ICYMI – Shree Paradkar: Whataboutism is just a trolling tactic — and it deserves to be shut down

While parallels and comparisons can be useful in providing perspective, excessive use is more to divert rather than engage in conversation:

This much is for sure: there’s no dearth of injustices around the world. But just when you tackle the proverbial elephant, up pops this logical fallacy: “What about that other bit here, what about that bit there?”

When I, as a Canadian from India, write about racism and white supremacy, the predictable question is, “But what about the caste system?”

Well, what about it? And what is the commenter doing to dismantle it, or any set of unjust hierarchies?

The caste system has astounding parallels to white supremacy, except it’s even older. It’s the same violent and heritable hierarchy that enforces the creation of an impoverished class, builds societies and prosperity for some on the backs of those it stamps down and then blames them for their own marginalization.

I am a beneficiary of this system. These are the complex contradictions that some of us hold as we navigate and nudge a system towards genuine egalitarianism.

A new survey, the first of its kind, shows caste discrimination playing out among South Asians in the U.S. I have no reason to believe it wouldn’t in Canada.

But its existence has little bearing on the truth of white supremacy. People who throw up the caste apartheid in response to racial apartheid don’t really care about the oppressed Dalits and Adivasis; they’re using them to score points in a verbal argument.

In the bargain they show a few things: That they are unable to look past the fact that a non-white Canadian (“the other”) is critiquing Canadian systems, that they are defensive, conflating white supremacy with white people, which is telling, that they are indulging in a whataboutism, a tactic that has seen a recent upswing in usage.

According to Merriam-Webster, “whataboutism” is a rhetorical device that “is not merely the changing of a subject (‘What about the economy?’) to deflect away from an earlier subject as a political strategy; it’s essentially a reversal of accusation, arguing that an opponent is guilty of an offence just as egregious or worse than what the original party was accused of doing, however unconnected the offences may be.”

Another predictable whataboutism is, “What about Black crime?”

Well, what about it? And what are the commenters doing beyond looking at crime stories, Black skin and going one plus one equals the same old tired tropes?

It’s an ahistorical view that discounts the root causes of the violence and is usually raised to suggest Black people are inherently criminal, or that they are architects of their own oppression.

Like as if, since the end of slavery, Black people in the U.S. and Canada have been given job opportunities, quality education, access to housing, equitable health services, and fair treatment by law makers and lawkeepers.

Given that background, what we should marvel at is the ongoing resilience of Black people who excel despite these conditions.

There are many more convenient whataboutisms.

Some create false equivalences: “What about the Indigenous people who were killing each other?” As if internecine warfare is the same as the violence of colonization.

Others are irrelevant. “What about how women are treated in the Middle East?” As if that should impact how Canada treats its women from different backgrounds. “What about FGM?”

“What about slavery in Africa’s past?”

“What about Irish history here?”

All these topics can be addressed in detail — many have been on these pages and elsewhere — but it’s never enough to satisfy the next person who doesn’t care to educate themself but feels entitled to answers to the same questions, again and again.

Sometimes, however, legitimate questions on context, holding the powerful to account and challenging falsehoods can be falsely labelled as whataboutism.

Waging international war on the pretext of rescuing local populations from human rights violations, for instance: “What about the human rights violations you will enact there? What is your accountability?”

A political party claiming to be a friend of Indigenous people: “What about your record on pipelines or policies on access to drinking water? What about your leader asking Indigenous people to leave their reserves?”

A person who uses “race is a social construct” as a tool to dismiss the existence of racism: “What about” — and there is literally an embarrassing richness of data to pick from to show the real life, detrimental, even fatal effects of racism.

True whataboutism, however, is just a trolling tactic, a means to deflect from the original point and dictate the terms of discussion.

To stay on point, the best answer to such a “what about” is: “Don’t change the subject.”

Source: Shree Paradkar: Whataboutism is just a trolling tactic — and it deserves to be shut down

White privilege and an exploration of uncomfortable truths

Good explanations and discussion by Denise O’Neil Green, Ryerson’s vice-president for equity and community inclusion, and Rinaldo Walcott, director of the University of Toronto’s women and gender studies institute:

In Philadelphia, two Black men are arrested by police for simply sitting in a Starbucks. In Australia, the pop star Halsey goes online to vent about the lack of hotel shampoos for ethnic hair. On Twitter, an exchange between two Canadian politicians — one white, one Black — sparks a national debate over issues of race and privilege.

Such stories are increasingly making waves around the world and each new headline seems to generate a flurry of tweets, thinkpieces and conversations about the notion of white privilege. After percolating in academic circles for decades, the term “white privilege” has found mainstream currency in recent years; it has also attracted both repudiation and support.

For many people, they are now engaging with the idea for the first time and asking: “What is white privilege anyway?” This week, hundreds of people will gather at Ryerson University to explore this question and more at Canada’s first white privilege conference, an event that has been held annually in the United States since 1999.

To address some of the basic ideas around white privilege, the Star spoke with two scholars who will be attending the conference: Denise O’Neil Green, Ryerson’s vice-president for equity and community inclusion, and Rinaldo Walcott, director of the University of Toronto’s women and gender studies institute.

Both have spent much of their careers thinking about white privilege and the ways in which it shapes our world. Here’s what they had to say:

Let’s start with the basic question. How do you define white privilege?

