Most Canadians are fed up with online hatred and discrimination and want to see Parliament act, new survey says

Of note. As always, questions remain in terms of how Parliament should act, and what actions would be most effective:

Canadians seem to be on the same page when it comes to fighting discrimination issues and they want to see Parliament take action, according to a national survey released Tuesday.

The survey, conducted by Nanos Research for the Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF), gauged how Canadians feel about online hatred, employment equity, reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and RCMP reform. The majority of Canadians surveyed showed support for action on all four priorities, and they also weighed in on seeing more diversity in arts and culture, and the impacts of climate change on racialized communities.

Among the strongest response was regarding fighting online hate, which doesn’t surprise Mohammed Hashim, executive director of the CRRF, a Crown corporation.

“They see it challenging their sense of identity, and increasing polarity in very negative ways. There’s real impact and harm that has been created,” he told the Star.

Nearly four in five Canadians support the government creating legislation to combat serious types of harmful online content, according to the survey. About three in four support strengthening the Canada Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to more effectively combat online hate and close to the same number want to see social media platforms legally responsible for auditing extremist and hateful posts before they’re viewed widely.

And about 70 per cent showed concern with the rise of right-wing extremism and terrorism as well as growing polarization.

In its most recent Forum on Minority Issues at the end of last year, the UN noted minorities are more vulnerable to online hate speech, particularly minority women. They make up three-quarters of victims in many countries.

The responses also showed that two-thirds of Canadians want to see the calls to action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada implemented soon on behalf of Indigenous peoples, and an overwhelming majority want safe drinking water for all Indigenous communities.

The survey also suggested that Canadians want to see employment equity addressed by the federal government, but there was less consistent a response regarding the actions behind it, like management being held accountable for equity goals or increasing funding for Employment Equity Act initiatives.

When it comes to RCMP oversight, 58 per cent support the creation of an independent civilian body, and about 53 per cent support the collection of race-based data regarding health, employment, and policing; the same share, 53 per cent, want the Mounties barred from using excessive force in crowd control.

The statements the survey sought responses about came from a combination of community groups, past surveys the CRRF has done and political party platforms.

Hashim said these action items aren’t at all far-fetched. There is movement in Parliament on some of these issues, he said: “Everything is within the realm of possibility.”

Nanos conducted an online representative survey of 2,018 Canadians, age 18 and older between Nov. 3 to 8, and weighed by age, gender and geography to be representative of the country. Nanos says no margin of error applies to this research.

Source: Most Canadians are fed up with online hatred and discrimination and want to see Parliament act, new survey says

‘Almost unprecedented’ spike in number of Australians who see racism as a problem, survey finds

Of note:

Australians are increasingly aware that racism is a problem in their country, while positive sentiment about immigration and multiculturalism has also increased over the past 12 months, according to an authoritative survey on social cohesion.

The annual Mapping Social Cohesion Report from the Scanlon Foundation Research Institute, released on Tuesday, has charted a 20 percentage point increase in 12 months in response to the question “How big a problem is racism in Australia?”

Back in 2020, 40% of respondents thought racism in Australia was either a very big or fairly big problem. But in the 2021 survey of 3,572 respondents, 60% held that view.

The survey authors note “an increase of 20 percentage points in response to a general question of this nature is almost unprecedented in the Scanlon Foundation surveys”, which have been conducted annually since 2007. But they say there is no clear trigger or cultural catalyst explaining such a large shift.

The research suggests Australians were also more enthusiastic during the period of pandemic-induced international border closure about the contribution migrants make to the economy, with 86% of the sample agreeing with the proposition “immigrants are generally good for Australia’s economy” (compared with 76% in 2019, the year before Covid-19 hit).

Similarly, 86% of respondents agreed “multiculturalism has been good for Australia” compared with 80% agreeing with that proposition in 2019. A super-majority (90% – the highest affirmation in the survey) also endorsed the importance of the relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and the wider Australian community.

Source: ‘Almost unprecedented’ spike in number of Australians who see racism as a problem, survey finds

Human rights hearing on allegations of racial profiling of migrant workers caught in mass DNA sweep begins

Of interest:

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario will hear Monday from migrant workers who allege they were racially targeted by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) as part of a DNA sweep in connection to a 2013 sexual assault investigation.

The 54 applicants argue that the indiscriminate manner in which the DNA sweep was conducted violated their rights under Ontario’s Human Rights Code.

