Urback: François Legault’s nationalist brand can’t handle the words ‘systemic racism’

Another commentaries:

The coroner’s report into the preventable death of Atikamekw woman Joyce Echaquan in a Joliette, Que., hospital last year is one long, illustrated definition of “systemic racism.” It describes a system that functions off implicit assumptions (this Indigenous woman is agitated, maybe she’s on drugs) and differential treatment (let’s just strap her to the bed; no need to give her options), all of which, according to coroner Gehane Kamel, led to Ms. Echaquan’s death.

The same forces of structural discrimination and bias killed 45-year-old Brian Sinclair of the Sagkeeng First Nation, who languished in a Winnipeg emergency room for 34 hours with a treatable infection in 2008. And they explain why staff at a Northwest Territories care home assumed Aklavik elder Hugh Papik was drunk when he was actually having a massive stroke in 2016.

Individual acts of anti-Indigenous racism certainly contributed to each outcome. But nurses don’t mock patients crying out in pain without someone intervening, as happened in Ms. Echaquan’s case, unless bias and racism have seeped into the walls.

And yet, Quebec Premier François Legault has refused to yield to the coroner’s finding that systemic racism contributed to Ms. Echaquan’s death. His intransigence is odd, not only because the evidence presented in Ms. Kamel’s report is so unequivocal, but because the remedies Mr. Legault’s government has instituted are distinctly systemic in nature. Indeed, there would be no reason to introduce mandatory sensitivity training for all employees at the Joliette hospital, or to name a representative of the Manawan community to the board of the health authority overseeing the hospital, if the problem was just a couple of rogue nurses.

Clearly, Mr. Legault understands there is a systemic problem in Quebec’s health care system, but the phrase “systemic racism” is to the Premier what Macbeth is to theatre actors: It cannot be said aloud.

For Mr. Legault, this goes beyond bog-standard political stubbornness. The Premier has been largely successful in building a new brand of Quebec nationalism, which is less about traditional sovereignty and more about autonomy within Canada, protection of the French language and a collectivist, shared identity for Quebeckers. His government introduced Bill 96, which seeks to amend the 1867 Constitution Act to recognize that “Quebecers form a nation.” Mr. Legault also got the party leaders in recent federal election campaigns to yield to his demand to let the province control its immigration agenda and succeeded in making Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole promise to respect Quebec’s “distinct system” of child care.

Mr. Legault’s popularity among Quebeckers – which did drop last month but has nevertheless remained remarkably high throughout the pandemic – is rooted in this unapologetic nationalist pride and perceived control over the players in Ottawa. And he’s made headway in the perennial struggle to have Quebec recognized as a distinct society within Canada.

But to admit that the province’s health care system is systemically racist, even in response to a coroner’s report that pretty much spells it out, is to yield to the idea that Quebec’s distinct society is a broken one. It’s off-brand for Mr. Legault. He couldn’t say it after the Viens Commission report was tabled in 2019 – and he still can’t say it now.

The other impediment to Mr. Legault stating the obvious is that it would be somewhat contradictory for the Premier to acknowledge systemic racism in Quebec health care while defending legislation, Bill 21, that enshrined systemic racism in law in regards to hiring and employment practices in the public sector. Mr. Legault knows that prohibiting people in certain jobs from wearing religious symbols is unconstitutional, which is why his government pre-emptively invoked the notwithstanding clause when it introduced the bill. And it’s unmistakable that the law disproportionately affects certain groups of people – such as Muslim teachers who wear hijabs – which renders this policy of state-imposed secularism not universally oppressive but systemically discriminatory.

Anyone with eyes and a modicum of reading comprehension skills would come away from Ms. Kamel’s report with an understanding of how systemic racism contributed to Ms. Echaquan’s death. Mr. Legault has both, but he also has a brand to protect. And as long as that brand is thriving off the Premier’s unapologetic nationalism and lack of introspection, the words “systemic racism” cannot leave his lips.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-francois-legaults-nationalist-brand-cant-handle-the-words-systemic/

Bouchard: Le racisme, pourquoi systémique?

Good explainer for those in Quebec who continue to deny:

Nous connaissons bien le racismecomme source dediscrimination.Pourquoi ajouter à cela le qualificatif« systémique » ? En quoi est-ce utile ?

Voilà une question à laquelle plusieurs spécialistes ont essayé de répondre. Dans mon esprit (et peut-être dans celui d’autres personnes ?), un besoin de clarification subsiste. Dans son émission du 1er octobre dernier, le journaliste de Radio-Canada Sébastien Bovet l’a posée à quelques reprises, mais sans obtenir de réponse claire (toujours à mon avis). Je m’y essaie donc à mon tour.

Le racisme est bien connu. C’est une vision négative de l’Autre qui prend prétexte de traits biologiques ou culturels pour violer ses droits. La façon de le traiter nous est familière : la victime porte plainte, le coupable est identifié et condamné.

Dans les cas de ce genre, les instances autorisées recourent aux moyens conventionnels en réprimant les manifestations individuelles, apparemment aléatoires, du racisme. Elles prennent aussi des dispositions ad hoc pour les prévenir (augmentation de la surveillance policière, tribunaux plus expéditifs, peines plus sévères…). Mais en réalité, elles agissent à la surface des choses. Car ces comportements discriminatoires récurrents découlent d’une structure sous-jacente, d’un système dont les racines sont anciennes et bien intégrées dans des institutions.