Green: In very basic terms, it is an unearned benefit or “perk” that one receives simply because of their skin colour. A more multi-layered way of looking at it is that white privilege operates in terms of a system that benefits particular groups over others. It’s a system structure that all of us operate in — whether we’re aware of it or not.

Walcott: For me, what the term “white privilege” seeks to allow people to understand is the way in which societies, like the one that we live in, are default white societies. Everywhere we look in these societies, all of the ways in which people are accorded, important, respected and so on centre around the idea that anything that is white North American or white European is the absolute standard to reach.

But what that means is that many people who are not white can never, ever achieve that standard, and many people who are simply born white are assumed to have reached that standard, even if they themselves can’t reach it either. So that’s what we begin to call “white privilege”; the ways in which we live in a society where some people, because of the accident of their birth, can enter that society — its institutions, government, education, universities, even the holidays we celebrate — and participate at levels and in ways that other people are unable to.

Can you think of some examples of white privilege in action, both on the micro and macro level?

Walcott: Let’s say (a Black person) enters a department store and they want to buy a pair of pants in the men’s section and a T-shirt for their child in the children’s section. They will make sure to pay for those pants in the men’s section and then go to the children’s section. Meanwhile, you see many white people who have piles of clothes, they walk all through the store and all kinds of floors, and they don’t have to think about it. The reason we pay before going to another floor is because we know that the possibility of being accused of shoplifting exists for us.

That’s an example of white privilege. When you don’t have to think about how you move through your everyday life, worrying about whether or not you’re going to be stopped by security or police. Non-white, Black and Indigenous people in Canada have to think about that all the time.

Green: On a macro level, unfortunately, it’s the way particular groups are treated by the police versus others. The CBC just came out with their own statistics (showing) that in particular areas of the country where you have a high population of Indigenous or Black Canadian citizens, they find themselves disproportionately impacted by the police in a very different and sometimes fatal way.

Another macro aspect is the diversity on boards; they still continue to be predominantly white and predominantly male. Probably another example is one’s name; if you have a racialized-sounding name, or a less English sounding name, then you’re less likely to be called back for a job interview.

So those are examples of privilege that for some can be very invisible, but is very visible for many of us.

A lot of people deny that white privilege exists. How do you understand that denial and where it comes from?

Walcott: When white working-class people hear “privilege,” they often think you’re talking about the individual material benefits that some people have. And yes, of course, a part of that is individual material benefits but when we’re talking about white privilege, what we’re really talking about is (how) the possibility of a white person being able to make it out of the working class is many, many times higher than, say, a Black person or Indigenous person.

When we talk about white privilege, we’re also talking about a body of ideas where even white working-class people can understand themselves to be more important or contributing more to society. So white privilege is not just about individuals being able to accumulate things for themselves, it’s also about a way of understanding the world — and that cuts across class.

Green: What I think is very interesting about white privilege, and just privilege in general, is you never really get to know what’s happening unless you walk in another person’s shoes.

I’ll give a personal example. My son was unfortunately hit by a drunk driver and as a result, he ended up needing to use a wheelchair. That experience has absolutely opened my eyes to how the world privileges those who are fully able-bodied: restaurants, institutions, buildings not having elevators, buildings not having ramps. That’s something that people can get and understand more readily because it’s something they can see.

White privilege operates in the same way. What happened with my son had a very profound effect on me, but it also helped me to greater understand how systems and white privilege and other privileges impact our day-to-day lives … and how the world sees us and invites us in. Or not invite us in.

A common reaction when someone’s white privilege is pointed out to them is defensiveness, the feeling that they’ve been accused of racism. Is pointing out someone’s white privilege the same as pointing out their racism?

Walcott: No, it’s not. Of course sometimes pointing out white privilege is about pointing out a set of racist practices or behaviours, but pointing out someone’s white privilege is not always about calling them racist. What you’re trying to point to is the way in which that person can do something — or have an experience — because of their whiteness that is not available to other people.

If we understand white privilege as embedded in the structures and institutions of society, then we can’t assume that everybody who benefits from it is actually engaged in racist practices. People are simply going about the ways in which they have been taught to live a life in this society. That is part of the reason why the idea of white privilege rubs some people the wrong way, because they don’t fully understand that the way in which they’re doing things will accrue to them a set of privileges.

I’d like for you to address the perspective that white privilege is an inherently racist concept and talking about it is racist. How do you respond to that?

Walcott: It’s wrong, absolutely wrong, because white privilege is not about demarcating a particular racial group. It’s pointing to ways in which an already demarcated racial group — in fact, a group of people who have historically marked other people as “not white” — has, through violence and other means, built a society in which they accrued the most privilege.

But more importantly, when people make the claim that to talk about white privilege is racist against white people, what we’re seeing is an attempt to hijack the language of civil rights and human rights and to turn that language in on itself … to take the progressive language that is supposed to push back against forms of oppression and use it to actually continue those forms of oppression.

Green: There are actually a lot of white scholars who have not only developed the concept, but explored the concept and done a lot of work on the concept of a white privilege and whiteness. So I don’t necessarily agree that the term in and of itself is racist.

For me, I see it as a way to bring to light something that can be extremely uncomfortable to discuss. I do agree with that — it’s very uncomfortable to discuss — but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to shy away from it.

What do you hope will come out of the upcoming white privilege conference?

