considered the concept of “mental processes” as extraneous and irrelevant. After the behavioral revolution in psychology was the cognitive revolution, however, and now psychologists are interested in mental processes again, in addition to behaviour. However, psychologists use more advanced experimental methods to investigate mental processes, and they generally consider introspection unreliable as “direct access” to human thought.

Basically, accessing the thoughts of another individual, and drawing conclusions about what she is thinking and how she thinks, is a non-trivial task. Although it is already ignorant for a person to make psychological observations about another person without any background in psychology, it is both profoundly ignorant and oppressive for a person to make psychological observations about an entire race of people.

When this person is white, and this white person is making psychological observations about non-white people in general, it an instance of racism. Such a situation would be a continuation of the white-supremacist assumption that white people are more objective than non-white people, and know better about non-white people than non-white people know about themselves. That is, under this white-supremacist framework, the white person’s assessment of the non-white person’s mind is given higher priority and more validity than the non-white person’s assessment of her own mind or mental state. (Although a person’s introspection is still unreliable, a person interpreting another person’s introspection adds another layer of unreliability.) If a white person believes that he has obvious and direct access to the mind of a non-white person, he is under the assumption that he is objective, omniscient, and completely free of any cognitive biases that human beings have.

How anthropologists studied the cultures of others

The fields of cultural anthropology and social anthropology study human culture and human society, respectively. Socio-cultural anthropology has a history of racism, as it originated from European colonialism and the colonial project of managing and pacifying non-white societies (usually colonies or potential colonies).

In early socio-cultural anthropology, white intellectuals made generalizations about non-white cultures and societies using what is now referred to as “armchair anthropology”. Basically, these white people sat around in armchairs—literally or figuratively—and theorized about non-white people based on the personal anecdotes and travel diaries of white explorers, white traders, white Christian missionaries, and white colonial officials. The white intellectuals who “studied” non-white cultures and societies never visited the places or met the people that they studied, relying on the ostensibly “objective” reports of the white observers who did. When social anthropologist James George Frazer was asked if he had met any of the non-white people he had studied, he replied, “God forbid!”

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