Paradkar: Is teaching kids about racism scary? Exploring the critical race theory bogeyman in Ontario

Really liked some of the examples of student projects that reflect the perspectives of different minority groups, not just Blacks:

A Florida bill banning schools and businesses from making white people feel “discomfort” when they teach about discrimination.

A Georgia teacher asking fourth-graders to write a letter to the seventh U.S. president, Andrew Jackson, on how removing members of the Cherokee Nation would help America grow and prosper.

Texas schools pulling books by dozens of Black authors off library shelves.

What a short-lived reckoning on race this has been. Eight states have passed legislation to restrict the teaching of racism and bias in public schools. Another 20 have introduced legislation, or plan to.

A manic panic has taken root in the U.S. over supposed critical race theory (CRT) teachings in education, and on the pretext of banning it, conservatives, cheered on by erstwhile free-speech warriors, are simply limiting conversations on racism and anti-Blackness in particular.

Because Canadians tend to be faithful copycats of American toxicity, we can rest assured a subtle pushback is underway here, too. One way to prevent it from taking hold in education is — education. School boards mandating Black studies in the curriculum would not only validate Black lives in school but also show everyone why such opposition is unnecessary.

We are not there yet, which is why a new course on Deconstructing Anti-Black Racism being taught in a couple of dozen Ontario schools feels not so much like progress, in this moment, as resistance.

It’s a Grade 12 course that was developed in 2020 by four Black teachers at Toronto’s Newtonbrook Secondary School in response to student inquiries in the wake of the global reckoning. The Toronto District School Board approved and published it, thus opening it up for use by other school boards. It is being taught in about 17 schools, the board said.

Source: Is teaching kids about racism scary? Exploring the critical race theory bogeyman in Ontario

Paradkar: Why I’m saying bye-bye to ‘BIPOC’ this year

While Paradkar’s points are valid when applied to the individual, groups are needed to assess differences in socio-economic outcomes at a broader level and understand the degree to which these reflect systemic or other barriers.

As Joseph Heath has argued, we need to stop using the American term BIPOC given that it reflects the centrality of Blacks in American history and exclusion, and use terms more appropriate to Canada’s history and context.

Needless to say, discussing terminology is easier than dismantling barriers and improving inclusion:

Who on earth is a BIPOC person?

BIPOC is an acronym that has flared into public consciousness since the 2020 summer of protests against police brutality against Black people. It stands for Black, Indigenous, People of Colour and was quickly pronounced bye-pock.

I thought it held some promise then. It appeared to be a thoughtful political coalition term, acknowledging disparate impacts of white supremacy by singling out Black and Indigenous experiences, even though both “Black” and “Indigenous” are homogenizing identities in themselves, and not always disparate.

When it comes to police brutality, we’re not all in it together. Black and Indigenous people are treated more unjustly than just about anyone else in our criminal justice system. Other people are treated with disdain, but that contempt often stems from anti-Black, colonial ideas of refinement and race.

However, as with POC or person of colour, BIPOC got swallowed up, quickly lost nuance and got spat out at a racial identifier to say “not white.”

Colonized lands that grapple with human rights face a perpetual puzzle: What to name “the other” without saying “the other?” It has led to a long-standing tension on this continent, a tension between a racial identity and a political one, a tension between the labels white people want to apply versus how people identify themselves.

In Canada that desire for euphemistic framing has translated into various terms over the years. “Coloured,” “minority,” “diverse”. They bunch into one box people held together by the most tenuous of all connections, that of not being of European origin.

Words matter, and they are tricky. They swim in the sociological waters around them, meaning one thing at one point in time and something else the next.

Those sociological realities have now claimed the term BIPOC like they do other racial designations that are rooted not just in history but also prejudice.

I had never been called “East Indian” until I came to Canada. If anything I identified as South Indian, as in one who lived in the southern part of the country. Then I began to be called South Asian, another label I’d never heard before. It instantly flattened the vast diversity of all the nations on the Indian subcontinent into one homogeneous lump, but at least it was a geographical descriptor.

I then came across another widely used term: POC, or person of colour. It sounded a bit like “coloured people,” which I didn’t know then was a slur. I assumed it simply referred to the fact of melanin in my skin.

POC became more of a political identity over time when it bonded me with those who experienced similar responses to our non-European origins, including East Asians. In other words, when I underwent the process of racialization or the process of being forced to see that I was categorized as a certain “race” and feel its impacts. This, even though race itself is anthropological fiction, constructed as a tool of exploitation.

Early 1900s U.S. state laws defined a person of colour as one with some “Negro blood,” but in contemporary Canada at least, the term POC erased Black experiences and kept invisible Indigenous ones. The grassroots advocacy for change came from those groups, but its biggest beneficiaries have always been white women, followed by other people of colour. When the fight for civil rights in the U.S. led to the creation of “affirmative action” laws — or a push for corporations and universities to end discrimination — white women over decades received a far higher share of managerial jobs and degrees.

POC was supposed to be a collaborative term. But even when reduced to an identity, it was more positive than non-white, which sounded like a deficit, an accusation of something lacking.

It was also better than the revolting “visible minority,” which made no sense. Visible to whom? How does it account for those that might be “invisible” but still in the margins, such as First Nations, Métis and Inuit? There is also an irony in naming a global majority a “minority,” but more than that, colonization globally has showed that numerical domination has nothing to do with power.

In a city like Toronto where the presence of “visible minorities” causes white flight, statistics showing that it is populated by a visible “majority” causes white fright, and spawns far-right white grievance ideologies in the rest of the country.