The OPP swabbed 96 Black and brown migrant farm workers from mostly Caribbean countries working on at least five farms in Elgin County, in southwestern Ontario, in 2013 as officers searched for a suspect in a sexual assault.

But human rights lawyer Shane Martínez, who is representing the migrant workers pro bono, says most workers who were swabbed did not fit the physical description of the suspect except for the colour of their skin.

“Workers were West Indian, workers were black from Jamaica, workers with long dreadlocks, ones who were bald — one worker had gold teeth,” Martínez said. “They were as diverse a group as you could potentially imagine.”

“When they tried to provide explanations as to [where they were] and they provided alibis, the police completely disregarded those and wanted nothing more than to collect their DNA because of how they looked.”

The suspect, meanwhile, was described as between 5-10 and six feet tall, black, with no facial hair and a low voice that might have a Jamaican accent.

The sexual assault survivor told police her attacker was muscular and possibly in his mid-to-late 20s. She said she was confident the perpetrator was a migrant worker and believed she’d seen him near her home in rural southwestern Ontario.

‘I didn’t want to risk my livelihood’

Dwayne Henry recalls being asked to provide a DNA swab eight years ago.

Hailing from Jamaica, Henry says while he was nervous, he initially felt assured when the police approached him.

“We were scared, but knowing this was Canada, this was the first world, I thought I was doing something keeping with the law,” said Henry. “We know what police can do back in our country.”

Henry, who now lives in Stratford, Ont., said he was with his girlfriend at the time of the assault and had dreadlocks that did not match the suspect’s description. But he says that made no difference in the investigation.

Now that he’s a permanent resident, Henry says he could clearly see that both his employer and the police pressured him to comply.

“I think at that time they were taking advantage of us just because we were migrant workers,” said Henry. “We were scared that we were going to be sent back home. This is the place [where we are the] breadwinner for our family, you know?”

Henry says the investigation continues to follow him and his reputation, even back in his home country. That’s why he became part of the human rights claim.

“To this day, it still has a dent in my life.”

Samples didn’t match DNA from scene

Police would later tell an independent review into what happened in 2013 that due to the seasonal agricultural worker program, they felt they had to act fast to find the perpetrator before he left the country.

On Nov. 30, 2013, Henry Cooper, a migrant farm worker from Trinidad and Tobago was arrested after suspicions around his unwillingness to provide a DNA swab and conversations with his employer led to the OPP surveilling him in hopes of getting a discarded sample of his DNA.

He eventually pleaded guilty to sexual assault with a weapon, forcible confinement and uttering death threats and was sentenced to seven years in prison.

In 2016, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) released its report based on a complaint put forth by Justicia for Migrant Workers, a volunteer-run collective that advocates for the rights of migrant workers.

At least 11 other stakeholders made submissions to be considered during the review, including the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

The report found that while the investigation failed to “recognize the particular vulnerabilities of the migrant worker community targeted by the DNA canvass,” it was not motivated by racial prejudice.

It also questioned whether the “consents obtained were truly informed and voluntary.”

In his report, Gerry McNeilly, the police review director at the time, recommended the OPP adopt a policy on canvassing for DNA that could also be used by other police services.

When asked if the OPP had implemented this recommendation — and the report’s six others, which included training for officers on DNA canvassing and communication surrounding the collection and destruction of DNA — OPP spokesperson Bill Dickson said it “reviewed [the report’s] contents and continues to address the recommendations that were made in the OIPRD review.”

When pressed about what that meant, he replied as follows: “Any further comment would be inappropriate in order to preserve the integrity of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario hearing.”

Martínez says despite acknowledgement of the OPP’s shortcomings, the independent police review did not match the standards of a human rights tribunal in determining racial discrimination — which is one of the reasons the workers moved ahead with their claim.

All of the officers interviewed by the independent police review director said they had told the migrant workers that their decision to participate in the DNA swabbing was voluntary — and that the decision would be kept confidential from their employers so as not to affect their job security.

But the report found the officers failed to do that.

After learning that a few workers had refused to do the DNA test, the main employer “made the decision that none of these men would be invited back to work for our company in the future unless they consented to take [the] test,” the report found.

Case delayed for years

The application to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario was filed in 2015.

While the COVID-19 pandemic created some delay in getting to a hearing, Martínez alleges the OPP also tried to have the case quashed.

