B.C. creates anti-racism data committee, releases research priorities

Reasonable research priorities:

The British Columbia government has released 12 priorities for anti-racism research in its first update since the Anti-Racism Data Act came into effect last June.

The province says the focus will be in areas such as racial diversity within the public service, interactions with the justice system and how health care and education differs for various demographic groups.

The act allows for the safe collection and use of personal information for the purposes of identifying and eliminating systemic racism, and requires the province to release statistics annually while establishing research priorities every two years.

Attorney General Niki Sharma says the priorities for 2023 to 2025 were identified by people of various racialized groups and will provide “a road map for how government can meaningfully improve services” for them.

The province has also released its first-year progress report outlining the work done under the act, including the creation of an 11-person anti-racism data committee appointed last September.

Mable Elmore, the parliamentary secretary for anti-racism initiatives, says the province will also develop “broader anti-racism legislation,” which is expected to be introduced next year.

“The work we’re doing not only outlines a path forward, but it illustrates our commitment to transparency and collaboration every step of the way as we work together to eliminate systemic racism,” she told a news conference Monday.

“The next step is to move us beyond identifying barriers and to hold governments accountable.”

June Francis, chair of the anti-racism data committee, said she welcomes updated legislation, but hopes the government begins taking action on anti-racism initiatives now.

“I think that there is no reason for all … governments to not take action. These 12 areas will model, will work hard, will focus, but all governments should be paying attention and starting their own process of anti-racism and decolonization,” she said.

“There’s no reason to pause. I hope this will model the change, and that this change will trigger and ripple across all of government.”

Research priorities identified by the anti-racism data committee include:

1. Racial diversity within the B.C. Public Service;

2. Interactions with the justice system and analysis of complaints model;

3. Health outcomes and understanding of how the system is performing for different demographic groups;

4. Understanding how students across demographic groups access and use education supports and their outcomes;

5. Children, youth and family wellness at home and away from home;

6. Economic inclusion;

7. Homelessness, housing supply and security.

Research priorities identified by Indigenous Peoples:

1. Health outcomes for Indigenous Peoples to understand experiences from an intersectional and holistic perspective;

2. Education outcomes for First Nations, Métis and Inuit students from kindergarten to Grade 12 to understand experiences, including their access to and use of available supports;

3. Social determinants of safety from a holistic lens and fill related data gaps;

4. Commitment to advance the collection and use of disaggregated demographic data;

5. Conduct research in a way that acknowledges, respects and upholds the rights of Indigenous groups.

Source: B.C. creates anti-racism data committee, releases research priorities

Report finds democracy for Black Americans is under attack

Of note:

Extreme views adopted by some local, state and federal political leaders who try to limit what history can be taught in schools and seek to undermine how Black officials perform their jobs are among the top threats to democracy for Black Americans, the National Urban League says.

Marc Morial, the former New Orleans mayor who leads the civil rights and urban advocacy organization, cited the most recent example: the vote this month by the Republican-controlled Tennessee House to oust two Black representatives for violating a legislative rule. The pair had participated in a gun control protest inside the chamber after the shooting that killed three students and three staff members at a Nashville school.

“We have censorship and Black history suppression, and now this,” Morial said in an interview. “It’s another piece of fruit of the same poisonous tree, the effort to suppress and contain.”

Both Tennessee lawmakers were quickly reinstated by leaders in their districts and were back at work in the House after an uproar that spread well beyond the state.

The Urban League’s annual State of Black America report being released Saturday draws on data and surveys from a number of organizations, including the UCLA Law School, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. The collective findings reveal an increase in recent years in hate crimes and efforts to change classroom curriculums, attempts to make voting more difficult and extremist views being normalized in politics, the military and law enforcement.

One of the most prominent areas examined is so-called critical race theory. Scholars developed it as an academic framework during the 1970s and 1980s in response to what they viewed as a lack of racial progress following the civil rights legislation of the 1960s. The theory centers on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions and that they function to maintain the dominance of white people in society.

Director Taifha Alexander said the Forward Tracking Project, part of the UCLA Law School, began in response to the backlash that followed the protests of the George Floyd killing in 2020 and an executive order that year from then-President Donald Trump restricting diversity training.

The project’s website shows that 209 local, state and federal government entities have introduced more than 670 bills, resolutions, executive orders, opinion letters, statements and other measures against critical race theory since September 2020.

Anti-critical race theory is “a living organism in and of itself. It’s always evolving. There are always new targets of attack,” Alexander said.

She said the expanded scope of some of those laws, which are having a chilling effect on teaching certain aspects of the country’s racial conflicts, will lead to major gaps in understanding history and social justice.

“This anti-CRT campaign is going to frustrate our ability to reach our full potential as a multiracial democracy” because future leaders will be missing information they could use to tackle problems, Alexander said.

She said one example is the rewriting of Florida elementary school material about civil rights figure Rosa Parks and her refusal to give up her seat to a white rider on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus in 1955 — an incident that sparked the bus boycott there. Mention of race was omitted entirely in one revision, a change first reported by The New York Times.

Florida has been the epicenter of many of the steps, including opposing AP African American studies, but it’s not alone.

“The things that have been happening in Florida have been replicated, or governors in similarly situated states have claimed they will do the same thing,” Alexander said.

In Alabama, a proposal to ban “divisive” concepts passed out of legislative committee this past week. Last year, the administration of Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, rescinded a series of policies, memos and other resources related to diversity, equity and inclusion that it characterized as “discriminatory and divisive concepts” in the state’s public education system.

Oklahoma public school teachers are prohibited from teaching certain concepts of race and racism under a bill Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt signed into law in 2021.

On Thursday, the Llano County Commissioners Court in Texas held a special meeting to consider shutting down the entire public library system rather than follow a federal judge’s order to return a slate of books to the shelves on topics ranging from teenage sexuality to bigotry.

After listening to public comments in favor and against the shutdown, the commissioners decided to remove the item from the agenda.

“We will suppress your books. We will suppress the conversation about race and racism, and we will suppress your history, your AP course,” Morial said. “It is singular in its effort to suppress Blacks.”

Other issues in his group’s report address extremism in the military and law enforcement, energy and climate change, and how current attitudes can affect public policy. Predominantly white legislatures in Missouri and Mississippi have proposals that would shift certain government authority from some majority Black cities to the states.

