Roger Ebert gets it EXACTLY right

Some day, if I keep at this writing thing, and work really hard, I may become as good a writer as Roger Ebert is:

How would I feel if I were a brown student at Miller Valley Elementary School in Prescott, Arizona? A mural was created to depict some of the actual students in the school.

Roger is, of course, talking about a recent event in which a mural depicting a brown-skinned child in Arizona was “lightened” because his skin tone was deemed “too dark”. The justification for the decision was that the shading needed to be fixed, so it would look like the child was “coming into the light.” Of course, that brilliant explanation was somewhat at odds with the reports of people driving by the mural in their cars and screaming racial obscenities at it.

Dear people of Arizona: paint cannot hear you, but the children working on the mural can.

Of course this all happens in the wake of an unguardedly racist immigration bill, giving police the power (and, in fact, obligating them) to demand documentation from any person on the street who “seems” like an illegal immigrant. If the suspect doesn’t have proof of legal status on them, they are arrested. Besides being in direct violation of the 4th Amendment (the one banning illegal search and seizure; we have a similar statute in Canada), it is essentially de facto racial profiling – requiring people who don’t “look American” to carry documentation, while those who do “look American” are fine. I don’t imagine it’s a huge stretch to imagine who will and won’t get arrested. For more reaction to the bill, I’d suggest you check out CLS’s blog. This post is about Roger.

Mr. Ebert pivots this story into a recounting of his own experiences growing up with race and racism in the United States:

This is not a record of my reading but of my understanding. I don’t know if you can understand what it was like in those days. Racism was ingrained in daily life. It wasn’t the overt racism of the South, but more like the pervading background against which which we lived. We were here and they were there and, well, we wished them well, but that was how it was.

I’ve made my stance on this pretty clear before, but any time anyone says to me “I’m not a racist” I immediately roll my eyes and brace myself for a veritable storm of racist ignorance. The phrase “I am not a racist” means only one thing: I am completely unaware of the history and pervasive nature of racism in society, and I believe that by simple force of will, I can undo hundreds of years of racialization. Those who fail to recognize the role that racism plays in our every day lives are the ones who will be the first to say or do something completely racially insensitive (well, maybe the second ones, after the handful of overt racists out there).

Mr. Ebert does nothing of the kind; he recognizes that race existed for him, and had the insight to recognize how it changed for him over the years. He talks about his wife, expressing his experience of her race:

…when I looked at her I saw Chaz. Chaz. A fact. A person of enormous importance to me. Chaz. A history. Memories. Love. Passion. Laughter. Her Chaz-ness filled my field of vision. Yes, I see that she is black, and she sees that I am white, but how sad it would be if that were in the foreground.

This perfectly echoes the sentiment expressed by John Legend, which I talked about some weeks ago. It’s not a crime to see race; the problem lies in how large racial identity looms in your mind when forming opinions about someone else. Roger and Chaz don’t love each other despite their racial difference, it just doesn’t play an important role in their relationship.

Finally, Mr. Ebert arrives at his original subject matter:

What I cannot imagine is what it would be like to be one of those people driving past in their cars day after day and screaming hateful things out of the window. How do you get to that place in your life? Were you raised as a racist, or become one on your own?

It’s here where I step off Mr. Ebert’s track. Race and racism aren’t mysteries, they aren’t baffling quirks of humanity that have no explanation. Racism is ingrained in our culture, so much so that we don’t see it. We’re doubly-cursed because we are told that we’re not allowed to talk about it. As a result, we don’t know what racism actually is, except when it’s too obvious to ignore. Then we distance ourselves from “those people” and comfort ourselves by saying “well I’m not a racist, because I would never scream obscenities at children.” It’s a dangerous downward comparison that shields us from having to address the issues in our own lives, rather than admitting our own faults and areas where we can improve.