Martínez says the OPP tried to have the application dismissed because it was filed two years after the DNA swab instead of within the typical one-year deadline.

But he said a pre-tribunal hearing found that the filing delay was “sustained in good faith” and it noted that the applicants are part of a vulnerable population.

A class-action lawsuit on behalf of anyone whose DNA was taken by the OPP in relation to these types of investigations has also been certified.

The lawsuit alleges the Centre of Forensic Sciences has retained DNA profiles in a database, even though the material gathered did not match that of the suspect in the criminal investigation.

Although the 2016 independent police review states that all of the migrant workers’ samples were destroyed in 2014, a spokesperson for Justicia for Migrant Workers says the workers don’t have faith the samples and their profiles are gone — and were never made aware their DNA profiles would be entered into a database.

“These are widespread issues of privacy, of privacy infringement, of racial injustice that I think all of us in the community need to be concerned [about],” said Chris Ramsaroop. This is a systemic practice and policing that’s flawed.”

Fighting for recognition

According to Justicia for Migrant Workers, the case is the first human rights hearing of its kind in Canada to examine allegations of systemic racial profiling and discrimination by the police of migrant farm workers.

“Many of the workers wanted to just basically put this incident past them, and there were other workers who were still fearful of repatriation,” Ramsaroop said. “But the fact that we had 54 of the 96 workers take part in this I think is phenomenal. This speaks to the level of outrage that exists within this community.”

Henry says he’s fighting for recognition, compensation and justice so that other people don’t have to go through something similar.

“We are taking a stand to protect the rights of migrant workers who are coming,” Henry said. “I’m doing this not just because of us; I’m doing this for other migrant workers also.”

Source: Human rights hearing on allegations of racial profiling of migrant workers caught in mass DNA sweep begins

Montreal: Les Autochtones et les minorités visibles surreprésentés

Of note (longstanding, as in other municipalities):

La proportion de citoyens issus de minorités visibles tués par des policiers du Grand Montréal est presque aussi élevée que celle des personnes blanches, alors qu’ils ne constituent que 14 % de la population, selon une analyse des dossiers du coroner de 2001 à 2021 effectuée par Le Devoir. Ils représentent 44 % des décès, contre 48 % pour les personnes blanches.

L’histoire de Jean René Junior Olivier n’est pas sans faire écho à d’autres décès qui ont eu lieu au cours des deux dernières décennies, impliquant des personnes issues des minorités visibles en situation de crise, connues pour des problèmes de santé mentale ou ayant exprimé des idées suicidaires.

Rien qu’au cours des sept dernières années sur le territoire du Grand Montréal, la moitié des hommes abattus par les policiers étaient noirs et déstabilisés. Alain Magloire, René Gallant, Pierre Coriolan, Nicholas Gibbs, Sheffield Matthews et plus récemment Jean René Junior Olivier, tous ont été tués lors d’une intervention policière.

« On revient toujours à la question : est-ce que la vie des Noirs compte ? Oui, Pierre Coriolan était en détresse. On était devant un homme en crise. Mais c’était aussi un homme noir », lance Nargess Mustapha, cofondatrice de Hoodstock, un organisme communautaire créé dans la foulée du décès de Freddy Villanueva, un jeune latino de 18 ans abattu par un policier à Montréal-Nord en 2008.

La mère de Jean René Junior Olivier, Marie-Mireille Bence, se demande si l’intervention auprès de son fils a été « teintée du racisme systémique, inconscient et institutionnalisé ». Elle envisage de déposer prochainement une plainte de racisme systémique auprès de la Commission des droits de la personne et une autre en déontologie policière contre les agents impliqués.

Un rapport produit cette année par des chercheurs du département de sociologie de l’UQAM et de l’École de criminologie de l’Université de Montréal révèle que les personnes noires sont près de trois fois plus susceptibles que les Blancs d’être interpellées par les policiers de Repentigny.

La cofondatrice de l’organisme Hoodstock estime que les améliorations apportées à la formation des policiers en matière d’interventions auprès de personnes en crise sont un pas dans la bonne direction, mais restent insuffisantes pour régler la situation. « Quand la direction policière n’aborde pas la question de profilage racial au sein même de leur institution, je ne sais pas trop comment ça va s’améliorer », déplore Nargess Mustapha.

Un accès inégal aux services ?