Words are not the solution, but yes, they matter.

That’s why I heard alarm bells ringing when a corporate executive said BIPOC stats had gone up in their staff demographics, but a closer look revealed there were no Indigenous hires.

Emails from publicists began routinely throwing up lines like these: BIPOC founder behind (XYZ) coffee shop. BIPOC sommelier breaks barriers on wine’s role.

At a discussion on online harassment, a white woman described another woman at the receiving end of abuse saying, “And she’s bye-pawk. She’s bye-pawk.”

How does an individual become BIPOC?

In that moment I realized I’d gone from being Indian to being South Asian to be a person of colour to now being either Black or Indigenous and a Person of Colour. In the span of a few years, my identity had been diluted beyond recognition. This absolute homogenization is the opposite of what the term BIPOC was meant to do.

It’s true that some people are simply anxious to keep up with the terminology to signal support for anti-racism, but when they do so without paying attention to the nuance of those terms, and flatten our identities and conflate the unique struggles of different groups, they replicate the problem the terminology is trying to eradicate.

I am done. Bye, bye BIPOC.

In my work I opt to use individuals’ own preference for identities and describe backgrounds as specifically as I can. I’ve also deliberately used non-white, not as a racial identity, but to emphasize experiences of people who are penalized for not being white. I quite like the term “racialized” although plenty of people of colour have not awoken to their own racialization and plenty of white people have. I realize that “racialized,” too, is used as another word for “not white.” But like “marginalized” — an even bigger umbrella term — it at least insists on being seen as a process.

Several months ago, NPR journalist Gene Demby referenced the linguistic term “euphemism treadmill” on the podcast Code Switch. It’s a term that refers to polite words, softer words used to replace those that might give offence. But over time, these euphemisms become toxic by association and themselves need to be replaced. Demby pointed to words such as Oriental, Coloured or Negro that were all proper terms at some point.

“The terminology can only stay ahead of the negative attitudes for only so long,” he said presciently. “The problem is not the language we use to refer to people. The problem is the attitude we have when referring to those people.”

Source: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/star-columnists/2021/12/11/why-im-saying-bye-bye-to-bipoc-this-year.html

Paradkar: Why calls to label white supremacists terrorists could backfire on their targets instead

Interesting discussion. Prefer white supremacists as more specific:

Any incident of mass violence throws up certain inevitable tensions in newsrooms. What to label the perpetrator? 

Until not so long ago, the news media uncritically ran with the labels that came from politicians who deferred to security agencies who in turn had a vested interest in the social narrative around the incident. This was why certain events were given certain designations and in short order began to be exclusively associated with certain identities.

Terrorist: Muslim, foreigners. Think al-Qaida or Islamic State types, but any visible Muslim could be perceived as being sympathetic to them.

Homegrown terrorist: Muslims, citizens of the West. (How were they radicalized despite growing up amid all this innocence?)

Gangs: Consisting of Black thugs, involved with drugs, guns.

Cartels: Latin Americans, narcotics.

White supremacists: Yahoos, poor, uneducated. And, during the reign of Donald Trump: Trumpists.

Notice the sleight of hand in that turn to elitism? How smoothly those terms take identity out of the picture and offer excuses instead.

It is no wonder then that people on the receiving end of unfair labels rebelled. Was that van driver a white terrorist? Was the mass shooting an act of white terrorism?

It’s an argument that has been renewed with vigour in the wake of white supremacists storming the U.S. Capitol building Wednesday in defiance of an election that kicked out their leader, and led to the question: are white supremacists terrorists?

On Thursday, U.S. president-elect Joe Biden called them “domestic terrorists” and said tackling domestic terrorism would now be a priority. Across the northern border, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh launched a petition asking the prime minister to ban and designate the Proud Boys as a terrorist organization. “(Wednesday) was an act of domestic terrorism,” Singh tweeted. “The Proud Boys helped execute it. Their founder is Canadian. They operate in Canada, right now. And, I am calling for them to be designated as a terrorist organization, immediately.”

On the surface this appears like fairness in motion. It might explain why the petition got so much support that the website crashed.

White supremacists terrorize people, but consider the terrorist label through another lens. Whom will it actually penalize?

Harsha Walia is executive director of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association. Voicing what she called “an unpopular opinion” on Twitter, she said: “Let me be clear that calling for the expansion (of terrorism designation) to white supremacists won’t work.” 

Walia, who has long been a community organizer supporting migrant communities and Indigenous land defenders, called laws around terrorism designation “fundamentally regressive,” and said, “I know anti-terror legal infrastructure is rotten by design.” 

That infrastructure includes tighter border controls in the name of national security. Traditionally, that has led to racial profiling at the borders, targeted at non-white people, especially those perceived as Muslims. Treating them as suspicious outsiders then leads to increased surveillance, which requires funding, which means increasing police budgets. 

The alienation legitimizes societal debates around criminalizing aspects of these “outsiders’” cultures, with policies such as banning articles of clothing (looking at you, Quebec) and legal tools such as security certificates to detain and deport foreigners and permanent residents the country deems a security threat. In a violation of the basic principles of justice, the government can deem someone suspicious based on secret evidence that even the accused cannot access. Detainees in Canada have been stuck in legal limbo for years.

As we saw from the blatant police inaction against political rioters Wednesday, our security apparatus is simply not equipped to racially profile the “yahoos.” Not when those yahoos included off-duty police officers and members of the military who flashed their badges and ID cards in an attempt to gain entry. Canadian Armed Forces and police forces already count among their members those with active ties to neo-Nazi and far-right groups. 