In many ways, the report mirrors concerns evident in recent years in a country deeply divided over everything from how much K-12 students should be taught about racism and sexuality to the legitimacy of the 2020 election.

Forty percent of voters in last year’s elections said their local K-12 public schools were not teaching enough about racism in the United States, while 34% said it already was too much, according to AP VoteCast, an expansive survey of the American electorate. Twenty-three percent said the current curriculum was about right.

About two-thirds of Black voters said more should be taught on the subject, compared with about half of Latino voters and about one-third of white voters.

Violence is one of the major areas of concern covered in the Urban League report, especially in light of the 2022 mass shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York. The accused shooter left a manifesto raising the “great replacement theory ” as a motive in the killings.

Data released this year by the FBI indicated that hate crimes rose between 2020 and 2021. African Americans were disproportionately represented, accounting for 30% of the incidents in which the bias was known.

By comparison, the second largest racial group targeted in the single incident category was white victims, who made up 10%.

Rachel Carroll Rivas, deputy director of research with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, said when all the activities are tabulated, including hate crimes, rhetoric, incidents of discrimination and online disinformation, “we see a very clear and concerning threat to America and a disproportionate impact on Black Americans.” 

Source: Report finds democracy for Black Americans is under attack

Scholastic wanted to license her children’s book — if she cut a part about ‘racism’

Yet another sad tale from the publishing world:

Maggie Tokuda-Hall was thrilled when she first saw the offer from the publishing giant.

Scholastic wanted to license her 2022 children’s book Love in the Library. The deal would draw a wider audience to her book — a love story set in a World War II incarceration camp for Japanese Americans and inspired by her grandparents, about the improbable joy found “in a place built to make people feel like they weren’t human.”

Then she read Scholastic’s suggested revisions to her book, included in the same email as the offer news. Her excitement at the opportunity was almost immediately tempered.

The publishers only suggested edit was to the author’s note: Scholastic had crossed out a key section that references “the deeply American tradition of racism” to describe the tale’s real-life historical backdrop — a time when the U.S. government forcibly relocated more than 120,000 Japanese Americans to dozens of internment sites from 1942-1945.

Scholastic gave its reasons for the suggested change in an email to the author and her original publisher, Candlewick Press, citing a “politically sensitive” moment for its market and a worry that the section “goes beyond what some teachers are willing to cover with the kids in their elementary classrooms.”

“This could lead to teachers declining to use the book, which would be a shame,” Scholastic’s email said.

The deal with Scholastic was contingent on not only nixing that section, according to the author, but removing the word “racism” from the author’s note entirely.

Scholastic made the suggested revisions above to Tokuda-Hall’s book in an attachment it sent to her original publisher. “They wanted to take this book and repackage it so that it was just a simple love story,” the author wrote on her blog.

Infuriated by what she called a “horrific demand for censorship,” Tokuda-Hall gave Scholastic a hard no.

The author called the offer deeply offensive in an email to Candlewick Press, which passed along Scholastic’s proposal, a response she posted publicly to her website on Tuesday.

“I’m typically a very compromising person,” the Oakland, Calif.-based author, who is Asian American, told NPR. “But when you omit the word racism from a story about the mass incarceration of a single group of people based on their race, there’s no compromise to be had with that if you can’t agree on basic facts.”

Maggie Tokuda-Hall, a children’s author based in Oakland, Calif., rejected an offer from Scholastic to license her book after the publisher proposed an edit that would cut a section referencing “racism.”

Without its proper context, she said, the story “runs the risk of just being like a lovely little love story. And that’s not what it is. To pretend otherwise would do a disservice not just to [my grandparents], but also to the 120,000 other people who were incarcerated at the time.”

Scholastic issues an apology

Two days after the author first spoke out about the offer, Scholastic said it had apologized to Tokuda-Hall for its editing approach, in a statement sent to NPR on Thursday night.

“In our initial outreach we suggested edits to Ms. Tokuda-Hall’s author’s note,” the company’s CEO Peter Warwick wrote in a statement. “This approach was wrong and not in keeping with Scholastic’s values. We don’t want to diminish or in any way minimize the racism that tragically persists against Asian-Americans.”

Scholastic said that during the process it had failed to consult its “mentors” for the Rising Voices collection — authors and educators from Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities — and has since reached out to them to hear their concerns. “We must never do this again,” Warwick wrote

Scholastic, which had planned to feature Love in the Library as part of its “Rising Voices Library” collection highlighting AANHPI voices, said it hopes to restart the conversation with Tokuda-Hall with the aim of sharing the book with the author’s note unchanged.

It’s not yet clear whether Tokuda-Hall will consider their revised offer.

“That conversation is not concluded and so I do not have any comment yet,” she told NPR in an email.

The author says publishers are silencing marginalized voices

To Tokuda-Hall, her experience with Scholastic is another instance in which publishers are yielding to conservative advocacy groups in the face of recent battles over book bans and author censorship.

In one case, a Florida textbook publisher removed all explicit references to race from its lesson materials about civil rights icon Rosa Parks in order to win approval from Florida’s Department of Education, The New York Times reported last month.

Publishers, she wrote on her website before the Scholastic apology, “want to sell our suffering, smoothed down and made palatable to the white readers they prioritize. … Our voices are the first sacrifice at the altar of marketability.”

It’s impossible to put a price on what Tokuda-Hall may sacrifice from rejecting the deal with Scholastic, a trusted, powerhouse publisher in the children’s market that affords authors exposure. She feared that speaking publicly about the offer could harm her reputation and career.

“Children’s book authors — we’re fighting over nickels. It’s not exactly gangbusters, this industry,” she said. “So, when you’re presented with any opportunity to get your story, and particularly a story that you deeply believe in, in front of more eyes, it’s a huge opportunity.”

But she thinks kids and their families have the most to lose from situations like this.

“I think they’re losing the opportunity to talk about the truth, to learn the truth, to discuss it,” she said. “No substantive change for the better can be made without reconciliation with the truth.”

Since going public with her experience, the author says, she’s heard from other marginalized writers and people in the publishing industry — largely people of color and queer people, she says — who have also had to make difficult choices about their work and how its presented.