C’est clair quand on pense aux Autochtones : la mise en place, surtout depuis la Conquête anglaise, d’un régime colonial qui a établi des règles et des pratiques progressivement institutionnalisées dans différents domaines de la vie collective et perpétuées jusqu’à aujourd’hui — comme l’évoquait ici Brian Myles dans son éditorial des 2-3 octobre. C’est net aussi dans le cas des Noirs américains : un héritage du régime esclavagiste depuis longtemps disparu, mais qui a laissé bien des survivances.

Il y a donc deux niveaux à considérer, celui des comportements individuels et celui des structures. Cette distinction importe pour ce qui concerne la lutte contre le racisme. Dans le premier cas, on s’en tient à la surface des choses et la répression est sans cesse à recommencer ; elle est certes nécessaire, mais peu efficace à long terme. Dans le deuxième cas, on s’en prend à la racine du mal.

Pour combattre le racisme à ce niveau, il faut recourir à des moyens différents. Le racisme systémique s’appuie sur de vieux arrangements institutionnels (politiques, juridiques et autres). En plus, il se prolonge dans la culture, plus précisément dans des stéréotypes qui infériorisent. Il s’infiltre ainsi dans l’imaginaire collectif, ce bassin de conceptions, de visions premières, tenaces, profondément ancrées dans l’inconscient et donc difficiles à déloger.

Les stéréotypes jouent un rôle déterminant en justifiant la discrimination : les victimes sont décrites sous des traits peu enviables, elles sont vouées à la délinquance et à la dépendance. En somme, on leur attribue les traits que le régime lui-même a produits. On les rend responsables de leurs maux.

À cause des arrangements institutionnels et des images stéréotypées, leracisme systémique ne se laisse paséradiquer aisément. La façon de le combattre, c’est de s’attaquer à ses fondements structurels, en donnant à voir leur genèse, les étapes de leur institutionnalisation. Et de cette façon : a) mettre à nu l’arbitraire, l’inanité de leurs fondements, les injustices qui les ont inspirés, b) bousculer les stéréotypes, c) faire le procès des vieux arrangements institutionnels avec tous leurs tentacules.

Pour remplir son rôle essentiel, la reconstitution historique peut emprunter deux voies complémentaires : d’abord le travail indispensable des historiens, et surtout, les témoignages des victimes (les histoires de vie), tout cela devant être amplement répercuté principalement par le biais de l’éducation et des médias.

Il y a une quinzaine d’années, j’ai conduit de nombreuses entrevues au sein des communautés innues et j’y ai appris une leçon capitale. Entendre une victime des pensionnats raconter dans ses mots son expérience, pouvoir observer ses émotions, sa souffrance toujours bien vivante, se pénétrer de ce vécu tragique, tout cela est d’une éloquence, d’une « efficacité » inégalable. Et donne le goût d’en savoir plus — c’est ici que les historiens prennent le relais.

J’ai donné en exemple les pensionnats, je pourrais en évoquer bien d’autres. Je songe, entre autres, aux récits d’anciens chasseurs décrivant la façon dont ils ont été brutalement évincés de leurs territoires de chasse (et du genre de vie millénaire qui leur était associé) pour être placés dans des réserves sous la gestion autoritaire d’un fonctionnaire fédéral ordinairement ignorant et insouciant des réalités autochtones.

Le premier ministre a raison d’affirmer que l’existence du racisme systémique ne signifie pas que les Québécois soient racistes. Mais il faut ajouter un élément : cette forme de racisme étant par définition inconsciente, insidieuse, il peut nous arriver néanmoins de contribuer à en perpétuer la structure dans notre vie quotidienne par des mots qu’on emploie, une opinion qu’on exprime, un geste que nous posons — ou que nous ne posons pas.

En ce sens, une prise de conscience s’impose à laquelle tout le monde est convié. Mais donnons d’abord la parole aux Autochtones ; ils ont beaucoup à nous dire.

Historien, sociologue, écrivain, Gérard Bouchard enseigne à l’Université du Québec à Chicoutimi dans les programmes d’histoire, de sociologie/anthropologie, de science politique et de coopération internationale. Il est titulaire de la Chaire de recherche du Canada sur les imaginaires collectifs.

Source: Le racisme, pourquoi systémique?

Nicolas: Une confusion cultivée [regarding systemic racism]

Good column by Nicholas:

Soixante-six pour cent des Québécois reconnaissent que le racisme systémique existe. À l’échelle du pays, 67 % des Canadiens admettentsans problème que le concept a un sens. Du moins, ce sont là les résultats d’un sondage publié la semaine dernière par Léger Marketing pour le compte de l’Association des études canadiennes. Sur cette question, le caractère « distinct » du Québec ne tiendrait donc qu’à un seul petit point de pourcentage.

La donnée est remarquable, car si le racisme systémique existe partout, le discours sur le racisme systémique n’est pas le même d’un océan à l’autre. Depuis qu’une coalition d’acteurs de la société civile (dont je faisais partie) a interpellé le gouvernement du Québec pour demander une consultation publique sur la question en 2016, la notion est devenue, particulièrement au Québec, la cible d’une campagne politique et médiatique continue de désinformation et de confusion. Il y a aussi, bien sûr, de la désinformation qui circule ailleurs. Simplement, sur ce point particulier, c’est ici que les démonstrations de mauvaise foi se sont montrées les plus énergiques, disons, dans l’histoire récente.

Des définitions du racisme systémique plus farfelues les unes que les autres ont en effet défilé en ondes au fil des années, souvent à heure de grande écoute. « Procès des Québécois ». « Être systématiquement raciste ». « Se lever le matin avec l’intention de discriminer les minorités ». Le premier ministre François Legault a ajouté une nouvelle couche de désinformation, mardi, en réaction au rapport de la coroner Géhane Kamel sur la mort de Joyce Echaquan, affirmant que reconnaître le racisme systémique, « ça voudrait dire que tous les dirigeants de tous les ministères ont une approche discriminatoire qui est propagée dans tous les réseaux ». On aurait pu en rire, si la mauvaise blague était venue d’un quidam.