If you haven’t clicked on the link and read the whole article, I urge you to do so. It’s an amazingly poignant relation of a white person’s experience of race and racism in a modern context, and provides a rich historical context. I wish more people had the courage to do what Roger has done – talk about race in an open, honest, and vulnerable way. I can only hope that some day I will reach his level of Word-Fu.

The truth is important!

In the interest of not writing an entire book about it, I decided to break up last Monday’s post into two parts. Last week, for those of you whose fingers are too atrophied to click on the link provided, I talked about why I’m not content to simply leave people alone to believe whatever they want. The basic thrust of my refutation was that it’s a total myth that people keep their beliefs to themselves. Some people most assuredly keep their personal beliefs about God, or medicine, or whatever completely to themselves and you’d never know what they think. Part of the problem is that those people don’t seem to want to want to speak out against those who might share their beliefs, but who want to force those beliefs on others through the passing of laws.

There’s another part to why I am not content to leave people alone to believe whatever unsubstantiated nonsense (and I probably believe in a lot of unsubstantiated nonsense myself) they want, and it is a bit more abstract and philosophical. As such, I am going to resort to one of my favourite tactics: allegory.

Imagine for a moment that you are the only human person in existence. You have complete and total autonomy, since your actions affect you and you alone. You are perfectly free, therefore, to believe that the birds are sent from the gods to nourish you, that the moon is made of green cheese, and that your farts smell like rainbows. It doesn’t matter. You exist in an entirely valueless world, except insofar as you need to do whatever it takes to keep yourself alive. If those beliefs help you achieve some happiness, then go for it.

Now imagine that another person (Eve) pops into existence. She has her own set of beliefs – that birds are winged tools of the devil, the moon is the eye of Horus, and that your farts are quite disgusting. You have two options at this point if you wish to keep your faith intact: you can either completely cut yourself off from Eve so as to preserve your beliefs through ignorance, or you can convert her to your way of thinking. However, it turns out that you and Eve need each other to live. She’s the only one who has the capability to get fresh drinking water, and only you can gather food (for whatever reason). As a result, you can’t simply abandon her.

Eve stubbornly refuses to adopt your beliefs simply on your say-so. “Okay,” you say “Eve and I will simply have to agree to disagree about birds, be indifferent to the moon, and I will try to disguise my farts.” In this way, you are able to co-exist with Eve because you’ve kept your beliefs to yourself. Great! Well, it’s great until Eve gets sick, and the only food you can find is the birds you are able to shoot. Eve, however, won’t bring herself to touch the flesh of the devil’s creations, and would rather die than eat. That’s all well and good for her, but if she dies so do you.

How do we resolve this conundrum? Eve is simply exercising her right to believe as she likes, but in such a way as puts your life at risk. Does her right to believe preclude your right to live? Since (for the sake of this allegory) you are the only one who can get food, doesn’t she have a duty to you in the same way that you have a duty to her for providing you with water? Even if you don’t buy the whole “duty” argument, wouldn’t the world be a better place for both of you if Eve was to abandon her belief in devil birds?

There’s a very simple answer to this problem: look at the evidence. Why does Eve think birds are from the devil? Eve says it’s because only demonic power can explain their ability to fly through the air, whilst a rock falls to the Earth (the way all of God’s creatures should). Luckily, you are able to demonstrate through your advanced knowledge of physics the exact principle by which birds achieve flight. Furthermore, you point out other animals, like bats, that can fly. You also show her examples like flying fish and flying squirrels that don’t fly as such, but might represent “transitional forms” between land animals and flying animals. While you can’t ever prove that the devil doesn’t exist, there is no evidence that he does. Furthermore, there is a lot of reasonable evidence to suggest that birds fly for reasons that have nothing to do with magic or evil.

Joy of joys! Eve agrees to eat, based on your rational explanation of a process that isn’t based on a belief in the non-demonic nature of birds, but on verifiable facts and observation. Did you prove that the devil didn’t make birds? No, and of course that’s impossible. You just provided a better explanation that is supported by facts rather than superstition.

