ICYMI: Invoke the Holocaust if you must: Teitel

A variant of Godwin’s law and Teitel makes a convincing case that it is appropriate in the current political climate:

Is it ever OK to invoke the Holocaust in a discussion about modern political events, and if so when? This question has a way of surfacing again and again and again in the era of U.S. President Donald Trump and its answer is almost always the same.

If you’re a person condemning the dehumanization of marginalized groups, the answer is a hard yes: Hate and violence do not manifest overnight. There are signs. Invoke the Holocaust if you must.

But if you’re someone on the other side of the debate, someone with a tendency to defend the dehumanizing tactics of the Trump administration, your answer to this question is a hard no: the Holocaust should never be invoked because this (the recent tear-gassing of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, children among them) is not that (the systemic mass murder of millions by the Nazis during WWII).

By now, you’ve probably seen the photo (captured by photojournalist Kim Kyung-Hoon) of Honduran migrant Maria Lila Meza Castro running away from tear gas at the border this month, holding onto her small daughters, both of whom are barefoot in diapers. However, it’s Castro’s state of dress that’s most striking. The 39-year-old mother is wearing a T-shirt bearing the faces of characters from the blockbuster Disney film Frozen; i.e. an American movie whose core lesson is learning to accept other people’s differences.

So much for that. Needless to say, the photo has shocked and enraged a lot of people, among them U.S. Congressmember-Elect, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In fact, it was Ocasio-Cortez, a rising star in Democratic politics, who brought the aforementioned invocation debate back into public discourse this week, when she tweeted the following, advocating on behalf of migrants trying to enter the United States and condemning an administration that routinely vilifies them: “Asking to be considered a refugee & applying for status isn’t a crime. It wasn’t for Jewish families fleeing Germany. It wasn’t for targeted families fleeing Rwanda. It wasn’t for communities fleeing war-torn Syria. And it isn’t for those fleeing violence in Central America.”

Ocasio-Cortez may have invoked several atrocities to make her point but it was her allusion to the Holocaust in particular that offended Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. He clapped back on Twitter: “I recommend she [Ocasio-Cortez] take a tour of the Holocaust Museum in DC. Might help her better understand the differences between the Holocaust and the caravan in Tijuana.”

What happened next is the only proof you need that social media can be a source of great good in the world. Guess who entered the debate (albeit indirectly) after Graham? None other than the Auschwitz Memorial itself. The official account of the Polish concentration camp memorial tweeted the following only a few hours after Graham and other outspoken Republicans took Ocasio-Cortez to task for her remarks. “When we look at Auschwitz we see the end of the process. It’s important to remember that the Holocaust actually did not start from gas chambers. This hatred gradually developed from words, stereotypes & prejudice through legal exclusion, dehumanization & escalating violence.”

It’s hard to believe this was a coincidence. Assuming it’s not — assuming the staff of the Auschwitz Memorial itself are of the belief that Ocasio-Cortez was in the right — Lindsey Graham and other like-minded Republicans should probably be alarmed that a memorial and museum dedicated to preserving the history of a horrific event does not appear to share their view. When a Holocaust memorial seems to suggest your opinions about the event in question are incorrect it may be time to step back and re-evaluate those opinions. But defenders of Trumpian policy are not known for their introspection nor for their interest in facts. Indeed, what’s so infuriating about this reoccurring Holocaust invocation debate is that it is precisely the keepers of facts who appear to not only condone but also encourage invocation and yet they are consistently ignored. As Orthodox Jewish writer and activist Elad Nehorai points out, again, on Twitter, “Holocaust scholars, Holocaust museums, Holocaust survivors … they all want us to be able to apply the Holocaust to modern-day situations, even if they don’t 100% align. And yet, somehow, there has been a widespread idea that *nothing* is comparable. So much for “Never Again.”

Nehorai is right. What’s happening at the U.S.-Mexico border is vastly and profoundly different from any of the atrocities mentioned in Ocasio-Cortez’s tweet but the common thread through every one of these events — from Rwanda, to Germany, to the modern United States — is the dehumanization of certain people. Invoking the Holocaust is appropriate in this moment because the president of the United States regularly dehumanizes refugees with rhetoric that sounds at times like it was written by a Nazi propagandist. Will someone in the Trump administration be the architect of the next Auschwitz? I seriously doubt it. But wherever dehumanization begins, it’s not a bad idea to point out where it can end.