“My DMs have been absolutely full,” she said. “People sharing pretty horrific stories that they’re just too afraid to share in public.”

Some authors and others in the publishing world responded publicly in support of Tokuda-Hall.

“By refusing to let this story be situated in context of government oppression and enslavement of other marginalized groups, past and present, It makes it safe for them to say ‘historically, mistakes were made, but look at how successful Japanese American communities are now,’ ” literary agent DongWon Song tweeted. “This is white supremacy. This is how it operates.”

Author Martha Brockenbrough has collected close to 400 signatures on a letter to Scholastic calling on the publisher to feature Love in the Library without edits.

Before she received Scholastic’s apology, Tokuda-Hall said that, whether or not the publisher apologizes, her “greatest fear is that this is a momentary flurry of outrage, but nothing changes. And other creators are asked to make horrible choices like this going forward in the dark.”

Source: Scholastic wanted to license her children’s book — if she cut a part about ‘racism’

Lisée: «Nègres blancs d’Amérique» 55 ans après

Lisée on the history and the context of when the book was written, and its questionable relevance today in terms of current challenges:

L’auteur était le plus souvent debout. En l’absence de chaise ou de table, il écrivait penché sur le lit superposé du haut. Il n’avait pas de stylo, c’était interdit. Il usait ses bouts de crayon à mine, sans rien avoir pour les aiguiser. En haut de chaque page subtilisée à la cantine, il écrivait, en anglais, « Notes for my lawyer », seule façon d’avoir le droit de mettre quoi que ce soit sur papier. Il ne savait pas d’où venait sa soudaine fluidité d’écriture. D’autant qu’il sortait d’une grève de la faim d’un mois qui lui avait soustrait 25 kilos. Il pouvait écrire de jour comme de nuit, l’ampoule ne s’éteignait jamais.

« La fatigue provenait moins de la faim que du bruit infernal qui régnait dans la prison, a-t-il raconté. À toute heure du jour, il se trouvait des détenus pour taper à corps perdu sur les murs métalliques des cellules ou pour improviser des rythmes assourdissants de tam-tam. D’autres hurlaient jusqu’à épuisement leur terreur ou leur désespoir. D’autres encore s’ouvraient les veines et déclenchaient par leur acte un tumulte ahurissant. Un Noir mit le feu à ses vêtements et chercha ainsi à s’immoler. Un autre se jeta tête première du deuxième étage de notre section. Un troisième fut battu à mort par les surveillants dans sa cellule. »

C’est ainsi qu’est né l’essai québécois le plus lu au monde. Celui qui fit scandale, lors de sa publication il y a 55 ans. Celui dont le titre seul, aujourd’hui, peut mettre fin à des carrières journalistiques ou universitaires, scandaliser le CRTC, pousser une commission scolaire anglophone de Montréal à apposer un autocollant pour cacher le mot offensant dans chaque exemplaire d’un manuel.

Pierre Vallières et son camarade Charles Gagnon occupaient cette cellule de la prison des hommes de New York, surnommée The Tombs, Le sépulcre, en septembre 1966, pour avoir « troublé la paix » en manifestant devant l’édifice de l’ONU en faveur de l’indépendance du Québec. Les deux prisonniers sont surtout accusés d’avoir organisé, plus tôt cette année-là à Montréal, des attentats du Front de libération du Québec.

Vallières noircit donc les pages « avec la fébrilité de celui qui sait qu’il peut être déporté à tout instant et qui profite de chaque minute de libre expression qu’il lui reste encore ». Il pond donc en deux mois 90 % d’une oeuvre qui fera 540 pages chez l’imprimeur. Les deux tiers des feuillets sont déjà sortis de la prison lorsque l’extradition vers Montréal se produit.

Paniqué à l’idée que le dernier tiers sera saisi par des policiers québécois, qui eux lisent le français, Vallières offre un troc aux agents américains de l’immigration venus le saisir au sortir de sa prison : il ne résistera pas physiquement à cette nouvelle arrestation si les agents remettent les pages restantes à son avocat. Si ces agents n’avaient pas tenu parole, rapporte Vallières, le livre n’existerait pas. L’auteur est absent du lancement, le 14 mars 1968, car emprisonné et en procès pour les attentats qui lui sont attribués.

Vallières tenait à son titre, mais l’idée n’était pas neuve. Comme le rappelle Daniel Samson-Legault dans sa méticuleuse biographie de Vallières, Le dissident, chez Québec Amérique (que je recommande chaudement), l’expression avait été utilisée avant lui par Marie-Victorin, les journalistes Jean Paré, Yves Michaud et quelques autres pour décrire la condition des Canadiens français.

Vallières la reprend à répétition dans l’ouvrage et s’en sert comme d’un synonyme d’« opprimé ». Il l’associe d’ailleurs à toutes les victimes du capital, y compris aux ouvriers blancs américains. « C’est en anglais que ce concept se formula spontanément dans ma tête. White Niggers of America. Les Noirs américains furent les premiers, et pour cause, à saisir ce que pouvait être, sur les rives du Saint-Laurent, la condition particulière des Québécois francophones. »

Il ne dit pas à quels Noirs il fait référence, mais on sait que le leader noir américain de l’époque, Stokely Carmichael, qui viendra à Montréal, n’a rien à redire sur cette appropriation sémantique. De même, après avoir trouvé le titre très drôle, Aimé Césaire, inventeur du concept de « négritude », dira que Vallières avait bien compris qu’il ne s’agissait pas que de couleur de peau. Vallières use avec autant de liberté du terme « esclavage », une condition qu’il dit retrouver chez tous les dépossédés. On est dans l’hyperbole, pas dans la nuance.

Le livre fait fureur. Environ 50 000 exemplaires vendus au Québec, presque autant aux États-Unis, sans compter les versions allemande, espagnole et italienne. Brusquement, en 1969, l’auteur, l’éditeur — le poète et futur ministre péquiste Gérald Godin pour la maison Parti pris — et même la dactylo sont accusés d’avoir, en publiant l’ouvrage, fait oeuvre de sédition. Un crime passible de 14 ans d’emprisonnement.

