Catching them being honest

One of the pieces of political language that drives me absolutely nuts is the term ‘illegal immigrants’. The system of immigration in both Canada and the United States disincentivizes documented immigration by making it nearly impossible and subject to interference by the capricious whims of the party in power. Looking at it cynically, one could make the argument that there is a huge economic benefit to the elite class, who can exploit undocumented immigrants for what is essentially slave labour, secure in the knowledge that threats of deportation are usually enough to quell any resistance to the illegal working conditions. The system punishes the exploited, not the exploiters.

Of course, there are few places in the USA that are more openly and notoriously malevolent to undocumented immigrants than the state of Arizona. Despite the blatant racism inherent in their newly-minted anti-Mexican law that they try to pass off as a way of handling “illegals”, they are still legally allowed to detain and deport anyone who looks ‘foreign’ and can’t prove their non-foreign-ness to the satisfaction of the towering legal intellect of folks like Joe Arpaio.

And, apparently, this lady: [Read more...]

The past is not passed

If you were reading the blog this past February, you are at least somewhat familiarwith Canada’s history of overt, ‘classical’ anti-black racism. Despite its avowed contemporary multiculturalism, Canada’s history is stained with the kind of racism that we only talk about in American History class (and even then, in hushed, clucking tones and sighs of relief about how much better things are now). Those who understand the historical arc of white supremacy and the instrumental role it played in both colonization and the rise of the European powers would probably not be surprised to see it survive through several generations of Canadian government. Even then, some of the details are still pretty shocking:

In 1885, John A. Macdonald told the House of Commons that, if the Chinese were not excluded from Canada, “the Aryan character of the future of British America should be destroyed …” This was the precise moment in the histories of Canada and the British Dominions when Macdonald personally introduced race as a defining legal principle of the state. He did this not just in any piece of legislation, but in the Electoral Franchise Act, an act that defined the federal polity of adult male property holders and that he called “my greatest achievement.” [Read more...]

Movie Friday: Edwin Hodge defines white supremacy

If you haven’t yet picked up on it, blog contributor Edwin Hodge is a smart fucking guy. I felt privileged, therefore, to be able to see him speak to the British Columbia Humanists Association last Friday night. Unfortunately I had to duck out early to play a gig, but I managed to grab the first few minutes of his talk. In this snippet, Edwin provides an operational definition for white supremacy:

You can see his whole presentation below the fold, as videotaped by the BCHA. If you’re a humanist in BC, consider lending your voice and support to this active and growing group, under the skilled leadership of Ian Bushfield.

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A legitimate Republican

Trigger warning for rape dismissal, extreme misogyny.

So I’ve been walking around angry for the past couple of days. Undoubtedly you’ve heard the latest pearl of idiocy to drop from a member of God’s Own Party:

“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Mr. Akin said of pregnancies from rape. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”

Republican Congressman Todd Akin has decided to impart his second-hand medical wisdom on the rest of America, and undoubtedly legislate based on it. First of all, no Mr. Akin you absolutely did not get this ‘understanding’ from doctors. Nobody who has had a conversation about reproduction with any medical professional who isn’t deep in the anti-choice* camp could possibly walk away believing that the human body can recognize rape and stop conception from happening. One would think that nobody who has taken a high school sex-ed course could possibly believe this kind of mythology, but since Todd Akin is likely opposed to sex education as well, there is no inconsistency. [Read more...]

Fuck you, Florida

I went to Florida once. It was back in 2009, and I was exhibiting a research summary at a conference in Orlando. Because I was travelling partially on my own dime, and because I was too young to rent a car, I ended up staying at a hotel that was far away from the convention centre and took public transit to the exhibition hall. Living as I have in cities like Toronto, Mississauga, and Brampton, I was immediately struck by how brown the busses were. It was as though all of the lower-income people who had to get places, but didn’t make enough money at those places to afford a car, were black and/or Latin@. Everyone I met in a service position was dark-skinned, all of the management staff were white. Without exception. It was a surreal experience for me.

It would take a couple of years for me to finally wrap my head around what I had seen. It wasn’t an illusion or a clustering effect or just a weird coincidence – Florida was a seriously fucking racist place: [Read more...]

Real life race trolling

For whatever reason (I suspect a combination of relative anonymity and a general distaste for overt racism), I don’t get too many racist trolls here at the site. I thought for sure when I started I would get all kinds of “race realists” and would-be white supremacists and all sorts of slime crawling out of the woodwork. Instead, I’ve found my life sorely lacking the high-quality and high-cognition contributions of those who believe, for whatever reason, that you can tell something meaningful about someone based on the flawed genetics behind the arbitrarily-assembled social constructs we call ‘races’.

That being said, just because they’re not here, doesn’t mean they don’t exist:

A Hawkins man is claiming his civil rights and religious freedom were violated earlier this year when a black man sacked his groceries and a Big Sandy grocery store owner banned the customer from the business. DeWitt R. Thomas filed a federal lawsuit in July against Keith Langston, owner of Two Rivers Grocery & Market.

Yeah, read that over again. You weren’t wrong – the guy who did the racist thing is suing the guys who employ the victim of the racist thing. Do not adjust your internet. This isn’t even the crazy part of the story. Are you ready for the crazy party of the story? [Read more...]

