Canadian Black History Month teaches us that Canada is “not racist”.

In Why I am Skipping Black History Month Renee of Womanist Musings writes:

When I was a child, Black history month consisted of the traditional lecture on Harriet Tubman and the underground railroad, because heaven forbid we actually admit that as an English colony, Canada had slavery [too].  Many Canadians grow to adulthood and never realize this historical truth.  Because the underground railroad has become such a fixation, it has allowed many to have the false belief, that unlike our American cousins, that we were far to civilized to engage in this great crime against humanity. Instead, we will focus on the fact that Harriet Tubman’s church still stands in St. Catherine’s.  We don’t want to talk about the fact that White Supremacist Canada was hardly welcoming to escaped slaves, or that our Prime Minsters were not fans of people of colour.  Instead, we will wag our fingers and scowl about American founding fathers owning slaves.

Not only do many falsely believe that slavery did not happen in Canada, far too many are unaware that Jim Crow laws existed here as well.  In 1946, Viola Desmond was arrested for daring to sit in the White section of a movie house.  She was dragged out of the theater by two men, injuring her knee in the process.  To further shame Desmond, after her arrest, she was held in a male cell block.  Eventually, she was charged with tax evasion because of the difference in price between White seats and Blacks seats.  It was a difference of one cent.  With the help of the NSACCP (The Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People), Desmond would take her fight to the supreme court of Nova Scotia.  Desmond was a trailblazer and instead of being recognized as such, the Canadian government recently sought to pardon her, as though her arrest was actually a stain on her life, instead of the government itself.

Growing up and attending Canadian schools, I never learned a single word about Desmond and I believe that this was to continue the indoctrination that Canada is a tolerant, racially just society.  I did not learn about the porters strike.  I most certainly did not learn about the destruction of Africville.  As a child, it forced me to look southward to find examples of people of the African diaspora to function as role models, rather than in my own country.  I would continue to live in ignorance, had I not made a great effort to look beyond the lack of education I had been given in schools.

Read the whole thing.

Link: Why I am Skipping Black History Month

White racism creates more sexism in the world.

In What does cultural competence look like? resistance of Resist racism discusses the problem of “cultural competence” through learning cultural “facts”. A recurrent problem with this is that white people often use some “fact” they learned in a text about how a non-white group allegedly behaves to stereotype individuals of that demographic.

Ironically, the racist stereotype that non-white people are more sexist than white people can actually result in white people acting sexist towards non-white women specifically.

For example, in my immediate family, my father is the only male. We are Chinese. A white man had dinner with us, and asked my father about our family’s position regarding a common political debate. My father is conservative, so he offered his standard conservative reply, which was incongruent with the rest of us, who were on average left of liberal. After hearing my elderly father’s opinion, however, instead of turning to us and hearing ours, the white man was satisfied with my father’s answer and began discussing another topic.

This white man assumed that there was no point in asking about our thoughts, because we were Chinese daughters and a Chinese mother, so our opinions must match that of my Chinese father. Before this incident, I had never had the experience of being shut out of a political debate because of my gender. Ironically, it was the racist stereotype of Chinese women being submissive to Chinese men that actually resulted our political voices being silenced.

Read the rest of this entry »

White women are stereotyped differently from Black and Asian women.

Abagond describes the Three Bears Effect:

The Three Bears Effect is the name given by Aiyo at the blog Black British Girl for how whites stereotype blacks and Asians as opposites while putting themselves in the middle as “just right” – like in “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”.

For example, black men are stereotyped as having big penises but not much intelligence while Asian men are the other way round, leaving white men in the middle as “just right”.

It works so well in America that in most cases you can tell what the Asian stereotype will be by taking the opposite of the black one:

  • If blacks are cool, then Asians are nerdy.
  • If black women are disagreeable, overbearing and loud, then Asian women are sweet, submissive and quiet.
  • If blacks are lazy, then Asians are hard working.
  • If blacks have a lower IQ than whites, then Asians have a higher one.
  • If blacks have a higher poverty rate than whites, then Asians have a lower one.
  • If blacks have less education than whites, then Asians have more.
  • If black women are “mannish”, then Asian women are “ultra-feminine”.

Etc.

Read the rest of this entry »

White males blame Asians and women for attending universities intended for white males.

In When Asians enroll! (And other tales from meritocracy’s margins) Sarah Ghabrial writes:

Meritocracy forgets privilege, and the fact that folks from marginalized groups have to work a hell of a lot harder for the same reward as their more upwardly mobile counterparts. By the logic of meritocracy, the cream would rise naturally to the top, regardless of status or association, and yet generations passed wherein the “cream” remained almost consistently white and male… that is, until just recently, when the world woke up to the news that minorities were not just gratefully accepting the token slots assigned them, but slowly and surely invading campuses in force, dramatically shifting the demographic away from the white, male, middle-class face of higher education. Meritocracy was somehow, if unevenly, coming through on its promise of diversity. Calamity ensued.

Let’s start with women and the “pussification” of schools. Rant after rant, each less coherent than the last, has blamed the increasing enrollment of women in higher education for all kinds of “male afflictions” (likened by one commentator to a “plague”): a mass exodus of boys from schools at all levels, suddenly put off by title pages and hand raising; dateless young women reduced to hyper-educated spinsters at the tender age of 23; and what about “the family” (where all anti-feminist roads end), ever at the point of demise? Never mind that the education system as it exists and operates today is no more estrogen-riddled than it ever was — teaching has always been a feminized occupation — or that, historically, wherever girls have been admitted, they have outpaced boys, just not outnumbered them. Forget, as well, that the regimentation and “sit still and behave” pedagogical norm is not a recent phenomenon, but the vestige of 19th-century British education reforms by which military-and factory-drawn models of discipline and hierarchy were applied to private and semi-public schools — whose clients were then exclusively boys.