Even if our security agencies were equipped to do so, even if they were fine impartial defenders of public security who could identify domestic terrorists by sight, putting the shoe on the other foot is not the solution. We can’t claim to seek a world of dignified equality and actively seek to expand oppressive policies that will surely boomerang.

The “global war on terror and its ongoing aftermath must be dismantled, not bolstered,” Walia said.

Calling white supremacists terrorists and inviting stronger anti-terrorism measures will also likely criminalize legitimate protesters by turning them even more easily into peace disturbers and security threats.

“On the contrary, if we call them white supremacists, naming their movement as what it is, it demands a solution specific to that problem,” tweeted Lea Kayali, a digital communications manager at the American Civil Liberties Union. “Truth-telling. Reparations. Facing our history as a nation founded on white supremacy and dismantling it bit by bit.”

Source: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/star-columnists/2021/01/08/why-calls-to-label-white-supremacists-terrorists-could-backfire-on-their-targets-instead.html

Paradkar: The tens of thousands of white people who rioted at the U.S. Capitol were reclaiming white supremacy

Pretty evident from watching the mob yesterday, and the double standard of relative police inaction compared to the BLM Washington protest:

Let it be remembered that it was white people who were allowed to breach the U.S. Capitol during a joint session of Congress, white people who broke the building’s glass windows and rummaged senators’ desks, white people who laid violent siege to the seat of American democracy, white people whose attacks led to Vice-President Mike Pence being evacuated and white people’s violence that put the senate and house chambers on lockdown.

Tens of thousands of white people. Armed white people. Confederate flag-waving, QAnon poster-bearing white people. 

Mostly maskless rioters on a day when the U.S. hit 21 million cases of COVID-19..

They weren’t just white people engaging in democratic protest. “An insurrection,” president-elect Joe Biden called it. 

Whom are we kidding? What we witnessed today was an assertion of white power, a Trump-pumped MAGA crowd staking claim to power without care for facts or truth. 

Depraved racists recreating the death of George Floyd as crudely as you can imagine on the steps of a D.C. church that unfurled a Black Lives Matter banner. 

We witnessed the U.S. brought to the point of anarchy by white people whose beliefs are so mired in falsehood that even an advocacy group funded by a Koch brother — one of the villainous billionaires who funded climate change denial — disagreed with their attempts to delegitimize the election. 

This was a reclaiming of white supremacy because white people are the only group that can spin a fake grievance into violent chaos and not face bodily harm.

Imagine if they were a crowd of Black people. 

A crowd of visibly Muslim people.

Indigenous peoples. Peacefully occupying their own territories.

We don’t need to imagine any of it, really. 

We’ve witnessed that reality many times over. Racist chants, batons, violent arrests, water cannon, tear gas, bullets. A hail of bullets that mainstream narratives would find ways to justify. They were damaging private property! They burned a police station! Why can’t they be more civil?

Those protesters would be agitating for basic human rights. Right to their land. Right to not be murdered by police. Right to a clean planet. Wednesday’s rioters were fighting not for the right to live on equal terms but on unequal ones that would ensure they retained supremacy. 

This violent insurrection has been in the works for weeks. Law enforcement may or may not have been prepared for reasons known only to them. Some did their job. Others participated. Cops were recorded taking selfies with the white throngs. Cops were seen gently opening the barricades to allow the crowd to stream onto the Capitol grounds.

Where’s the need to burn down police stations when you’re all as one?

This is not a double standard. This is the standard. 

When mostly Black athletes knelt respectfully during the national anthem to protest the unequal treatment of Black people, Trump called them “sons of bitches,” saying they “disrespected the flag.”

What a lot of hot air and baloney. An image of a white intruder Wednesday sitting inside the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with his boots up on her desk, made the rounds on social media. Trump hailed people like him and the rioters as “great patriots.”

When the rioters chanted “Whose capitol? Our capitol?” they were staking a claim to a fundamental truth in America: that the direction of violence has always flowed from white to Black and all the shades in between. 

White supremacy has been the continuous thread weaving through the history of democracy in the U.S. (and Canada) from its founding to the present. It’s ever present and its proponents — whether overt or sheathed in politeness — know it is theirs to evoke. 

And still there is that tone of surprise among media commentators. “This is not America” “This is not how we function” “This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic.” That last statement from former president George W. Bush, the man who butchered Iraq in the name of democracy.

The violence of white innocence continually excels itself — and exhausts the rest of us. 

Source: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/star-columnists/2021/01/06/the-tens-of-thousands-of-white-people-who-rioted-at-the-us-capitol-were-reclaiming-white-supremacy.html

 

Paradkar: Voluntourism by charities like WE is based on faulty ideals of feel-good white saviourism

Good commentary:

“People have gotten used to looking at Africans as objects.”

Education advocate Chizoba Imoka had just finished delivering the Hancock Lecture at the University of Toronto two years ago when she crystallized a certain rage that anyone who seeks to decolonize structures will identify with. “What gives people the confidence to think, you know, you have four weeks off and you’re just going to travel to Africa to save Africa?”

The “saving Africa” kind of volunteering occupies a hefty presence on the Canadian imagination. “Raised funds for Africa” wins praise and opens opportunities for students. “Volunteered in Africa” is a resumé builder for professionals. “But they went to Africa!” is evidence of progressiveness, a stalwart defence against accusations of racism.

“Voluntourism” is a topic that deserves scrutiny during a time when the WE Charity and its tentacular affiliates are in the news for all the wrong reasons including allegations of: messy internal finances; complex relationships among its many arms that even confuse its own staff; a non-transparent speaker system; aggressive run-ins with media; and a relationship with the prime minister that has embroiled him in another ethics scandal.