Le ministre de la Justice de l’Union nationale, Rémi Paul, fait saisir tous les exemplaires en circulation, y compris celui du dépôt légal à la Bibliothèque nationale du Québec. L’accusation n’aura pas de suite. Le livre reprendra sa carrière en 1972, une fois passée la crise d’Octobre (pendant laquelle les felquistes le font lire à leur otage britannique, James Cross).

Faut-il le relire aujourd’hui ? Seulement si on veut prendre la mesure de la dépossession dans laquelle étaient plongés les Québécois du début des années 1960. Vallières décrit le délabrement et l’insalubrité de son quartier, Jacques-Cartier, sur la Rive-Sud (en forçant le trait, nuance son biographe, mais même…). Le récit biographique du jeune révolté reste poignant, celui de sa recherche intellectuelle, entre Teilhard de Chardin, Sartre, Marx et le Che, est fastidieux, mais ne manque pas de sincérité. Son appel à la violence révolutionnaire, au moment du formidable essor du Québec social, syndical, laïque, culturel et politique de 1966, était, même à l’époque, une erreur et un leurre.

Le problème n’est pas que Nègres blancs d’Amérique ait mal vieilli. Il fait simplement partie de l’histoire. Il est dans notre rétroviseur. Il a peu — rien ? — à nous dire sur le Québec d’aujourd’hui ou de demain. Son titre, seul, résonne comme un cri de liberté, comme l’audace de dire des choses avec des mots forts, en les détournant ou en leur faisant violence. Un doigt d’honneur aux censeurs d’hier et d’aujourd’hui.

Source: «Nègres blancs d’Amérique» 55 ans après

McWhorter: Today’s Woke Excesses Were Born in the ’60s

McWhorter’s reflections always of interest, including these on the “performative” aspects of activism:

Various books I’ve been reading lately have me thinking about 1966. I have often said that the history of Black America could be divided between what happened before and after that year.

It was a year when the fight for Black equality shifted sharply in mood, ushering in an era in which rhetoric overtook actual game plans for action. It planted the seed for the excesses of today’s wokeness. I wouldn’t have been on board, and I’m glad I was only a baby that year and didn’t have to face it as a mature person.

The difference between Black America in 1960 and in 1970 appears vaster to me than it was between the start and end of any other decade since the 1860s, after Emancipation. And in 1966 specifically, Stokely Carmichael made his iconic speech about a separatist Black Power, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee he led expelled its white members (though Carmichael himself did not advocate this), the Black Panther Party was born, “Black” replaced “Negro” as the preferred term, the Afro went mainstream, and Malcolm X’s “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” (written with Alex Haley) became a standard text for Black readers.

I doubt most people living through that year thought of it as a particularly unique 365 days, but Mark Whitaker, a former editor of Newsweek, has justified my sense of that year as seminal with his new book, “Saying It Loud: 1966 — the Year Black Power Challenged the Civil Rights Movement.” Whitaker has a journalist’s understanding of the difference between merely documenting the facts and using them to tell a story, and his sober yet crisp prose pulls the reader along with nary a lull.

But one question keeps nagging at me: Why did the mood shift at that particular point? The conditions of Black America at the time would not have led one to imagine that a revolution in thought was imminent. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 had just happened. The economy was relatively strong, and Black men in particular were now earning twice or more what they earned before World War II. As the political scientist and historian duo Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom noted in their book “America in Black and White,” “Before World War II, Black bank tellers, bookkeepers, cashiers, secretaries, stenographers, telephone operators or mail carriers were rare. By 1970 they were very common, though far more in the north than in the south.”

And as to claims one might hear that Black America was uniquely fed up in 1966, were Black people not plenty fed up in 1876, or after World War I or World War II?

What Whitaker so deftly chronicles strikes me less as a natural development from on-the-ground circumstances than as something more elusive for the historian: the emergence and influence of that mood shift I referred to. Carmichael memorably said: “The only way we gonna stop them white men from whuppin’ us is to take over. We been saying freedom for six years and we ain’t got nothin’. What we gonna start saying now is Black Power!”

The dramatic impact was obvious. But what did Black Power mean, and how much change on the ground did this kind of rhetoric ever actually result in? What were Carmichael’s concrete plans for action in the first place?

There was always a certain performative element in the man: not for nothing was he referred to as Starmichael. Whitaker recounts Carmichael’s proposing having Harlem “send one million Black men up to invade Scarsdale” — but really?

The N.A.A.C.P. head Roy Wilkins was infuriated at a crucial summit meeting between leading Black groups where Carmichael referred to Lyndon Johnson as “that cat, the president” and recommended publicly denouncing his work. This was a key conflict between an older style seeking to work within the only reality available and a new style favoring a kind of utopian agitprop.

Figures like Carmichael and Black Panthers Huey Newton, Eldridge Cleaver and H. Rap Brown fascinate from a distance, with their implacable fierceness and true Black pride shocking a complacent “Leave It To Beaver” America. Plus their fashion sense — the berets, the leather jackets — was hard not to like. It all made for great photos and good television. But at the time, affirmative action and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, supported by those white “cats” responding to the suasion of people like Wilkins and Martin Luther King Jr., were making a real difference in Black lives, central to encouraging the growth of the Black middle class.

This difference between mood and action is relevant to the historian Beverly Gage’s magnificent new biography, “G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century.” The book’s 800-plus pages are so Caro-esque in detail, context and narrative energy that I have dragged the hardback across the Atlantic and back; Gage somehow makes a page turner out of the life of a man with the stage presence of a toad.

Where Hoover comes in on the 1966 issue is a common observation of his, which was that the Black-led urban riots of the Long, Hot Summer, and the general change in mood from integrationist to separatist, was not solely a response to the frustrations of poverty. Of course, Hoover couldn’t get much further than seeing Black people as having simply given in to a general anti-establishment degeneracy, egged on by Communist influence. That was one part nonsense (the Communist one) and one part racism.

Hoover was bred in a Southern city (D.C.) at the turn of the 20th century, post Plessy v. Ferguson. He came of age embraced by a fraternity steeped in post-Reconstruction “lost cause” ideology about Black people. His late-career persecution of the Panthers with F.B.I. technology and tactics was nastier — and more reckless with people’s lives — than his earlier witch hunt against white Communists had been.

