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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Budget 2018: Rebuilding Multiculturalism and Evidence-Based Policy

After the neglect over the past two years, the government is investing in the multiculturalism program (essentially restoring or more the previous cuts) along with targeted initiatives for Canadian Blacks.

Equally, if not more significant, the creation of new Centre for Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Statistics will improve the quality and quantity of diversity-related data, with more data disgraced by race (likely defined as the different visible minority groups).

Both initiatives respond largely to some of the more substantive recommendations of the Canadian Heritage committee report on M-103:

Strengthening Multiculturalism and Addressing the Challenges Faced by Black Canadians (p184) – $42 million

Diversity is Canada’s strength and a cornerstone of Canadian identity. Recent domestic and international events, like the rise of ultranationalist movements, and protests against immigration, visible minorities and religious minorities, remind us that standing up for diversity and building communities where everyone feels included are as important today as they ever were.

To provide support for events and projects that help individuals and communities come together, the Government proposes to provide $23 million over two years, starting in 2018–19, to increase funding for the Multiculturalism Program administered by Canadian Heritage. This funding would support cross-country consultations on a new national anti-racism approach, would bring together experts, community organizations, citizens and interfaith leaders to find new ways to collaborate and combat discrimination, and would dedicate increased funds to address racism and discrimination targeted against Indigenous Peoples and women and girls.

As a first step toward recognizing the significant and unique challenges faced by Black Canadians, the Government also proposes to provide $19 million over five years that will be targeted to enhance local community supports for youth at risk and to develop research in support of more culturally focused mental health programs in the Black Canadian community. In addition, with the creation of the new Centre for Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Statistics, announced in Chapter 1, the Government is committed to increase the disaggregation of various data sets by race. This will help governments and service providers better understand the intersectional dimensions of major issues, with a particular focus on the experience of Black Canadians.

Evidence-Based Policy (p 56)

In order to properly address gender inequality and track our progress towards a more equitable society, we need to better understand the barriers different groups face. The Government of Canada intends to address gaps in gathering data and to better use data related to gender and diversity.

This includes proposing $6.7 million over five years, starting in 2018–19, and $0.6 million per year ongoing, for Statistics Canada to create a new Centre for Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Statistics. The Centre will maintain a public facing GBA+ data hub to support evidence-based policy development and decision-making—both within the federal government and beyond.

The Centre will work to address gaps in the availability of disaggregated data on gender, race and other intersecting identities to enrich our understanding of social, economic, financial and environmental issues. The work conducted at the Centre will include collecting, analyzing and disseminating data on visible minorities to understand the barriers different groups face and how best to support them with evidence-based policy.

As part of the Government’s commitment to address gaps in gender and diversity data, the Government is also proposing to provide $1.5 million over five years, starting in 2018–19, and $0.2 million per year ongoing, to the Department of Finance Canada to work with Statistics Canada and Status of Women to develop a broader set of indicators and statistics to measure and track Canada’s progress on achieving shared growth and gender equality objectives.

Budget 2018 also proposes to provide $5 million per year to Status of Women Canada to undertake research and data collection in support of the Government’s Gender Results Framework. One of the first projects this would support is an analysis of the unique challenges visible minority and newcomer women face in finding employment in science, technology engineering and mathematics occupations. This research will fill important gaps in knowledge as to how to achieve greater diversity and inclusion among the high-paying jobs of tomorrow.

Recognizing the importance of poverty data in evidence-based decision- making by all levels of government, the federal government additionally proposes an investment of $12.1 million over five years, and $1.5 million per year thereafter, to address key gaps in poverty measurement in Canada. This includes ensuring that poverty data is inclusive of all Canadians, data on various dimensions of poverty are captured, and the data is robust and timely