All of this comes under the umbrella of feel-good white saviourism.

This is not to say charities in general are useless; those that support grassroots organizations can make a difference. But jumping up to save others is pointless if it is primarily self-serving.

Me to We’s volunteer travel site is startlingly honest in that it does not couch the western self-centredness of its mission. “Experience a new culture.” “Get ready for a world-changing adventure.” “An unforgettable team-building experience.” “A truly one-of-a-kind family vacation.”

“It’s never really been about us,” Imoka, who keeps one foot in Nigeria and the other in Canada, told me Wednesday from Edmonton. “It’s always been about the people in the West and what their desires are and what their resumés need to look like and the pictures they need to put up on Instagram.”

The idea of westerners flying in for a couple of weeks to fix another country (while taking a once-in-a-lifetime holiday!) is breathtakingly colonial. Would we welcome planeloads of African kids coming to ogle at our lifestyles and save Canadians? White saviourism means only other people need saving, whether they be on their own lands in other continents or forced on to reserves here. It reproduces relationships premised on white supremacy.

“Getting young people to think about the world beyond themselves, that’s a noble idea,” Imoka said, but “the young white people willing to save us still think we’re the way we are because … there is something deficit about us. So we take the surpluses in the West to go fix the deficits in the Global South.”

This shouldn’t require saying but the world doesn’t actually exist in a western vision of it. People in once-rich nations don’t become poor because they suddenly got lazy or just forgot to educate themselves and keep pace with the times.

“It would be much different if you teach them about the history of the world from an anti-colonial perspective,” Imoka said. “They don’t have wells, let’s go build wells — but why don’t they have wells? What has made it impossible for kids in that community not to do so? That critical thinking that takes a lot of work.”

That critical thinking would make clear that what needs to change is not necessarily in Africa — often perceived as a monolith rather than a varied continent — but global policies here, in the West, in Canada.

Got four weeks off and want to help? Go read up on history. As Imoka had said two years ago, “Take the Canadian foreign policy as your case study to understand how the Canadian foreign policy continues to enable colonization.” Maybe write to your member of Parliament. Fight where the Africans cannot — here, in the West.

Imoka was a teenager, too, when she started Unveiling Africa Foundation, which earlier this month launched a seven-weekend African-centred history program to develop young leaders. “It takes a lot of work to be able to ask foundational questions and takes much, much more work to bring it down to teenagers’ level. It’s difficult to get Instagram pictures for that. It’s not pretty work. It’s thankless work.”

Meanwhile people are still dying, and perhaps charities need to supplement policy work with donations. Unless people are emotionally moved, they don’t part with their money. Charities push the direst situations under our noses to snap us out of our daily pillar-to-post rush. To make us feel good about giving.

But saving Africa, on whose pillaging we’ve based our comfort, isn’t about feeling good. It’s about getting to real solutions. It’s about sacrifice. It’s about supporting those doing the hard work of decolonizing in their areas of specialty.

“It takes a lot of talking and learning and planning,” Imoka said. “You need to know the people on the ground that are getting their hands dirty, working to challenge structures, working to hold their political leaders accountable.”

Solidarity could also mean holding our own leaders accountable.

Source: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/star-columnists/2020/07/30/voluntourism-by-charities-like-we-is-based-on-faulty-ideals-of-feel-good-white-saviourism.html

‘Why don’t they just work harder?’ This kind of anti-Blackness is prevalent in Chinese-Canadian communities. It’s time to address it

A good reminder that racism, discrimination and prejudice exist among all communities.

One of the positive changes under former Minister Jason Kenney was to broaden the discussion from a white/visible minority quasi-dichotomy to an understanding and appreciation of tensions and issues between visible minority groups, not just with the white majority. Shree Paradkar’s makes comparable points (Star ColumnistsDear brown people: I’m about to wash some dirty linen in public. Consider this an overdue act of tough loveJun. 28, 2020):

The idea that we live in a happy multicultural mosaic is one of Canada’s boldest lies.

Vote-thirsty politicians constantly dog-whistle at emboldened white supremacists on the Canadian fringe. Institutions across the board are being exposed for mistreatment and neglect of racialized voices. Not even Parliament escapes scrutiny as Canadians saw footage of Jagmeet Singh, the NDP’s brown and turbaned leader, getting kicked out of the House for calling out racism.

But the problem doesn’t lie exclusively with white people. Rather, it has long metastasized into communities of colour that internalize discrimination in order to spew it at groups they see as inferior — usually Black Canadians.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in parts of the Chinese Canadian community, of which I’m a proud member. While covering the election last fall, I ventured into neighbourhoods in Toronto filled with individuals of Chinese descent who, aside from the usual headaches over money, health care, or employment, were worried about “illegal border crossers” making their way onto their streets. They were clearly being fed that language by right-wing campaigners, but the pervasive fear showed how easy it is to capture people of colour with narratives that, though often rooted in racist untruths, galvanize a sense of superiority vis-à-vis those who “don’t belong.”

Which brings us to the question of anti-Blackness in communities of colour. I think it’d be hard to find a young person of Chinese descent in Canada who can’t recount at least one instance of hearing an older member of their family repeat a well-worn anti-Black trope. It might not be routine dinner conversation, but it happens all the time. Slogans of underclass ideology are robotically repeated: “Why don’t they just work harder?” “Black parents have a problem raising their kids the right way.” Or the popular, “I came to this country with [insert small dollar amount]; don’t talk to me about discrimination!” And so on.