Green: What I envision is that it will start the conversation in a very constructive, intentional way and get individuals to begin to look at various aspects of privilege that we operate in and how they impact all of us — looking at that, taking in this information, and seeing how it can be applied to their own personal circumstances. This is a means of helping us move the needle in the conversation around inclusion, and being able to truly make Canada an inclusive society.

Source: White privilege and an exploration of uncomfortable truths

Shree Paradkar’s related column:

Some privileges exist in the realm of emotions: It’s a privilege to be alive. It’s a privilege to live in a free country. It’s a privilege to write for this paper.

Then there are privileges that are not visible to, or acknowledged by, those that enjoy them: racial privilege, ethnic privilege, caste privilege, skin colour privilege, class privilege.

White privilege is a term that riles people who don’t understand it, which leads us to another academic term: “white fragility” — but that’s for another day.

I’ve enjoyed class, caste and skin-colour privilege in Asian countries. In India, as with my uncle, I was a “first-class” citizen. When I was looking for a house in Singapore, my real estate agent told me it was a “good thing” I was a light-skinned Indian “or nobody would give you a place.” In Canada, I have sufficient education/class privilege to compensate for the loss of racial privilege.

As someone who has walked both sides of the identity-based privilege line, I can attest to the invisibility of privilege when you enjoy it. I see the genuine blindness to its existence, but also the wilful ignorance of it. I recognize the defensive denial of this racial privilege because acceptance would challenge an enduring and implicit belief in white superiority as being foundational to Canada.

White privilege is a neutral academic observation. It doesn’t mean all white people are rich. It doesn’t mean all white people didn’t have to work hard for their success. It doesn’t imply all white people are racist. It does not attribute to an individual the actions of their race, or damn them for it.

White privilege just means that a white person in the exact same circumstance as a non-white person is far likelier to find success and growth. That means being white accrues some unearned benefits to an individual. “White” here depends on the current definition of it; not so long ago, Irish people were called the n-word on this continent. In the early 20th century Canadians from Ukraine and Eastern Europe were imprisoned in internment camps just based on their origin. Many, but not all, would be considered white today.

If the “white” race was created from an economic incentive to keep “Black” Africans low in the pecking order, or, in other words, if “white” was a term created to distinguish a set of people from “Black,” it’s obvious that a society that privileges whites least favours Blacks.

White privilege comes from the social value automatically ascribed to people just because of the colour of their skin. Add markers such as gender and wealth and education, and the value of white goes up exponentially.

Skin colour is the unkindest measure of a person’s worth and desirability. It’s a stamp branded on one’s body, one that cannot be covered or erased, so that people may be scrutinized and judged at a glance: whether they deserve to be rented a house or a key to the café washrooms or whether the mere sight of them is threatening enough to deserve instant death.

From what I’ve seen, the indulgent response to loud drunken white boys on public transit is quite different from the recoiling, recriminating looks shot at a sober Black man speaking somewhat loudly into his phone in a train.

Within whiteness, how closely you conform to British culture or physical type determines your chance of success. Once you meet those racial and cultural criteria, the ladder is yours to climb.

Meanwhile, the rest of the people are left looking at the ladder, realizing the game is already rigged.

Source: Shree Paradkar: White privilege is an academic observation, not an accusation

The foundational misogyny of incels overlaps with racism | Paradkar

Hard to understand and comprehend the extent and nature of such hatred:

The more things change, the more they stay the same, sometimes dangerously so.

In all the discussions around Incels or involuntary celibates — a term violently wrested out of an obscure internet subculture and thrown into mainstream lexicon after last week’s van rampage in Toronto — a less talked about aspect is the overlap of its foundational misogyny with racism.

There’s a reason for that. It’s complicated.

“When you have these communities that don’t have coherent ideologies on a lot of things, they’re united in their misogyny, not necessarily united on the racial stuff,” says Arshy Mann, a reporter for Xtra, a Toronto-based LGBTQ magazine, who has been surfing the larger “manosphere” subculture for a decade and researching Incels for the past six months.

Taking a virtual gander through some of these Incels threads is like entering the byzantine paths of a twisted mind. Whatever adjectives cross your mind, “healthy” is unlikely to be one of them.

Mann has come across East Asian men upset that white men have an easier time sleeping with East Asian women. He has come across brown men who fetishize whiteness.

Often, the racism is specifically anti-Black, he says.

“All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger,” says the now-deleted Facebook post on the wall of Alek Minassian, the man charged with murders after the Toronto van rampage.

Rodger, the half-Asian 22-year-old Santa Barbara, Calif., killer of six people (and then himself) in 2014, hailed as some sort of patron saint for the Incels, was so fixated on whiteness he bleached his hair and fantasized about tall, blonde girls. He saw their rejection as a rejection of his non-white parts. So he reserved in his so-called manifesto particular venom for boys of colour who got attention from white girls.

“How could an inferior, ugly Black boy be able to get a white girl and not me? I am beautiful, and I am half white myself. I am descended from British aristocracy. He is descended from slaves. I deserve it more …”

Rodger’s rage wasn’t reserved just for Black people, though.

“How could an inferior Mexican guy be able to date a white blonde girl, while I was still suffering as a lonely virgin?”

“How could an ugly Asian attract the attention of a white girl, while a beautiful Eurasian like myself never had any attention from them?”