Le manque d’accessibilité aux services en santé mentale reste un enjeu de taille dans de nombreux quartiers périphériques de Montréal. À Montréal-Nord, Mme Mustapha observe le phénomène depuis plusieurs années et le considère comme faisant partie des inégalités systémiques auxquelles doit s’attaquer le gouvernement. Mais il ne doit en rien servir à justifier les cas de violence policière.

« Pour les communautés de Montréal-Nord, qui sont majoritairement afro-descendantes et racisées ou issues de l’immigration, c’est sûr que l’accès est beaucoup plus difficile. Oui, il y a des services spécialisés, mais il y a tout l’enjeu de la mobilité qui a aussi un impact. Des enjeux de précarité viennent s’ajouter à ça », souligne-t-elle.

Selon Fama Tounkara et Ernithe Edmond, les fondatrices du site My Mental Health Matters, les personnes issues de l’immigration et les minorités visibles ayant besoin de soutien en santé mentale auraient également moins tendance à aller chercher de l’aide. « Fama et moi avons grandi dans des contextes familiaux où c’était difficile de trouver de l’aide de nos parents pour consulter des professionnels de la santé mentale. C’était vraiment tabou. Dans la génération de nos parents ou celle juste avant, quand quelqu’un avait des troubles de santé mentale, on considérait ça comme une malédiction ou on pensait qu’il était possédé par des esprits », explique Ernithe Edmond, dont la plateforme sur les réseaux sociaux tente d’éduquer les jeunes et de les sensibiliser aux enjeux de santé mentale.

Situation critique au Nunavik

Comme les minorités visibles, les communautés autochtones sont surreprésentées dans la proportion des personnes tuées par la police.

Pour l’ensemble du Québec, les Autochtones (4,5 % de la population) représentent plus de 13,5 % des décès.

Le Devoir a dénombré 11 Autochtones parmi les personnes décédées sous les balles des policiers. C’est ainsi la communauté la plus touchée et surreprésentée.

Et le service de police du Nunavik se place en troisième position des corps policiers les plus meurtriers après la Sûreté du Québec et le Service de police de la Ville de Montréal avec sept civils tués, dont trois entre 2016 et 2018.

L’ex-directeur adjoint de la police de Longueuil Jean-Pierre Larose a accepté en février 2018 de devenir chef de la police du Nunavik pour changer la donne.

« C’est majeur comme défi », lance-t-il d’entrée de jeu au Devoir. « Je me suis attaqué aux décès lors d’interventions à mon arrivée et je suis fier de dire que depuis, il n’y en a pas eu ! » précise le chef Larose.

Ce dernier a mis à disposition de tous ses patrouilleurs des armes à impulsion électrique. Et d’ici le mois de décembre, ils seront tous dotés d’une caméra corporelle en tout temps. Une équipe mixte d’intervention mobile composée d’un policier et d’un intervenant social a aussi été implantée à Puvirnituq, un village nordique du Nunavik situé sur la côte est de la baie d’Hudson. « C’est un autre franc succès. On réduit la judiciarisation dans 80 % des cas. Ma volonté serait de l’implanter dans toutes les communautés. On a déjà ciblé un autre village », précise-t-il.

« Je pense que ce sont des outils qui ont contribué à diminuer l’emploi de la force, à diminuer les interventions policières qui causent des blessures ou la mort », ajoute le chef de la police du Nunavik, qui se dit tout de même inquiet du manque de 30 policiers permanents au sein de son équipe.

Source: Les Autochtones et les minorités visibles surreprésentés

Canadian universities, colleges sign charter to address anti-Black racism

Of note:

A group of universities and colleges from across Canada are signing a charter to fight anti-Black racism in post-secondary institutions.

The 22-page document requires those signing it to respect certain principles as they develop their own action plans to foster Black inclusion.

Referred to as the Scarborough Charter, the document was drafted by an advisory committee that emerged from an event hosted by the University of Toronto last year as anti-Black racism was in the international spotlight.

“There was an opportune moment for us to say, ‘well, there are a lot of statements being issued, but this may be the time for us to come together and do this together,” charter committee chair Wisdom Tettey said in an interview.

The committee asked universities and colleges for their feedback to refine the charter and met with several organizations and groups, including Universities Canada and the parliamentary Black caucus, said Tettey, vice-president of the University of Toronto.