What does this have to do with anything? Here’s the thesis of the post: when different beliefs are in conflict, we can use logic and evidence to establish the truth. Not wanting to get into a ridiculous discussion of “what is truth?”, I will simply define it as what happens in the world whether you believe in it or not. I might not believe that anything exists unless I am aware of it, but if someone sneaks up on me and hits me with a cream pie, my lack of belief in them doesn’t make me look any less foolish.

While the “why can’t you let people believe what they want” fallacy is appealing, it is based on the flawed assumption that you exist in a world completely unconnected from any other human person. If you act on a belief, and it comes into conflict with someone else’s beliefs, there must be a resolution. The only fair way to resolve such conflicts is to look at the world around you and establish some facts. If your beliefs come into conflict with the facts, and the practice of your beliefs affects someone else, the burden is on you to either show how the facts are incorrect or to change your beliefs (which is a lot easier to do when they’re just ideas). To do otherwise is to insist that the world must revolve around your beliefs, despite the fact that they are not based on anything besides your own prejudice.

I’m perfectly happy to allow people to have whatever belief makes it easier to sleep at night (or to borrow a phrase, “whatever lifts your luggage“) only up until your beliefs and mine come into conflict. At that point, we need to have some standard by which to measure which belief is substantiated by reality. The world is a complex place, and we have to live in it with each other. Don’t we deserve real answers to tough questions, rather than allowing prejudice and superstition to ruin our lives?

What you missed this week: June 21st – 25th

Lots of good stuff this week, when I:

Here’s what you can look forward to next week:

  • I’m going to finish my discussion of leaving bad ideas alone;
  • Roger Ebert stuns me with both the quality and content of his writing;
  • Exploring how believers resolve their religious and secular conflict;
  • A chilling of free speech in Canadian politics; and
  • One of the greatest standup comedians ever.

Make sure you don’t miss it!

Movie Friday: Look Around You – Germs

Whenever I hear anyone talk about their theories for why ‘alternative medicine’ works, this is what pops into my head:

This video is from the HILARIOUS series “Look Around You”. If you’re ever bored and in need of a laugh, you should watch these.

This is what I think of whenever I hear people talk about science who don’t actually know anything about the subject. You can dress up absolute nonsense in sciency-sounding clothes, but it doesn’t mask the fact that it’s a bunch of crap.

Anyway, enjoy!

A dilly of a pickle

Here’s an interesting ethical debate, for those of you who swing that way:

Ontario’s highest court is considering the thorny issue of whether a sexual assault complainant should remove her niqab to face her alleged attackers in court. The issue has drawn attention from several groups, that are not only split on whether or not a woman should be able to wear a veil in the witness box, but also on the fundamental questions the issue evokes.

Imagine you’re a woman (which will be much easier for my female readers… hello ladies) who has been beaten and sexually assaulted by her family. Imagine your family, and you, are devout Muslims, which means that you must cover your face when you leave the house. Imagine that in order to get the abuse to stop, or to see justice done, you must remove the veil in court to testify. Are you less likely to be willing to testify if it means violating your religious beliefs? What if it’s not just your beliefs, but those of your husband and children, who will be scandalized (and might leave you) if you show your face in public.

Now imagine you’re a lawyer (which will be much easier for my law-school readers… hello lawyers) who has been tasked with representing this woman. Imagine your esteemed colleague, the defense lawyer, is saying that the case should be thrown out on the grounds that cross-examination of your client is impossible, since she is covering her face. Imagine that the abusive rapists will be allowed to walk free on a technicality because your client is bowing to sexist superstition about immodesty based on an interpretation of scripture, an interpretation that even many practitioners of her own faith disagree with. Do you tell her that her claim is meaningless, and that her courage in filing the suit in the first place was a waste of time because of her closely-held beliefs?

