Articles on racism and discrimination that caught my eye

In terms of articles focussing on racism and discrimination, there was a mix of anecdote-based reports on the presence and impact of visible minorities (Immigration minister says he was target of racial profiling, calls on Liberals to fight racism, ‘We’re not immune’ on the Hill: Sen. Bernard launches Senate debate on anti-Black racism) and evidence (Indigenous, Black children over-represented in foster care and group homes, inquiry says, Experiences of violent victimization and discrimination reported by minority populations in Canada, 2014 – General Social Survey which I look forward to reviewing the data in more detail).

Commentary in favour of the anti-racism consults included Brittany Andrew-Amofah: Keep expectations high for antiracism consultations on the need to ensure meaningful results (some of which Budget 2018 addressed):

The plan to undertake these consultations deserves and requires scrutiny, but not because it may be designed to search for a racism that doesn’t exist (a possibility suggested by Globe and Mail Ottawa bureau chief Robert Fife during a CPAC interview). We should be scrutinizing the consultations to make sure that meaningful outcomes are actually achieved. We should expect to see, just to name a few examples, a ban on police carding on the federal level; targeted funding to fight Islamophobia and other forms of hate; tougher sentences for hate crimes; increased investments in housing, health and social programs; an accelerated plan for safe drinking water on all reserves; and stronger independent police oversight bodies for the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency.

The timing of these consultations is also significant. With a federal election coming in 2019, a tour to study systemic racism could be used as a ploy to engage and garner support from racialized and Indigenous communities, with no intention on acting on the information shared. The Liberals are lucky that much of the research has already been done, but that means we must set high expectations for policy changes following the consultations. If real change does not result, the time spent in consultations will be wasted and another opportunity will be missed.

The contrary argument that greater political power of African Americans is ineffective in improving outcomes is made here (Williams: Black political power means zilch), essentially ignoring the impact that political power had in reducing some institutional barriers and systemic racism:

Jason Riley, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, tells how this surge in political power has had little beneficial impact on the black community.

In a PragerU video, “Blacks in Power Don’t Empower Blacks“, Riley says the conventional wisdom was based on the notion that only black politicians could understand and address the challenges facing blacks. Therefore, electing more black city councilors, mayors, representatives and senators was deemed critical.

…Riley says that the black experience in the U.S. has been very different from that of other racial groups. Blacks were enslaved. After emancipation, they faced legal and extralegal discrimination and oppression. But none of those difficulties undermines the proposition that human capital, in the forms of skills and education, is far more important than political capital.

Riley adds that the formula for prosperity is the same across the human spectrum. Traditional values — such as marriage, stable families, education and hard work — are immeasurably more important than the color of your mayor, police chief, representatives, senators and president.

As Riley argues in his new book — “False Black Power?” — the major barrier to black progress today is not racial discrimination. The challenge for blacks is to better position themselves to take advantage of existing opportunities, and that involves addressing the anti-social, self-defeating behaviors and habits and attitudes endemic to the black underclass.

As always, lots of antisemitism-related news, most notably France (‘Ethnic purging’: French stars and dignitaries condemn antisemitism), and the subsequent response by French Muslims (Accused of new anti-Semitism, French Muslims speak out) and Germany, where Rappers defend lyrics deemed anti-Semitic amid award backlash prompting Daniel Barenboim [to] return German music award in anti-Semitism row with the inevitable (?) result that Germany scraps music prize over antisemitism before ‘kippa march’).  As a show of public support, Germans of all faiths [participate] in ‘wear a kippa march’ against anti-Semitism. 

Some refreshing honesty from the former Anti Defamation League Director Abe Foxman (Former ADL Director: Trump has opened the ‘sewers’ of antisemitism.

John Ibbitson provides a thoughtful examination of the Canadian situation:

“The numbers stayed very high and are even up,” he said in an interview. “They’re not up as dramatically as they were last year, but they are higher than they were last year.”

An even bigger worry: While the lesser offence of harassment was the cause of the increase in 2016, in 2017 “the numbers of both violence and vandalism are up. The vandalism number is up quite significantly. It’s a serious proportional increase.”

But Ira Robinson, director of the Concordia University Institute for Canadian Jewish Studies, isn’t so sure. His book A History of Antisemitism in Canada, which was published in 2015, concluded that anti-Semitic activity in this country had greatly declined in recent decades. He continues to monitor the situation, and believes there has been no significant increase, despite what B’nai Brith says.

“In terms of the type of stuff that I see, it’s very much the same,” he reports. “There is very little new under the sun.”

Twenty-first-century anti-Semitism is in part a by-product of both right-wing and left-wing populism. Both groups detest globalization, which they blame for lost jobs at home. From there, it is only a small, noxious step to conjure a globalist Jewish conspiracy.

“The negative impacts of globalization are often laid at the feet of Jews and this global Zionist conspiracy,” said Barbara Perry, a sociologist at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology who specializes in hate crimes. “… It’s scarily similar from the left and the right, in that respect.”

Unfortunately, some Muslims harbour anti-Jewish thoughts, an import from their home countries. More often, though, Muslims and Jewish people are equally victims of racial hatred.

There is even an anti-Semitic variant that claims “Jewish privilege” contributes to systemic racism − though there is evidence that anonymous propaganda to that effect comes from the right, disguised as being from the left.

Anti-Semitism sometimes wears the mantle of anti-Zionism. But while criticism of the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians is entirely legitimate, the hate-filled rants that often accompany the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanction) movement, which depicts Israel as an apartheid state, are anti-Semitism cloaked in righteousness.

Too often, tensions between Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East produce anti-Zionist screeds in Canada that can result in attacks on Jewish people. “Local, national and global effects come into play,” Prof. Perry observed.

If the rise of populism coincides with, and might contribute to, rising anti-Semitism, then the absence of a populist wave in Canada is encouraging. But this country is not immune from such waves. Mayor Rob Ford in Toronto begat Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford, his brother, who could well become a populist premier − although I am not suggesting in any way that Mr. Ford harbours racist sentiments of any kind.

But anti-Semitism can just as easily be found on university campuses as at right-wing rallies. It is present on the fringes of social democracy as well as conservatism. Elizabeth May has struggled to expunge it from the Green Party.

These are not harmonious times. Hatred of Jewish people is on the rise. It may be on the rise in Canada as well.

Vigilance.

Source: John Ibbitson: Could anti-Semitism be on the rise in Canada

Lastly,  J.K. Rowling Gave A Master Class In Identifying Anti-Semitism And It Was Magical:

“Most UK Jews in my timeline are currently having to field this kind of crap, so perhaps some of us non-Jews should start shouldering the burden,” she said. “Antisemites think this is a clever argument, so tell us, do: were atheist Jews exempted from wearing the yellow star? #antisemitism.”

