Priorities: Indigeneity or Secession?

A post by Jamie

How exactly do I even begin? My language choices throughout this piece are applied conscientiously. Selection of terminology used here is neither made carelessly nor in jest. I am struggling daily with a profound and genuinely increasing sense of  dread, and this particular piece of writing is an attempt to account for this as concisely as possible.

We’ve got indigenous peoples in both Brazil and Canada essentially declaring war against their respective colonial governments and other occupiers with corporate interests (Brazil, Canada). While indigenous peoples in Canada are being neglected (see this… oh, and thisand this, too) and starved (see here), indigenous peoples in Brazil and neighbouring countries are being fire-bombed and gunned down — though media reports on indigenous peoples in South America are apparently often misleading (as in the title of the article about a Brazilian indigenous tribe declaring a fight to the death  [Read more...]

A little immature snicker

News out of San Francisco:

San Francisco shed a vestige of its free-spirited past as local lawmakers narrowly approved a citywide ban on public nudity. Casting aside complaints that forcing people to cover up would undermine San Francisco’s reputation as a city without inhibitions, the Board of Supervisors voted 6-5 on Tuesday in favour of an ordinance that prohibits exposed genitals in most public places, including streets, sidewalks and public transit.

So y’know… that’s too bad I guess. Nudity doesn’t really hurt anyone, although I dare say there are some people whose naked bodies I would prefer not to see if I can avoid it. But so what? I also don’t like ads above the urinals at bars, but I’ve learned to deal. That’s not the funny part of this story. This is:

Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced the ban in response to escalating complaints about a group of men whose bare bodies are on display almost daily in the city’s predominantly gay Castro District. He said at Tuesday’s meeting that he resisted for almost two years, but finally felt compelled to act.

Umm... phrasing?

There is no larger point to be served here. I just thought it was a funny paragraph.

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Oh, Canada…

It’s really easy (and fun!) to point out the raft of egregious racism that in many ways defines the American political landscape. Part of the appeal of framing racism in an American context is that cornerstone of Canadian identity: rage/jealousy of our bigger brother. Without our American counterparts against which to contrast ourselves, the challenging of forming a Canadian identity that isn’t just another colonial throwback to our British roots is challenging*. Another part of it is the fact that the hypocrisy of America proclaiming itself as some sort of bastion of freedom is belied by its history of deep hostility and belligerence when it comes to the freedoms of people of colour (PoCs). The idea that America is ‘post-racial’ or any such fantasy is only sustainable if you ignore major parts of reality (which, to be sure, Americans have traditionally not had much difficulty doing when it comes to other elements of their politics).

But a big part of why I personally discuss racism in an American context so often is because, quite frankly, that country provides me with a steady diet of material. I don’t have to scour the web for examples of racism to help illustrate some point or another. Last week’s blitz illustrates perfectly that I will never want for scintillating news stories. Some might argue that this is because Americans are super-racist. To be sure, some of the most shocking and dramatic examples of racism are present in American history, and its regular refusal to come to grips with its own history means that they are doomed to repeat it frequently and tragically. Some might argue, though, that the reason American media produces so much about American racism is because it’s newsworthy. It means people care enough to highlight it.

Which is why I find this story so interesting: [Read more...]

Vanity post: Even Handed Odds

Some of you may know that I played in a band called Even Handed Odds for a while. The band has since broken up (meaning that we no longer play our own music), but we still play covers on occasion down at the Copper Tank, a bar in Kitsilano, on Friday nights.

Here’s a video of us doing a cover of “Home For a Rest” by Spirit of the West:

Right before we broke up, we recorded two songs at a local studio. I finally got around to uploading the audio of the finished product to Soundcloud, in case people were interested.

My personal favourite is this one, simply called “Space”:

There’s also the one that would have likely been our radio single, called “Gravity”:

If you’re in the city of Vancouver on a Friday night, you should come check us out!