Source: Emma Teitel: Invoke the Holocaust if you mustInvoking the Holocaust is appropriate in this moment because the president of the United States regularly dehumanizes refugees with rhetoric that sounds at times like it was written by a Nazi propagandist, Emma Teitel writes.

Kim’s Convenience actor deserves a giant round of applause: Teitel

Agree. Offence was reported to the employer (Toronto Police Force) but with social media and the press, while not identifying the officer involved to avoid doxxing:

Everyone has the capacity to be extremely confused driving through a downtown Toronto crosswalk on the day of a Blue Jays game — be they an urbanite who lives in a condo overlooking Rogers Centre or a tourist visiting from far-off lands like Tasmania and Thornhill.

Toronto traffic invites confusion. Not to be confused in the noise and smog on a sweltering day in the city is, well, extraordinary. Unfortunately, racism isn’t. So it went that this past Saturday a Toronto police officer allegedly reprimanded a confused driver as they hesitated to pull through the busy intersection of Lake Shore Blvd. W. and Rees St., not by giving them a stern lesson about the rules of the road but by telling them, “If you can’t drive, go back to your country.”

According to Andrew Phung, the pedestrian who allegedly saw this go down and who immediately tweeted about it, the driver in question was a person of colour. Phung, an actor on the CBC comedy Kim’s Convenience, was on his way to the Rogers Centre to catch the Blue Jays game when he alleges the incident took place. He posted the following to social media:

“I literally just witnessed a Toronto police officer shout ‘go back to your country’ because they were confused at the crosswalk,” he wrote. “To which two white dudes then shouted “amen, go back to where you f—ing came from.” THIS IS NOT MY CANADA!” (The hyphens are the Star’s.)

Phung took a photo of the offending cop (and pressed the strangers about their xenophobia), but he didn’t post the photo of the officer to Twitter. Instead, he sent it to the police and tweeted the following:

“Thanks to everyone for their support and kind comments. I’ve sent an email to the @TorontoPolice. They reached out and I provided photos and details. I’ll continue to follow up. Racism isn’t cool, I saw it and had to say something. Let’s all do the same if we see it happen.”

Indeed, let’s. But let’s also give Phung a giant round of applause because he handled an allegedly awful scenario in an unusually graceful, responsible way. He reported the cop’s alleged racism not only to TPS, but also on social media and in the press, ensuring it won’t simply go away. (There will undoubtedly be a followup or two to this story.) But just as admirably, Phung chose not to share the photo of the allegedly racist police officer on social media, ensuring that the guy and more crucially, his family, will not be doxxed, harassed and who knows what else.

It must have been tempting to share that photo. I know that I would have been tempted. But Phung’s restraint makes sense when you read what he told this paper following the incident. “I hope this is an opportunity for that police officer to reflect on his behaviour, his words,” Phung told the Star. “And to remember why he became a police officer in the first place. Maybe it wasn’t to direct traffic at a Jays game on a Saturday, but it was to help people.”

This statement reminds me of a sign hanging in a store near my house. It reads “Racist, homophobic and an a-hole? Come back when you’re not.” The implication here is that people can and do change for the better. Being a bigot is not necessarily a fixed state. That Phung chose to deliver such a generous message when he really didn’t have to is proof in my mind that he is a thoroughly decent guy and, at the risk of coming across as painfully corny, a great Canadian role model.

And yet, despite the actor’s admirable handling of the situation, racists have emerged on social media accusing him of staining the good name of the TPS. Their argument goes that one bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole bunch. And besides, maybe Phung misheard. Maybe he’s a liar. Maybe he was the bad driver. Maybe he wasn’t there at all.

This has always been true and perhaps it’s just more obvious in the Trump era, but holy cow: there are lot of white people in this world, and in this country particularly, who cannot admit that racism exists. Racism, to this type, is a thing of the distant past. It’s dead. And any claim by people of colour that it’s alive and well is brushed off in the same way an adult dismisses a kid who thinks she’s seen a ghost.

“You must have been confused.” “Maybe you’re tired and you misunderstood.” “Maybe there’s a logical explanation.”