While experts caution against assuming that it was Minassian who authored his Facebook post, its content offers a window into this miserable world.

“The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys!” it says.

Chads are the attractive white men who get all the attention from Stacys, usually white women. But if Chad is the hated white guy in this warped world then “Tyrone” is the Black Chad, even more to be reviled.

Yet, there is a large non-white, or “ethnicels” participation on these forums.

“A significant number of these people who self describe as Incels identify as non-white,” says Mann. “I see a lot of South Asian and east Asian men and boys — or people of south Asian and east Asian origins.”

The currycels and ricecels.

And, of course, there are nazicels.

“There’s a real overlap with other parts of the alt-right,” says Mann. “The “manosphere” more broadly is an entry point into more racist, anti-Semitic and white nationalist ways of thinking.

“Because these are parallel subcultures there is a lot of movement from one to the other.”

On one incels.me thread, there is a discussion on “should Incels and alt-right form an unholy alliance?”

Not everyone is on board automatically. “They get some pushback,” says Mann. At the same time, he says, it’s a topic placed “within the window of legitimate discussion.”

On that same thread, a poster asks: should anti-miscegenation laws be enforced globally or should prostitution be made legal around the world?

It’s difficult to take seriously what appears to be juvenile jockeying around, a venting if you like, a play for who is worse off, who is uglier, who has it tougher — until there’s an actual body count.

“Of course, not all of them are violent,” says Mann. But the groups create a permission structure to engage in violence, he says. “They’re explicitly saying this is a good thing to do … It’s a way to prove their masculinity to engage in public violence.”

In one discussion on Minassian, a poster calling himself “blackcel” says, “While I do not condone killing or rape, I would be a lot more proud of a methodical Incel serial killer who carefully picked his victims and possibly raped them before death.”

via The foundational misogyny of incels overlaps with racism | The Star

Toronto police reaction to Marci Ien shows woeful ignorance of racism basics | Shree Paradkar

Good commentary on the difference between systemic and individual racism:

A predictable quality about air bubbles is that they always rise to the surface.

So it is with the light weight of ignorance.

Late last week, a senior Toronto police officer went on Twitter to dispute journalist Marci Ien’s account in the Globe and Mail of race playing a factor in being pulled over for the third time in eight months, and this time in her own driveway. She described the subsequent and now all-too-familiar fear and uncertainty and anxiety and fatigue of DWB, or Driving While Black.

She said she did nothing wrong, and was not given a ticket.

“You failed to stop at a stop sign,” a tweet by Staff Supt. Mario Di Tommaso read in part. “It was dark. Your race was not visible on the video and only became apparent when you stepped out of the vehicle in your driveway.”

His views were echoed by Deputy Chief Shawna Coxon.

“We are accountable,” she wrote on Twitter. “The whole event (incl. the traffic infraction) is on camera. The ethnicity of the driver is not visible until after she was pulled over, when she exits the car.”

Then Toronto Police Association chief Mike McCormack swooped in with a spectacular bit of you-asked-for-it-ism, tweeting an excerpt from a 2005 Globe and Mail interview of Ien where she said she liked speeding.

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She said this in 2005. Therefore she must deserve being pulled over three times in 2017-18.

Unsurprisingly, they led the conversation down the path to square one: Was it racism or not?

What is worth noting is that a police force that talks of building relations with the Black community and setting up “sensitivity training” remains out of its depth even with the basics of racism.

Racism isn’t just about intent. It’s also about outcomes.

Racism can occur without anyone having to be a racist — or without someone being actively prejudiced against a person of colour.

A Black person could be stopped five times by five different police officers, without any officer consciously disliking Black people.

For having the courage to share her story, Ien is now placed in the centre of a circle of doubt, a position that so many people of colour find themselves in when they speak of their experiences.

Disrespected, based on her account, by the cop who stopped her.

Disbelieved, humiliated and dismissed by the cops who challenged her story.

When police spokesperson Mark Pugash told the Star, “Ms. Ien has made some very serious allegations and we would encourage her to file a complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director,” he means she should initiate a process that would hinge on proving whether the individual officer who stopped her was racist.

Nowhere in Ien’s piece is the allegation that the man who stopped her was racist.

But Pugash, and indeed his senior brass, depressingly show no understanding of systemic racism; in this case, a system not set up to mitigate a bundle of experiences that belong to the umbrella of racism.

What is being asked of Ien is to ignore the countless experiences and stories of humiliation, and manhandling by police. Ignore the needless deaths, some captured on videos that have scarred so many.

Ignore all those individual stories that stitch together to show a pattern of racial profiling and prove this particular incident to be racist.

In her book So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo says, “Those who demand the smoking gun of a racial slur or swastika or burning cross before they believe that an individual encounter with the police might be about race are ignoring what we know and what the numbers are bearing out …We are being targeted.”

Data from traffic stops found that Ottawa police are more likely to pull over disproportionate numbers of Black (and Middle Eastern) drivers.

Black people are three times more likely to be street checked in Halifax, according to information released by the Halifax Regional Police.

In Toronto, the seven-year long Black Experience Project found 79 per cent of Black men between the ages of 25 and 44 have been stopped by police in public places.

How Black people (and Indigenous people and other marginalized people) experience police is different from how people with specific status of race and age and wealth experience police. How we all experience police at the point of help is different from how we do at the point of criminalization.

