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The Silent Racism of ‘Post Racial’ Canada

intersectionalfeminism:

“Thanks bitch. You really further your stereotype.”

This was the note I found pinned under my windshield wiper recently; and it said more about Toronto and multiculturalism than all the official pieties put together.

To backtrack: A Wednesday mid-afternoon, on Bloor St. just west of St. George. I pull into a (rare) parking space, get out of my car, and notice that I’m in the middle of a space big enough for two vehicles. I hate people who do that, so I get back in, and pull up closer to the car in front, nevertheless leaving ample room for that car to exit. Another thing I hate is to be wedged into a parking spot.

As I’m walking away, a woman — well-dressed, middle-aged, white — accosts me on the sidewalk. “If you move back a bit, it’ll be easier for me to get out,” she says.

“Oh,” I respond, “I just wanted to leave enough space for someone else to park.” I glance at the distance between our cars and also at the space ahead of her car; she hasn’t been squeezed in on either side. “You can get out easily,” I add, and hurry off.

When I return to my car some time later, her little love-note is waiting on my windscreen.

I’m black — well, honey-coloured to be precise, but Canadian society doesn’t allow for such nuances — middle-aged and not particularly dangerous-looking. No drugs, no guns. I was therefore surprised to learn that I embodied a stereotype — one, moreover, that had to do with parking! Who knew? I suppose, as stereotypes go, it’s better than some of the alternatives.

Levity aside, this minor incident is deeply revealing. It shows up Toronto’s multicultural rhetoric for the skin-deep illusion that it is. My antagonist may just have been an unpleasant individual; but had I been white, her note would have been different. Probably still offensive, but without the racist default.

What interests me is how easily she slid into this mode of insult. It is an indication of how close below the surface lies the resentment of the “mainstream” population towards the “others” — a reality which the “others” are perfectly aware of, though no-one talks about it (except the activists). In this woman’s eyes, I am not just uncooperative, or too busy to stop. I am black, unobliging and therefore a “stereotype.” Today a parking spot, tomorrow the world.

Toronto likes to pretend to itself that this sort of encounter doesn’t happen — particularly among the genteel middle classes. Crass racism is assumed to be the territory of Alabama rednecks; here, we intellectual elites value multiculturalism and diversity. Blah, blah. I have no doubt that, had we met in a social situation, this woman would have been all gracious smiles and cordial conversation, the most liberal, open-minded person in the world.

But, anonymous she felt safe to vent. Her note wasn’t about a parking space; it was about the silent, secret resentment that “native-born” Canadians have been forced to suppress ever since political correctness took the place of truth. The same venom can be found in the pseudonymous online responses to newspaper reports that have anything to do with multiculturalism. And Quebec, of course, is the current flag-bearer for such sentiments.

In a way, vile comments aside, I sympathize with these “traditional Canadians.” For the last 30 years, all attention has been turned toward the newcomers: their needs, their fears, their success or failure. At the other end of the time spectrum, the indigenous people also demand attention. Who speaks for those caught in the middle, neither new enough nor “old” enough nor poor enough to merit sympathy and social programs?

In the old days, these people didn’t have to pretend to like the multicultural onslaught; today, they do. The threat of the Human Rights Commission, not to mention social ostracism, hangs heavy in the air. A word out of place can bring ominous consequences.

And so they seethe in silence, with periodic anonymous eruptions. It can’t possibly be healthy — for them, for the newcomers or for the society at large.

Perhaps, rather than all the politically correct lip-service, we should seek out truth. Let people speak, let people answer. Educate rather than punish. Let communication take the place of hypocrisy. I’m sure we would all feel better for it. And maybe we would even start liking each other a little bit more.

#canada is not perfect#canada is not a wonderland#canada is not cute#canada is not harmless (glockgal)

bestnatesmithever:

bitrates:

It’s amazing how fast your mood can change after you step in some water with socks on.

I got pissed just thinking about it.

(Source: bitrates)

I understand as I did back then that none of us really wants to be known, to be exposed, to be found out. We want to keep part of ourselves—the sources of our deepest vulnerabilities—hidden, both to ourselves and to others. And yet sometimes, despite our best efforts, our hearts peek out, and we want to sneak off and sit with our heads in our hands and softly let the words ‘oh boy’ exhale out of our mouths.
Philip Seymour Hoffman on the opening line of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, which appears not in the dialogue itself, but as a “perhaps” in the stage directions: “Oh boy.” This from Hoffman’s wonderful foreword to A View from the Bridge.  (via classicpenguin)