This isn’t an abstract thought experiment, this is actually happening. Once again, the laws of the land are having to tiptoe around religious rules. The blame doesn’t lie with this woman, she’s just trying to live her life. The fault lies within a system that allows the systematic subjugation of all women to be seen as a virtuous act. For once, I don’t have a clear-cut answer of what the court should do. On the one hand, testifying would have deleterious effects on the plaintiff and possibly cause her to lose her family and social life; it would most certainly deter other abused women from coming forward after they see that the consequence of speaking up is social isolation (and possibly more abuse). On the other hand however, allowing her to wear the veil not only violates the right of the accused to confront their accuser face-to-face, but implicitly assents to the practice of veiling women.

I’d be very interested to hear what you have to say on the topic. My opinion as it stands now is that it is better to err on the side of the abused and make concessions for them, while at the same time affirming that we do not condone the practice of the veil, but that may change as I have more time to mull it over.

RCC gets even closer to a real apology

Regular readers will remember two weeks ago when I gave credit where credit is due to the Pope for finally admitting that the abuse and its systematic and deplorable covering up of that abuse are the fault of the Catholic Church itself, and not a cabal of people trying to ruin a good organization. It looks like Benedict thinks that blaming ‘Sin’ was enough, and is now asking Catholics worldwide to forgive the Church:

Pope Benedict XVI has begged forgiveness from clerical abuse victims and promised to “do everything possible” to ensure priests don’t rape and molest children ever again.

I have a question for you, dear readers. Have any of you been in, or been witness to, an abusive relationship? Have you ever been stuck in a vicious cycle with some asshole who swears “I can change, I swear I’ll do whatever it takes” as long as you take him/her back? I’ve seen it, and believe me it isn’t pretty. We’d all like to believe that people can change if they love you enough – that their feelings for you are so strong that they’ll move Heaven and Earth just to keep you.

What ends up happening in those situations? I’ll tell you: the change lasts for about as long as it takes for you to stop being angry, and then everything goes back to the way it was before. People don’t change. As much as they’d like to believe it, people don’t suddenly become better people by sheer force of will. It takes years for us to form our personalities, and it will similarly take years to change those personalities. Press the apologizers for details on how they’ll change, and you’ll find that they have no plan, no specific behaviours, no real concrete idea of what they’re going to do. But they’ll do it!

So whenever I hear someone say something vague like “do everything possible”, I roll my eyes and say “sure, tell me another one.” Organizations don’t change wholesale, especially in the absence of real ideas for reform. When a change is proposed that offers zero specifics on how to make it happen, it’s the equivalent of saying ‘I don’t think what I did was wrong, but you’re mad, so I’ll feed you a line until you stop being mad.’ I’ve done it to my parents, I’ve had friends do it to their significant others, I’ve seen friends’ significant others do it to them, and I’ve been on the receiving end more times than I care to recall. It inevitably ends the same way.

So while I’m willing to believe that the Pope (and the Church by extension) feels really really bad about what happened, I’ll withhold any talk of forgiveness until I see real change. Asking for forgiveness does not oblige me to grant it to you. Seeing as the abuse happened for decades and was rife throughout the entire organization, it’s going to take a lot before I’m willing to believe that any progress has been made.

Update: Gay couple in Malawi pardoned

A couple weeks back I talked about a couple that was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment for the shocking, deplorable act of… well, being in love with each other. However, ultra-religious Malawi doesn’t like it when you’re in love with someone who has similar genitalia (although to be 100% clear, it was a law that was brought in by the British).

However, it seems that what Malawi likes even less than ‘teh butt secks’ is getting their own ass pounded by the international community:

Mr (President Bingu wa) Mutharika, speaking as UN chief Ban Ki-moon visited his country, said he had ordered their immediate release.