Rowling’s head-smacking was almost audible as she sorted through responses to that tweet, including one that said arguing against anti-Semitism was “culturally insensitive” to Muslims.

“When you only understand bigotry in terms of ‘pick a team’ and get a mind-boggling response,” she said.

She also reacted with impatience — attaching a GIF of an exasperated Hugh Laurie — when someone argued that Arabs can’t be anti-Semitic because they are Semites. “The ‘Arabs are semitic too’ hot takes have arrived,” she said.

Split hairs. Debate etymology,” she said in a tweet attached to a definition of anti-Semitism as “hostility to or prejudice against Jews.” “Gloss over the abuse of your fellow citizens by attacking the actions of another country’s government. Would your response to any other form of racism or bigotry be to squirm, deflect or justify?”

StatsCan — Experiences of violent victimization and discrimination reported by minority populations in Canada, 2014

The latest from the General Social Survey which I look forward to reading in detail:

Immigrants and visible minorities less likely to report experiencing violent victimization

According to the most recent data from the General Social Survey on Canadians’ Safety (Victimization), immigrants—regardless of citizenship or how long they have resided in Canada—were less likely than the Canadian-born population to report being victims of violent crime. In 2014, immigrants reported experiencing violent victimization—sexual assault, robbery or physical assault—at a rate of 39 incidents per 1,000 population, compared with a rate of 86 incidents per 1,000 people among the Canadian-born population. Similarly, individuals who self-identified as belonging to a visible minority group were less likely than their non-visible minority counterparts to report experiencing violence (55 versus 81 per 1,000 population). In terms of religious affiliation, individuals who reported a religion other than Christianity experienced violent victimization at a rate similar to people affiliated with Christianity (72 versus 67 per 1,000 population), the most commonly reported religious affiliation.

Today, three Juristat articles focusing on the self-reported experiences of violent victimization and discrimination among three populations of interest—immigrants, visible minorities and persons with a religious affiliation—are available. While each article discusses a specific population, they are not mutually exclusive. For example, according to Census of Population data, 65% of immigrants in Canada are visible minorities, 63% of visible minorities are immigrants, and 78% of people affiliated with a religion other than Christianity are visible minorities.

In general, the characteristics of violent incidents did not differ significantly according to immigrant status, visible minority status or religious affiliation. For example, the majority of incidents involved a single offender and, in most cases, the offender was male. Among the immigrant population specifically, recent immigrants (those who immigrated to Canada within the previous 10 years) and established immigrants (those who immigrated 10 or more years prior) reported similar rates of violent victimization. However, recent immigrant victims of violence were significantly more likely to report that the offender was a stranger (83%, compared with 31% of established immigrant victims).

Some populations more likely to report experiencing discrimination

While members of the immigrant and visible minority populations reported relatively low rates of violent victimization compared with their Canadian-born and non-visible minority counterparts, they were significantly more likely to report experiencing some form of discrimination on the basis of, for example, their ethnicity or culture, or race or skin colour.

In 2014, approximately one in six (17%) immigrants reported that they had experienced discrimination in the five years preceding the survey, compared with 12% of the Canadian-born population. More specifically, recent immigrants were more likely to have reported experiencing discrimination than established immigrants (20% versus 16%). More than four in ten (42%) of those recent immigrants who experienced discrimination indicated that it was due to their language, compared with just over one-quarter (27%) of established immigrants.

In terms of visible minority status, one in five (20%) of those who self-identified as a member of a visible minority group reported experiencing some form of discrimination in the preceding five years. This compared with 12% of the non-visible minority population. Among the visible minority population who reported experiencing discrimination, more than three in five (63%) believed that they were discriminated against because of their race or skin colour. Individuals who identified as Arab (29%), Black (27%) or Latin American (26%) were the most likely to report experiencing discrimination.

When it came to religious affiliation, individuals who reported an affiliation with a religion other than Christianity were more likely to report experiencing discrimination on the basis of their religion. More than 1 in 10 (11%) people who were affiliated with a religion other than Christianity reported experiencing discrimination on the basis of their religion, compared with 1% of people affiliated with a Christian religion.

Immigrants and visible minorities report experiencing discrimination at Canadian border

Regardless of immigrant status or visible minority status, Canadians most often reported experiencing discrimination at work, when applying for a job or promotion, or when they were in a store, bank or restaurant. There were no significant differences between immigrants and the Canadian-born population when it came to experiencing discrimination when dealing with the police. However, immigrants were significantly more likely than the Canadian-born population to indicate that they experienced some form of discrimination when crossing the border into Canada (12% versus 4%).

Visible minorities were nearly twice as likely as non-visible minorities to report experiencing discrimination when dealing with the police (13% versus 7%) and three times more likely when crossing the border into Canada (12% versus 4%).

Decline in reported experiences of discrimination among minority populations

Although immigrants and visible minorities were more likely than their Canadian-born and non-visible minority counterparts to report experiencing discrimination, the overall prevalence of perceived discrimination among these populations has declined in recent years. Specifically, among immigrants, the proportion of people who reported experiencing discrimination declined slightly from 19% in 2004 to 17% in 2014. A larger decline was observed within the visible minority population, down from 28% in 2004 to 20% in 2014.

Some groups feel less safe from crime

Most individuals were generally satisfied with their personal safety from crime—regardless of immigrant status, visible minority status or religious affiliation. There were, however, some notable differences in the degree to which people felt safe. For example, immigrants, visible minorities and individuals who were affiliated with a religion other than Christianity felt less safe from crime when home alone at night and when walking alone in their neighbourhood after dark.

via The Daily — Experiences of violent victimization and discrimination reported by minority populations in Canada, 2014

Systemic racism? Oh, there’s plenty to see here – Liz Renzetti

Good pointed column:

When the Liberal government announced it would talk to Canadians affected by systemic racism as a way to learn about it, there was a mass clapping of hands over ears across the country. “No racism here,” was the general consensus among people who have never experienced racism. “Nothing to see, move along.” Those who had experienced it, meanwhile, were getting their dusty welcome mats out of storage and putting on a pot of tea.

In all the brouhaha, this sentence from a Canadian Press story about the Liberal’s hush-hush strategy is perhaps my favourite, for the way it encapsulates both the learned deafness around the issue, and the way that a hugely important issue is being framed merely as a matter of political inconvenience: “Previous efforts to talk about racism have not gone well.”