Forty-six universities and colleges, including the country’s largest post-secondary institutions, are signing the charter virtually on Thursday.

They include the University of Toronto, McGill University, York University, the University of British Columbia, the University of Calgary and the University of Waterloo.

Tettey said more universities and colleges are expected to sign the charter in the near future. There are 96 publicly-funded universities and 139 publicly-funded colleges in Canada.

“We expect each partner institution to commit to the principles of black flourishing,” Tettey said.

“The idea of black flourishing is to make sure that our institutions are places where Black people, faculty, staff, students and community members can feel a sense of belonging, can see themselves in our mission and can be supported to flourish.”

At the University of Toronto, part of the school’s plan to remove barriers faced by Black students includes providing better mental-health support for them, Tettey said.

“We’re making sure that we have counsellors that understand and come from Black communities,” he said.

The university is also reviewing curriculums to ensure Black knowledge is reflected, and is supporting Black students through scholarships and access programs.

Ananya Mukherjee Reed, the provost of the University of British Columbia, said Black students face the same barriers at post-secondary institutions that exist in society at large.

“They go to a class and they feel alone. They’re either the only black student or one of the very few black students,” she said.

“They don’t always feel that they have a voice and when they sometimes express the voice or they would point out something in relation to the Black experience or Black history, they’re not always heard. They often feel dismissed.”

Curriculums in many universities don’t reflect Black experiences or Black successes, she said.

“Black authors are often absent from curriculum and that creates a sense of alienation when you are alone in a classroom, and then you are studying something that you feel is missing a perspective.”

Malinda Smith, the vice-president of the University of Calgary, said there are also few Black scholars in the faculties of Canadian universities.

Statistics Canada census data from 2016 and data from a 2019 Universities Canada report indicate six per cent of undergraduate students, 6.1 per cent of graduate students, and three pre cent of PhD graduates are Black, while 1.9 per cent of the professoriate at universities and 0.8 per cent of universities’ leaders are Black, Smith said.

“There’s a significant underrepresentation. I’m the only Black senior leader at the University of Calgary,” she said, adding that universities need to deal with barriers and biases that may prevent Black scholars from being hired.

“We have to recognize systemic racism, and we have to recognize racial biases.”

Robert Summerby-Murray, the president of St. Mary’s University in Halifax said engaging local Black communities in research conducted by universities is also an important step to address anti-Black racism.

“Part of what we have done in the charter, I believe, is acknowledge a set of Eurocentric and colonial processes inside the academy,” he said.

“Here in Nova Scotia, we have a very important historical African Nova Scotian community … that has been in this province for hundreds of years. And these communities need to be engaged as partners in research.”

Source: Canadian universities, colleges sign charter to address anti-Black racism

Blow: The Impact of the Browning of America on Anti-Blackness

Likely similar in Canada:

One of the things I often hear as a person who frequently writes about race, ethnicity and equality, is that the browning of America — the coming shift of the country from mostly white to mostly nonwhite — is one of the greatest hopes in the fight against white supremacy and oppression.

But this argument always flies too high to pay attention to the details on the ground. For me, white supremacy is only one foot of the beast. The other is anti-blackness. You have to fight both.

The sad reality is, however, that anti-blackness — or anti-darkness, to remove the stricture of a single-race definition for the sake of this discussion — exists in societies around the world, including nonwhite ones.

In too many societies across the globe, where a difference in skin tone exists, the darker people are often assigned a lower caste.

And, when people migrate to this country from those societies, they can bring those biases with them, underscoring that you don’t have to be white to contribute to anti-blackness.

fascinating report issued this month by the Pew Research Center explored colorism in the Hispanic community and underscored how anti-blackness, or anti-darkness, is no respecter of race or ethnicity. It is pervasive and portends a future in which the browning of America does not succeed in wiping away its racial prejudices.

First, the report reaffirmed what we all know to be true: A majority of Hispanic adults, regardless of skin tone, report experiencing discrimination.

But dark-skinned Hispanics reported far more discrimination than light-skinned ones.

The survey allowed Hispanics to select the skin tone closest to their own on a 10-point scale. Eighty percent of respondents chose the four lightest tones, which the report identified as light-skinned, but only 15 percent chose the six darker skin tones, which the report identified as dark-skinned. Others chose not to answer.