We don’t get a lot of flashy victories in the fight against the forces of stupid, but this one is a bit of good news. Luckily, the voices of reason were able to shout down the voices of “that’s just how they do things in their culture” and get these two guys out of jail. Listen, folks: when my country trades with your country, when the health and well-being of your citizens affects my bottom line, and when you are violating their human rights (as I define them), then I absolutely have a right to speak up. When the suffering of your people inspires outrage and sympathy in my people, and they demand that I do something, you’d better believe that I’m going to speak up. If you want to practice barbarism, then you’ve got to deal with the consequences; one of which is the fact that the richest parts of the world have moved past your small-minded interpretation of scripture. You want our money? You’ve got to play by our rules. You want to keep your practices the same? Then you’ve got to convince me (and my people) that you’re justified in doing so. “This is the way we do things here” is not justification, it’s special pleading, and I’m not swayed by it.

Of course, there’s no happy ending to this story. Homosexuality is still illegal in Malawi, and bowing to legal pressure (and probably threats of physical violence), the couple has split up, and one man is now pretending to be heterosexual. It’s tragic that they’re unable and seemingly unwilling to stand up for gay rights in their country, but I can understand why. I can only hope that other gay people in Africa are more willing to stand up to the pressure and demand their human rights, despite the horrible cost.

Why can’t you just leave them be?

I watched a mini-drama unfold on a thread that was linked to my Deepak Chopra post a couple weeks ago. Some of the massage professionals on the site did not take kindly to the idea of skeptics telling people that they were wrong.The ‘arrogance’ card was pulled out (although I think telling people you have special insight into the supernatural, with no evidence to back that up, is far more arrogant than mentioning the lack of evidence), and my buddy Brian decided to go on the forum and explain some things from the skeptic position. He was particularly ill-received by a gentleman named Emmanuel Bistas, who derided both Brian and the originator of the thread for elitism and arrogance, and suggested they focus on things that were more important than Deepak Chopra. The precursor post to our activity in Vancouver spells out very clearly why we care about Dr. Chopra’s line of bull, and why it’s important to speak up about it.

And then I ran into the same plaintive cry that all people whose beliefs are supported by no evidence retreat to when someone challenges them:

“I am not saying I would not do all in my means natural and medicinal to care for my children but that is my decision and it is not up to me to make another feel or believe as I do it is up to each and every individual to find the path that is right for them.”

Ah yes, the “let people believe what they want to believe” card, also known as the “why can’t you just leave people alone?” card. The argument is that people are entitled to believe as they like, and we have no right to tell people their beliefs are wrong. I’ve heard the argument most frequently when it comes to discussions of religion. After successfully pointing out the fact that there is no rational case for belief in God, that the practice of religion often leads to horrible abuse, and that there are much better alternatives to belief in the supernatural, I inevitably hear something along the lines of “if it makes people happy, why take it away from them? Why can’t you just let people believe what they want?”

As I’ve said many times before about arguments like this, on the surface of things this seems like a reasonable response. If belief in the afterlife or a loving deity who answers prayers or a middle-eastern priest who cures lepers makes people happy, then there’s no harm in letting them continue to believe. In other words, why can’t you just leave people alone?

There’s a good answer to this question, and it’s a little glib:

They don’t leave me alone

Apologists for religious belief (and when I say religious, I mean any belief system that is based on faith in a supernatural being, not merely organized religious entities) like to paint this picture of poor beleaguered faithful people who just want to be left alone to practice their religion in the privacy of their own home. They are perfectly happy to let others believe what they want; why can’t I extend them the same courtesy?

The answer is that, just like the cake, the picture is a lie. The only way you could possibly believe that religious groups aren’t attempting to (and succeeding at) seize political power to enforce a faith-based agenda on everyone is if you’re not paying attention to anything happening in the world. Part of the reason I started this blog was to highlight specific incidences where religious groups have hijacked political systems to pass laws based on a Biblical/Qu’ranic justification of some issue or another. By my count, I have no fewer than 15 posts with specific examples (keep in mind this blog is only 4 months old), and I invite you to go back through the archives if you still think religious groups are content to leave well enough alone.