I don’t think we need advanced degrees in sociology to understand why that is. If I were a princess sitting on vast parcels of land that I had acquired through various unseen networks that assisted my ascendance, I wouldn’t want to look too closely at the fine print on the deed, either. I, princess, would probably not support any close scrutiny that might deprive me of my lovely land. I would want to burn the fine print in my giant hearth. I would point to all the other princes and princesses who had never had a problem acquiring their masses of land as evidence that the land-management system was working quite well, thank you.

And all those people who somehow didn’t get any land from their parents, old friends, parents’ old friends, and land merchants who only sell to people whose names they can pronounce? Well, those people just need to work harder and fit in a bit better. Also, their complaints are too loud. Hush, now. Royalty is trying to sleep.

It’s painful to listen, I get that. There’s so much noise out there. But if you choose to listen to viewpoints that might be new to you, you’ll hear some fascinating and disturbing revelations about this country we love so much. Consider the report of a United Nations working group that consulted across Canada in 2016 and uncovered a legacy of anti-black racism that exists to this day, preventing many Canadians from achieving fair outcomes in education, housing and employment: “Canada’s history of enslavement, racial segregation and marginalization of African Canadians has left a legacy of anti-Black racism and had a deleterious impact on people of African descent.”

As Robyn Maynard writes in her 2017 book Policing Black Lives, this can be a difficult proposition to reconcile with our ideas of ourselves as tolerant, fair and founded on meritocracy: “Anti-black racism in Canada has been continually reconfigured to adhere to national myths of racial tolerance.” She then carefully lays out evidence of how this is so – how the criminal justice, education and social-welfare systems continue to discriminate against people in the black community. As she writes at the end of her book, “Reforms that do not also challenge the underlying systemic racism that creates disparities in the distribution of wealth and power in the first place are unlikely to effect meaningful change.”

This should not be a surprise. If anyone has read the barest minimum about carding or police profiling, or taken any interest in the systemic oppressions facing Indigenous people, from the disproportionate number of children in care to the lack of funding to support education and health care for those children, the idea that we live in a utopia of equal outcomes is absurd.

The work to reveal these disparities has been done: It’s been done, almost entirely, by people from racialized communities, which is why it’s doubly galling when white Canadians who have never once had to worry about being discriminated against on the basis of race refuse to listen. I think of what Simone de Beauvoir wrote 70 years ago in The Second Sex: ″There’s no good reason to believe men when they try to defend privileges whose scope they cannot even imagine.″ Being blind to your own advantages is comfortable, but it’s hardly honest. That feather bed you’re sleeping on? Maybe you didn’t actually earn it.

And for the people who do the hard lifting to reveal these unpleasant realities, the reward is often abuse. Take a look some time at the comments on the Twitter feeds of Indigenous or black activists and journalists who write on racial issues. You’ll need to put on a Hazmat suit before you do.

When Liberal MP Iqra Khalid sponsored a motion to study Islamophobia and racial discrimination in 2016, she was threatened with death and called a terrorist sympathizer. Critics of the motion she introduced, M-103, insisted it would crush free speech in the country and open the door for sharia law. Astonishingly, Canadians can (and do) still flap their gums at will, and can tune into talk radio to find people just like them flapping their gums in unison. There is, as yet, no sign of sharia councils taking over the local Tim Hortons.

Now, another woman of colour (perhaps the pattern is becoming clear) is facing a backlash for speaking up about systemic racism. Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes, who speaks frankly about the discrimination she hears about and encounters, has herself been called a racist for her outspokenness. Many supporters came to Ms. Caesar-Chavannes’s defence this week, which was a small ray of hope. Because when right-wing male commentators declare themselves experts on black women’s lives and experiences of discrimination, we have indeed tumbled down a rabbit hole. Or perhaps we haven’t: We’re just where we’ve always been, and that’s the problem.

The systemic racism consultation has been framed as a political problem for the Liberals, which seems like the worst kind of short-term thinking. I don’t actually care whether it’s a political problem; that’s for the Liberals to worry about. It’s a Canadian problem, and it’s not going away, even if we cover our eyes and ears and pretend there’s nothing there.

via Systemic racism? Oh, there’s plenty to see here – The Globe and Mail

Google’s Algorithm: History of Racism Against Black Women | Time

Interesting and convincing study of embedded bias in algorithms by Safiya Umoja, author of  Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism:

…Although I focus mainly on the example of black girls to talk about search bias and stereotyping, black girls are not the only girls and women marginalized in search. The results retrieved two years into this study, in 2013, representing Asian girls, Asian Indian girls, Latina girls, white girls, and so forth reveal the ways in which girls’ identities are commercialized, sexualized or made curiosities within the gaze of the search engine. Women and girls do not fare well in Google Search — that is evident.

Of course, these problems extend to non-gendered racism, as well. On June 6, 2016, Kabir Ali, an African American teenager from Clover High School in Midlothian, Va., tweeting under the handle @iBeKabir, posted a video to Twitter of his Google Images search on the keywords “three black teenagers.” The results that Google offered were of African American teenagers’ mug shots, insinuating that the image of Black teens is that of criminality. Next, he changed one word — “black” to “white” — with very different results. “Three white teenagers” were represented as wholesome and all-American. The video went viral within 48 hours, and Jessica Guynn, from USA Today, contacted me about the story. In typical fashion, Google reported these search results as an anomaly, beyond its control, to which I responded, “If Google isn’t responsible for its algorithm, then who is?” One of Ali’s Twitter followers later posted a tweak to the algorithm made by Google on a search for “three white teens” that now included a newly introduced “criminal” image of a white teen and more “wholesome” images of black teens.

What we know about Google’s responses to racial stereotyping in its products is that it typically denies responsibility or intent to harm, but then it is able to “tweak” or “fix” these aberrations or “glitches” in its systems.

What we need to ask is why and how we get these stereotypes in the first place and what the attendant consequences of racial and gender stereotyping do in terms of public harm for people who are the targets of such misrepresentation. Images of white Americans are persistently held up in Google’s images and in its results to reinforce the superiority and mainstream acceptability of whiteness as the default “good” to which all others are made invisible. There are many examples of this, where users of Google Search have reported online their shock or dismay at the kinds of representations that consistently occur. Meanwhile, when users search beyond racial identities and occupations to engage concepts such as “professional hairstyles,” they have been met with the kinds of images seen below. The “unprofessional hairstyles for work” image search, like the one for “three black teenagers,” went viral in 2016, with multiple media outlets covering the story, again raising the question, can algorithms be racist?

Where are black girls now?