Racism in Canada is not an illusion. It’s not a conspiracy. It’s a fact. Like traffic at a Toronto crosswalk it lingers big time. If you can’t admit it, you’re part of the problem.

via Kim’s Convenience actor deserves a giant round of applause | The Star

ICYMI – Emma Teitel: Formal apologies may be most useful not for the oppressed, but for the clueless

Valid argument:

Since its release in 1970, many people (married ones especially) have taken issue with the signature line from the hit movie Love Story: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” But I imagine the person most constitutionally averse to this notion is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a man who says sorry more often than a Canadian tourist in a crowded airport.

Where his Prime Minister father, the late Pierre Trudeau, wasn’t a fan of state-issued apologies, our rueful leader appears quite comfortable doling them out.

The PM has made a series of official apologies addressing various historical wrongs since he took office in 2015. Two years ago, for example, he issued an apology for the 1914 Komagata Maru incident, in which hundreds of Sikh, Muslim and Hindu passengers were unjustly turned away at the Canadian border. Their Japanese steamship returned to India, where 19 passengers were shot and killed upon arrival and many others imprisoned.

Last year, the PM issued an apology to survivors of Canada’s residential schools. He also asked the Pope himself to apologize for the church’s role in operating the notoriously exploitative, abusive institutions. (Unfortunately, the pope declined).

And just this week the PM announced plans to formally apologize on behalf of the Canadian government, in the House of Commons, for the tragic incident of the MS St. Louis in 1939, when Canada refused asylum to the more than 900 Jewish German refugees on board. The MS St. Louis was forced to return to Europe, where 254 of its passengers were later murdered in the Holocaust.

“When Canada denied asylum to the 907 German Jews on board the MS St. Louis,” Trudeau said in a recent statement, “we failed not only those passengers, but also their descendants and community. It is our collective responsibility to acknowledge this difficult truth, learn from this story, and continue to fight against anti-Semitism every day, as we give meaning to the solemn vow: ‘Never again.’ I look forward to offering this apology on the floor of the House.”

Unfortunately, not everybody is looking forward to hearing it.

Many critics of the Prime Minister, some of them Jewish, are a little annoyed by the prospect of a staged mea culpa that will address a tragic event whose victims are, by and large, not around to receive it. Some of these formal apologies are, after all, rather bizarre, because the people saying “I’m sorry” are so rarely the wrongdoers and the people saying “I forgive you” are rarely the wronged. As a result, they can come off as cheap and hollow, even to the ears of the people you think might appreciate them most.

Here’s Sally Zerker, whose Jewish, Polish ancestors were denied visas to Canada in the 1930’s, writing about the prospect of a government apology for the MS. St. Louis tragedy in the Canadian Jewish News last year:

“It will not bring back my relatives, or offer me any solace. Instead, it will whitewash a government that did nothing to help the Jews who were fleeing the Nazis and ignored the type of anti-Semitism that was endemic in Canada until the 1970s. Ultimately, it is nothing but a shallow, empty, meaningless act. An apology can’t right this wrong.”

But it can publicize it. And this is where I disagree with Zerker and other critics of government apologies. We’re living in a world where the United States government appears allergic to facts and routinely winks at white supremacists. A world where the leaders of the women’s march, arguably the largest feminist movement on the continent, can pal around with horrendous anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan and retain their status as heroines of an intersectional movement.

A world where, according to the Anti Defamation League, anti-Semitic hate crimes — from violent assaults, to Jewish kids being harassed at school, to vandalism of synagogues — surged 57 per cent last year. Meanwhile, according to a survey released on Holocaust Remembrance Day (Jan. 27) this year, 22 per cent of American millennials haven’t heard of the Holocaust or are unsure of what it is, and two-thirds do not know what Auschwitz is.

All of this is to say that while I agree with Trudeau’s critics that formal apologies are sometimes silly and performative — and perhaps lacking in meaning for some victims and their families — they are also factual and newsworthy. They breathe new life into old wrongs and in doing so they bring awareness to those wrongs.

It’s for this reason that I find it difficult to object to a perfectly harmless government statement that might, even if it doesn’t heal any wounds, inspire an uninformed Canadian to Google “MS St. Louis.”

It’s a sorry thing to say, but formal apologies may be most useful not for the oppressed, but for the clueless.