[...]

Herein lies the paradox to this whole story that is mind bending, though maybe not surprising to meritocracy’s skeptics. The excellence of individuals other than middle-class white males within an education system designed for and by the latter has aroused a mass panic and sense of social crisis — the blame for which is placed not on the system, but those excelling individuals. Meanwhile, though the ideal of meritocracy remains intact, elements of “affirmative action” are insinuated into university acceptance processes, not in the service of historically excluded groups, but rather, it seems, to soothe the self-esteem of the privileged.

Though these are separate issues, the same kind of language permeates both sets of complaints. Both women and Asians (I can only imagine the threat posed by an Asian woman) are perceived to have adapted almost too well to the disciplinary expectations of public and higher education: in classes, girls are too competent, too malleable, too disciplined, too obedient. In the Maclean’s article, Asian students are described as hyper-studious, almost machine-like in their drive and focus, sacrificing food, sleep, even booze, to maintain their GPA. Suddenly, the terms of merit that are supposed to earn individuals success are re-scripted as faults, even disadvantages (though whether to themselves or others is not always clear).

Read the whole thing.

Link: When Asians enroll! (And other tales from meritocracy’s margins) (via Racialicious)

Maclean’s “‘Too Asian’?” is xenophobic; Margaret Wente’s defence is obfuscation.

In Too Brazen: Maclean’s, Margaret Wente, and the Canadian media’s inarticulacy about race, Jeet Heer writes:

The problems with the Maclean’s article are many and systematic. I’ve already discussed them here and here. Briefly, the article leaves a bad aftertaste because:

1. The word “Asian” is used in a very broad way to encompass both foreign-born exchange students (who are in Canada temporarily) and Canadians who have ancestors in countries such as China, Japan, and Korea. By this usage, David Suzuki, Olivia Chow, Adrienne Clarkson, and Sook-Yin Lee are all notable Asians, rather than notable Canadians or notable Asian-Canadians. Moreover the distinct problems faced by exchange students (linguistic hurdles, social isolation) are quite different from the experiences of Asian-Canadians. How could Chinese-Canadian kids who read the article not feel like foreigners in their native land?

2. The article stereotypes both white Canadian students and “Asian” students. White Canadians students are portrayed as privileged preppies who are more interested in partying and drinking than studying. “Asian” students are portrayed as socially dysfunctional nerds who lack any sense of fun, virtual robots who are programmed by their parents to study.

As someone who has done a little teaching and spent far too much time in school, I have to say these two stereotypes are violently at odds with the real diversity of personality types that you find on Canadian campuses, among students of all different races and backgrounds. It’s notable that the Maclean’s article completely erases the existence of working class white Canadian students, many of whom face the same educational problems of balancing work and studying that often bedevil immigrant students. Also ignored is the fact that many “white” students in Canada also come from immigrant backgrounds, notably from Southern and Eastern Europe.

By highlighting race and ignoring class, Maclean’s makes it harder to see the commonalities that many students of diverse backgrounds share. Throughout the article, it is assumed that the experience of upper–middle class white kids is normative — and that every other experience (whether working class white Canadian or “Asian”) has to be defined against that norm.

3. Finally, Maclean’s frames the problem as one that is caused by the mere presence of “Asians” on campus, rather than by the social and cultural barriers that divide students. For example, in the rankings issue’s table of contents, Maclean’s has this headline: “Asian advantage?” The question mark is a typical example of Maclean’s trying to cover an inflammatory statement by qualifying it. However, if you read the article, it becomes clear that the only “advantage” that “Asians” have is that many of them study “hard,” which is what all students should do. The idea that doing homework is an “advantage” is built on the assumption that whites are entitled to university spaces whether they study or not, simply on the basis of their whiteness — or perhaps because they are real Canadians, unlike the “Asians” who happen to live here.

If the Maclean’s article is troublingly xenophobic, then Margaret Wente’s defence is a classic case of obfuscation.

[...]

Of course, the “Asian campus” is only a problem if you believe that Asian-Canadians are not real Canadians. In the United States, there are people like Sarah Palin who make a distinction between “real Americans” (i.e., animal-killing Alaskans) and Americans who are somehow less real (i.e., liberals, New Yorkers, vegetarians). The subtext of both “‘Too Asian?’” and Wente’s defence of it is a similar distinction between Canadians whose presence in universities is natural and those Canadians who, even if they were born in Canada, are seen as alien intruders.

In her column, Wente wrote that “nobody is talking about quotas.” This is flatly untrue. Maclean’s raised the issue of anti-Asian quotas in the United States and offered this slippery statement: “Canadian universities, apart from highly competitive professional programs and faculties, don’t quiz applicants the same way, and rely entirely on transcripts. Likely that is a good thing. And yet, that meritocratic process results, especially in Canada’s elite university programs, in a concentration of Asian students.”

I don’t know how this passage can be read as anything except a claim that meritocracy is a provisional (or “likely”) good thing, which might need to be abandoned since it leads to a putatively bad result — i.e., “a concentration of Asian students.” Maclean’s did not advocate quotas, but it has opened the door to the possibility that they might be needed, a likelihood that feels all the more urgent in an article full of scary stories about universities being overstuffed with “Asian” kids.

Read the whole thing. Jeet Heer also addresses the underrepresentation of other racial groups in Canadian universities.

Link: Too Brazen by Jeet Heer (via Knowing Coves)

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