Since I began the pilot study in 2010 and collected data through 2016, some things have changed. In 2012, I wrote an article for Bitch Magazine, which covers popular culture from a feminist perspective, after some convincing from my students that this topic is important to all people — not just black women and girls. I argued that we all want access to credible information that does not foster racist or sexist views of one another. I cannot say that the article had any influence on Google in any definitive way, but I have continued to search for black girls on a regular basis, at least once a month, and I can report that Google had changed its algorithm to some degree about five months after that article was published. After years of featuring pornography as the primary representation of black girls, Google made modifications to its algorithm, and the results as of the conclusion of this research can be seen here:

No doubt, as I speak around the world on this subject, audiences are often furiously doing searches from their smart phones, trying to reconcile these issues with the momentary results. Some days they are horrified, and other times, they are less concerned, because some popular and positive issue or organization has broken through the clutter and moved to a top position on the first page. Indeed, as my book was going into production, news exploded of biased information about the U.S. presidential election flourishing through Google and Facebook, which had significant consequences in the political arena.

I encourage us all to take notice and to reconsider the affordances and the consequences of our hyper-reliance on these technologies as they shift and take on more import over time. What we need now, more than ever, is public policy that advocates protections from the effects of unregulated and unethical artificial

via Google’s Algorithm: History of Racism Against Black Women | Time

ICYMI: Federal government to launch Canada-wide consultations on systemic racism

Needed and appropriate follow-up to M-103 report broad emphasis on racism and discrimination across all groups and Budget 2018 funding for multiculturalism and measures targeted issues related to Black Canadians.

But will be difficult to manage and I don’t envy the public servants tasked with devising the consultations strategy and approach. I remember the Bouchard Taylor hearings about 10 years ago, and the recent town hall that MP Iqra Khalid held, that was far from being a respectful conversation:

Ottawa is set to launch pan-Canadian consultations on racism, a topic that has stirred controversy and divisions across the country in recent months.

The exact form and nature of the consultations is still being developed in the Department of Canadian Heritage and has yet to be unveiled to the public. Still, the government said it wants to create a new strategy to counter “systemic racism” and religious discrimination.

As the format for the new round of consultations is being debated, some federal officials are worried the forum could lead to acrimonious debates similar to last year’s controversy over a motion (M-103) to condemn Islamophobia across Canada. The motion, which did not affect existing legislation, was nonetheless roundly criticized in right-wing circles and conservative media as preventing any legitimate criticism of Islam.

Similar consultations have proven controversial in Quebec, where the government scrapped planned consultations on “systemic racism” last year over an outcry among media commentators and talk-show hosts. Instead, the Quebec government rebranded the mandate of the exercise to “valuing diversity and fighting against discrimination.”

According to last month’s federal budget, the coming “cross-country consultations on a new national anti-racism approach” will be funded out of a new $23-million envelope that is geared toward new multiculturalism programs.

“Diversity is one of our greatest strengths and has contributed significantly to our country. We recognize the need to counter all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination and we are taking action to address the ongoing challenges and discrimination that still exist in our society,” said Simon Ross, a spokesman for Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly.

“We will also be consulting with Canadians to develop a national strategy to combat racism in Canada, and we look forward to speaking with experts, community organizations, citizens and interfaith leaders to find new ways to collaborate and combat discrimination as we develop this strategy,” he said.

The new round of consultations will enact a key recommendation made earlier this year by the Heritage committee of the House, which called on the government to engage in consultations as part of efforts to create Canada’s Action Plan Against Racism.

According to the Heritage committee’s report, an action plan against racism would ensure that the government would consider the impact of all policies on visible minorities, similar to existing gender-based analysis.

“Systemic racism occurs when government actions fail to address the needs of certain racialized groups within the population, resulting in unfair, discriminatory practices and outcomes. To expose and prevent systemic racism, a number of witnesses suggested the development of a race equity lens as a key element of a national action plan,” the report said.

Jasmin Zine, a professor of sociology and Muslim studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the government should learn lessons from the debate over M-103 that was “hijacked” by concerns over the definition of Islamophobia.

“They have to be handled better than the initial parliamentary hearings were,” she said in an interview. “In the best-case scenario, the consultations could be a way to recuperate what was lost in the committee process. In the worst-case scenario, it will only reproduce the divisions and the political divides that were derailing this process from the beginning.”

She added the government cannot ignore Islamophobia as part of its study of racism and must not be afraid of confronting the root causes of racism.

“We can’t just wrap things up in nice, liberal, Kumbaya sentiments. We have to look at the issues that are critical for marginalized communities, such as questions of social inequality, power, privilege and the way racism is embedded in all institutions and levels of society,” Ms. Zine said.

Tensions are running high among federal politicians over the issue of racism, with Conservative MP Maxime Bernier accusing the government of exploiting the debate to win support in various communities.

“I thought the ultimate goal of fighting discrimination was to create a colour-blind society where everyone is treated the same,” Mr. Bernier said on Twitter earlier this month.

Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes shot back that research has shown that pretending not to see someone’s skin colour “contributes to racism.”

“Please check your privilege and be quiet,” she responded to Mr. Bernier on Twitter, before apologizing for her language.

The Conservative Party said in a statement that the coming consultations on racism need to be established in a way that unites Canadians.

“We hope that consultations on a subject as sensitive as this one will be conducted in an orderly fashion. It is now up to the government to ensure that they are well structured and constructive,” Conservative spokeswoman Virginie Bonneau said.

via Federal government to launch Canada-wide consultations on systemic racism – The Globe and Mail

John Ibbitson on the political risks:

With its message of hope transmuting dangerously into hectoring, the Trudeau government needs to be wary about the upcoming national consultations on racism. The exercise could further damage an already-weakened Liberal brand.

Justin Trudeau won the 2015 election on a promise of transformative change after a decade of Conservative inaction. The new government pledged to tackle climate change, forge a more respectful relationship with Indigenous Canadians and rescue refugees in peril.

Two-and-a-half years later, the national carbon tax, which is the chief strategy to combat global warming, is in peril from provincial conservatives in Ontario and Alberta who vow to scrap it if they come to power.

The inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women is behind schedule and beset with inner turmoil, even as Indigenous protesters and environmentalists vow to prevent the Trans Mountain pipeline from ever being built.

And instead of feeling good about rescuing refugees, we’re told we should feel guilty because so we’re so racist.

Ottawa committed $23-million in the last budget to new multiculturalism programs, including funding that will go to a national consultation on “systemic racism” and religious discrimination. The goal will be to develop a “national strategy to combat racism in Canada.”

This comes in the wake of Motion 103, the non-binding resolution that asserted “the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear,” and to “condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.”