Source: Emma Teitel: Formal apologies may be most useful not for the oppressed, but for the clueless

Two different takes -John Ivison: With another apology, Trudeau tries to right — and rewrite — the past, Emma Teitel: Formal apologies may be most useful not for the oppressed, but for the clueless

Interesting contrast between Ivison, going back to Pierre Trudeau’s position, and Emma Teitel’s greater recognition of the value. Starting with Ivison:

In the early 1940s, Pierre Elliott Trudeau flirted with politics that, in the words of his esteemed biographer John English, were “not only anti-war and anti-Liberal, but also clandestine, highly nationalist and, at least momentarily, separatist and even violent.”

In a speech in support of a nationalist candidate in a Montreal by-election, Trudeau minimized the German threat and, according to Le Devoir, said he feared “the peaceful invasion of immigrants more than the armed invasion of the enemy.

“Bring on the revolution,” he concluded.

It should be noted the immigrants he feared in Montreal in those days were mainly Jews.

None of the above reflects well on the current Prime Minister’s father. But as English noted, Trudeau was party to the kind of half-baked plotting that was common in the basements of middle-class houses in Montreal — plots that no-one ever dreamed of acting on. “This was the spirit of the age,” said English, in his peerless book Citizen of the World.

Perhaps at some future date Trudeau’s actions will be used as a pretext to remove his name from Montreal’s airport or from the high school in Markham, Ont., that bears his name. The spirit of today’s age is a revisionism that never ends — the application of today’s mores to periods in history when ethics and standards were very different.

In isolation, Trudeau senior’s comments are shocking. But thankfully they do not stand in isolation. Separatism, revolutionary politics and racism were not his legacies. Quite the contrary.

His comments were made in the context of the time and place in which they were made — and they were decidedly unexceptional for the era.

Yet the current Liberal government is encouraging this impulse toward “presentism” — by changing the name of the Langevin Block that houses the Prime Minister’s Office in Ottawa (named after Hector-Louis Langevin, a Father of Confederation and strong proponent of the residential school system) and through its apparent attempt to break the world record for official apologies.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday that he looks forward to offering a formal apology on the floor of the House of Commons for the turning away of a boat full of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany in 1939 — the result of a “discriminatory ‘none is too many’ immigration policy.”

Make no mistake, the decision to turn away the MS St. Louis, with its 907 German Jewish passengers, is a stain on Canada’s history. A historic injustice was done and it should be held in the collective memory to guard against a revival in anti-Semitic sentiment.

But does a formal apology really ensure those mistakes are not repeated?

Arguably, an apology allows the government to turn the page and hope everyone forgets the inconvenient past.

Are they sincere? At one point during question period on Wednesday, Trudeau blustered that he would not apologize for Canada “swaggering” on the world stage. That would seem to be about the only thing for which he is not apologizing.

The MS St. Louis mea culpa will be the fourth delivered by this prime minister. We have already had formal apologies for the Komagata Maru incident, in which another ship carrying Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus was denied entry to Canada in 1914 because of the immigration laws at the time; to residential school students in Newfoundland and Labrador; and to members of the military and federal public service who were persecuted because of their sexual orientation.

It is hard to escape the feeling that political expediency is at work for the Liberals; each apology was targeted at a key political constituency — Sikh, LGBTQ, Indigenous and Jewish Canadians.

That is not a partisan point — Stephen Harper made apologies to Canada’s Chinese community for the imposition of a head tax, which looked electorally motivated, and to its Indigenous population for residential schools, which was perhaps less so.

History exists in context and should not be rewritten or tampered with to suit political ends.

This was recognized by the current prime minister’s father, who in 1984 resisted pressures to apologize to, and compensate, Japanese Canadians who were interned and stripped of their property during the Second World War.

“I do not think the purpose of a government is to right the past. It cannot rewrite history. It is our purpose to be just in our time,” he told the House of Commons.

Prophetically, he worried that once the government started down the path, there would be no end to the apologies and the compensation demanded.

“I know we’d have to go back a great length of time in our history and look at all the injustices,” he said.

Pierre Trudeau, more than most, appreciated that it is often the spirit of the age that is responsible for injustice — and that apologies do not erase iniquity.

Source: John Ivison: With another apology, Trudeau tries to right — and rewrite — the past

Teitel focusses on the educational value of such apologies:

Since its release in 1970, many people (married ones especially) have taken issue with the signature line from the hit movie Love Story: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” But I imagine the person most constitutionally averse to this notion is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a man who says sorry more often than a Canadian tourist in a crowded airport.