Yet, his sense that the new developments were not caused by socioeconomics was not entirely mistaken. Rather, I suspect that much of why leading Black political ideology took such a menacing, and even impractical, turn in the late 1960s was that white America was by that time poised to hear it out. Not all of white America. But a critical mass had become aware, through television and the passage of bills like the Civil Rights Act, that there was a “race issue” requiring attention.

It’s a safe bet that if Black leaders had taken the tone of Carmichael and the Panthers in 1900 or even 1950, the response from whites would have been openly violent and even murderous. The theatricality of the new message was in part a response to enough whites now being interested in listening.

The problem was that so much of the message, at that point, was a kind of Kabuki, as the Black essayist Debra Dickerson memorably put it a while ago. Savory, dramatic poses were often more important than plans. This was perhaps a natural result of the fact that the remaining problems were challenging to address. With legalized segregation, disenfranchisement and residential Balkanization now illegal, the question was what to do next and how. “Black Power” did not turn out to be the real answer: It all burned out early — Whitaker identifies signs that this would happen as soon as the end of 1966.

Daniel Akst’s lucid group biography, “War By Other Means: The Pacifists of the Greatest Generation Who Revolutionized Resistance,” demonstrates people of the era engaging in action that brings about actual change. Following the lives and careers of the activists Dorothy Day, Dwight Macdonald, David Dellinger and Bayard Rustin, one senses almost none of the detour into showmanship that so infused 1966. While Carmichael made speeches that, to many, were suggestive of violence, and later moved to Africa, Rustin, for example, essentially birthed the March on Washington.

I hardly intend that Carmichael’s brand of progressivism has only been known among Black people. Today it has attained cross-racial influence, serving as a model for today’s extremes of wokeness, confusing acting out for action. One might suppose that the acting out is at least a demonstration of leftist philosophy, perhaps valuable as a teaching tool of sorts. But is it? The flinty, readable “Left is Not Woke” by Susan Neiman, the director of the Einstein Forum think tank, explores that question usefully.

Neiman limns the new wokeness as an anti-Enlightenment program, despite its humanistic Latinate vocabulary. She associates true leftism with a philosophy that asserts “a commitment to universalism over tribalism, a firm distinction between justice and power and a belief in the possibility of progress” and sees little of those elements in the essentializing, punitive and pessimistic tenets too common in modern wokeness. Woke “begins with concern for marginalized persons, and ends by reducing each to the prism of her marginalization,” she writes. “In the focus on inequalities of power, the concept of justice is often left by the wayside. Woke demands that nations and peoples face up to their criminal histories. In the process it often concludes that all history is criminal.”

Neiman critiques pioneering texts of this kind of view, such as Michel Foucault’s widely assigned book, “Discipline and Punish,” and his essay “What is Enlightenment?,” in which he scorns “introducing ‘dialectical’ nuances while seeking to determine what good and bad elements there may have been in the Enlightenment.” In this cynical and extremist kind of rhetoric, Neiman notes that “you may look for an argument; what you’ll find is contempt.” And the problem, she adds, is that “those who have learned in college to distrust every claim to truth will hesitate to acknowledge falsehood.”

All of these books relate to a general sense I have always had, that in 1966 something went seriously awry with what used to be called “The Struggle.” There is a natural human tendency in which action devolves into gesture, the concrete drifts into abstraction, the outline morphs into shorthand. It’s true in language, in the arts, and in politics, and I think its effects distracted much Black American thought — as today’s wokeness as performance also leads us astray — at a time when there was finally the opportunity to do so much more. I will explore what that more was in another column, but in the meantime, Whitaker, Neiman, Akst and — albeit more obliquely — Gage are useful in showing why 1966 was such an important turning point in the story.

Source: Today’s Woke Excesses Were Born in the ’60s

Human rights commission acknowledges it has been dismissing racism complaints at a higher rate

More on the CHRC with a note of caution to those advocating for direct access to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, rather than going through the Commission from Cindy Blackstock, the main advocate for the First Nation children harmed by Canada’s discriminatory child welfare system:

The Canadian Human Rights Commission’s recent numbers show it has been dismissing racism-based claims at a higher rate than other human rights complaints — but the commission insists it’s working to change that.

Numbers the commission provided to CBC News show that in most of the past five years, it reported a higher rejection rate for claims based on racism than for other complaints.

The statistics released by the commission show that during the first three years of the 2018-2022 period, the commission dismissed a higher percentage of race-based claims than it did others.

The year 2020 saw the largest disparity. The percentage of racism-based complaints the commission rejected — 13 per cent — was almost double the percentage of other types of claims it rejected (7 per cent).

The commission accepted more racism-based claims in subsequent years, referring them either to mediation or to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. Last year, for example, the commission dismissed only nine per cent of racism-based claims, compared with a 14 per cent rejection rate for other types of claims

The commission describes itself as Canada’s human rights watchdog. It receives and investigates complaints from federal departments and agencies, Crown corporations and many private sector organizations such as banks, airlines and telecommunication companies. It decides which cases proceed to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

The commission released the data after the federal government concluded recently that the commission had discriminated against its Black and racialized employees.

The Canadian government’s human resources arm, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBCS), came to that conclusion after nine employees filed a policy grievance through their unions in October 2020. Their grievance alleged that “Black and racialized employees at the CHRC (Canadian Human Rights Commission) face systemic anti-Black racism, sexism and systemic discrimination.”

“I declare that the CHRC has breached the ‘No Discrimination’ clause of the law practitioners collective agreement,” said Carole Bidal, an associate assistant deputy minister at TBCS, in her official ruling on the grievance.

A group of current and former commission employees who spoke to CBC News said they’ve noticed all-white investigative teams dismissing complaints from Black and other racialized Canadians a higher rate.

CBC has requested interviews with the CHRC’s executive director Ian Fine and interim chief commissioner Charlotte-Anne Malischewski. The commission has declined those requests because it says the matter is in mediation.

In a media statement, the commission has said it accepts the TBCS’s ruling and is working to implement an anti-racism action plan.

Véronique Robitaille, the commission’s acting communications director, said the commission has been compiling data in the course of that work. The latest figures, she said, show the commission is taking action to address the concerns.