Oak Creek – some thoughts

This past Sunday, a man walked into a gurdwara (Sikh temple) in Oak Creek, Wisconsin and opened fire with a 9 mm pistol, killing six people and wounding four others. After a firefight with police, he turned his weapon on himself and committed suicide. I learned of this story days after it happened, as I was far away from any news sources. As a result, there is really very little for me to contribute that hasn’t already been highlighted by countless others. I will briefly summarize my thoughts as best I can.

[Read more...]

Send in the clowns

There are, as I tried to illustrate this morning, intelligent ways to respond to tragedy. They involve spending time thinking about not only how to understand what has happened, but to come up with reasonable and perspicacious ideas of what to do next. Smart is not the only way to respond to tragedy. For those with an aversion to ‘smart’, there’s always the ever-popular ‘stupid’:

In particular, [radio hosts] Doyle and Downs were having difficulty understanding just how and why Ford was drawing a connection between Monday’s Danzig Street shooting and Canada’s immigration laws, especially given that there is no reason to believe any of the people responsible were immigrants. “Well, he seems to be drawing a link between immigration and gun crime,” Downs said. “So, how is that link being drawn, why is he drawing that link? It just seems extremely bizarre. So it’d be great if he could explain himself on that one, I’m curious to know if other people are not a little confused as to why he is calling on the prime minister to clarify Canada’s immigration laws so we can crack down on gun crime.”

Who is ‘Ford’, you might ask? Maybe some other right-wing commentator? A Rush Limbaugh figure? Maybe a prominent Toronto businessman or other person whose name carries some recognition but otherwise has little knowledge or influence with respect to the situation at hand?

Yeah… if only. Rob Ford is the mayor of Toronto. Canada’s largest city. To put Toronto’s population and national importance in perspective, if you added together the populations of Washington, D.C.; Boston; Miami; Atlanta; and Salt Lake City, you’d have a city roughly the size of Toronto. Fully one sixth of the population of Canada lives within an hour’s drive of Toronto. Rob Ford is the mayor of that. So why is it that he thinks that gun crime is an immigration issue? In his honour’s most illustrious words: [Read more...]

Racism, elections, and how we measure up

A while back, a writer I like got in trouble with a lot of people who would otherwise be fans over something she wrote:

In it, Dr. Harris-Perry (who I follow on Twitter) lays out an argument for why white voters, who supported Barack Obama in the first election, may be abandoning him now at a greater rate than they did President Clinton in the 90′s – despite the many political and situational similarities between the two. Given that so many of the ostensible reasons for withdrawing support are balanced between the two administrations, racism may explain, at least in part, any differences in voter support and approval. It’s hard to argue that race and racism have not played a role in this particular presidency far more than in others.

Because I liked both this article and a related one that more closely explored the racial attitudes of Bill Clinton more specifically and liberals more generally, I fired a quick message to Dr. Harris-Perry in support, because I knew that she was taking quite a bit of flack for her audacious temerity to suggest that liberals weren’t the immaculate paragons of fairness that we make ourselves out to be. Basically, just a “hey, I liked your piece in the Nation.”

The problem, of course, is that racism is notoriously difficult to pin down as a single causal factor. Because we’ve gotten so good at obfuscating it through clever language and self-inflicted racial blindness, it’s particularly challenging to detect positively. Usually you have to try and remove all other potential causal factors and then measure the size of a racial disparity and say “well this has to be racism, because what else could it be?” That is far less psychologically satisfying than being able to point at something definitively, objectively racist and say “look, there’s your monster”.

Which is why I find this a particularly fascinating exercise: [Read more...]

Manufacturing the ‘other’

One of the frequent memes that emerges from racial discourse is that people of colour are expected to try extra hard to justify their existence and inclusion in American society. Nowhere was this more evident than when Congressman Peter King basically revived Joe McCarthy to investigate whether or not Muslims were ‘patriotic’ enough. It is not enough, according to Mr. King, to simply live in the United States – to be a real American, Muslims have to go above and beyond to prove that they’re not ‘too Muslimy’.

Of course, those kinds of obsessive intrusions often only serve to contribute to the general climate of xenophobia that leads to radicalization in the first place. Why on Earth would you be patriotic toward a country that uses the force of its government to peer into your personal life simply because you worship the wrong god? I alluded to this kind of self-fulfilling prophecy of exclusion earlier this week:

It’s not hard, therefore, to imagine why black Americans do not see themselves reflected in the priorities of their country. It is certainly not hard to imagine that they may be less patriotic than one might expect. They see a country that seeks to lie about what it cannot hide. They see a country that seeks to erase what it cannot destroy. They see this country, and they say “god damn America”.

I would be interested to see a study investigating the causal association I believe exists between feelings of exclusion and likelihood of antisocial behaviour. We know, for example, that racial profiling by police makes members of minority communities less likely to co-operate. It’s not exactly rocket science – if you don’t believe the police are on your side, why would you work with them? What I’m curious about is whether or not that refusal to comply with social norms (i.e., recognizing authority figures) translates into a generalized contempt for other types of normative behaviours, like compliance with the law.

Or put another way, are New York’s ‘Stop and Frisk’ policies making their problems worse: [Read more...]