Where his Prime Minister father, the late Pierre Trudeau, wasn’t a fan of state-issued apologies, our rueful leader appears quite comfortable doling them out.

The PM has made a series of official apologies addressing various historical wrongs since he took office in 2015. Two years ago, for example, he issued an apology for the 1914 Komagata Maru incident, in which hundreds of Sikh, Muslim and Hindu passengers were unjustly turned away at the Canadian border. Their Japanese steamship returned to India, where 19 passengers were shot and killed upon arrival and many others imprisoned.

Last year, the PM issued an apology to survivors of Canada’s residential schools. He also asked the Pope himself to apologize for the church’s role in operating the notoriously exploitative, abusive institutions. (Unfortunately, the pope declined).

And just this week the PM announced plans to formally apologize on behalf of the Canadian government, in the House of Commons, for the tragic incident of the MS St. Louis in 1939, when Canada refused asylum to the more than 900 Jewish German refugees on board. The MS St. Louis was forced to return to Europe, where 254 of its passengers were later murdered in the Holocaust.

“When Canada denied asylum to the 907 German Jews on board the MS St. Louis,” Trudeau said in a recent statement, “we failed not only those passengers, but also their descendants and community. It is our collective responsibility to acknowledge this difficult truth, learn from this story, and continue to fight against anti-Semitism every day, as we give meaning to the solemn vow: ‘Never again.’ I look forward to offering this apology on the floor of the House.”

Unfortunately, not everybody is looking forward to hearing it.

Many critics of the Prime Minister, some of them Jewish, are a little annoyed by the prospect of a staged mea culpa that will address a tragic event whose victims are, by and large, not around to receive it. Some of these formal apologies are, after all, rather bizarre, because the people saying “I’m sorry” are so rarely the wrongdoers and the people saying “I forgive you” are rarely the wronged. As a result, they can come off as cheap and hollow, even to the ears of the people you think might appreciate them most.

Here’s Sally Zerker, whose Jewish, Polish ancestors were denied visas to Canada in the 1930’s, writing about the prospect of a government apology for the MS. St. Louis tragedy in the Canadian Jewish News last year:

“It will not bring back my relatives, or offer me any solace. Instead, it will whitewash a government that did nothing to help the Jews who were fleeing the Nazis and ignored the type of anti-Semitism that was endemic in Canada until the 1970s. Ultimately, it is nothing but a shallow, empty, meaningless act. An apology can’t right this wrong.”

But it can publicize it. And this is where I disagree with Zerker and other critics of government apologies. We’re living in a world where the United States government appears allergic to facts and routinely winks at white supremacists. A world where the leaders of the women’s march, arguably the largest feminist movement on the continent, can pal around with horrendous anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan and retain their status as heroines of an intersectional movement.

A world where, according to the Anti Defamation League, anti-Semitic hate crimes — from violent assaults, to Jewish kids being harassed at school, to vandalism of synagogues — surged 57 per cent last year. Meanwhile, according to a survey released on Holocaust Remembrance Day (Jan. 27) this year, 22 per cent of American millennials haven’t heard of the Holocaust or are unsure of what it is, and two-thirds do not know what Auschwitz is.

All of this is to say that while I agree with Trudeau’s critics that formal apologies are sometimes silly and performative — and perhaps lacking in meaning for some victims and their families — they are also factual and newsworthy. They breathe new life into old wrongs and in doing so they bring awareness to those wrongs.

It’s for this reason that I find it difficult to object to a perfectly harmless government statement that might, even if it doesn’t heal any wounds, inspire an uninformed Canadian to Google “MS St. Louis.”

It’s a sorry thing to say, but formal apologies may be most useful not for the oppressed, but for the clueless.

Source: Emma Teitel: Formal apologies may be most useful not for the oppressed, but for the clueless

Crosby, Penguins enjoy luxury of political indifference at White House: Emma Rose Teitel

Great column by Teitel (puts the Globe editorial: Trump, the anthem and your right to not take a stand September 30, 2017 to shame):

Sidney Crosby is a lucky guy. On Monday, the Stanley Cup champion told the CBC that he “grew up under the assumption” that politics “wasn’t something really bred into sports.” From his side of things, he told the broadcaster, “there’s absolutely no politics involved.” And why would there be? He quite literally has no skin in the game.