“The following data … shows the results of our ongoing actions to address concerns related to the handling of complaints filed on the grounds of race, colour, and/or national or ethnic origin,” Robitaille said in a media statement to CBC News.

Robitaille said the percentage of race-based complaints referred to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has doubled between 2017 (9 per cent) and 2021 (18 per cent). In 2021, the commission said it implemented a modernized complaint process that modified how it screens complaints based on race, colour and/or national or ethnic origin.

‘Racism runs amuck’

The people behind the cases the commission dismissed in recent years say they’re still waiting for justice.

Rubin Coward is one of them. The former member of the Royal Canadian Air Force told CBC News that he filed a complaint with the commission in 1993 alleging he experienced racism and was repeatedly called the N-word while stationed at CFB Greenwood in Nova Scotia. His claim was rejected.

Now a Nova Scotia community-based advocate for military, RCMP members and seniors, he regularly helps people file human rights complaints. He said he’s noticed that the ones that have nothing to do with race tend to be more successful.

“I was severely disappointed but I wasn’t surprised,” said Coward, reacting to the news that the CHRC discriminated against its employees.

“Regrettably, I have had the opportunity of dealing with [the Canadian Human Rights Commission] for over 30 years now. I am not surprised racism runs amuck inside there because, in individuals that I have assisted over the course of the last 30 years, that’s precisely what they and I have run into.”

The experiences of people like Coward have prompted law sector organizations to call for changes to Canada’s human rights system.

Both former Supreme Court justice Gérard La Forest and the United Nations have called on Canada to give Canadians direct access to the without having to go through the commission.

“We believe it is time to heed the advice of Justice LaForest and the UN. It is time to finally move to a direct access model federally. The current model has not and is not working for racialized Canadians,” said the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers (CABL) in a 2021 letter.

Almost 30 other organizations signed the letter, which was sent to Justice Minister David Lametti.

The Canadian Association Labour Lawyers (CALL) has called for similar reforms.

“Right now, the commission acts as a gatekeeper, and the commission has demonstrated that it needs to get its own house in order before it starts determining whether other people’s claims are meritorious,” said labour lawyer and member of CALL Immanuel Lanzaderas.

CALL also calls for the cap to be lifted on the sum of penalties the tribunal can impose. Currently, the maximum that can be awarded to victims is $40,000.

As calls for change grow louder, some are urging caution.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission was a key player in the early days of a landmark discrimination case that resulted in the federal government agreeing in principle to cover $40 billion in compensation for people harmed by Canada’s discriminatory child welfare system. The settlement also required the federal government to reform the system that tore First Nations children from their communities for decades.

Cindy Blackstock represents one of the groups that launched that human rights challenge. She said the commission played a key role in making sure First Nations children received justice.

“If you are a person who is discriminated against or are part of … a group that’s being discriminated against, there aren’t a lot of options for you to get justice,” said Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society.

“I think we need to be really careful about not introducing ideas that may have the unfortunate side effect of gutting our human rights system when we need it the most.”

Blackstock said the fact that the commission discriminated against its own employees is still “disturbing.” She said the human rights system needs leadership with a track record of treating employees and the public with dignity.

In a statement, the commission defended its model, which triages complaints before they move to mediation at the tribunal stage.

“The commission’s model supports access to justice by working with complainants to articulate their experiences in a way that meets the requirements of the law, including identifying systemic discrimination,” said Malischewski.

“Commission mediators work closely with parties to empower them to reach speedy resolutions of their own design. When cases are referred to tribunal, commission lawyers regularly represent the public interest throughout the process, from the tribunal all the way to the Supreme Court.”

Source: Human rights commission acknowledges it has been dismissing racism complaints at a higher rate

Black Torontonians ‘significantly’ more likely to face discrimination on regular basis, study finds

Of note:

Black people in Toronto are “significantly” more likely to face discrimination on a regular basis than white residents, according to a recent in-depth report on Torontonians’ day-to-day experience with microaggression and discrimination.

A research brief entitled Everyday Racism: Experiences of Discrimination in Torontoreleased Tuesday highlighted findings on discrimination pulled from the Toronto Social Capital Study published in November.

The first-of-its-kind report, led by the non-profit Toronto Foundation and Environics Institute for Survey Research, found that roughly 76 per cent of Black Torontonians experience racial discrimination at least a few times a month.

Source: Black Torontonians ‘significantly’ more likely to face discrimination on regular basis, study finds

Ottawa says Human Rights Commission discriminated against its Black and racialized employees

Embarrassing, to say the least:

The federal government says the Canadian Human Rights Commission discriminated against its own Black and racialized employees.

The Canadian government’s human resources arm, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBCS), came to that conclusion after nine employees filed a policy grievance through their unions in October 2020. Their grievance alleged that “Black and racialized employees at the CHRC (Canadian Human Rights Commission) face systemic anti-Black racism, sexism and systemic discrimination.”

“I declare that the CHRC has breached the ‘No Discrimination’ clause of the law practitioners collective agreement,” said Carole Bidal, an associate assistant deputy minister at TBCS, in her official ruling on the grievance.

Source: Ottawa says Human Rights Commission discriminated against its Black and racialized employees

Nicolas: Briser le silence… systémique

Of note:

Pour bien comprendre l’enquête du Devoir sur les plaintes pour racisme à la Ville de Montréal, rappelons d’abord le contexte. En 2016, une coalition de groupes de la société civile (dont je faisais partie) interpelle le premier ministre du Québec, Philippe Couillard, pour demander une commission sur le racisme systémique. Le terme « racisme systémique » est alors nouveau pour une grande majorité de Québécois. Nous sommes plusieurs à expliquer, tant bien que mal, ce que c’est, et ce que ce n’est pas, sur les tribunes qu’on veut bien nous offrir.

On parle des politiques et des cultures institutionnelles qui créent et reproduisent des inégalités sociales. En réponse, on nous accuse de faire le « procès des Québécois » et on mélange les mots « systémiques » et « systématiques »… une distinction que tout un chacun fait déjà très bien lorsqu’il est question d’enjeux politiques, avec lesquels on est déjà plus à l’aise.