The fact is that while we have been wrapped in the blanket of complacency, soothing ourselves with meaningless jibberish like “everyone’s entitled to their opinion” and “who are we to say what is right and wrong“, religious groups have been taking the exact opposite position, forcing your laws to abide by their opinions and deciding for you what is right and wrong. This will not change unless someone speaks up in opposition and says “you do not speak for me, and I want to see the justification for your position.”

“But Crommunist,” you may be saying “most people aren’t religious fundamentalists. They aren’t trying to pass laws, they just want to live their own lives.” This is true, and most of my friends who are “religious” are that way very quietly, in name only. They don’t buy things like literal Biblical interpretation, or scripture-based laws, some probably even doubt the divinity of Jesus. I know this, because I was in the exact same position not too long ago. While I have sympathy for those friends who just want to be left alone, failing to speak up against those who want to relig-ify our country in the name of appeasement gives political cover to the hard-liners. Lack of dissent is assent – if you don’t speak up, you’re implicitly agreeing with them. If you do agree, then say so; if you don’t, you have a responsibility to say so too.

But this type of excuse doesn’t confine itself to religion. The people on the massage forum weren’t explicitly talking about religion, they were talking about medicine – specifically, energy medicine. A modality for which there is no evidence, which has been tested and found not to work, but is still practiced anyway. It’s all well and good to talk about “leaving people alone”, but when you are in a position of trust (as you are if you are a medical practitioner), and you abuse that position to “treat” people with modalities that are completely ineffective, you are violating that trust. It is wildly unethical to mislead someone into thinking they are receiving treatment when all you are doing is giving them a placebo (remember: if you have to believe in it in order for it to work, it’s a placebo). Informed consent is the cornerstone of the ethical practice of any profession, but particularly one in which the recipient is in such a compromised position. Lying to people, and a lie of omission is still a lie, is not “leaving them alone”, it’s deceit.

We have a duty to each other to be honest and forthright in all of our dealings. Part of that process is to look at reality to see if our beliefs are supported by fact. If there is no fact for or against, then we have to go by logic and reason. Once logic and reason have exhausted their usefulness, then I suppose all opinions are equally valid. However, that’s not the case for quack medicine, and it’s certainly not the case for religion. I refuse to stand by with my thumb in my ass while people spout absolute lies and fabrications that don’t hold up to the evidence, especially when they’re getting rich while doing so. If you still think that it’s the inherent right of people to believe what they want even when it’s contradicted by evidence, ask yourself if you think it’s the inherent right of people to be able to defraud each other for profit.

What you missed this week: June 14th – 18th

Well don’t you feel foolish? Look at what you missed this week:

That was all in one week! Are you sure you can afford to miss next week when:

  • I discuss why I refuse to leave people’s beliefs alone;
  • We learn the fate of Malawi’s most famous gay couple;
  • The Roman Catholic Church gets even closer to getting it right;
  • Ontario’s Supreme Court faces a major cultural conundrum; and
  • Germs arrive (from Germany)?

Rhetorical questions are for pussies – you can’t afford to miss it. Stay tuned!

Racism is alive and well in Canada

I want to re-iterate something off the top of this post: I love my country. I love how we have managed to find a way to safeguard individual freedoms without sacrificing our sense of mutual custodianship to each other. I love the fact that we pride ourselves on separating religion from politics, and are, for the most part, very willing (perhaps sometimes too willing) to accommodate the cultural practices of others. I love that things like guns and gay marriage and abortion, things that are currently tearing the United States apart, are relatively foregone conclusions here – not to minimize the struggles of the past to get things this way, but they were much shorter and less divisive.

I love my country… and I fear for it.

I fear for it simply because we are happy to close our eyes and pretend that racism is not an issue here. I was all pumped to write a short post about a news item I saw in the paper:

Hate crimes increased 35% between 2007 and 2008, according to a report from Statistics Canada released on Monday, with Jewish and black people the most targeted groups for attacks. The data shows hate crimes are on the rise in each motivation grouping: race and ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation.