“The power and corruption that enable police brutality put all citizens, of every race, at risk. But it does not put us at risk equally, and the numbers bear that out,” writes Oluo.

An individualistic society lead by those with status whose interests the police uphold has no impetus for changing the system.

And the wilfully ignorant, they go along for the ride.

via Toronto police reaction to Marci Ien shows woeful ignorance of racism basics | Toronto Star

Shree Paradkar: How anti-racism town hall gave hate-mongers an outsized place at the table

Basic civility necessary condition for discussion and debate. Disruptive tactics, whether on the right or left, are hardly conducive to greater understanding. As someone who is looking for ways to include different perspectives on immigration and related issues, a reminder of the limits when basic civility is not present:

An anti-racism town hall in east Toronto last Friday that was hijacked by a bunch of bigots is a prime example of why the “listen to both sides” argument or the urging to “be reasonable” don’t work.

Activists say they warned the provincial Liberals who organized the town hall at Grant African Methodist Episcopal Church on Gerrard St. E. at Woodbine Ave. that it was going to be derailed; their social media chatter showed white supremacists were planning to gate crash the event.

On the panel were Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism Michael Coteau, Beaches—East York MPP Arthur Potts and Beaches—East York MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith. But it was the presence on the panel of Mississauga—Erin Mills MP Iqra Khalid who introduced the anti-Islamophobia M-103 motion that was the lightning rod for the likes of Paul Fromm, Lynn Redden, Eric Brazau and Meir Weinstein.

These are representative of a group of people blessed with extraordinary penetrating vision that allows them to see someone you and I might take for a bright woman with achiever’s confidence as the ultimate evil infiltrator of political Canada, bent on blanketing the country under Sharia law.

An anti-racism activist who was at the event, who tracks far-right hate groups on social media, says these people have appeared on his radar in at least seven demonstrations in Toronto in the past 12 months (not counting their protests outside Masjid Toronto near City Hall.)

He asked for anonymity for fear of being targeted by these groups that include the Canadian Association for Free Expression, Council of Conservative Citizens, the Jewish Defense League, the Europe-based PEGIDA, the Proud Boys and the Suffragettes against Silence.

Group memberships are fluid, he says. Fromm, for instance, leads the Canadian Association for Free Expression and also serves as a director on the Council of Conservative Citizens.

“It’s important to inform readers that these people are just as fanatical as the so-called radical Muslims they claim to hate,” the activist who is with Solidarity Against Fascism Everywhere (SAFE) told me.

Based on video footage and accounts of attendees, it was clear their presence not only coarsened the discussion, it gutted it.

The organizers announced the rules. Anyone with questions was to raise their hand and write their question down on a card given by a volunteer.

But the gate crashers began shouting out their questions.

Khalid made her opening remarks explaining the basis of M-103, and said, “It is OK to be white, it’s OK to be black, it’s OK to be yellow or to be any colour… because that is the Canada that I call my home, that is the Canada that we collectively built.”

But soon enough someone hollered, “It’s a back door to Sharia law. That’s what you’re trying to bring into the country.”

Redden, representing Suffragettes Against Silence, shouted: “Women have been voting for 100 years in this country,” neatly omitting the fact it was only white women who won that right. Not Indigenous women. Not Asian women.

At another point she yelled, “One thing you didn’t cover sister, is about women. What about the culture where you come from?”

Then, quite idiotically, “Do you think those women protesting in Iran are Islamophobic? You’re damn right they are.” As if those women are protesting their religion and not government coercion.

Despite entreaties to act like adults, a disturber known only as Lawrence, who activists say is a regular at racist demonstrations in Toronto shouted, “You are a fraud. You are a fraud.”

A little later, someone at the back is heard on video saying, “Is the purpose of M-103 to promote racism against Jews?” It didn’t matter that Khalid earlier had said hate crimes against Jewish people were unacceptable.

And when she said, “The Muslim community. It is so pluralistic, it’s so diverse,” the rest of what she was saying was drowned out by loud jeers.

The town hall that was held to discuss how the community could take a stand against “hate, intolerance and discrimination” in all its forms, accommodated all of it. The trolls were a minority, but they had an outsized seat at the table where their views should have been marginalized. Police cruisers were outside, but they were not asked to lead anyone out.

Although the loudmouths who came with nothing constructive were allowed to break the established rules to present their questions, although they were given special treatment, it was not enough.

It did not matter that Khalid was speaking in the calmest of tones, and Coteau was striking a placatory tone.

The hate-mongers continued to shout and interrupt and disrupt, leaving people who come to these events to feel whole further broken.

“To see such hate so close was jarring, upsetting and certainly made my blood boil. I can’t imagine experiencing such hate as a minority,” wrote organizer Erskine-Smith in a Facebook post after.

Yet, these minorities are always expected to faultlessly greet hate with grace, whether the racism is overt, passive-aggressive or delivered in dog-whistle words.

That calmness does nothing to disrupt racism.

Tone matters to those who seek to preserve their own comfort, to perhaps feel sorry for those they think are oppressed, to mentally pat themselves on the back for that charitable thought and move on.

Racism as feel-good balm. That’s what people seek when they ask for restraint.