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The New Fascism

This past Sunday, I went with my partner to our city’s Remembrance Day ceremony, which I do every year. My brother has served two tours in Afghanistan with the Canadian forces, and a tour in Bosnia after the civil war there, and many other members of my family have also served. I’m not one for overt expressions of nationalism, and I have numerous issues with the overly Christian-themes on display there, but for me, Remembrance Day is about my brother and the sacrifices he made. I think about his friends – some of whom did not make it home alive – and I remember that whether I agree with the mission in Afghanistan or not, the government that represents me sent them there. If nothing else, it reminds me of the absolute necessity of striving to elect people who understand the concept of ‘Just War’, and who recognize the heavy cost of sending young people to fight and die in our name. When we decide that the past is no longer something to remember and learn from, the old, crappy ideas that caused so much damage begin to seem a lot less crappy, and they start to be rediscovered by a whole new generation. [Read more...]

Movie Friday: Suspicious

So last night we had a bit of a chuckle at the expense of a hapless boob from Maine who is the chairman of the state Republican party. After the laughter subsided, I said this:

What I will say is that this fits neatly with the larger Republican narrative from this last election cycle: that black people voting is suspect for fraud. That black people have to provide additional proof that they are indeed qualified to vote. In the old days, this was done through explicit policies like poll taxes and “literacy tests”. Today it’s done through barely-covert policies like “voter ID” that is designed to suppress the votes of not only black people, but pretty much anyone who would vote for a Democratic candidate. This is not a new story, and it is part of the attempt to erase people of colour from the collective consciousness, or at least to deny them (us) the possibility of equal partnership and participation. This story is not new, and it’s not just chuckle-fucks like Charlie Webster who are behind it.

And I wasn’t kidding either: [Read more...]

The black vote is the Maine problem

One common utterance you’ll hear when people go on the defensive about a racist statement or behaviour is that they couldn’t possibly be racist because they “have a black friend”. This “black friend” is sometimes a spouse, sometimes an actual friend, but just as often it’s a co-worker or someone they do business with, or maybe even someone who works for them. Whatever the person’s actual relationship with their “black friend”, they wish you to excuse a racist behaviour or attitude with the assurance that because they do not hate each individual black person on the planet, they are somehow safeguarded from having any of their behaviour identified as racist. This comes from the formulation that racism is something perpetrated by mythological creatures known as “racists”, a stance I unequivocally reject.

I have to say though, as common as the “I know and tolerate at least one black person” excuse is, this particular inversion of it is new to me: [Read more...]

Because Abortion needs to be explained, apparently.

I am irate. Look, I realise that I am in a position of privilege, and I realise that I’m not angry about this all the time because I’m male and that this is something that I have the privilege of simply not-concerning-myself-about for the vast bulk of my life.

I rationalise this as that I pay attention only insofar as harm is brought to my attention. And Ireland has ever-so-slowly been moving towards legalising abortion since 1992. Oh, that’s right, you didn’t know that abortion was illegal in Ireland. My bad. Did you know that it was actually illegal for doctors to tell patients about their abortion options in other countries? And that it was illegal for people to travel to another country for an abortion? No? Well, anyway, we were focused on my privilege, so let’s keep on topic.

[Read more...]

States writes

One of the most challenging aspects of anti-racism is the fact that we can only usually measure racism as an absence of a better explanation. We see an inequality and then we try to rule out the other plausible explanations, and then say “it’s got to be explained by racism”. Because there is no objective test – no screen or marker or physical indicator – that positively identifies racist intent (or even racism that happens unintentionally), it is usually left to anti-racist educators to make a case through narrative explanation rather than through empirical observation.

Their (our) task is made even more difficult by the fact that, partially because people are defensive and partially because people are assholes, any claim that racism plays a role in any event is met with a howling chorus of denials and demands for the kind of rock-solid proof that is so rarely available when discussing these kinds of social/psychological issues. When these demands cannot be readily met (‘my racism detector is on the fritz’), these voices devolve into smug pronouncements of ‘race cards’ being played, or perhaps a ‘playing the victim’ gambit being used.

Which is why it’s always interesting and gratifying to see exercises like this one: [Read more...]