On pointe les milieux où il reste tant à faire pour briser l’omerta sur le racisme systémique au Québec, notamment dans les domaines de la santé, de l’éducation, de la justice, de l’emploi. On nous rétorque qu’on peut résoudre la situation assez facilement sans s’embarrasser de tout ça. Utilisons des CV anonymes à l’embauche, organisons des foires d’emplois pour l’immigration en région, et le tour sera joué.

La commission provinciale sur le racisme systémique n’aura finalement jamais eu lieu. Mais l’idée aura fait son chemin dans la société civile, et fait évoluer les mentalités. Et quand George Floyd et Joyce Echaquan ont perdu leur vie devant les caméras, soudainement on était plus nombreux à avoir un mot pour nommer les choses.

La fin de non-recevoir à Québec ne découragera pas pour autant la mobilisation antiraciste. À Montréal, c’est l’ex-candidat de Projet Montréal, Balarama Holness, qui reprend la balle au bond, en 2018. À la Ville, on n’est pas plus pressé de nommer le racisme systémique et d’agir contre lui. Mais il existe une faille dans le système : les citoyens ont le pouvoir d’imposer un sujet de consultation à l’Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM) s’ils collectent au moins 15 000 signatures… à la main. Un groupe de jeunes rassemblés autour de Holness se relève les manches et réussit l’exploit.

Qu’on ne le perde pas de vue, donc : si la Ville de Montréal a reconnu l’existence du racisme systémique et s’est engagée à mettre en oeuvre les recommandations du rapport produit par l’OCPM, c’est parce qu’un mouvement citoyen lui a forcé la main. Il n’y a rien, mais absolument rien, dans la lutte contre le racisme à Montréal qui s’apparente à de l’enfonçage de portes ouvertes.

Dans la foulée de ce rapport produit au terme d’une consultation dont la Ville ne voulait pas, donc, on crée le Bureau de la commissaire de la lutte au racisme et aux discriminations systémiques. Plusieurs acteurs clés de la Ville de Montréal, bien sûr, n’en voulaient pas plus. Mais nous sommes au début de 2021, quelques mois à peine après George Floyd et Joyce Echaquan. Puisqu’il n’est pas exactement dans l’air du temps de nommer son malaise devant l’existence même du bureau, on concentre l’ensemble des critiques envers la personne qui le dirigera. Bochra Manaï encaisse, ne fléchit pas, et se met à l’ouvrage.

Son équipe a principalement un pouvoir de recommandations et d’accompagnement des différentes équipes de la Ville aux prises avec des problèmes de racisme. Nécessairement, dans le contexte, il est difficile de juguler les attentes des employés qui subissent du harcèlement raciste de la part de collègues, dans certains cas depuis des décennies. L’enquête du Devoir décrit une institution où les arrondissements, la ville-centre et les syndicats se passent la patate chaude des employés qui contribuent à un climat de travail toxique, sans qu’il y ait de véritables conséquences pour les fautifs. Les seules personnes qui devraient être ici surprises sont celles qui n’ont pas encore compris, après toutes ces années, le sens exact de l’expression « racisme systémique ».

Revenons donc à la question qui avait été lancée en 2016, soit l’importance de faire la lumière, de briser l’omerta et d’enfin agir contre le racisme systémique dans une foule d’institutions au Québec. L’administration municipale de Montréal s’est fait imposer ce travail, à la suite d’une mobilisation citoyenne, et on voit, notamment dans l’enquête du Devoir, ce qui se cachait. Des niveaux inouïs de harcèlement à caractère haineux, des employés qui se voient refuser des promotions sur le motif de la couleur de leur peau, des carrières brisées, des victimes dont la santé mentale finit par flancher, et bien sûr le tabou, véhiculé notamment par l’interdiction de parler aux journalistes.

Mais ce n’est pas parce que les projecteurs sont braqués sur la Ville de Montréal que les injustices y sont pires que dans les autres municipalités, ou que dans le secteur privé, les systèmes de santé et de services sociaux, d’éducation, de justice, etc. Simplement, Montréal a commencé à faire un travail qu’on refuse encore d’entamer ailleurs.

Lorsqu’on a un pied sur le terrain, auprès des communautés les plus affectées par le racisme, on a déjà entendu des centaines de témoignages semblables à ceux dévoilés par Le Devoir cette semaine, dans à peu près tous les secteurs d’emplois. Alors que le combat pour la liberté d’expression est très en vogue ces temps-ci, prenons un moment pour mesurer l’ampleur des mobilisations et de la résilience requises pour ne briser qu’une infime partie du silence sur le racisme systémique.

Source: Nicolas: Briser le silence… systémique

McWhorter: Why Racial Discussions Should Also Focus on Progress


I have argued recently that a useful and inspiring history of modern Black America need not be dominated by discussions of white racism. And having done so, it seems reasonable for me to explain, to at least a limited degree, what I would envision as a potentially better approach.

Specifically, I wrote about a draft curriculum of the College Board’s Advanced Placement course in African American studies. So what other topics might it have included, to counterbalance topics — clearly worthy, yet incomplete — such as reparations, Amiri Baraka and the Black Lives Matter movement?

Let’s try, for one, the notion of Black power. The good word would seem to be that we never really have any. But that isn’t true, and any valid chronicle of the history of what’s been happening to Black Americans since the 1960s must not pretend otherwise.

We have now had a two-term Black president, two Black secretaries of state, one Black (and South Asian) vice president and a Black secretary of defense. These were all borderline unimaginable goals a generation ago.

Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., was elevated in 2020 to become the Catholic Church’s first Black cardinal. He was the first Black president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as far back as the early 2000s — a time at which Dennis Archer was also the first Black president of the American Bar Association.

Lowe’s and Walgreens, two of the nation’s largest retailers, are run by Black chief executives. The reason you probably didn’t know that is because there are now enough Black chief executives to bypass the notion of firsts. This contrasts with 2000, when there were only two prominent Black chief executives of Fortune 500 companies — Franklin Raines at Fannie Mae and Lloyd Ward at Maytag — although that, too, was awesome progress over what had come before.

Successes of this kind should be held up front and center, not dismissed as footnotes or all but buried in equal coverage of remaining disparities — although those should of course be covered elsewhere in a curriculum. The question is how people like this achieved as much as they did despite the obstacles, largely but not exclusively racial, they all faced. We might ask why there isn’t more focus on that question.