Like any white person who shares Crosby’s “side of things” and whose government does not devalue his life on account of the colour of his skin, he has the luxury of regarding politics as a force too far away to complicate his day to day.

It was this luxury, presumably, that led the NHL captain to visit Donald Trump’s White House for a photo op on Tuesday alongside his teammates: the Stanley Cup championship-winning Pittsburgh Penguins. It was this luxury that enabled him to smile and shake hands with a U.S. president who recently asserted that “very fine people” existed on both sides of the summertime march in Charlottesville, Va., where neo-Nazis walked unmasked and triumphant down a city street and a 32-year-old woman died at the hands of one of them. (Very fine people indeed.)

It’s this luxury that allows clueless white people to frame political indifference as a virtue akin to modesty. But not everyone has the luxury of standing guilt-free, quiet and “virtuous” behind this president. Among them, Black and brown athletes who are not, contrary to alt-right belief, rendered immune to racism because they are rich. LeBron James (a vocal critic of the president) may live in a mansion, but as he put it to the media shortly after that mansion was defaced with a racist slur in June, “No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, being Black in America is tough.”

Being Black was tough too for the more than 400 hockey players who comprised the Coloured Hockey League in Crosby’s home province of Nova Scotia from 1895 to 1930. CHL players did not have the privilege of political indifference when their league disbanded due to a number of factors, racism included. Later the government would demolish Africville, the African-Canadian village in Halifax, in which many of the league’s members lived and played.

Apathetic white people who groan when athletes of colour get political, or who suggest as Crosby did that politics and sports do not mix, are in need of a reminder that for most, political activism isn’t a choice or a hobby. People don’t usually consider it fun or interesting to put their jobs on the line to speak out against a bigger power. The marginalized do not go looking for politics. It seeks them out. In this context, it sought them out when the President of the United States openly flirted with a racist ideology that would very much like to destroy them.

There is an argument, quite popular among Sidney Crosby fans at the moment, which alleges that Crosby had no business rejecting an invitation to visit the White House because like many of his teammates, he is Canadian. These fans ask: Why should a Canadian kneel in protest of a foreign leader or refuse to extend a hand to one? But to suggest that the actions of the President of the United States, in this case a volatile president who appears to possess both the maturity of an 8-year-old (he recently challenged Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to an IQ test) and access to nuclear weapons, has no bearing on the life of a Canadian or anybody who lives on this planet is absurd. Trump’s presidency will have bearing on all of us. Therefore the responsibility to speak out against it falls to all of us.

And history will not look kindly on the hockey players who shirked that responsibility when they strolled into the White House on Tuesday in their Sunday best, and grinned behind the 45th president of the United States.

“Everybody wanted to be here today,” Trump said about the Pittsburgh Penguins when the press conference began. Whether or not this is true, they were there. And that’s a shame.

Source: Crosby, Penguins enjoy luxury of political indifference at White House: Teitel | Toronto Star

LGBTQ activists in Halifax need to learn to love corporate Pride: Teitel | Toronto Star

Teitel’s commentary, while made in relation to LGBTQ activists, is also more broadly to activists in general.

Her comment about the importance of symbols and recognition to the more vulnerable compared to the privileged worthy of note:

Or, if like a number of LGBTQ activists in this country you’re determined to be miserable until the day you die, you can lament Trudeau’s presence at Pride instead, and label it “pinkwashing” — the LGBTQ equivalent of “whitewashing.”

Not everybody thinks Trudeau’s planned attendance at the Halifax parade this Saturday is a wholly positive thing. Some, such as Kehisha Wilmot, head of Halifax’s Mount Saint Vincent University Queer Collective, believe Trudeau’s participation is a distraction from the event’s more marginalized participants.

“We have people of colour doing things in this parade,” Wilmot told Halifax magazine The Coast this week, in a story headlined “Trudeau Pinkwashing Pride parade.” “And the big thing we’re currently now looking at is we brought down a white guy in a high-position role to be our focus.”

I don’t want to diminish the work done by groups such as Wilmot’s because it is important work. Yet a reminder is in order that a world leader’s presence at an event does not impede activists from making their voices heard.

Trudeau was in attendance at Toronto’s pride parade in 2016, where Black Lives Matter Toronto managed not only to stage a successful protest that effected tangible change, but to dominate media coverage in the event’s aftermath.