I was going to say that we’re clearly not out of the woods, and that even though much of the rise may be attributable to an increase in the number of reported cases as people become more willing to call a hate crime ‘a hate crime’, a 35% jump is not something to sweep under the carpet, as it may represent a real increase. I was particularly chilled by the fact that Vancouver, my home, was the city with the highest rate of attacks (I immediately thought of Courtenay, BC). It was just going to be a quick piece, reminding us not to be complacent.

Then I read this truly execrable word salad of an opinion column written by Mindelle Jacobs, a woman who, if she got paid anything for writing this piece, was grossly overpaid:

If you look under enough rocks, you’ll find the slimy underbelly of discrimination. But let’s not blow this study out of proportion. After all, this is not Kyrgyzstan, where hundreds of minority Uzbeks have been killed.

The vast majority of Canadians embrace a live-and-let-live philosophy, partly because Canada is wealthy, stable and rooted in inclusive Judeo-Christian principles and the rule of law and partly because we are a nation of immigrants fashioning a comparatively new country.

Gah! So much wrong in only two sentences (I count the first paragraph as one sentence – those periods are inappropriately placed). Let’s see, right off the top we’ve got a brainless downward comparison (oh goody! We’re not as bad as a genocidal country! Calloo Callay!), and an appeal to that shiny old lie that Canada is founded on Judeo-Christian principles. Finally, after relating a completely off-topic story about a friend who wears a Star of David and fears being discriminated against, she ends with this gem:

Hate crimes constitute less than 1% of all our crimes. Yes, we have a few bigoted lunatics. But we have a powerful counter force — millions of Canadians without a discriminatory bone in their bodies.

“Don’t worry,” Ms. Jacobs says “everything is okay! You don’t have to worry about it! Only 1% of all crimes are hate crimes! And it’s only done by ‘those people’, not by good-hearted Canadians like you and me!”

Here’s a hint for Ms. Jacobs: if you’re going to write an article about race and race issues in Canada, it might help if you do… let’s say 5 minutes of reading on the topic before you publish an opinion piece with national circulation. This idiotic scribbling was picked up by dailies all over the country, spreading the pablum of “everything’s okay, we don’t have to make any changes because we’re not Kyrgyztan” to Canadians everywhere.

So this post is going to be just a little longer than it was supposed to be. Since we’ve already talked about Nova Scotia, both present and past, and of course Courtenay making the news, the particular challenges Canada faces with regard to race, and a number of recent examples of cultures clashing here, I thought I’d bring one more thing to the table.

Isn’t it great when, while the rest of the world is coming together to play soccer and set aside their differences, we here in Canada are happily tossing racist epithets at children? Yes Ms. Jacobs, there’s no race problem in Canada; well, unless you ask someone who isn’t white. This poor girl was not only the victim of comments from the other kids on the field, but by their parents as well. What kind of person do you have to be to insult a child… regardless of the nature of the insult. Hatred of Natives is widespread pretty much everywhere across Canada, and this incident is merely an obvious example of it. People here in Vancouver like to make insulting comments about Native people to my face, as though it’s okay to be racist against some people, because I’m not part of that group. I can only make assumptions about what kinds of things they say about black people when I’m not in the room.

So we’ve got racism coast to coast, and a columnist who seems to think it’s just a handful of isolated incidents. Ms. Jacobs asks if Edmonton and Calgary are hotbeds of racism, pooh-poohing the idea. This means that she has spent zero time talking to any black or Native people who live in these cities. She’s never bothered to look across the prairies and see how South Asians and Natives are treated by the communities there. She’s never seen the race divide and ghettoization of immigrants in Southern Ontario. She’s clearly never been to Surrey, or any Native reserve where white Canadians are distrusted and hated. No, Mindelle Jacobs clearly doesn’t know anything about race in Canada, happy to stick with the lies instead of poking her head out and seeing anything that challenges her rose-tinted view that Canada is a happy, Christian place where “only” 1% of our crimes are based on hate. I’d much rather live in the real Canada, which has its flaws, but where real progress can be made.