Source: Shree Paradkar: How anti-racism town hall gave hate-mongers an outsized place at the table

Trudeau with his Indian culture overkill came across as patronizing | Shree Paradkar

It seems like everyone is piling on the gaffe-strewn trip of PM Trudeau to India. Paradkar’s is one of the best:

If apparel oft proclaims the man, then Polonius who uttered those words in Hamlet would have quite literally given our prime minister a dressing down this week. From the viewpoint of the Shakespearean character, Justin Trudeau would have broken the basic rules: his clothes were as costly as money could buy, but gaudy, too, proclaiming him unserious.

A charitable supposition would be that maybe — just maybe — since Canada is barely a blip on Indian consciousness, Trudeau decided to lean on his celebrity status to make an impression.

That much he did. So groan-inducing has Trudeau’s visit to India appeared thus far that it merits being rated as a cliched Bollywood drama.Over-the-top sherwanis and kurta pyjamas, Bhangra sequences, overly choreographed family time overdoing the namastes.

Then a touch of villainous melodrama in the form of a mistaken invitation to Jaspal Atwal, a man convicted of attempting to kill an Indian cabinet minister on Vancouver Island in 1986. Atwal was also charged, but not convicted, in connection with a 1985 attack on Ujjal Dosanjh, a former Liberal health minister and former premier of British Columbia.

That faux pas for which the Liberals apologized would be a terrible development during any official visit. On this one, it gave lie to Trudeau and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s appeasement of the Punjab chief minister’s concerns of official Canadian support for the Sikh separatist movement.

The demand for a separate nation of Khalistan is an issue that has little support among Sikhs in India. It does not enjoy unanimous support here, either.

The concerns were fair: Trudeau’s appearance at a Sikh parade in Toronto last year with yellow and blue Khalistan flags in the background and posters of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale — the leader of the Khalistani movement — was not looked upon kindly in India.

Nor would Canada be sympathetic to a visiting foreign leader who posed with Quebec separatists.

Many of the poor first impressions would have been avoided had planners simply switched Day 6 to Day 1. Trudeau, finally wearing a business suit, met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday, got that equally cringe-inducing, but in this case gratefully received, trademark bear hug from Modi, and was received with state honours.

Was there really no adviser in our PMO or the Foreign Office who said before the trip, “Meet Modi first. Go easy on the clothes. Wrap up the visit in 3 days. Be prepared to deal with the separatist issue”?

Earlier in the month, an expert told Global News, “There’s no question that the whole Khalistan question will overshadow this trip.”

Then an unnamed government official told the news outlet it was not expected to be a big issue.

If he had a chance to counsel Trudeau, Omer Aziz, a former adviser at the Department of Global Affairs in the Liberal government, says he would have said, “It’s going to come up and you need to make sure you know what you’re going to say.”

Before going to India, Aziz would have suggested Trudeau make a speech in support of united India and draw comparisons to separatist movements here.

Trudeau’s trip was billed as one to bolster economic and cultural connections. Because Canada’s minorities of colour are consigned to hyphenated labels, and never viewed as simply Canadian, Canadian leaders end up viewing foreign policy through the lens of diasporic politics.

And so, Indo-Canadians and Sikh-Canadians have come to expect images of a leader’s visit to New Delhi, the requisite visit to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, perhaps a Hindu temple or two.

But carry it too far and the symbolism of “we care” can become tiresomely reductive.

Religious and cultural observances such as a cloth on the head may be seen as a sign of respect. Wearing clothing from the host nation could be seen as a bit of charming politicking on the sidelines of trade deals and policy development.

As a main dish, overshadowing a $1 billion trade deal, it’s unpalatable. Neither Indians nor Indo-Canadians are quite so unsophisticated as to not detect being patronized.

Aziz sees this trip as evidence that governments should hire and empower more staffers of colour who understand the complexities of the world. “Literally all this was avoidable,” he said.

For all the talk of Trudeau’s diverse cabinet, behind the scenes decision makers, staffers and bureaucrats remain monochromatic.

“I think that frankly minorities, brown folks, people of colour should say this is enough,” says Aziz. “It’s time that millennials (like me) said either you’re going to share power with us or we’re going to mobilize and you’re going to suffer at the ballot box.

“We’re not going to be treated as any one’s vote bank.

“We don’t need you talking down to us. We don’t need you to begin every single speech saying diversity is our strength. What we need is at that beginning point of our conversation we need to be treated as equals, with respect. Then we can have a conversation about policy.”

via Trudeau with his Indian culture overkill came across as patronizing | Toronto Star

How Cheddar Man shatters accepted views of immigration | Shree Paradkar

The complexities of migration, history and identity:

You’ve got to confess it’s worthy of chuckles and cackles.

A made-for-Internet scientific discovery that at the same time strikes at the core of modern racial strife. An announcement Wednesday that DNA tests on the oldest complete skeleton in Britain, that heart and ancestral home of many white people around the world, suggest that the first modern Briton was blue-eyed, yes, but very dark-skinned and curly-haired.

The Cheddar Man, named thus for the English village of Cheddar where his skeleton was discovered in 1903, is about 10,000 years old.

To add salt to a supremacist’s wound, scientists said that the genes for lighter skin likely came from, you got it, immigrants from the Middle East.

Oh snap.

Dark-skinned native Britons and light-skinned immigrants.

It’s like reaching into the eye of a storm and fitting it with sunglasses.

Disorienting.

Those brave lads and fair maidens on glorious historical British dramas on TV — descendents of immigrants.