But Trudeau’s presence isn’t the only thing irking some of Halifax’s LGBTQ groups, and similar groups across the country, several of which have boycotted official pride events in their respective cities in recent years.

The corporatization of pride is perceived as a big problem, too: corporate sponsors preaching equality atop enormous company floats, cheesy guys in logo-embroidered thongs handing out coupons for various discounts. “Happy Pride! Here’s five dollars off your next souvlaki platter!”

The corporatization of pride is a fact lamented by many queer activists in the west who appear to yearn for the good old days when the businesses we frequented and services we used didn’t want anything to do with us.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that corporate interests should share the stage with grassroots organizations, but the refusal by some in my community to see the upside of corporate involvement in pride leads me to believe that a number of LGBTQ activists are completely out of touch with reality.

Moreover, these activists are ever eager to identify privilege in other people but they are utterly blind to the privilege they enjoy themselves: they have integrated into a community of like-minded people. Yes, they are marginalized in society at large, but they have found a place where they belong.

Not everyone enjoys this privilege. Take, for example, my friend Yvonne Jele, a gay refugee from Uganda, who is practically brand new to Canada (she fled her native country last year). Jele, who lives in Toronto, was overjoyed when she learned that the leader of her new home was marching in her city’s pride parade.

“People who are mad (that Trudeau participates in pride events) don’t know what it’s like to not be accepted by your leaders and government,” she told me recently.

Jele has some thoughts about corporate interests in Pride, too: “I think everyone can show support during pride,” she said. “It’s important for businesses to do so because it shows that the business is inclusive.”

These broad gestures of support by politicians and businesses matter a great amount to people who aren’t yet integrated into a tight-knit queer community, and they matter to closeted kids who are watching and reading about Pride from a distance, absent the support of such a community.

It’s a very good thing for these kids to know that their banks, hardware stores, coffee shops, internet providers and, yes, their leaders, take a public stance in favour of their rights.

No, these businesses and politicians aren’t by any means perfect. Yes, some of them make errors and false promises. But their participation in pride parades across the country is a gesture of goodwill felt deeply by those who have not yet found their home away from home.

The Prime Minister’s presence at Halifax pride this Saturday will not matter most to the out and proud, but to LGBTQ people who are neither. And the activism of the former should not extinguish the hopes of the latter.

Source: LGBTQ activists in Halifax need to learn to love corporate Pride: Teitel | Toronto Star

Emma Teitel on diversity in kids’ TV

On greater depth of diversity, rather than simply colour:

What makes these shows revolutionary [Make it Pop, Game Shakers, Project Mc2], in a sense, is not their basic attempts at racial and gender diversity, but their willingness to upend the conventional way in which diversity is portrayed. TV shows and movies are rife with well-intentioned tokenism: for example, the perfectly diverse friend group comprised of 1.5 Asian people and/or someone in a wheelchair, the cheerleading squad with approximately 2.5 black members, the law firm with 1.5 gays and the police force with one scrappy-as-hell woman. We’ve seen these tropes before and welcome as they may be in a homogenous entertainment landscape, it is endlessly refreshing to watch shows—kids shows in particular—that don’t cleave to the “one is enough” standard. There is power in representation. But there may be greater power in numbers.

Source: Emma Teitel on diversity in kids’ TV – Macleans.ca

Emma Teitel’s advice to gropers and the Washington Redskins

On those who feel the need to cling to racist symbols and labels (Confederate flag, Washington Redskins), good piece by Teitel:

But team owners, convinced of their moral superiority, intend to appeal the decision right away. In fact, they maintain, in the words of team president Bruce Allen, “the facts and the law” are on the side of their franchise, which “has proudly used the name Redskins for more than 80 years.” Team owner Dan Snyder, employing the logic of the party-groping apologist above, argues that the Redskins name is complimentary to Native Americans. “The Washington Redskins fan base represents honour, represents respect, represents pride,” he said last year. To illustrate this point, Snyder has pointed repeatedly to Native Americans who are linked, positively, to the team’s history: The franchise was named after William Henry “Lone Star” Dietz, its first head coach, who claimed he was of Native American descent. (Some contest his claim.) And Walter “Blackie” Wetzel, a former president of the National Congress of American Indians, helped to develop the Redskins logo.