Dans un de nos grands médias (vous savez lequel), vous pourrez retrouver plusieurs dizaines de billets sur le « racisme antiblanc », une notion qui n’a aucune crédibilité scientifique, et qui a été popularisée par le Front national de Jean-Marie Le Pen. On « thèse » aussi un peu partout sur le « wokisme », que personne n’a défini, sinon Fox News. Mais François Legault répète que le racisme systémique est un concept trop « mal défini » pour être utile.

Pourtant, la Commission des droits de la personne et de la jeunesse du Québec a une définition du racisme systémique, comme ses équivalents à travers le pays ont aussi les leurs. Le Barreau du Québec en a déjà proposé une. La Ville de Montréal en a aussi une, depuis la consultation municipale sur la question. On ne compte plus les rapports et les articles scientifiques, ici et ailleurs, qui font appel à la notion.

Chaque organisme formule les choses à sa façon, pour essentiellement dire la même chose. Tout comme chaque organisme scientifique ne met pas exactement la virgule à la même place dans sa définition des changements climatiques, et que vous n’arriverez pas, en mettant tous les économistes dans une même pièce, à une définition immuable de l’économie. Mais que personne (de sérieux) n’utilise cette réalité pour avancer que les changements climatiques ou l’économie n’existent pas.

Le racisme systémique fait référence aux façons de faire (processus, décisions, pratiques) qui favorisent ou défavorisent certaines personnes en fonction de leur identité raciale. Il s’agit de dire que nos grands systèmes — de santé, d’éducation, de justice, de services sociaux — ont été pensés par et pour la majorité. Encore aujourd’hui, ce sont les approches qui conviennent le mieux à cette majorité qui dominent, et elles ne sont pas présentées comme culturellement spécifiques, mais comme « le sens commun », voire des « règles objectives ».

Si le système de santé est conçu par et pour la majorité plutôt que pour les personnes autochtones, par exemple, cela veut dire que des professionnels de la santé peuvent être diplômés après 3, 5, 10 ans de formation universitaire sans avoir aucune compétence culturelle pour interagir avec une clientèle autochtone. Si ces professionnels, faute de formation, agissent avec les mêmes préjugés que le citoyen moyen exposé aux stéréotypes véhiculés par la culture populaire, il n’y a pas non plus de processus interne efficace pour reconnaître le problème et le corriger. Dans un système par et pour la majorité, rien de tout cela n’apparaît comme un besoin criant.

Autre exemple : une formation médicale conçue par et pour la majorité blanche utilise presque exclusivement des images de personnes blanches pour apprendre aux futurs médecins à reconnaître les symptômes d’une maladie. Plusieurs études ont déjà démontré que les patients à la peau foncée reçoivent souvent un mauvais diagnostic, plus tardif, pour des problèmes de santé visibles à l’œil nu. Est-ce que l’infirmière ou la dermatologue qui ne reconnaissent pas un problème sur une peau foncée haïssent personnellement les Noirs, ou, pour reprendre les propos du premier ministre, « ont une approche discriminatoire propagée dans tout le réseau » ? Non. Le problème vient des écoles de médecine, de leurs curriculums qui mènent à désavantager certains patients en fonction de leur identité raciale. Soit la définition du racisme systémique. Déclarer qu’on n’est « pas raciste » ne réglera rien si l’on n’est pas prêt à investir temps et énergie pour corriger les failles de la formation de base (lire : pour la majorité). Quitte à passer pour un « woke ».

Dans les pires cas, ces deux exemples peuvent mener à des morts inutiles. Soixante-six pour cent des Québécois arrivent à comprendre cette réalité du racisme systémique, malgré la désinformation ambiante. On peut imaginer que si ce n’était des efforts particulièrement soutenus pour embrouiller les gens, les Québécois accepteraient la notion dans une proportion bien plus importante que la moyenne canadienne.

Il y a là, il me semble, un signal assez encourageant sur la teneur de ces fameuses « valeurs québécoises ».

Source: https://www.ledevoir.com/opinion/chroniques/638610/chronique-une-confusion-cultivee?utm_source=infolettre-2021-10-07&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=infolettre-quotidienne

David: Le taureau [Premier Legault denial of systemic racism]

Good commentary by Michel David:

Le premier ministre François Legault avait déjà gâché une bonne occasion d’élever le débat en se lançant dans une charge partisane totalement déplacée à l’Assemblée nationale le jour de l’anniversaire de la mort de Joyce Echaquan.

Il a été encore plus désolant de l’entendre justifier son refus de décréter un jour férié pour marquer la réconciliation avec les Premières Nations par le tort que cela causerait à la productivité de l’économie québécoise.

Le geste aurait pourtant été élégant, bien que la plupart des provinces n’aient pas suivi non plus l’exemple d’Ottawa. Mais faire valoir un argument aussi mercantile traduisait un manque d’empathie désolant. M. Legault aurait pu simplement dire qu’il préfère les gestes concrets aux commémorations symboliques ; on aurait difficilement pu lui donner tort.

Dans des provinces où la productivité est plus élevée qu’au Québec, comme l’Ontario, la Colombie-Britannique ou l’Alberta, il y a plus de jours fériés. Inversement, des provinces dont la productivité est moindre, comme Terre-Neuve ou la Nouvelle-Écosse, en offrent moins.