I often sense that we are supposed to think of people like this with a certain formulaic admiration. They are what are sometimes called “Blacks in wax” (after, presumably, the museum in Baltimore): nice to know about but ultimately fluky superstars irrelevant to what some might say Blackness is really about. Is the idea that, because they have not usually dedicated themselves to political protest in deed or gesture, it somehow makes them less impressive or less important? That itself would be a radical proposition.

Something else: A modern history of Black America should include how Black English has become, to a considerable extent, a youth lingua franca since at least the 1990s. It is absolutely a fact that attitudes toward Black English can be influenced by racism. However, this is neither the most important nor even the most interesting thing about the dialect. Beyond its awesome grammatical structures, it is fascinating that such a dialect primarily confined to Black usage just 50 years ago now decorates the speech of countless Americans who are not Black at all. And that is because how Black people talk has become an integral part of how America talks.

In Black English, “I’m going to” can be rendered as the marvelously terse “Ima,” as in, “Ima go downstairs.” Thirty years ago, I overheard a white undergraduate woman use this phrase with Black male friends. Then, white people using it were generally ones especially identified with and situated within Black culture — i.e., with a substantially Black friend group. Today I hear white and Asian young people use “Ima” all the time; it is no longer interesting. A student of South Asian heritage wrote a paper for me recently chronicling how his texting with friends, most of whom are not Black, was couched considerably in Black English, as a default medium with no performance or ridicule entailed.

And dismissing this as cultural appropriation won’t do. It’d be like Jewish people complaining that non-Jewish people say “klutz,” “schmooze” and “shtick.” Black English’s transformation of mainstream English has likewise been inevitable, harmless and cool. It’s something great that has happened since the 1960s.

A true and healthy history of Black America should also cover, with the same ardor that it does the L.A. riots of 1992, the efflorescence of Black film starting in the 1980s and continuing into the 2000s. After the Blaxploitation film flame burned out rather quickly in the 1970s, Black movies came out here and there. But starting with the electrically odd, goofy, plangent and true “She’s Gotta Have It” by Spike Lee in 1986, and Lee’s titanic oeuvre of films in its wake, it started to get hard to see every Black film that was released. (I had to give up around 1999.)

The comedies were often of a kind that both taught and amused (“Barbershop”); the romances gave Black women especially equivalents to movies like “When Harry Met Sally” (“Love Jones”); the dramas gave us our forms of movies like “Terms of Endearment” (“Soul Food”); and the gangster pictures finally gave us our James Cagneys and Lee Marvins (“New Jack City”).

A line one often used to hear in response to the idea of progress in Black film was that there existed no Black producer who could greenlight a movie alone. But that’s no longer true, now that Tyler Perry rules his own filmic empire. Some think Perry does not really count because most of his films appeal more to the gut than to the intellect. But then the vast majority of films always have, and I for one have never seen a film of Perry’s without at least one immortal performance of some kind, including, frequently, his own. And they are indeed often damnably funny.

That Black movies are now ordinary is something our historiography should chart and celebrate, much as it should a two-term Black president. The prospect of a film like “Black Panther” even getting made on such a lavish budget, much less being an international sensation, would have sounded like science fiction as recently as the 1990s. The prospect of a high-budget sequel with a mostly Black cast being made even after the star of the original had died? It beggars imagination.

One last example: From the Florida A.P. draft, one might suppose that the thing most interesting about hip-hop is its usage as protest music, given that in the draft music is so dominatingly associated with social and political purposes, advocacy and empowerment. Certainly, protest is part of what the music is; its confrontational cadence is fundamental to the genre. But as to the idea of a hip-hop revolution whereby the music was always supposedly about to unite Black America into some kind of radical political consciousness: How has that panned out?

Hip-hop has been a glorious revolution, indeed — in music, period. Be it party music, protest music, political music, obscene music or Dr. Octagon, a genre that started as street fun in the Bronx has transformed the musical fabric and sensibility of America — as well as that of the whole world. (I once watched a teen rap in Indonesian in New Guinea.) No one denies this, of course. But it is this basic triumph that should center its coverage in a course and be offered as a topic of engagement to curious young people.

I suspect that the idea that a Black historiography would not just wave at but stare at positive developments will rub some the wrong way. But the idea that our history must elevate protest as the most interesting thing about us is peculiar.

It’s worth noting that not that very long ago, Black American movers and shakers were of a similar mind in celebrating the victories more than the — very real — obstacles. In 1901, an issue of the Black newspaper The Indianapolis Recorder listed all of the city’s businesses owned by Black people and crowed, “If after reading the facts and figures as succinctly presented an inspiration comes to any who may be considering embarking in some business enterprise or renews hope in those who are now struggling to attain success we shall feel gratified.”

If a Black man could write that in the era of Plessy v. Ferguson, surely today our curriculums on Black history can recognize more clearly what Black people have accomplished, continue to accomplish and accomplish more with each passing decade. Just because time moves more slowly than we wish it did doesn’t mean we should not recognize its motion. Relaxing the impulse to hold the spotlight on what white people are doing — or not doing, or should have done — can be, among other things, a way to recognize what Black people have accomplished in a nation that brought them across an ocean as slaves.

The protest-focused perspective is rooted, it seems to me, in a take on being Black that was memorably articulated by the writer Ellis Cose in the 1990s in “The Rage of a Privileged Class,” his widely discussed book about middle-class Black people’s sense of alienation: “Hurtful and seemingly trivial encounters of daily existence are in the end what most of life is,” Cose attested, in what he described as the story of what it’s like to be Black in modern America.

Cose’s Weltanschauung is one especially prevalent among academics, artists and journalists. But most people — and most Black people — are none of those three things. I have lost count of how many Black people told me back in the day that they did not share Cose’s take on what we now call “microaggressions” as the very fabric of our existence. Many do share it, to be sure, but their positions share space with those of the other millions of Black Americans who feel closer to the way I do.

The story of Black people in America is much more than the story of what’s wrong with white people. To pretend that this isn’t true, to downplay or ignore decades of progress and accomplishment and to portray political activism — however important and necessary, and it is both — as Black Americans’ main form of accomplishment, is to suggest that white people have already won.

Source: Why Racial Discussions Should Also Focus on Progress