The image of God himself, majestic, kindly old white guy in white robes with flowing white beard — fashioned on immigrants.

Imagine being Nigel Farage, the former leader of the U.K. Independence Party, who proudly stood in front of a Nazi-era-like poster with the slogan, “Breaking point: the EU has failed us all,” and a photo of a winding lineup of migrants of colour.

Now he would have to change that slogan to “Breaking point: I come from them. I am them.”

Such horror.

No wonder there were hopeful comments online about Cheddar Man such as, “Who’s to say the person’s not a foreign visitor” or a call to index this as “fake news,” or the insistence that this was a finding driven by a social justice agenda to force poor victimized British people into accepting mass migration.

The Cheddar Man, 10,000 years old though he may be, absolutely has bearing on contemporary debates on race and migration.

This discovery of a dark-skinned original Briton doesn’t put the race genie back into the bottle in an equalizing “we’re all immigrants” kind of way.

On the contrary, in exposing the racial fluidity of Britons, Cheddar Man delivers a sucker punch to toxic ideas that drive the white power mobs who in turn fuel xenophobic policies. It reveals the basis of their quick codes equating skin colour to valour or danger as nothing but fear-based fiction.

Scientists have long argued that race is not a biological concept. People of one race — or at least people who can be grouped together with similar physical traits — are not genetically homogenous.

The concept of races evolved as a way of justifying slavery and to maintain an economy founded on slave labour; it was easier to rationalize the brutalization of the “savage” than to face the unconscionable alternative.

From then on, it continues to be a favoured tool to demonize “the other.”

Around the world, oppressor groups have always found identity a useful tool with which to assert themselves as inherently superior, as “natural” holders of power, be it on the basis of race, gender, sexual identity, religious identity, tribal identity or caste.

That race isn’t real does not mean racism isn’t real.

Anti-Black racism is so widespread and global in scope, that I wish scientists would hurry up and create a bust out of the fossils of the 750,000-year old Peking Man, for instance, and in keeping with the Out of Africa theory, definitively establish Blackness as the root ancestry of Chinese people.

Such knowledge might have given the Hubei Provincial Museum in Wuhan pause before it displayed a photography exhibit that juxtaposed wild African animals with Black African people.

I wish they were able create a bust that would depict an original “Indian Man,” one who existed before the Aryans and Dravidians did 5,000 years ago, as black-skinned — darker the better. Such knowledge might inject a modicum of humility before privileged Indians wreak racist violence on African students and caste-related violence on Dalits.

When nations look to figure out where they’re going next, it makes sense sometimes to turn back and look at the past for clues.

Being reminded of a shared heritage with people they consider coming from “s—hole” countries, might give Western leaders, including a certain U.S. president, a few pointers as they ponder immigration policies.

These leaders might read data helpfully put forward by Arvind Magesan, associate professor of economics, University of Calgary, in The Conversation. That might help them discover that although their own policies play a part in making those countries “s—holes,” those immigrants continue to be better educated, better employed (although lower-paid) than those of, shall we say, “Norway-like” countries.

This is one way the discovery of Cheddar Man’s skin colour could have the power to force aside the ahistorical lens with which we view our fellow humans.

At least for a few days.

via How Cheddar Man shatters accepted views of immigration | Toronto Star

A reckoning on Black people and marijuana is a long time coming: Paradkar

Important aspect with compelling arrest stats:

As the banned substance begins to burgeon into a multi-billion-dollar industry, the once-petty crooks, many of them Black, with the grassroots know-how of how to run the business and who could become contributing members of society, are once again being shut out because they have criminal records.

The government has talked about amnesty for past marijuana crimes that would mean erasure of those records. But it is unlikely to take any action until after legalization — and already, others with money have plunked their grubby fingers in this pie to make more money.

This includes, of course, that shameless hypocrite and former chief of multiple police forces Julian Fantino, who helped passed into law Bill C-10 that included mandatory minimum sentences on people for having as few as six plants.

On Friday, The Canadian Press reported that a group of frustrated lawyers in Toronto is considering a class-action lawsuit against the government to push it into granting cannabis amnesty.

They should just do it.

Some advocates are also seeking an apology.

A reckoning of the unfairness with which anything related to marijuana has been treated is a long time coming.

Even the usage of the word marijuana — which comes from Mexico—came into being during the Prohibition Era to warn off Americans by appealing to their xenophobic sensibilities with the suggestion that it could lead to the intermingling of races.

In Canada, too, marijuana has proven handy as a system of racial control. In July last year, the Star published an analysis of 10 years of Toronto police data — including two years when Fantino was police chief — to show that Black people with no history of criminal convictions were three times more likely to be arrested for possession of small amounts of marijuana than white people.

The users are Black and white at about equal rates, but the people behind bars are disproportionately Black.

More recently, the American experience shows that even in states where the plant is legalized, while overall numbers of arrests have plummeted, Black people are still arrested at higher rates.

Four times higher in Washington, D.C., 10 times higher in Alaska.

From Richard Nixon’s so-called “war on drugs” to Ronald Reagan’s drug war to Bill Clinton’s “tough on crime” laws, the crackdown on drugs has always been an assault on race.

The scholar Michelle Alexander points out in her seminal book The New Jim Crow that Nixon’s White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman recalled that Nixon “emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the Blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to.”