Ce n’est pas la première fois que son obsession économique lui fait oublier que le rôle d’un gouvernement est aussi de contribuer à bâtir une société plus humaine et plus juste. Lors de la réforme du Programme de l’expérience québécoise (PEQ), il ne semblait ni comprendre ni être touché par le drame vécu par ceux qui s’en étaient prévalus dans l’espoir de s’installer au Québec, et qui voyaient soudainement leur rêve brisé après avoir tout quitté. À ses yeux, la satisfaction des besoins du marché du travail constituait le seul critère.

Personne ne conteste la qualité du travail effectué par le ministre responsable des Affaires autochtones, Ian Lafrenière, dont le doigté a permis de renouer un dialogue qui était pratiquement rompu, mais la participation du premier ministre aux cérémonies de commémoration de la Journée nationale de la vérité et de la réconciliation aurait mieux témoigné de la détermination de l’État et de la nation québécoise à établir des relations avec les Premières Nations sur de nouvelles bases.

Tant que M. Legault s’entêtera à nier que les Autochtones sont victimes de « racisme systémique », il sera très difficile de les convaincre de la sincérité de ses intentions. Mais il semble voir rouge et fonce comme un taureau dès que ces mots sont prononcés. Cette semaine, il donnait l’impression d’avoir un urgent besoin de vacances.

Après avoir crié sur tous les toits qu’on cherchait à culpabiliser les Québécois, il s’est lui-même condamné au déni. Après la commission Viens, voilà pourtant que la coroner qui a enquêté sur la mort de Joyce Echaquan arrive elle aussi à la conclusion que le racisme systémique est bel et bien réel. Fait-elle aussi partie de ces wokes radicaux qui se complaisent dans le dénigrement du Québec ?

Évidemment, à partir du moment où M. Legault reconnaîtrait que les Autochtones sont victimes de racisme systémique, il deviendrait encore plus difficile de prétendre que les minorités visibles ne le sont pas. Les droits que des millénaires d’occupation du territoire confèrent aux uns rendraient-ils plus acceptable la discrimination envers les autres ?

Depuis trois ans, M. Legault s’est employé à redonner aux Québécois une fierté et une confiance en eux-mêmes que les lendemains difficiles du référendum de 1995 et la dégénérescence des mœurs politiques sous la gouverne libérale avaient mis à mal, mais il ne rend pas service au Québec en l’enfonçant dans un débat stérile dont il ne peut pas sortir grandi. L’année électorale s’annonce inquiétante.

Il est vrai que le concept de « racisme systémique » n’est pas facile à saisir, mais il est désolant de voir le premier ministre le déformer pour mieux le rejeter. À l’entendre, il s’agirait simplement d’une nouvelle arme utilisée par ceux qui se complaisent dans le Quebec bashing. En matière de relations avec les Autochtones, le Canada anglais n’a certainement pas de leçons à donner, mais la turpitude des uns ne saurait justifier celle des autres.

Les Québécois ont le sentiment qu’eux-mêmes ont toujours été victimes de discrimination depuis la Conquête. Ils sont donc bien placés pour comprendre à quel point la coexistence de deux cultures et de deux modes de vie peut être difficile, surtout quand on est en situation minoritaire.

Ils peuvent légitimement être fiers de ce qu’ils ont réussi à bâtir dans l’adversité, mais ils pourraient aussi tirer une grande fierté à avoir su aménager une société où chacun se sentirait chez lui, accepté et respecté tel qu’il est.

Le défi est de taille, mais M. Legault a démontré qu’il ne manque pas de cœur à l’ouvrage. On peut se féliciter d’avoir un taureau comme premier ministre, à la condition qu’il fonce dans la bonne direction.

Source: https://www.ledevoir.com/opinion/chroniques/637374/chronique-le-taureau?utm_source=infolettre-2021-10-02&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=infolettre-quotidienne

McWhorter:What Should We Do About Systemic Racism?

Interesting and nuanced discussion and the need for a more sophisticated discussion of different outcomes:

Here’s why some people aren’t onboard with the way Americans are taught to think about systemic racism: Even fully understanding that systemic racism exists and why it is important — persistent disparities between Black people and others in access to resources — one may have some questions. Real ones.

For me, the biggest question is not whether systemic racism exists but what to do about it.

A thorny patch, for starters, is figuring out whether racism is even the cause of a particular kind of disparity. One approach, well-aired these days, is that all racial disparities must be due to racism — a view encapsulated in a proclamation like “When I see racial disparities, I see racism.”

But that approach, despite its appeal in being so elementary — plus a bit menacing (a bit of drama, a little guilt?) — is often mistaken in its analysis, not to mention harmful to Black people if acted upon.

Here’s an example. Black kids tend not to do as well in school as white kids, statistically. But just what is the “racism” that causes this particular disparity?

It isn’t something as plain and simple as the idea that all Black kids go to underfunded schools — it’s a little 1980s to think that’s all we’re faced with. School funding is hugely oversold as a reason for schools’ underperformance, and the achievement disparity persists even among middle-class Black kids.

And middle-class Black kids are not just a mere sliver: Only about a third of Black students are poor. Yet the number of Black students admitted to top-level universities, for example, is small — so small that policies changing admissions standards are necessary for such schools to have a representative number of them on campus. This is fact, shown at countless institutions over the past 30 years such as the University of Michigan and recently Harvard. The key question is what justifies the policies.

One answer might be: “When I see racial disparities, I see racism.”