Conservatives complained the resolution would prohibit any form of criticism of Islam. It would not. More problematic, though, is the notion of an “increasing public climate of hate and fear.” Who says? There is compelling evidence that Canada, with its wide-open immigration policy, is the most tolerant country on earth.

Nonetheless, a committee crisscrossing the country in search of intolerance is bound to find it, and to publicize that finding. This is of a piece with this government’s fondness for making people feel bad about themselves.

You may be proud of your home and your community, but you’re living on unceded Indigenous land, as Liberal cabinet ministers insist almost everywhere they go.

You may consider yourself environmentally responsible, but that SUV you drive is an abomination, which is the whole reason behind the carbon tax.

You may consider yourself free of prejudice, but apparently this country suffers from systemic racism and Islamophobia, which is why we need a task force.

As conservative commentators and politicians are certain to point out, the worst example of religious discrimination under way right now might come from the Liberal government itself. Employment and Social Development Canada has cancelled funding for a summer-jobs program to churches and other religious organizations because they refuse to affirm on the application form that they respect “reproductive rights and the right to be free of discrimination” on the basis of, among other things, “sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.”

There are people of faith of all religions who oppose abortion and who do not condone same-sex acts. On that basis, faith-based organizations have been denied funding, even though the students they would hire would be serving as camp counselors and the like, and would not be asked to proselytize.

This writer can think of another government that believed it was morally superior to the people it served. Bob Rae’s Ontario NDP claimed affirmative action was needed to counter sexism; photo radar was needed because people drove too fast; an anti-racism secretariat was needed because of racial prejudice. Voters did not take this well.

If your government accuses you of being a bad person, you are unlikely to become a better person. You are more likely to change the government.

The Liberals’ sudden and dramatic decline in popularity is entirely reversible. Governing parties often slump mid-mandate, then rebound when earlier investments start to pay off. By this time next year, Mr. Trudeau could be back on top and looking forward to the fall election campaign.

But if the Grits really do want to get back in the voters’ good graces, they need to stop lecturing so much. We’re not as bad as they say we are, and they’re not as enlightened as they think they are.

This new consultation on systemic racism should keep a low profile. ​

Liberal investigation into systemic racism should keep a low profile

And appropriate caution regarding the government’s ability to manage these consultations given both its consultation record and the sensitive and uncomfortable nature of the subject. That being said, while yes it makes sense for the government to focus on issues and entities under its jurisdiction, there is place for a broader conversation regarding systemic racism and barriers across all levels of government and institutions in Canada:

Canada’s self-image is of an open, inclusive society – one of the planet’s most welcoming places.

And in relative terms, that’s mostly true. Ours is an unusually successful national story. But step back a few paces and the picture begins to look ever so slightly askew.

It’s time to face an uncomfortable fact: We have complex societal systems and, yes, they too often discriminate against people on the basis of skin colour, religion or national origin. It is not a collective moral failure to admit that systemic racism exists in Canada – that is, historically entrenched discrimination in the rules, policies and practices governing institutions. It is an acknowledgment of reality.

Anyone who claims otherwise or takes umbrage at the descriptor is invited to speak to an Indigenous Canadian. Or to any of the thousands of black Canadians who have been forced to submit to police carding. Or to an unemployed Muslim woman. The list could go on.

While we are a country of immigrants – Canada has the world’s highest per capita immigration rate; the 2016 census revealed 21.9 per cent of us were born elsewhere – our immigrants tend not to earn as good a living as the native-born.

According to Statistics Canada, new Canadians, who are also often visible minorities, are more than twice as likely to be jobless, and those who do find work earn 16 per cent less, on average, than so-called “old stock” Canadians.

The immigration income gap is real and the numbers indicate it is growing, even for second-generation Canadians. It’s not because Canada admits people with low education levels or insufficient skills – quite the opposite. We choose the best of the best, and then have them drive cabs.

Institutional barriers are part of the problem, the most obvious being a persistent unwillingness to recognize foreign qualifications.

But prejudice is also a factor. A 2011 study by University of Toronto economist Philip Oreopoulos found that fictitious resumes featuring foreign-sounding names or work experience were three times more likely to be tossed aside by would-be employers. The most-cited reason for doing so was concern over language skills, which other research has identified as a proxy for discrimination.

So what to do? For a start, our governments could stand to listen more closely to marginalized voices. As it happens, Ottawa is in the midst of planning a national public consultation on racism and religious discrimination. We hope the effort produces some benefit. But recent precedent gives us ample cause to fear it won’t.

The Trudeau Liberals took a worthy idea in the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women inquiry, made a hash of it and likely set it up to fail. It didn’t put enough care into the planning, hoping instead that the symbolic value of the inquiry would alone be enough to see it through.

This government is also insufficiently wary of the dangers of identity politics, as evidenced by the culture war it started after it denied summer-job grants to religious groups that are overtly anti-abortion or don’t support gay marriage.

Plus, it can be a challenge to keep any examination of racism from going off the rails. The Quebec government proposed a similar public discussion after six Muslims were shot dead in a Quebec City mosque last year. That quickly devolved into a partisan bun-fight over nomenclature – you’re painting everyone as racist! – and was subsequently watered down into empty banter about “valuing diversity.”

Ottawa can only avoid those pitfalls by focusing on itself – on institutions like the Canadian Armed Forces, the civil service and the RCMP, and on federal policies and programs.

It must not involve itself in provincial and local issues (such as municipal policing practices), or engage in sweeping conclusions about Canadian society at large. The terms of reference must be perfectly clear and appropriately narrow.

It’s critical to not get this wrong. Ottawa should examine the negative consequences of its policies on racial and religious minorities. All governments should.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, whose city is attempting to reckon with its racist history, said recently, “Here is what I have learned about race: You can’t go over it. You can’t go under it. You can’t go around it. You have to go through it.”

If Ottawa does that intelligently and constructively, Canada might become a better country for it. But we have real doubts about the Trudeau government’s ability to lead such an effort without making a hash of it.

Source: Globe editorial: The problem with Ottawa’s plan to consult the public on racism? Ottawa itself

Barbara Kay: Getting to the heart of what M-103 was always all about

Somewhat paranoid in that 29 out of the 30 recommendations were drafted to reflect horizontal concerns regarding racism, discrimination and prejudice.

One may or may not agree with the recommendations (I certainly find that it reads too much like a laundry list with insufficient focus and have my doubts about some of them) but the overall horizontal approach is to be welcomed.