The survey found that:

“A majority (62 percent) of Hispanic adults say having a darker skin color hurts Hispanics’ ability to get ahead in the United States today at least a little. A similar share (59 percent) say having a lighter skin color helps Hispanics get ahead. And 57 percent say skin color shapes their daily life experiences a lot or some, with about half saying discrimination based on race or skin color is a “very big problem” in the U.S. today.”

Intolerance wasn’t only coming from outside the Hispanic community, but also from within it. Nearly half of the Hispanic adults surveyed said that they have often or sometimes heard a Hispanic friend or family member make comments or jokes about other Hispanics and about non-Hispanics “that might be considered racist or racially insensitive.” Dark-skinned Hispanics reported these incidents at a higher rate than light-skinned Hispanics.

When it came to how much attention was paid to racial issues in this country, a majority of Hispanics, understandably, said too little attention is paid to race and racial issues concerning Hispanics. A plurality also said that too little attention is paid to race and racial issues nationally.

But a plurality said too much attention was paid to issues concerning Black people.

This is troubling. Concern over racial issues isn’t a zero-sum game. There should be more concern for all groups and less of a belief that some are receiving too little and others too much.

These issues around how darker-skinned people of all races and ethnicities are perceived and treated must be addressed. This is in part because we are racing toward a future in which the share of minorities who are dark-skinned will only be a fraction.

By 2065, it is projected that not only will Asian Americans outnumber African Americans, but there will also be nearly twice as many Hispanics in the country as Black people.

As I have mentioned before, I worry that white supremacy could be replaced with a light supremacy, a society in which light-skinned people are still advantaged and dark-skinned people are still oppressed, even as the white majority recedes.

Interestingly, in the Pew report, respondents who identified as Hispanic, Latino or of Spanish origin were asked their race and told that for the purposes of the race question, “Hispanic origins are not races.” They could pick more than one race. According to the report, 58 percent identified as white. (Actual census datafound that dramatically fewer identified as white.)

I have seen some encouraging allyship between Black and brown people in my lifetime. Just last year, following the murder of George Floyd, a Pew survey found that an even higher percentage of Hispanics than Black people said that they had participated in protests.

But these groups have different histories with oppression in this country and different ongoing relationships with it. Pew found in 2015 that “immigration since 1965 has swelled the nation’s foreign-born population from 9.6 million then to a record 45 million.” The vast majority of that growth obviously happened after the Civil Rights Movement.

We must all recognize these differences and confront them in honest and deliberate ways. Colorism and racism are cousins, and both are a pestilence.


Bouie: What ‘Structural Racism’ Really Means

Good illustration, whether labelled structural or systemic:

Whether for inspiration, new ideas or simply as a refresher, it is important to revisit the classics of whatever constitutes your field of interest. It was with that in mind that I spent much of the weekend rereading the 1948 book, “Caste, Class, and Race: A Study in Social Dynamics,” an influential (if now somewhat obscure) work of sociological analysis by the Trinidadian scholar Oliver Cromwell Cox.

If there is a reason to revisit this specific book at this particular moment, it is to remind oneself that the challenge of racism is primarily structural and material, not cultural and linguistic, and that a disproportionate focus on the latter can too often obscure the former.

Cox was writing at a time when mainstream analysis of race in the United States made liberal use of an analogy to the Indian caste system in order to illustrate the vast gulf of experience that lay between Black and white Americans. His book was a rebuttal to this idea as well as an original argument in its own right.

Over the course of 600 pages, Cox provides a systematic study of caste, class and race relations, underscoring the paramount differences between caste and race and, most important, tying race to the class system. “Racial antagonism,” he writes in the prologue, “is part and parcel of this class struggle, because it developed within the capitalist system as one of its fundamental traits.”

Put differently, to the extent that Cox had a single problem with the “caste” analysis of American racism, it was that it abstracted racial conflict away from its origins in the development of American capitalism. The effect was to treat racism as a timeless force, outside the logic of history.

“We may reiterate that the caste school of race relations is laboring under the illusion of a simple but vicious truism,” Cox wrote in a section criticizing the Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal’s famous study, “An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy.” “One man is white, another is black; the cultural opportunities of these two men may be the same, but since the black man cannot become white, there will always be a white caste and a black caste.”

In Cox’s reading of Myrdal, caste exists as an independent force, directing the energies and activities of Black and white people alike. The solution to the “race problem,” in this vision, is to shake whites of their psychological commitment to the caste system. Or, as Cox summarizes the point, “If the ‘race problem’ in the United States is pre-eminently a moral question, it must naturally be resolved by moral means.”