But in evaluating that idea, we must consider this: Black teenagers too often associate school with being “white.” Doesn’t such a mind-set have a way of keeping a good number of Black kids from hitting the very highest note in school? If many Black kids have to choose between being a nerd and having more Black friends — and one study suggests that they do — then the question is not whether this would depress overall Black scholastic achievement, but why it wouldn’t. The vast weight of journalistic attestations about growing up Black and how Black kids deal with school show the conflicting pressures they can face about achieving good grades and making friendships.

Now, my point here is not to simply accuse students of having a “pathology.” To be sure, the reason Black kids often think of school as “white” is racism. Just not racism today. Thus to eliminate systemic racism, our target cannot be some form of racism in operation now, because the racism operated several decades ago.

It took a while for Brown v. Board of Education to actually be enforced. When it was, starting in the mid-1960s, white teachers and students nationwide were not happy. Old-school open racism was still in flower, and Black kids in newly desegregated schools experienced it full blast — and not just in the South.

It was then that Black kids started thinking of school as the white kids’ game, something to disidentify from. While it hurts to be called a nerd when you’re white, the sting is worse when you are called disloyal to your race.

The source to consult on all of this is the book “Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation,” as key to understanding Black history as Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow.”

One might ask why the disaffection with school persists even though the racism that caused it has retreated so much — for certainly this kind of open racism diminished enormously in the 1970s and 1980s. But cultural traits can persist in human beings beyond what sparked those traits. The idea that school is not what “we” do settled into a broader function: ordinary teenage tribalism. White kids might choose to be, say, Goths or various things. So might Black kids — but another identity available to many of them is a sense of school as racially inauthentic. The “acting white” idea has persisted even in well-funded middle-class schools, where if anyone is discriminating against the Black students, it’s being done in ways too scattered and usually subtle to explain, indefensible though they are, to realistically explain the performance gap.

This sense of school as “other” can be covert as well as overt. A 1997 study by Clifton Casteel, a Black educator, showed that white eighth and ninth graders tend to think of themselves as doing homework to please their parents, while Black ones think of themselves as doing it for their teachers. That’s subtle but indicative — the idea that school stuff for Black students is outside of home and hearth. And in the 1980s, a mathematics educator, Phillip Uri Treisman, showed that Black college students do better in calculus if they are taught to work together in studying it (with high expectations and close professor mentoring also recommended). That Black students need to be instructed to share schoolwork rather than go it alone illuminates a private sense of school as not what “we” do — i.e., when we are together being ourselves.

I will not pretend that there has not been, for 20 years, people vociferously denying that Black kids often have an ambivalent attitude toward excelling in school. However, that Black kids don’t say in interviews that they disidentify from school reveals no more than that whites say they aren’t racist in interviews — why hit rewind and pretend psychology has no layers solely when Black students are involved? Then there is the idea that certain studies have disproved that this sense of disconnection exists when they actually found possible evidence of it, such as one documenting Black students saying that they like school and yet reporting spending less time on homework compared with white and Asian kids.

In sum, the sheer volume of attestations and documentation of Black students accused of “acting white” makes it clear to any unbiased observer that the issue is real, including the shakiness of the attempts to debunk the claim. The denialists are worried that someone like me is criticizing the Black students, upon which I repeat: The sense of school as white was caused by racism. It’s just that it was long, long ago now.

So, we return to “when I see racial disparities, I see racism.” This is a mantra from Ibram X. Kendi, and one of his solutions to the Black-white achievement gap in school is to eliminate standardized tests. They are “racist,” you see, because Black kids tend not to do as well on them as others.

And in line with this version of racial reckoning, we are seeing one institution after another eliminating or altering testing requirements, from the University of California to Boston’s public school system.

The idea that this is the antiracist thing to do is rooted in an idea that there is something about Black culture that renders standardized tests inappropriate. After all, Kendi certainly doesn’t think the issue is Black genes. Nor, we assume, does any responsible person think it’s genes, and it can’t be that all Black kids grow up poor because to say that is racist, denying the achievements of so many Black people and contradicting simple statistics.

So it’s apparently something about being a Black person. Kendi does not specify what this cultural configuration is, but there is reason to suppose, from what he as well as many like-minded people are given to writing and saying, that the idea is that Black people for some reason don’t think “that way,” that Black thought favors pragmatic engagement with the exigencies of real life over the disembodied abstraction of test questions.

But there is a short step from here to two gruesome places.

One is the idea getting around in math pedagogy circles that being precise, embracing abstract reasoning and focusing on finding the actual answer are “white,” which takes us right back to the idea that school is “white.”

The other is the idea that Black people just aren’t as quick on the uptake as other people.

Yeah, I know — multiple intelligences, “energy” and so on. Taking a test of abstract reasoning is just one way of indicating intelligence, right — but folks, really? I submit that few beyond a certain circle will ever truly believe that we need to trash these tests, which were expressly designed to cut through bias.

One of Kendi’s suggestions, for example, is that we assess Black kids instead on how articulate they are about their neighborhood circumstances and on their “desire to know.” But this is a drive-by notion of pedagogical practice, with shades again of the idea that being a grind is “white.” I insist that it is more progressively Black to ask why we can’t seek for Black kids to get better on the tests, and almost phrenological to propound that it’s racist to submit a Black person to a test of abstract cognitive skill.

To get more Black students into top schools, we should focus on getting the word out in Black communities about free test preparation programs, such as have long existed in New York City. We should resist the elimination of gifted tracks as “racist,” given that they shunted quite a few Black kids into top high schools in, for example, New York back in the day. Teaching Black kids to work together should be even more of a meme than it has become since Treisman’s study. And the idea that school is “for white people” should be traced, faced and erased, reified and rendered as uncool as drunken driving and smoking have been.