Given Budget 2018’s increased funding for the Multiculturalism Program and new funding improved data collection and research and measures to address issues faced by Black communities, it is hardly, as Kay argues, merely “obfuscatory preamble”:

On Feb. 1, the National Heritage Committee submitted the report called for by the passage of M-103 last winter.

M-103 surprised its backers when it turned out not to be the slam dunk they thought it would be, given that its founding predecessor document, Petition e-411, which called for a “whole-of-government approach to reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religion, including Islamophobia,” quietly slid as if along greased wheels to acceptance.

Thus, the words “including Islamophobia” having passed under the public radar before M-103 was introduced, M-103 backers were caught off guard when the polemical sky lit up with full-throated debate around what the hell “Islamophobia” actually meant. If it was bigotry against Muslims, why wasn’t “anti-Muslim” good enough?

The Conservatives tried to have the motion amended with that substitution, but M-103’s supporters — notably among them the unelected Muslim advocacy group, National Council of Canadian Muslims, formerly CAIR.Can, and MP Iqra Khalid — with the full support of the Liberals, dug in their heels on “Islamophobia,” without ever clearly denying that it could also mean “criticism of Islam.”

And so, although the motion passed in March 2017, it passed amidst controversy and alarm amongst a great number of Canadians who worried we were being hoodwinked into a plan to curtail freedom of speech where one specific religion was concerned.

From this organic constituency there arose a group called Canadian Citizens for Charter Rights and Freedoms, coalescing around the clear and coherent analysis of M-103 by Royal Canadian Air Force Major (ret’d) Russ Cooper, a decorated CF-18 combat pilot, who amongst other achievements, took on national responsibilities in the field of post-9/11 civil aviation security. The focused and task-oriented Cooper followed the M-103 hearings in meticulously documented detail, publishing regular reportage of witness testimony.

Now Cooper has written a detailed and compelling analysis of the Heritage Committee report. Most of the report’s 30 recommendations, Cooper concludes, should be subjected to rigorous scrutiny by politicians, for many, if implemented, contain the seeds for further public dissension and potential freedom-of-speech curtailments warned against in the first go-around.

One of M-103’s objectives was, in its words, to counter a “climate of fear and hate.” But the report’s own statistics do not bear out the existence of any pervasive “climate” of broad-based hate and fear. In 2015, 1.9 million crimes were reported. Of them, 1,300 were deemed hate crimes, or one-tenth of one per cent of all crimes. A “dissenting report” by the Committee’s Conservative members noted that from 2009 to 2016 — with a Canadian population rise of three million people in that period — hate crimes actually decreased “nearly 13 per cent on a per capita basis.”

The report notes a 61-per-cent increase of hate crimes against Muslims from 2014 to 2015. The actual numbers went from 99 to 159. All hate crimes must be taken seriously, but statistically, given Canada’s Muslim population of over one million, these statistics are not culturally significant. Rebecca Kong, chief of the Policing Services Program at the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, stated the number of hate crimes was so small they did not support the assertion in Petition e-411 that there was a “notable rise of anti-Muslim sentiment in Canada.” (By the numbers, anti-Semitism ranks as Canada’s most common form of hate crime, and it is rising in frequency, yet even it is not so statistically significant to warrant a “whole-of government” approach to combat).

In fact, no hard evidence was adduced in the report to prove that anti-Muslim bias is systemic in Canada. The Quebec mosque massacre was mentioned as evidence of “white supremacism and radicalism in Canada,” although the mosque killer has not yet been linked to any organized political movement nor charged with an act of terrorism.

Indeed, among those testifying at the hearings, the only witnesses who brought actual evidence to bear on the assertion that religious bias was “systemic” throughout Canadian institutions were Christians. Representatives from Trinity Western University, the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada all offered concrete examples of the state forcing, or attempting to force, counter-conscience beliefs and behaviours, most notably the practice of euthanasia. I am not being facetious when I suggest that Christians have a more evidence-based right than Muslims to feel they are victims of systemic institutional bias.

Which is why I view with extreme concern the still-undefined term Islamophobia popping up in the report’s 30th recommendation for a National Day of Action to combat it. Clearly that is the glittering prize for M-103’s backers; the rest is obfuscatory preamble. If an official Day of Action against Islamophobia is granted, even fair-minded and objectively warranted criticism of parts of the Islamic faith, and perhaps even Islamism itself, would be increasingly legally fraught. I believe that is the point of the exercise.

Source: Barbara Kay: Getting to the heart of what M-103 was always all about

Has Ontario’s anti-Semitism subcommittee accomplished anything?

These processes take time. A more interesting article would compare the progress of the four subcommittees:

A year ago, Ontario’s Liberal government unveiled its three-year anti-racism strategy. A Better Way Forward included initiatives “to combat systemic racism and create equitable outcomes for indigenous and racialized communities.”

Anti-racism, the 60-page plan stated, “actively confronts the unequal power dynamic between groups and the structures that sustain it.”

Four subcommittees were set up last March under the province’s Anti-Racism Directorate, which was established in February 2016 by Premier Kathleen Wynne and Michael Coteau, the minister responsible for anti-racism. The subcommittees are tasked with studying racism directed at blacks, indigenous people, Muslims and Jews respectively.

The directorate’s goal is “to eliminate systemic racism in government policies, decisions and programs,” and to boost public education and awareness of racism.

On June 1, Ontario passed its sweeping Anti-Racism Act. Among other things, the law mandates a review of anti-racism strategies at least every five years.

The subcommittee examining anti-Semitism has been toiling in relative obscurity ever since. Its unpaid members, which were chosen on the basis of their expertise in the area, were confirmed last spring. The first meeting was held in October, with two more in December and February. A fourth meeting has not yet been scheduled.

The committee is co-chaired by Bernie Farber, formerly of Canadian Jewish Congress and the Mosaic Institute, and Andrea Freedman, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa and the Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation.

Its members are: Karen Mock, chair of the progressive Zionist group JSpace Canada; Len Rudner, formerly of the Canadian Jewish Congress and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA); Zach Potashner of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre; Pamela Divinsky, director of the Mosaic Institute; Madi Murariu from CIJA; Tom Henheffer, a journalist and media consultant; Hersh Perlis, director of the Legal Innovation Zone at Ryerson University and a former adviser at Queen’s Park; Nikki Holland, director of public affairs for the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario; Brianna Ames, a volunteer with the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee; and Amanda Hohmann, who at first represented B’nai Brith Canada, but now represents La’ad Canada, a new group focused on the next generation of Jewish Canadians. (B’nai Brith says it’s in the process of naming a new envoy to the committee).