The Reagan administration created an indelible link between drug abuse and Black people, she wrote in HuffPost. It hired staff whose responsibility it was “to publicize inner-city crack babies, crack mothers, crack whores, and drug-related violence.”

Clinton’s policies wrought the highest increase in number of people imprisoned.

But a change was coming. The face of drug users in the public imagination was getting lighter-skinned. Think Breaking Bad. Ozark.

“Changing attitudes and policies became possible in large part because the media was no longer saturated with images of Black and brown drug dealers,” Alexander said at a Drug Policy Reform conference in 2017. “The colour of drug users and dealers got whiter in the public imagination, and so we, as a nation, got nicer.”

Nicer in Canada would mean erasing criminal records without a fight, the flawed structure of the RCMP’s national criminal record database notwithstanding. That database can show whether someone has a record for possessing an illegal drug, but not necessarily which one, according to a report in Global News.

“That means that erasing marijuana possession (or trafficking) records could turn into a painstaking, manual process, involving searches in court and police archives across the country.”

No reason why people imprisoned for petty crimes should pay for the carelessness of those trafficking in power.

via A reckoning on Black people and marijuana is a long time coming | Toronto Star

Trump’s ‘s—hole countries’ remark casts remarkable light on immigration policies: Shree Paradkar

Implications of Paradkar’s arguments is that essentially we should have a completely open door rather than managed immigration programs.

And rather than only commentary, some numbers with respect to the Haitians in Canada who were obliged to leave after the 2014 change, versus regularizing their status, would be helpful:

However, the outrage also reveals a society more eager to be scandalized by the President’s words than upset by government actions that harm those same lives for whom they are purporting to demand respect.

Trump’s words on Haiti are particularly galling, given what its citizens have endured and American and Canadian modern roles in undermining that nation’s democracy.

Trump pulled the plug on a humanitarian program that allowed some 60,000 Haitians to remain in the U.S. under special immigration status while their homeland recovered from devastating disasters.

Canada cancelled its own program of giving Haitians special status and began asking Haitians to pack their bags in 2014 under Stephen Harper. That cancellation was completed in 2016, under Justin Trudeau with little fanfare.

Yet, Trudeau is the good guy of the global immigration crisis. Remember that viral tweet that was so celebrated after Trump moved to ban immigrants from Muslim-majority countries? “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada”

Last year, poor Haitians who took Canadian goodness seriously, trying to cross unguarded points from the U.S. into Canada had the lowest acceptance rate — at 17 per cent — for asylum claimants between February and October.

Individual Canadians have been generous after the Haitian earthquake. More recently, Montrealers have been moved to help Haitian asylum seekers.

Still, the overall lack of indignation over the continued rejection of Haitians suggests a Canadian comfort with discriminatory attitudes so long as they’re not overt, Trump style.

via Trump’s ‘s—hole countries’ remark casts remarkable light on immigration policies | Toronto Star

Racist cyberattacks at U of T highlight barriers to addressing anti-Blackness: Shree Paradkar

Good long read by Paradkar on the ongoing use of the n-word among some at UofT:

Justice Huyer of BSA said, “There is a list of penalties (in the code of student conduct) that was not created by us. We demand they be upheld. That’s what is acceptable for us. And going forward we will accept nothing but a safe space for Black people on campus and to do better in terms of dealing with cases of racism.”

An adequate space where Black students can feel supported is one of the other demands of the BSA, which is also seeking funding toward an anti-Black racism campaign and for the National Society of Black Engineers program, which has no physical space at all. Its members are contactable only by email, Huyer said.

“We have LGBTQ positive spaces that have signs and invitations,” she said. “We have a First Nations House for Indigenous students to come together.

“But the Black Students’ Association, we have the third-largest student association on campus. We have a cubicle that is semi-private with glass windows in a basement that can hold approximately five people and we serve hundreds.”

The students say when they tried to raise the other issues at the meeting, the faculty didn’t engage with them. “We were just met with blanks stares. And kind of silence,” said Mark.

Then the faculty suggested another meeting, a move Mark sees as a “derailing tactic” to tire them out.

“There certainly have been discussions around (office) space issues for Black students,” Welsh said. “I think these are things we are talking about right now.”

It’s past time to still be in the discussion phase of these changes. And the university could extend some of its own solutions used for other marginalized groups.

At an orientation for international students on campus, the complainant who is anonymous, says, “We were taught about how the university is an LGBTQ-friendly space and we were made very aware of the fact that we needed to use neutral pronouns, that we needed to not be transphobic, not be queer phobic because a lot of our backgrounds are countries where homophobia is unfortunately the culture.

“There shouldn’t be a reason they can’t do that as well with anti-Blackness,” she said.

There shouldn’t be a reason they can’t do that with all students. An Asian Canadian, a South Asian Canadian and a white Canadian were involved in the N-word and digital Blackface messages, she said.

“We know anti-Black racism exists on our campuses and I know there is more that we can do to address it,” said Welsh. “We need to continue to listen — and hear — what are the concerns of our students, our faculty and our staff.”

“More than anything else, students are saying, we want to see change,” said Bain.

“We’re asking for something fundamental, something concrete. We want to see the institution itself start looking at the way it functions on a day-to-day basis.”

via Racist cyberattacks at U of T highlight barriers to addressing anti-Blackness | Toronto Star