Boy, that was some right-wing conservative boilerplate, no? Of course not. Many would see these prescriptions as unsatisfying because they aren’t about wagging a finger in white America’s face. But doing that is quite often antithetical to improving Black lives.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/10/opinion/systemic-racism-education.html

Ottawa plans to teach non-racialized Canadians about systemic racism in new campaign

Not sure it will reach the people it needs to reach but we shall see:

The federal government plans to launch a national ad campaign aimed at making more white Canadians knowledgeable about systemic racism.

Launching a public education and awareness campaign is part of the Liberal government’s anti-racism strategy.

That strategy says $3.3 million will be spent on a marketing effort.

Details of what Canadian Heritage is looking for in such a campaign, set to launch later this year, are included in documents posted on the government’s procurement website.

The department says its target audience is “non-racialized Canadian middle-aged adults”  — defined as between 30 and 44 years old — living in any rural or urban area.

It specifically points out that includes adults living in places such as Hamilton, Thunder Bay and Quebec, considered to be “racism hot spots” because of the high volume of police-reported hate crimes.

According to the documents, the government wants its audience to be taught about “implicit bias,” and for the campaign to “weave together an emotionally compelling narrative of contemporary Canadian identity and values as antithetical to racism.”

The department says the overall goal is to get more Canadians fighting against systemic racism by making them aware of its impacts through marketing, social media, posters and public engagement.

It notes the campaign should also look at ways to “engage relevant influencers.”

“In this COVID-19 context, Canadians are face-to-face with a unique opportunity to reimagine the social contract … in ways that place anti-racism, equity, reconciliation and human rights at the heart of the recovery process,” the documents say.

The department cites how data shows that during the COVID-19 pandemic, Indigenous, Black, Asian, Muslim and Jewish communities faced more discrimination and hate crimes.

The issue of systemic racism was brought to the forefront in May 2020 after the murder of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis, by former police officer Derek Chauvin.

His death sparked protests and rallies across Canada calling out racism in this country too.

More recently, the country has been seized by the pain and legacy of the residential school system after First Nations, using ground-penetrating radar, started discovering hundreds of unmarked graves at former school sites where they say Indigenous children were buried.

Source: Ottawa plans to teach non-racialized Canadians about systemic racism in new campaign

Class-action lawsuit claims French police discriminate often

Indeed:

In a first for France, six nongovernmental organizations launched a class-action lawsuit Wednesday against the French government for alleged systemic discrimination by police officers carrying out identity checks.

The organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, contend that French police use racial profiling in ID checks, targeting Black people and people of Arab descent.

They were serving Prime Minister Jean Castex and France’s interior and justice ministers with formal legal notice of demands for concrete steps and deep law enforcement reforms to ensure that racial profiling does not determine who gets stopped by police.

The organizations, which also include the Open Society Justice Initiative and three French grassroots groups, plan to spell out the legal initiative at a news conference in Paris.

The issue of racial profiling by French police has been debated for years, including but not only the practice of officers performing identity checks on young people who are often Black or of Arab descent and live in impoverished housing projects.

Serving notice is the obligatory first step in a two-stage lawsuit process. The law gives French authorities four months to talk with the NGOs about meeting their demands. If the parties behind the lawsuit are left unsatisfied after that time, the case will go to court, according to one of the lawyers, Slim Ben Achour.

It’s the first class-action discrimination lawsuit based on or supposed ethnic origins in France. The NGO’s are employing a little-used 2016 French law that allows associations to take such a legal move.

“It’s revolutionary, because we’re going to speak for hundreds of thousands, even a million people.” Ben Achour told The Associated Press in a phone interview. The NGOs are pursuing the class action on behalf of racial minorities who are mostly second- or third-generation French citizens.

“The group is brown and Black,” Ben Achour said.

The four-month period for reaching a settlement could be prolonged if the talks are making progress, but if not, the NGOs will go to court, he said.

The abuse of identity checks has served for many in France as emblematic of broader alleged racism within police ranks, with critics claiming that misconduct has been left unchecked or whitewashed by authorities.

Video of a recent incident posted online drew a response from President Emmanuel Macron, who called racial profiling “unbearable.” Police representatives say officers themselves feel under attack when they show up in suburban housing projects. During a spate of confrontational incidents, officers became trapped and had fireworks and other objects thrown at them.

The NGOs are seeking reforms rather than monetary damages, especially changes in the law governing identity checks. The organizations argue the law is too broad and allows for no police accountability because the actions of officers involved cannot be traced, while the stopped individuals are left humiliated and sometimes angry.

Among other demands, the organizations want an end to the longstanding practice of gauging police performance by numbers of tickets issued or arrests made, arguing that the benchmarks can encourage baseless identity checks.

The lawsuit features some 50 witnesses, both police officers and people subjected to abusive checks, whose accounts are excerpted in the letters of notice. The NGO’s cite one unnamed person who spoke of undergoing multiple police checks every day for years.

A police officer posted in a tough Paris suburb who is not connected with the case told the AP that he is often subjected to ID checks when he is wearing civilian clothes.

“When I’m not in uniform, I’m a person of ,” said the officer, who asked to remain anonymous in keeping with police rules and due to the sensitive nature of the topic. Police need a legal basis for their actions, “but 80% of the time they do checks (based on) heads” — meaning how a person looks.

Omer Mas Capitolin, the head of Community House for Supportive Development, a grassroots NGO taking part in the legal action, called it a “mechanical reflex” for French police to stop non-whites, a practice he said is damaging to the person being checked and ultimately to relations between officers and the members of the public they are expected to protect.