In an email to The CJN, the anti-racism directorate explained that all four subcommittees are tasked with providing “population-specific and community perspectives on supporting and implementing … anti-racism initiatives” and providing input on “ongoing public awareness and education initiatives related to systemic racism.”

Asked what it has achieved, Farber said that even establishing an anti-racism directorate is an accomplishment, because it recognizes that within issues around racism, anti-Semitism “is seen individually and separately as a very impactful issue of discrimination that has to be dealt with on its own basis. That recognition has never been there before, officially.”

And “there’s a lot more to be done. We are just scratching the surface,” he added.

One hope is for the committee to reach out to FAST (Fighting Anti-Semitism Together), an activist group that opposes anti-Semitism, and Facing History and Ourselves, an educational organization that aims to engage students in issues of racism and genocide, Farber said.

Freedman told The CJN that the committee has narrowed its focus to education initiatives.

“One of our main areas is education and raising public awareness on anti-Semitism to ensure there’s a multi-faceted approach to the issue that involves all levels of government,” she said.

As for a definition of anti-Semitism, Freedman said that she and Farber will recommend that the committee adopt the one used by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which has also been adopted by the government of Canada. It says that anti-Semitism “is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

The only times the anti-Semitism subcommittee has been in the news was when two groups, Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV) and the United Jewish People’s Order (UJPO), complained that they were deliberately excluded because they are openly critical of Israel and support Palestinian rights.

The organizations launched a petition on change.org, saying the directorate would “increase its credibility and effectiveness” by including “a greater range of Jewish voices, including those who are critical of Israel.” To date, it has nearly 900 signatures.

On Feb. 20, Teresa Armstrong, an NDP MPP from London, tabled the petition in the legislature.

Criticism of Israel’s government or policies “is not inherently anti-Semitic,” she said, quoting the petition, and confusing criticism of Israel’s government or policies with anti-Semitism “can have the adverse effect of silencing critical voices.”

Farber said that the two groups were not deliberately excluded, but that they focused on including “those Jewish organizations which deal specifically with anti-Semitism.” The focus of UJPO and IJV is not anti-Semitism, he said.

via Has Ontario’s anti-Semitism subcommittee accomplished anything? – The Canadian Jewish News

Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t push “colour-blind” politics

Nice rebuttal to Maxime Bernier’s incomplete invocation of MLK to justify his critique of the measures in Budget 2018 to address systemic racism and barriers:

Measures in Budget 2018 meant to address racism and promote social inclusion appear to have inspired moral panic in the Twittersphere. Commentators, including Conservative MP Maxime Bernier, express anguish that the government’s decision to target funding to racialized communities is unjust and divisive. Bernier invoked no less a figure than Martin Luther King Jr. to chastise those who support such actions. But the King they invoke is an illusion — far removed from the iconic civil rights activist who demonstrated an unrelenting commitment to equality and the eradication of racism.

The true spiritual call to arms of King’s entire “I Have a Dream” speech appears to have been lost on some. Instead, his aspiration that his children might mature in a world free of racism is advanced as the sole message of value. But those who would invoke King must respect the integrity of his work. They must demonstrate that they truly seek to be judged not by their whiteness or the colour of their skin but by “the content of their character.” They must move beyond platitudes to action. They must have the moral courage to acknowledge the need for redress for years of marginalization and systemic anti-Black racism.

This controversy over the use of the term “racialized” demonstrates the continuing relevance of all of King’s speech to contemporary race politics in Canada. King called for acknowledgement that the “manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination” were crippling the life chances of Black people. In the spirit of King, the announced commitment of $19 million to support Black youth at risk and to research mental health programs may bring about greater justice for Black people.

Almost 20 years ago, in 1999, I served as the co-chair of the Canadian Bar Association Working Group on Racial Equality. I penned a complementary report, entitled Virtual Justice: Systemic Racism in the Canadian Legal Profession. I spoke of racialized communities and rejected the terms “racial minorities” and “visible minorities.” I infused the term “racialized” with implicit recognition that the conduct of the perpetrator and harms resulting from racist conduct were pivotal. I would state now as I did then: I am not disadvantaged because I am a Black woman. I am disadvantaged by racism and sexism. The people of colour referred to by King are today’s racialized people. Balking at the term “racialized,” as some have done, makes plain that King’s speech and body of work are not understood.

Canadians are justifiably proud of our diversity. But attention to diversity means that we must examine the impact of policies and programs to determine not only whether there is access to them, but also that they are of equal benefit to all. Human rights legislation and the Charter mandate specific attention to those facing heightened vulnerability to the compounding impact of discrimination. When combined, these strategies result in meaningful inclusivity.

It is not identity politics to engage in targeted programming any more than it is ageism to have some programming directed at children and youth and some directed at our elders. Focusing on Group A does not foreclose a distinct approach to the needs of Group B. Resources must be shared. There are distinct and known barriers that deny equal access to the benefits and entitlements of our society. Those who would deny strategic policy-making directed to racialized communities face a legitimate expectation to name their alternative strategy to eliminate systemic discrimination.

Current issues faced by Black Canadians — including deep systemic racism in the criminal justice system, challenges in the education system, poverty and profound workplace inequality — are firmly rooted in the politics of engagement that King himself advanced. King decried both the continuing “withering injustice” of slavery and its contemporary impact. He also spoke of the victimization of Black people by police. His legacy calls for leaders to stand before nonracialized communities to lance the fear forged in ignorance. They will be welcomed as they acknowledge the realities of racial profiling by standing firm in the spirit of King with the Black community in calling for its immediate eradication.

Martin Luther King Jr. did not advocate colour-blind politics. He was consistent and specific that his work was grounded in the lived reality of the injustices faced by Black people and sought solutions that reflected an understanding of racism’s transgenerational impact. He worked in coalition with others when they shared his goals, but he was not an apologist who sought to make white people comfortable in their racism. He viewed redress as an urgent matter. King called for immediate action and cautioned against “the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.”

Those who assert that attention to the specific needs of the Black community, or racialized communities collectively, impoverishes or steals resources from the white community are themselves fomenting racism. King spoke of the “bank of justice” owing a debt to Black people. This is still true today and will continue to be the case as long as systemic racism persists. The proposed programs are credit against the outstanding debt where we seek not financial wealth but “the security of justice.”

via Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t push “colour-blind” politics

Anti-racism campaign in B.C. school district draws backlash from parents

Prompted a needed if uncomfortable conversation regarding one’s respective advantages or disadvantages:

An anti-racism program in a rural B.C. school district has caused an uproar among some parents.