But this, for Cox, is nonsense. “We cannot defeat race prejudice by proving that it is wrong,” he writes. “The reason for this is that race prejudice is only a symptom of a materialistic social fact.” Specifically, “Race prejudice is supported by a peculiar socioeconomic need which guarantees force in its protection; and, as a consequence, it is likely that at its centers of initiation force alone will defeat it.”

For most of American history, until the Civil War, this socioeconomic need was the production of tobacco, agricultural staples and, eventually, cotton. After the war, it was the general demand for cheap workers and a pliant, divided labor force coming from Southern planters and Northern industrialists. Whether in the United States or around the world, Cox argues, it is capitalist exploitation — and not some inborn tribalism — that drives racial prejudice and conflict.

“Race prejudice,” Cox writes, “developed gradually in Western society as capitalism and nationalism developed. It is a divisive attitude seeking to alienate dominant group sympathy from an ‘inferior’ race, a whole people, for the purpose of facilitating its exploitation.” What’s more, “The greater the immediacy of the exploitative need, the more insistent were the arguments supporting the rationalizations.”

Although Cox was writing in a very different era than our own — Jim Crow ruled the American South and the dismantling of colonial empires was only just beginning — his insights still matter. We must remember that the problem of racism — of the denial of personhood and of the differential exposure to exploitation and death — will not be resolved by saying the right words or thinking the right thoughts.

That’s because racism does not survive, in the main, because of personal belief and prejudice. It survives because it is inscribed and reinscribed by the relationships and dynamics that structure our society, from segregation and exclusion to inequality and the degradation of labor.

The solution, as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote the year of his assassination, must involve a “revolution of values” that will “look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth” and see that “an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

“If democracy is to have breadth of meaning,” King declared, “it is necessary to adjust this inequity. It is not only moral, but it is also intelligent. We are wasting and degrading human life by clinging to archaic thinking.”


Canadians increasingly pessimistic about progress on racism and equity, survey finds

Useful redoing this survey after two years to help understand the change and evolution of public attitudes. Interesting difference between perceptions and general stability regarding reporting of racism save for Chinese and South Asians:

A growing number of Canadians say the state of race relations in the country is poor, with Black and Indigenous people the most likely to say issues around racism are worsening.

Those findings are among the results of a nationwide survey released today by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF), a Crown corporation dedicated to the elimination of racism.

The survey, conducted in partnership with the Environics Institute, found that 23 per cent of respondents chose “generally bad” when asked how well people of different races get along in Canada, up from 17 per cent when the CRRF conducted the same survey in 2019.

Source: Canadians increasingly pessimistic about progress on racism and equity, survey finds

Link to report:

Military police investigate dozens of complaints of racism in the Canadian Army

Not all that surprising but encouraging that recent initiative to review cases is bearing some results. And makes sense that all three services should have comparable review to assess extent and measure change:

Military police and civilian law enforcement have investigated up to 70 cases of alleged hateful conduct and racist attitudes within the Canadian Army since a crackdown began in September last year, CBC News has learned.

A briefing prepared for the army’s acting commander last winter and obtained under access to information legislation shows 115 cases were catalogued up until that time, with 57 of them being investigated by military authorities.

Figures updated to the end of August — and released to CBC News — show an additional 28 allegations. Of those, 13 were deemed serious enough to warrant a police investigation.

Source: Military police investigate dozens of complaints of racism in the Canadian Army

How can universities in the US tackle anti-Asian racism?

Seeing more opinion pieces like this, not just focussed on Asian international students:

In 2011, I moved to the United States for my graduate studies in Boston. Having lived all my life in China until that point, I had never needed to analyse the world through the lens of race because race was, and still is, not a salient social category in Chinese society. 

“You speak very good English” was not an offensive comment to me at all, but rather I received it as a compliment about my many years of learning the language. 

“Where are you from?” at the beginning of a conversation was not a xenophobic remark or a denial of my Americanness, but instead, a genuine curiosity about my background. At least, that’s how I felt back then.

Political tensions between the United States and China in the past few years – and then-president Donald Trump’s labelling of COVID-19 as the ‘China virus’ or ‘kung flu’ – have made conversations about race and racism for Chinese students in particular more real as racism against them and the larger Asian communities has become more rampant. 