“When you’re always checked, it lowers your self-esteem,” and you become a “second-class citizen,” Mas Capitolin said. The “victims are afraid to file complaints in this country even if they know what happened isn’t normal,” he said, because they fear fallout from police.

He credited the case of George Floyd, the Black American whose died last year in Minneapolis after a white police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck, with raising consciences and becoming a catalyst for change in France.

However, the NGOs make clear that they are not accusing individual police of being racist because “they act within a system that allowed these practices to spread and become installed,” the groups said in a joint document.

“It’s so much in the culture. They don’t ever think there’s a problem,” said Ben Achour, the lawyer.

Source: Class-action lawsuit claims French police discriminate often

‘Always a rolling target to bring about big change’: Fergus says he’s optimistic in feds’ anti-racism strategy progress, ‘but we’re not there yet’

Would be interesting to hear the perspectives of the other parties beyond the NDP as well.

The increased funding and programming is significant, as are initiatives like breaking down visible minorities into the different groups in employment equity )What new disaggregated data tells us about federal public service …) and the Public Service Employee Survey (What the Public Service Employee Survey breakdowns of visible minority and other groups tell us about diversity and inclusion):

Nearly 18 months following the introduction of the federal government’s anti-racism strategy and nine months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Minister of Diversity, Inclusion and Youth Bardish Chagger says although the government is making progress, “there’s a lot of work to do here and it’s going to take some time.”

In an interview with The Hill Times, Ms. Chagger (Waterloo, Ont.) says “racism did not take a pause during the pandemic—on the contrary, COVID-19 has affected all Canadians and certain segments disproportionally.”

“If you look at every single minister and the work we’re doing, we are peeling these systems back in a way that we haven’t done before to ensure that the very people that are underrepresented and underserved are actually part of that decision-making and are informing our decisions” said Ms. Chagger. “There’s no minister that’s on the sidelines when it comes to this issue—[Justice] Minister David Lametti is having these conversations, [Public Safety] Minister Bill Blair is having these conversations, the prime minister is having these conversations.”

“Every single minister is consciously having these conversations and ensuring that these voices are being invited to the decision-making table and conscious about who’s not being invited, to ensure that these voices are also being heard,” said Ms. Chagger.

Liberal MP Greg Fergus (Hull-Aylmer, Que.), who chairs the cross-party Black Parliamentary Caucus that was first established in 2015, was also optimistic that progress is being made—but said that “it’s always a rolling target to bring about big change.”

“I would even go back further than a year-and-a-half ago, I’d go back to the budget of 2018, where for the first time ever in Canada’s history, you saw some investments which were directed at the Black community,” said Mr. Fergus. “With regard to mental health, with regard to, most importantly, disaggregated data, with regards to some community support and programming, as well as capital costs.”

“And the creation of course of the [Anti-Racism] Secretariat,” said Mr. Fergus, alluding to the unit established within the Heritage department in Oct. 2019 to the tune of $4.6-million.

“We had the election, and then we had the creation of the new ministry of diversity, inclusion, and youth, so that’s great” said Mr. Fergus. “We saw mandate letters, which laid out what we should be doing.”

“And then we had the pandemic hit, and then we had the brutal videos that came out from the United States,” said Mr. Fergus, alluding to the May 25 killing of 46-year-old George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis that was caught on video, an event that sparked outrage and mass demonstrations in the United States and in Canada, including on Parliament Hill on June 5.

“What have we seen since that time? We’ve seen a firm commitment from the prime minister to deal with this, and that was reflected in the Speech from the Throne, which delighted me to no end because it took every single one of the large subject areas that the Parliamentary Black Caucus had identified.”

In a statement release June 15, the caucus outlined a series of proposals that governments should act on to redress historic injustices in the areas of public safety, justice, representation in the federal public service, race-based data collection, as well as arts and culture.

There are some important steps which are being taken by Clerk of the Privy Council Ian Shugart and the community of deputy ministers within the federal public service to affect change as well, according to Mr. Fergus.

“All this to say—we’re making progress,” said Mr. Fergus. “Is it at the speed I want it to be? I would prefer faster. All parliamentary caucus is working on that and I daresay that the government is working on that.”

“We will get there, but it’s important to remember where we came from,” said Mr. Fergus. “When you look back at the journey, you can say there’s some pretty big progress. But if you were to compare it to where we know we should be, we’re not there yet.”

The anti-racism strategy, designed to unroll from 2019 to 2022, has a $45-million price tag.

Most recently, Liberal MP Adam van Koeverden (Milton, Ont.), who is parliamentary secretary to Ms. Chagger, along with Liberal MP Jim Carr (Winnipeg South Centre, Man.) highlighted 13 projects in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta that are part of 85 projects coast-to-coast that have already received $15-million in funding as part of the government’s new Anti-Racism Action Program.

Addressing systemic racism played large role in Throne Speech 

“For too many Canadians, systemic racism is a lived reality,” read Governor General Julie Payette in the most recent Speech from the Throne on Sept. 23. “We know that racism did not take a pause during the pandemic. On the contrary, COVID-19 has hit racialized Canadians especially hard.”

“Many people—especially Indigenous people, and Black and racialized Canadians—have raised their voices and stood up to demand change,” she said in the speech drawn up by the government. “They are telling us we must do more. The government agrees.”

But NDP MP Matthew Green (Hamilton Centre, Ont.) said he thought most of the work that has been proposed by the Liberals have been based on announcements and aesthetics, and not tackling the actual institutional form of systemic racism.