Part of the problem is internalizing an implicit hierarchy based on race that only gets reinforced by “model minority” ideals in a country that operates on white normality.

This leads to envious worship of those above you in the arbitrary ethnoracial hierarchy, along with contempt or fearful hatred of those who you think can’t get to your level. The latter have always tended to have darker skin.

More optimistic activists may suggest that common experiences of discrimination should lead to people of different races (and from all walks of life) to automatically form political and social solidarity. Or that they naturally amount to a tangible political constituency because they all faced racism at some point. This is a naive assumption, even for people within the same race, which makes the current Black Lives Matter moment — spurred by the death of George Floyd — a valuable wake-up call.

Now more than ever is an opportunity for communities of colour, including the Chinese community, to question how their racist bias affects the world around them and why there’s such widespread anger among the Black community. It’s an uphill battle for progressive community organizations like the Chinese Canadian National Council (CCNC), which have a history of advocacy against racism that extends into the COVID-19 era of anti-East Asian discrimination.

Their battle today will have to be led by youth, who have an opportunity to extend the broader conversation of racial and social justice into their neighbourhoods and, perhaps more importantly, into their homes.

Much of this comes down to genuine progressive engagement with newcomers — a task that, in contrast to years-long forays by Canada’s conservative right, the political left is only beginning. The current opening to speak candidly about race and racism can help fill that vacuum, but only if civil society steps in on the ground level. Young people will, again, likely have to do the work of communicating, and even translating, to those who are unfamiliar with progressive narratives or vocabulary in an intelligible fashion.

In any case, the current hold of right-wing tropes and politics on significant swathes of the Chinese Canadian community (some of which have bled into alt-right territory) is not inevitable. The stereotype of wealthy, apolitical Chinese buying up land and condos can be challenged by engagement on universal issues of racial justice, among other progressive concerns.

It is necessary work for any era, but our time is one of fascist revanchism compounded by a pandemic and economic stagnation. More understanding between communities can be one of the few antidotes if collective solidarity leads to tangible successes in creating more equity in our institutions and accountability in our centres of power toward racialized people.

@Shree Paradkar Dear brown people: I’m about to wash some dirty linen in public. Consider this an overdue act of tough love

A good reminder that racism occurs among visible minorities too:

A South Asian man wrote me an email recently about my columns on the Peel District School Board. “I have not seen you focus as much on the South Asian students in that board as you have been on the Black students,” he wrote. He grew up in Peel, where he said South Asians faced “bigotry at the hands of white teachers and students and hostility at the hands of Black students.”

Most of the South Asian students he grew up with worked hard, persevered and are very successful, despite their working-class roots, he wrote.

“However, as was the case when we were growing up, the Black community and students are basically monopolizing the public’s and school board’s attention and resources.” He dived into predictable comments about Black family structures being to blame, “though external obstacles no doubt continue to exist as they do for all minority communities.”

The letter, sent in late April, expressed commonly held views among South Asians: the myth of the “model minority” — or the false perception of universal success among brown people; an ahistorical view of anti-Black racism; and racist ideas about Black “family structures.”

And we’re surprised Black people don’t trust us?

Dear brown people: a warning. I’m about to wash some dirty linen in public. Consider this an overdue act of tough love.

Two years ago when I called out various forms of discrimination within South Asian communities in a keynote for the Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA), I was a minority voice within a minority; while many in the audience were supportive, we all knew there simply wasn’t a widespread movement to hold the anti-Blackness within to account.

That is changing.

In the wake of Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin’s callous disregard for George Floyd’s life and several botched — racist — police interventions against Black and Indigenous people in Canada, the reckoning of anti-Blackness steeped in the very pores of our existence has become urgent.

In recent days, Hasan Minhaj called out fellow brown people in a 12-minute special on his Netflix show “Patriot Act.” CASSA hosted a series of panels on anti-hate conversations including one on racism within racialized communities. (Full disclosure: I was on that panel.) The U.K.’s Burnt Roti magazine hosted a discussion named Dismantling Anti-Blackness in South Asian communities.

On June 19, three education experts — York University assistant professor Vidya Shah, former Toronto school board education superintendent Jeewan Chanicka and Herveen Singh, an assistant professor at Dubai’s Zayed University — spoke in a brutally frank session titled “Brown Complicity in White Supremacy.”

While anti-Blackness is also rampant among Hispanics, East Asians, Middle Eastern people and any people who are neither white nor Black, “brown” here refers to people of South Asian ancestry and their diasporic communities.

In the artificial racial hierarchy created by Europeans who placed themselves at the top and enslaved Africans at the bottom, brown folks reside in the uneasy middle.

“We shift towards Blackness when it’s cool, when it demonstrates some sort of street cred or street smarts and then we shift right back to whiteness when we need to maintain access or mobility within the system,” Shah told the panel. “We’re chameleons.”

At least a couple of factors make us ripe for this role in the grey zone. One, as architects/participants of a caste system that in practice transcends religion, we inherently understand hierarchies. Two, our own vitriolic colourism — further cemented by waves of colonization — means we’d rather kiss the ring of whiteness than be associated with Blackness.

This has turned us into white supremacists in brown skin, useful tools in the project of whiteness. Our presence enables white people to look like multicultural progressives — some of us are the checkbox diversity hires that help them avoid addressing anti-Blackness. Our success is then used to absolve whiteness: look, Black people are told, if these people can succeed, why can’t you?

In constantly aspiring to whiteness we make ourselves more palatable to a system that does not wish to dismantle the status quo, Singh told the panel. This makes us easier to hire and be promoted through the ranks than a Black person. “In this way we become honorary whites, meaning that we are accepted in white spaces by white people upon the condition that we continue to be passive, compliant and constantly striving for whiteness.”