Snyder’s historical justification for the team’s name, applied to the groping scenario described above, amounts to this: “You may not be happy that I groped your rear end, but I assure you that my grope was a compliment, justified by the long and storied history of groping—one full of women who are reported to have relished the occasional uninvited pinch on the tush.”

It takes a special kind of ethical blind spot to dismiss the feelings of a present-day offended party because someone else, long dead, saw it your way. “Redskins” is, plain and simple, a racist term, as racist as any ethnic slur under the sun. If we wouldn’t celebrate a sports team called the (insert bigoted, derogatory term here), we should not celebrate this one. But it appears that slurs used to denigrate certain groups (see Native Americans) are taken less seriously when white nostalgic pride is at stake.

Snyder and company would do well to follow the lead of the white Texan man who reportedly had his Confederate flag tattoo removed when, in the wake of the Charleston shootings, he saw an elderly black woman grimace at the sight of it.

When faced with the distress the symbol on his arm caused another human being, nostalgic pride seemed suddenly crude and insignificant. This is the reaction of a normal, compassionate person. Worshipping a controversial flag or insignia doesn’t make one automatically bad or bigoted. People make mistakes; nobody is born enlightened. But continuing to worship such a symbol despite the harm it causes others? Clinging to your racist flag or jersey with a passion and intensity most people reserve for their loved ones? That’s more than a little weird. It’s scary.

Emma Teitel’s advice to gropers and the Washington Redskins.

A tale of Tory, tories and the torah

Emma Teitel’s well-argued rebuke to Conservative targeting of Jewish voters:

In a larger context, the Tory Pride comments are a microcosm of a fallacy to which well-meaning conservatives who support Israel’s right to exist are prone. I’ve mentioned before that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s ongoing defence of Israel, genuine though it appears to be, is so automatic and unreserved, it can be, for someone who’s Jewish, almost a bit creepy. No Israeli I know is as one-sided in his analysis of his homeland. Usually, when you live in a place for a while, you have at least a few critical things to say about it. I love Toronto, but I don’t like T.O. fixtures Rob and Doug Ford.

Conservatives love to deride knee-jerk liberals who can’t take a joke—the kind of liberals in whose company you dare not make off-colour remarks about sexuality or ethnicity. But conservatives are equally skewed by their own PC touchiness. Their breed simply takes a different form: Israel these days is one of their sacred cows, an object of their guaranteed optimism and goodwill. By this formula, Tel Aviv isn’t allowed to be just a gay-friendly city; it has to be one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world. Israel can’t just be an admirable, resilient country with flaws, it has to be, in its current form—in every form—irreproachable. To suggest that Israel can act immorally is to reveal your true colours: that you’d rather it didn’t exist.

These are false equivalencies, and they put Jews like me in an awkward position—the position, for instance, of having to defend the QuAIA (which I wish would disappear) from John Tory (for whom I’ll probably vote).

When everything constitutes anti-Semitism, nothing is anti-Semitism; words like holocaust and racism lose their meaning, and the resulting fog of moral relativism is bad for more than just Jews. And so, Mr. Tory and attendant candidates running for office, if we’re not part of the story, please leave us alone.

A tale of Tory, tories and the torah.

Quebec’s “war” on religion – Charter Round-Up

Some good commentary and analysis in both English and French media today, starting with Martin Patriquin in MacLean’s, laying out the issues and politics, an opinion piece by  Emma Teitel (“spice of life”) theme, and an analysis of the Quebec heartland and the Charter in the Globe, suggesting the reality may be more complex:

Quebec’s war on religion – Canada, Editor’s Picks – Macleans.ca.

Prejudice and the PQ

How is the controversial charter of values going over in the Quebec heartland?

In French media, good piece on the poor political handling by the PQ of the proposed Charter by Bernard Descôteaux in Le Devoir. Better in many ways to have this than good political handling:

Charte des valeurs québécoises – Les maladresses

And a good nuanced picture of integration by David Desjardins in Le Devoir, ending up very close to Canadian multiculturalism:

Tout l’enjeu est là, au fond. Délicat, tissé de mille sensibilités. L’intégration est affaire d’apprivoisement mutuel. C’est tendre la main à l’autre sans avoir le sentiment qu’on s’excuse d’exister.

L’intégration