“While it is small steps in the right direction in terms of the announcements of programs, this goes beyond buying your way out of deep organizational, cultural, and institutional racism,” said Mr. Green. “There is actual legislative work within the House of Commons under the purview of the federal government, from institutions like the RCMP, to the judiciary to their own public service sector, that still clearly suggests significant challenges around anti-Black racism.”

“And there just seems to be ongoing reluctance for this government to go beyond the aesthetics of big-ticket announcements and into the actual work of dismantling anti-Black racism and racism within their government,” said Mr. Green.

When asked about the tumultuous events of the summer and the effect the mass demonstrations had on anti-racism initiatives within governments, Mr. Green said the saddest part of that moment is that it was borne of the suffering and subjugation of Black people.

“Until we dismantle white supremacy, that suffering will continue, so the saddest part about that moment is that it will never pass and it will only ever continue,” said Mr. Green. “For every George Floyd, there are dozens and hundreds of countless, unnamed Black, Indigenous and racialized people who are brutalized by police.”

“That has not stopped—in fact, in the ensuing months, we know it to be true that the police have continued at all levels to be caught on camera brutalizing people,” said Mr. Green. “And it’s not just police—we’re seeing it in our health care systems, we’re seeing it in our long-term care homes, we’re seeing it in the way that workers are brutalized in the front lines who are essential but are not paid essentially.”

“These are the ways in which systemic and institutional racism play out in Canada, and this is a moment that will never pass,” said Mr. Green. “Tackling systemic racism is more than just announcing big dollar funding for programs.”

Ms. Chagger said she understands the call for legislation to address the matter, “but no law is going to change us.”

“We have to change us—we have to look within ourselves and in our own backyards. But this federal government under this prime minister recognizes that there is a need for federal leadership, and we will continue to display it, we will continue to act upon it, and we will continue to keep an open door and work with everyone, so that we are being inclusive in the way we are developing these policies so they work for all Canadians.”

Source: ‘Always a rolling target to bring about big change’: Fergus says he’s optimistic in feds’ anti-racism strategy progress, ‘but we’re not there yet’

Quebec immigration minister skips federal human rights meeting addressing systemic racism (along with Alberta, Saskatchewan)

Sigh:

Quebec’s immigration minister Nadine Girault pulled out of a virtual meeting among provinces about human rights, drawing criticism from federal government officials who say it is because of the province’s refusal to acknowledge systemic racism.

Girault sent a bureaucrat to observe, instead of participate in the meeting, citing scheduling issues. Alberta and Saskatchewan also sent observers, rather than participating.

But Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault says he was told by Quebec provincial officials Girault’s absence was because of the meeting’s portion on systemic racism, which Premier François Legault has refused to say exists in Quebec.

Source: Quebec immigration minister skips federal human rights meeting addressing systemic racism

Le racisme systémique sera exclu du rapport du groupe d’action, prévoit Legault

Consistent but misguided:

Le groupe d’action contre le racisme ne demandera pas au gouvernement du Québec de reconnaître le racisme systémique, a conclu avant même la fin des travaux le premier ministre François Legault.

Il répondait mardi aux questions sur le sujet lors d’une conférence de presse à Montréal, visant principalement à faire le point sur la situation du coronavirus au Québec.

Interrogé sur la question de savoir s’il allait reconnaître le racisme systémique si le groupe d’action le lui demandait, M. Legault a d’abord laissé entendre que la question était hypothétique.

Puis, se ravisant, il a répondu qu’il ne s’attendait pas à ce qu’une telle recommandation apparaisse dans le rapport final, car il en avait déjà discuté avec les membres du groupe.

Le groupe d’action contre le racisme a été formé par le gouvernement Legault en juin dernier dans la foulée de la mort de l’Américain George Floyd.

Il est composé uniquement d’élus caquistes, qui doivent réfléchir à des façons concrètes d’enrayer le racisme et déposer un rapport au premier ministre au plus tard cet automne.

Refus

François Legault a toujours refusé de reconnaître le racisme systémique, même après que de nombreux politiciens, dont les maires de Québec et de Montréal, et le premier ministre du Canada, Justin Trudeau, l’eurent reconnu dans des termes très clairs.

Mardi, M. Legault a continué de marteler qu’il existait deux groupes de Québécois : un groupe qui reconnaît le racisme systémique et l’autre qui ne le reconnaît pas.

« Mon rôle comme premier ministre du Québec, c’est de rassembler les Québécois, de poser des gestes, d’agir enfin […] pour lutter contre le racisme, [y compris] chez les policiers et dans les hôpitaux », a-t-il déclaré. « Pour moi, c’est ça la meilleure approche. Ce que je comprends, c’est que M. Trudeau en a une autre, c’est son choix. »

Ce serait une « erreur » de « se mettre à dos une bonne partie des Québécois qui pensent qu’il n’y a pas de système de racisme au Québec, comme le propose M. Trudeau », a poursuivi M. Legault.

Plus tôt, à Ottawa, le premier ministre Trudeau avait réitéré l’importance de reconnaître le racisme systémique, notamment en ce qui a trait aux peuples autochtones.

« Au gouvernement fédéral, nous savons depuis longtemps que de reconnaître le racisme systémique, c’est la première étape nécessaire pour marcher sur cette voie de réconciliation, d’éliminer ces barrières réelles et cette violence qui est trop souvent faite contre les peuples autochtones à travers le pays et aussi d’autres minorités visibles », a-t-il déclaré.

Il a également encouragé toute personne en position d’autorité, dont les chefs d’entreprise et les leaders communautaires, à reconnaître « la réalité du racisme systémique et à s’engager à lutter contre cette injustice qui dure depuis trop longtemps dans notre pays ».