MacDougall: Imperfect Canada can afford to give itself a break

Good and needed balance and perspective (from another white guy but with two half-Persian adult children):

Can we give ourselves a break?

I ask, because the country is still under tremendous stress from the novel coronavirus. Millions are out of work, the economy is tanking, and parents are going insane trying to “work” from home. Is now really the time to beat ourselves up for being one of the most progressive, tolerant and accommodating societies ever constructed?

We are failing on some fronts, however, as many Black, Indigenous or minority Canadians are busy pointing out. But why are disclaimers being placed on the Canadian flag only now? Why the loss of confidence in what’s gotten us so far? Hasn’t the country always been riven by faults and tainted by failings? Indigenous versus the European settlers; the French versus the English; Catholic versus Protestant; “old stock” versus the wave of post-First and Second World War immigrants; men versus women; and so on. Some of these faults – particularly the oldest – remain painfully unresolved.

Thankfully, the country is still learning. Pace the most fervent “anti-racists,” we aren’t in need of a mass societal reset, nor are we in need of the mother of all guilt trips for white people, including any forced readings of huckster texts such as Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility. Putting people into boxes only blinds them further. Besides, guilt or moral panic is rarely constructive; it’s better to rediscover the liberal fundamentals that underpin our free society and use them as guideposts for strengthening and renewing our (admittedly sclerotic) institutions.

We certainly won’t get further along by focusing on our differences, not when there are so many now thanks to years of profound and beneficial change. The shorter path is to focus on what’s the same. My school pictures were lily white, whereas those of modern city classrooms are not. That’s different, and good, but they’re all still children. And while it’s true the upper echelons of our institutions don’t yet reflect this diversity, give them another generation or two and they will. They’ll have to.

And while the urge to shove the process along more quickly than it goes on its own is understandable, provoking a bitter cultural backlash will only delay the inevitable. Renaming every Dundas Street in the country feels like a victory, but it’s a symbolic one. Even worse, it urges others to aim for similar low-hanging fruit, instead of focusing on the bigger problems.

Reckon with our past, sure, but focus more on our future. And be constructive. So let’s make CVs “blind.” Let’s push governments and corporations to actively seek minority hires. Most importantly, give people the space to have difficult conversations and show them charity if they stumble along the way. We’re not always going to get it right.

Easy for me to say as a white guy, I know. But I have two small children who are half-Arab. Their maternal grandparents came to Canada with little money and a funny surname, but their mother is now a national television reporter (initially hired in local news through a diversity hire program) and their futures will be brighter still.

If, that is, we give ourselves a break.

Remember: perfect is the enemy of the good. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. The English lexicon is full of expressions urging caution in the face of mania. We need to rediscover that corner of our language because, right now, things are hard enough without looking for any extra trouble.

Source: MacDougall: Imperfect Canada can afford to give itself a break

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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