That compliance requires us to not talk too loudly, especially on matters of racial equity.

Brown people, we love to pat ourselves on the back for our “success” — look at our high household incomes, look at our high-achieving kids, look how far we’ve come and how quickly. So hardworking.

But we forget to see whose activism even made it possible for us to arrive here. Whom we’re stampeding on in our rush for success. Whose activism has the effect of making us appear compliant — and therefore palatable. And whose scholarship, despite it all, saves us.

“I want brown folks to remember we’re not just ascending on the backs of Black people, we have our feet on their necks as well,” Chanicka told the panel.

The fight for civil rights opened up North America to non-white immigrants in the 1960s. But immigrants were required to be highly educated people and in perfect health. These requirements a) filtered out those marginalized in their home countries and b) set those early migrants up for success even if they faced racism in the job market upon entry.

Some were able to fall back on their education and prior experience to became entrepreneurs while others sacrificed professional fulfilment for their children’s prospects. Fit in, they told their kids. Behave, study, fit in. Why would we not? Disrupt and we could end up at the bottom of the heap.

This, however, is a deal with the devil. Many of us gave up language, cultural practices, even names — anglicizing them or reducing them to monosyllabic ones.

“In this process of emptying ourselves of our core brown assets we’re filled with tremendous anxiety and insecurity,” said Singh. “And it is due to this insecurity that we lack the integrity to dismantle anti-Blackness within ourselves.”

However, no matter how much we strive for whiteness, we never can be white. It doesn’t matter how we sound, how we dress, how light-skinned we think we are, how much class privilege we enjoy to buffer racism, how many personal relationships we have that transcend race. Collectively, we are marked The Other.

When we’re rushing up the ladder we may not care that we’re crushing Black fingers on every rung. It’s when we or our children invariably hit glass ceilings — because racism against brown people is very real — that we begin to search for answers.

The shallowest of those questions is, “Why is everything just about anti-Black racism? What about us?” Chanicka calls this a way to silence the conversation. “It keeps dividing us as opposed to the understanding that racism is built on anti-Blackness. You cannot solve racism without addressing anti-Blackness.”

An awakening of our critical consciousness comes from the deep well of Black knowledge and activism — there is no equivalent South Asian activism to turn to here although there is growing Dalit (formerly called “untouchables”) scholarship; Anti-Black racism has centuries of intergenerational roots in Canada, running parallel and at times intersecting with anti-Indigeneity.

There is yet another steep cost for brown folks in the white man’s game. When we look down upon dark skin, view it as inferior, we implicitly accept our inferiority to whiteness. That’s the most cruel cut we could inflict on ourselves.

It makes anti-Blackness among brown folks the ultimate act of self-hate, one that all the Fair & Lovely cream in the world cannot erase.

Paradkar: (Mostly) white covidiots at Trinity Bellwoods think the rules don’t apply to them. They’re right

Not only white folks can be covidiots. Ottawa has its share of visible minorities and whites who don’t respect social distancing visiting Dow’s Lake to look at the tulips.

André Picard notes the more fundamental issue at play, the inability of Toronto to free up more space for people (Don’t blame those who gather in parks – blame the city):

One look at images of Trinity Bellwoods Park on Saturday and it was instantly clear that idiocy is not just an affliction of the American middle class.

As a person with the luxury of living with greenery around me, I appreciate how difficult it must be to be trapped in a condo, sometimes even without balconies. I don’t blame people for wanting to break out of their confines when the sunny outside beckons so cheerily.

I get that there aren’t a lot of open spaces in the core of Toronto — although, for perspective, compared to many parts of the world, the city is positively lush.

What is bothersome is that while people around the world and even in our own city have been weathering the pandemic in far tougher conditions, in crappy apartments and crowded homes and in poverty, it was in Trinity Bellwoods that people somehow collectively felt entitled to say to hell with social distancing.

Their pleasure trumped our collective safety.

Trinity Bellwoods is considered a “gentrifying” neighbourhood with a higher concentration of white folks compared to the city. Like in all of the city, nearly half the resident are renters, and the same proportion have a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to the 2016 census.

Based on social-media comments and real-estate agents’ descriptions, the 32-acre Trinity Bellwoods Park is a place to be seen. That’s a concept beyond my comprehension but on Saturday it meant that people could have gone to other parks (Stanley Park, Alexandra Park) but didn’t.

I wonder if the news about who is most at risk from COVID-19 — the racialized have-nots — has created a sense of inoculation among the haves. It’s affecting those people, not us, unless we’re old. Pandemics have always killed the poorest — mainly because those are the bodies the virus comes across. People who can’t afford to hunker down necessarily place themselves at risk to keep the rest of us in comfort. Gathering in large numbers simply offers the virus more bodies to feast on.

Photographs doing the rounds on social media showed thousands of what looked like white people milling around in crowds in the west-end park, as if millions of other Torontonians were not holding back from precisely that because common sense. And courtesy. And safety.

No doubt there were racialized folks among those gathered — fools come from all races — but they were protected by the overwhelming whiteness of those around them. Had that been a sea of Black and brown folks, we’d be having a very different conversation today.

While we may call Saturday’s hordes at Trinity Bellwoods covidiots or victims of squashed housing or poor communications by the province, to me they serve as a quick snapshot as to who feels entitled to the public space in this city, who gets scrutinized and who gets penalized for existing in it.

Of course, race matters, class matters.