In January, administration for School District 74 — which includes Cache Creek, Ashcroft and nearby smaller communities — plastered anti-racism posters in the halls and classrooms of the elementary and high schools in the area. The posters feature administration members reflecting on racism, in their own words.

Fair enough, say critical parents. But one poster featuring the superintendent of schools, Teresa Downs, is being seen as a step too far.

“I have unfairly benefited from the colour of my skin. White privilege is not acceptable,” reads the poster.

Downs, who has worked in education for 16 years and as superintendent for seven, says the administration was inspired by a billboard campaign in Saskatoon and felt compelled to do something similar in a school district with 60 per cent Indigenous children.

“We’re doing things to improve the sense of belonging and cultural safety for students of Indigenous ancestry,” said Downs. “So conversations on racism, privilege and prejudice are important for us to have.”

Downs says the school board understands that discussions about race and privilege can make some people uncomfortable, “but we truly believe that education and dialogue is what is really needed.”

Gil Anderson, a 37-year-old father of three, says life in the Gold Trail district has been “pretty harmonious” since he moved there from Nanaimo in 1997.

But the posters have caused unrest. Anderson says there was no notice given to parents about the posters, and he considers the wording of Downs’s is problematic.

“I teach my kids equality. I teach them tolerance. They know they’re no better being white than anybody is being a different colour,” said Anderson, who works the evening shift operating equipment for a local company. “(The poster) singles out people of a certain colour.”

Anderson isn’t the only parent to raise the issue both online and with the school board. While Downs says only four parents have voiced their concerns, the furor online has been more widespread.

A letter written by another parent to the school board obtained by Postmedia is critical of the administration’s “race-driven” policies and questions the children’s ability to grasp complicated social concepts like privilege.

“Children have innocent souls,” it reads. “I feel you have no moral ground to try to brainwash my children into thinking how you want them to.”

Downs says that concerned parents are free to speak to school administration privately, but Anderson and others believe there should be a public forum to discuss the controversial topic.

In Canadian academia, white privilege is typically defined as “the unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits and choices bestowed upon people solely because they are white. Generally white people who experience such privilege do so without being conscious of it.”

Source: Anti-racism campaign in B.C. school district draws backlash from parents

The double standard of driving while black – in Canada: Marci Ten

Speaks for itself:

Another sleepless night. I keep thinking about what happened. I keep thinking about what could have happened. What was meant to be a quiet Sunday evening last week turned into something else. That I am an award-winning journalist didn’t matter. That I co-host a national television show didn’t matter. That I have lived in the neighbourhood for 13 years didn’t matter.

But being black mattered. Maybe the hooded parka I was wearing mattered, too. I was being stopped by a police officer in my driveway outside of my house in Toronto.

I was at home. My safe place. And I was scared.

How often does this scenario play out? A lot more often than we want to admit. Canada is one of the most diverse countries in the world, but racism permeates every aspect of our society. We like to point fingers at the racial discord in the United States, but fail to acknowledge our shortcomings here at home. Our country has to get its own house in order before patting itself on the back for being a paragon of racial harmony.

The black community’s relationship with the police in this country has been well-documented and much written about: If you are a person of colour in Canada, you experience a profoundly different – and sometimes troubling – relationship with the law. When we hear about incidents involving people of colour and the police, or other enforcement agencies, they seem to mostly involve black men – my father and husband included. But this is not an experience limited to men, as I have personally come to understand.

For the third time in eight months, I was being questioned by a police officer – and I had broken no law.

I had just driven my daughter to my sister’s house for a sleepover. The streets were unusually quiet as I pulled into my driveway. A police cruiser was parked behind me – lights flashing. I got out of my car to ask him why he was there.

“Get back in your vehicle!”

“Pardon?” I asked, alarmed by his tone.

“Get back in your vehicle!”

I quickly got back into my car and shut the door. As he approached, I cracked the door open to hear what he had to say. He told me to close it, and then gestured for me to lower the window. As the window lowered, I looked up at him – at his uniform, his stance, his eyes – and wondered: “What now?” I felt a queasiness in my stomach. I felt powerless, but summoned some strength. I’m not going to break, I told myself. I will remain calm.

But I’m not calm. I’m frustrated. I’m angry. I don’t deserve this. Not now, nor the previous times I had been pulled over. “I want to let you know you’re being recorded,” he informed me. “You failed to stop at a stop sign back there. That’s dangerous, there’s a school there … lots of kids.” I told him my daughter attends that school, silently giving thanks she wasn’t with me. He asked for my ID, and I handed over my licence, registration and ownership.

As he perused them he asked me if I live here. “Yes,” I said. When he returned to his cruiser, my reporter instincts kicked in: I texted my family to let them know what was happening, so there was a definitive record of time and place. My phone started ringing – it was my sister.

I answered and quickly explained what was going on. She told me, repeatedly, to get his badge number. In the background, I heard my mom asking if I was okay. I hung up.

Next came a panicked text from my daughter asking why a police cruiser was in our driveway – apparently a friend and neighbour had seen the flashing lights and contacted her to ask what was happening. I texted back that an officer said I had rolled through a red, referring to the flashing red stop light in front of my daughter’s school. A couple seconds later, the officer returns. “I’m going to give you a warning. Be careful driving out there.”

“If I’ve done something wrong give me the ticket,” I said. “I’m prepared to pay it.”

I went on to tell him that this marked the third time in the past eight months that I had been stopped by police. Every time the initial questions had been the same: “Do you live around here? Is this your vehicle?” In every case, I wasn’t issued a ticket.

Then I asked the officer point blank: “How do I explain this to my kids? I teach them to be respectful, fair and kind, but I’m not feeling respected, served or protected right now.”

He looked at me, bid me good night and walked away.

But there is no walking away from the truth. The stop signal at my daughter’s school is half a kilometre away; why wasn’t I pulled over there? Why did he follow me home? Why, after seeing the address on my driver’s licence, did he still ask if I lived at my home?

Who you are doesn’t matter; it’s what you are. If you are black in Canada, you are subject to a different standard and, often, seemingly, different laws.

So how do we fix this? There are no easy answers, but one solution would be to start with our kids. We know that children are not born with prejudice. Racism is learned. A study by renowned Harvard psychologist and racism expert Mahzarin Banaji shows that biases can be instilled as early as 3.

What if tolerance and empathy are prioritized in the early stages of childhood? We’ve seen far too many times what happens when they’re not. Bottom line – when we do better, our kids do better. Only then can we precipitate change.

I lingered behind the wheel for a long while, too shaken to go inside. So many thoughts. I finally forced myself to get out of the car, walked to the front door and slowly turned the key.

via The double standard of driving while black – in Canada – The Globe and Mail