It is a crushing realisation for many Asian international students – who comprise 70% of all international students in the United States (China alone accounts for 35% of that total) – that, despite their foreign upbringing, they are instantly racialised once they set foot in the United States. 

The thought that their skin colour alone could see them subjected to physical or verbal violence is unfathomable back in their home countries.

Historic roots

Fear of the ‘yellow peril’, the racist and dangerous view of Asians as dirty, disease-ridden, invasive and perpetually foreign, is nothing new in US history, of course. 

The pandemic was only a catalyst that has exposed, and arguably augmented, this systemic, centuries-old ‘American tradition’ in its ugliest form.

Reports of anti-Asian incidents across all Asian populations – and towards the Chinese in particular – are on the rise, as is violence targeting these groups, the murders of six Asian women in Atlanta in March 2021 being the most horrific example of this. 

And in spite of protests, awareness campaigns and pleas from such non-profits as Stop AAPI Hate, anti-Asian incidents show no signs of abating and the fear is still palpable.

So what can we do to stop this insidious movement? US colleges and universities can play a critical role. 

Countering anti-Asian racism on campus

We should continue to voice our support and solidarity with Asian students on campus and provide tangible short- and long-term action plans to educate the entire campus community on anti-Asian racism. 

Such support should come directly from college presidents and chancellors in order to raise campus-wide awareness. If done right, according to American rhetorician Lloyd Bitzer’s rhetorical situation theory, it has the potential to alter human action

Not issuing any statements or issuing statements that ring hollow not only misses the opportunity for campus-wide learning, but further distresses Asian students, leaving them feeling more invisible and forgotten.

Second, instead of seeing Asian international students simply as a source of revenue, we need to recognise and acknowledge their unique experiences of navigating racism on college campuses and in the greater American society. 

One way to do that is to create on-campus spaces and support groups facilitated by college administrators to validate their experiences and create a safe environment for Asian international students – and all other international students of colour – dedicated to community building and conversations. 

One example of this is a programme at Amherst College, where I work, called Racialization of International Students, organised jointly by the Center for International Student Engagement and the Multicultural Resource Center. It focuses on international students’ own experiences and struggles around race and racism.

Third, it is important for colleges and universities to consider incorporating workshops or training that introduce the concept of race and racism in the United States for all incoming international students during orientation. 

This will equip international students as well as domestic students with proper knowledge and tools to contextualise their unique positions in dialogues on race and racism and prepare them to voice their needs and seek help when they experience racial hatred. 

This is a critical step that will also empower international students to become change agents in combating systemic and institutional racism on and off campus. 

One recent example of this is Princeton University’s new first-year orientation training module required for all entering first-years on the university’s racist history and the power of student activism.

Last but not least, colleges and universities should enhance their counselling centre staffing by hiring more counsellors who are proficient in foreign languages or are from international backgrounds, to provide more culturally responsive counselling services to international students. 

In general, international students experience mental health issues related to transitioning from their home culture to a different culture, that of the host country. 

Since the onset of the pandemic, many of them have been dealing with extra layers of stress, including isolation in a foreign country away from their families and navigating health concerns and racial violence in a non-native language and environment that are different from the experiences of their domestic peers. 

All of these acute realities warrant dedicated institutional attention. For example, Tufts University’s Counselling and Mental Healthteam hires a culturally sensitive generalist clinician who is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has expertise in counselling international students on life transitions, cultural adaptation and racial dilemmas.

Time for action

One of the biggest strengths of the United States as a study destination for international students is its diversity – the diversity of the student body on college campuses and the ‘melting pot’ signature of the nation that is known worldwide. 

But underneath the surface of diversity, race and racism permeate almost every aspect of American life. That reality often overwhelms many newly arrived international students, particularly those from homogenous societies. 

As the United States undergoes an awakening to racism against the backdrop of anti-black and anti-Asian racism, there is no better time than now for US colleges and universities to take concrete actions to orient international students better for a more complete American experience. 

We cannot afford to do nothing because doing nothing will further marginalise and devalue Asian international students on our campuses. We also cannot afford to lose their voices in the fight against racism because that will make our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion just another empty promise.

Xiaofeng Wan is an associate dean of admissions and the coordinator of international recruitment at Amherst College, United States. He is also a doctoral candidate in the Executive EdD in Higher Education programme at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development, United States.