A couple of weeks ago, a Tamil friend in our suburban neighbourhood was taking his children for a walk, observing all social-distancing protocols. A white man working on his front lawn chided him for being outside and told him to get off the sidewalk and walk on the road.

Last month, the father of a Black teen in Ottawa accused a trustee of harassing and photo-shaming his teenage son on Facebook for shooting hoops by himself. This was before there was clarity around the use of public parks.

In Brampton, Peel Police broke up groups of people who broke social-distancing rules by playing cricket and fined them $880 each.

It was also Eid this weekend when Muslims ended the month-long fasting of Ramadan. It’s a time of celebration, but Muslim Canadians shared stories on Twitter of a visible police presence in their communities to ensure they didn’t break social-distancing rules.

In Toronto, several homeless people have also been given $880 tickets for sitting on public benches, according to Policing the Pandemic, a map that tracks criminal charges across the country. The vast majority of police enforcement thus far has been about failing to comply with distancing rules, the researchers found.

So where was the weight of all that enforcement on Saturday? How many people were fined? Mayor John Tory said the people need to “do better” and sent in bylaw officers Sunday. Is that their only accountability? To be mocked en masse and face expressions of disappointment from our leaders but bear no individual responsibility?

What about community spread? Given that Ontario’s testing and contact tracing efforts are flailing — that we don’t actually know how community transmission is spreading — will we ever be able to track how many people were endangered by the indifference of the folks at Trinity Bellwoods Park?

Has the province sought the might of the police to keep all of us safe or only some of us safe? Why does the amount of melanin in the wrongdoer dictate who gets off, and whom we choose to perceive as wrongdoer in the first place?

Guess there’s no one quite like covidiots to expose the toxic hierarchies that operate under pretty ideals of egalitarianism.

Source: Shree Paradkar(Mostly) white covidiots at Trinity Bellwoods think the rules don’t apply to them. They’re right

Desmond Cole’s book sparked deep conversations among teachers about racism. Where is the introspection in media?

I expect part of the reason has to do with the shrinking newsrooms and employment insecurity compared to the stable number of teachers and job security that provide more time for these discussions:

If there’s one thing The Skin We’re In by Desmond Cole makes clear, it is how integral racism is to Canadian life. It winds its way through the justice system, military decisions, child welfare, the education system and of course, the media, and leaves in its wake a trail of destruction for many, but particularly cruelly for Black, First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.

The burden of educating society always falls on those with the least — not just the least amount of wealth but the least social capital, too. The people society is accustomed to ignoring have to make themselves heard, be taken seriously and then force a change in behaviour. This is gargantuan cross-generational work, and Cole’s national bestseller, much like Robyn Maynard’s Policing Black Lives, is also an ode to that resistance.

One example of that resistance, the work of influencing change, that The Skin We’re In inspired, was a series of conversations among Ontario teachers.

Colinda Clyne, an Anishinaabe woman and curriculum lead at the Upper Grand District School Board, had read the book and appreciated how Cole wove together colonial history and anti-Indigenous racism with anti-Black racism. “There are many great resources to support one or the other, but not often together, and rarely with the Canadian context,” she said. Late in March, she sent out feelers to see if fellow teachers would be interested in a discussion based on this book, expecting a discussion involving about 10 people.

Instead, she ended up hosting a weekly panel titled “Anti-Racist Educator Reads” on VoicEd Radio, an educational broadcast/podcast site, with more than 500 listeners on the fifth and final week, May 13, that featured Cole himself. (For those who missed the discussions, the episodes are online.)

The people tuning in, Clyne said, were “mostly white educators with thoughtful reflections on the learning and unlearning they were doing with the book and our conversations, and the actions they were willing to commit to. It gave me a boost of hope for this anti-racism work in a way that I have not felt in a long time.”

The discussions ran deep, including the impact of police presence in schools, how Canada’s “humble colonialism” plays out in society and schools, what ignorance on racism looks like and the easily dismissed but vital role of anger to bring about change.

A sketch note by educator Debbie Donksy of a panel discussion of Anti-Racist Educator Reads that aired April 22 on VoicEd Radio in which curriculum lead Colinda Clyne hosted Camille Logan, a superintendent of education, and Kevin Rambally, a social worker and former chair of Pride Toronto.

I listened with envy to these conversations between Clyne and other leaders in anti-racism education from various Ontario school boards such as Debbie Donsky, Pamala Agawa, Melissa Wilson, Tisha Nelson and Camille Logan.

The education system is nowhere near where it should be in terms of nurturing all students with care. But teachers are at least engaging in these critical and uncomfortable reflections. Clyne also seeks an action that teachers can commit to. While I’m not one to pat people for being at the “at least it’s a start!” stage, I raise it to make the point that other sectors are not even there.

A case in point is my own industry. Journalists are duty bound to demand accountability — but this is rarely focused inward. Race and attendant issues are an extra or an “inclusion” issue, maybe even as a new-fangled lens of discussion that could bring in new audiences. It’s why solutions look like hiring a journalist of colour or two, using images of racialized people to suggest representation or speaking to a few sources of colour.

As a journalist, Cole makes extensive references to media in his book. Of course, he mentions his fallout with the Toronto Star. His blunt reporting on CBC and CTV reporters’ rude — and chiefly arrogant — questioning of Indigenous elders and activists at a 2017 press conference on the inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada (MMIWG), should at least make every journalist squirm.

But I don’t hear of critical inquiry-based collective reflections in newsrooms based on that or on Cole’s highly contextualized reporting of Black Lives Matter shutting down the Pride Parade in 2016. For instance, “What role did white supremacy play in guiding our coverage on it?”

Or, “Did media, with our overwhelming whiteness, have the authority or even a balanced perspective in declaring the MMIWG inquiry’s conclusion of genocide as wrong?” Or, “Whose voices did we privilege in the Wet’suwet’en pipeline protests?”

No, journalists are supposed to be a bunch of eye-rolling cynics, the know-it-alls above self-reflection. There are, after all, “real” crises to be dealt with every day. Discussions on racism are usually held among journalists of colour, on the sidelines to the main business of journalism. In newsroom after newsroom, these journalists tell me, they struggle to be heard.

That explains why it’s taken weeks after Canada was hit by the global pandemic for media to start waking up to who was most badly hit — Indigenous and racialized people — and that too after relentless advocacy by rights groups and by the bravery of those risking everything to tell their stories.

In education, too, one of the issues raised through the VoicEd Radio episodes, “are the barriers constantly put in place in our systems, a big one being denial of white supremacy and that folks ‘aren’t ready’ to have the conversations and do the work of anti-racism,” Clyne said.

It’s worth reflecting, across sectors, on who these folks who aren’t ready are, and why, when lives are at stake, we feel compelled to wait for them at all.

Source: Shree ParadkarDesmond Cole’s book sparked deep conversations among teachers about racism. Where is the introspection in media?

Paradkar: Unlike Canadians, Americans at least know how Black people are faring with COVID-19 (very badly)

Agreed but not only a Black issue.

Need better health data on all visible minority groups (and Indigenous) given that poorer health outcomes generally go hand-in-hand with more vulnerable socioeconomic outcomes:

“Let me rant,” said Angela Robertson, “because you’ve sparked me.”

As executive director of the Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre, Robertson has long been a front-line witness to the lives of the most marginalized in the city — the homeless, the undocumented, the working poor — all of whom are also disproportionately racialized.

We are discussing the horrendous data streaming from the U.S. on the rates at which COVID-19 is infecting and killing Black people. In Chicago, African-Americans account for 70 per cent of the 86 recorded deaths, but make up 29 per cent of the city’s population. Louisiana saw the same 70 per cent of deaths among African-Americans who constitute just 32 per cent of the population.

What about Black people in Canada, I ask her. Are they better off here compared to the U.S because of universal health care and because — here I wave the red flag — Canada is not as bad as the U.S.?

“As much as we have critiques of the health-care system in America, they have done data collection, they can disaggregate by race within health care,” she said.

“We in Canada have been glacial in our movement in the collection of race-based data in our health-care system. As a result we will not be able to identify the disproportional access challenges, deaths, illnesses that Black communities will experience as a result of COVID-19.

“My fear is that the real health impact on Black community will be hidden.”

COVID-19’s impact on Black people is highlighting the similarities and differences between the U.S. and Canada. They collect data. We don’t. We have universal health care. They don’t. But underlying structures in both nations are deeply racist, which means Black people on both sides of the border live in circumstances that leave them more vulnerable to illnesses at the best of times — and now make them susceptible to the ravages of the pandemic.

These structures are unleashing what the American author and anti-racism scholar Ibram X. Kendi called “a racial pandemic with the viral pandemic.”

Last Friday, Black health leaders in Toronto released a statement that identified the underlying risk factors that COVID-19 would amplify. “Ontario is home to the largest proportion of Black people in Canada. Here too, as in the rest of Canada, race is a determinant of health,” they said.

Who are the people who still need to use public transport to get to work? Who hold precarious jobs? Who don’t have the luxury to shelter at home and buy healthy provisions for a week or two? Who need rent relief? Who are most at risk from higher policing on the streets? Who are at risk in the prison system?

While race-based data exists around these social factors, hospitals and clinics don’t collect detailed demographic data including race as a matter of routine. Advocates have long railed against this lack of data, calling it harmful to Black women after research found they may be underscreened for breast and cervical cancer.

Andrew Pinto is a doctor at St. Michael’s Hospital. He is also the director of the hospital’s Upstream Lab — a research group that looks at interventions or remedies to the socio-economic factors that affect health.

The St. Michael’s Hospital Family Health Team, and other groups in Toronto including Toronto Public Health, was part of a pilot program to ask patients questions on income, race, gender, housing, religion, etc., and then use this data to identify health inequities, Pinto said. Researchers found doing such a survey was “feasible and acceptable.”

“Social factors are definitely associated with health outcomes,” he said. Many studies show income and race play a big role. “We lack the data that we need in Canada to really be able to pinpoint inequity by race. That’s what our work is trying to move toward.”

Why do we need the data if we know discrimination already exists? “Data helps with accountability. It’s not just to document inequity. We need to anticipate the inequity and think about how do we hold our systems to account.”

On the plus side of the ledger against the U.S, Canada has universal health care. Even then there are gaps.

While Ontario advocates who campaigned under OHIP For All managed to open health care for people regardless of their immigration status, “what we are concerned about while policy has changed, practices on the ground have not changed,” Robertson said.

Even during the pandemic, Robertson heard reports of people turning up in emergency departments and being asked to pay $500 for treatment.

What about the people who don’t turn to agencies for support? “For folks who because of fear walk away, they walk away ill,” she said.

Pinto points out that the “danger of data collection is it can convey that something is being done. Data alone is not sufficient. There has to be commitment that it should come with change.”

In a crisis like this, governments at all levels have to look at their response policies through the eyes of the most vulnerable and account for bias. This is particularly important for Black people who are among the most discriminated people here.

If this is not done, as the Black leaders’ statement said, “Black people will be exposed to greater harm.”