Watch the original at Colorlines here. Colorlines is an amazing resource, and one of my recommendations is to make sure it’s on your list of blogs to follow now and in the coming year.
I just got home from spending three days at the BC Federation of Labour’s union renewal conference, which focused on strategies for fighting racism in our unions and workplaces and growing a more diverse labour movement. To see how the conference went, check out the liveblog/Tumblr here.
On the first day, Canadian Labour Congress Anti-Racism and Human Rights Director Karl Flecker gave a presentation about Canada’s changing labour force and why acknowledging our history and embracing anti-racism is essential for the future of our movement. To give some examples of the unique issues immigrants to Canada face, Flecker showed the following video produced by TRIEC (Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council):
I think this ad is a concise and effective way of making the point about the injustice many foreign-trained professionals face upon coming to Canada. The irony is that many time Canada evaluates the same immigrants and admits them at least partially based on the fact that they have needed professional skills, but when they get here we put up all possible road blocks to them practicing the profession they’re trained in.
Watching the ad again on YouTube I came across the other 2 ads in the same campaign by TRIEC and thought I’d share them here.
The point is not to malign service jobs, but to point out the racism in the system that marginalizes new immigrants, especially immigrants of colour, and refuses to allow them employment commensurate with their experience.
by Jarrah Hodge
This is part 1 of a 2-part post on media literacy, pop culture analysis, and prioritizing feminist issues. Read Part 2 here.
One of the critiques I often see on feminist blogs is that the post author focuses too much on things the commenter considers unimportant. This is especially true when feminists analyze pop culture.
“Isn’t there anything more important to get into a snit about?” asked a commenter when I put out a question asking for opinions on new ads from the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
From my experience, the argument against looking at the little things usually comes from one of two general perspectives: those who are anti-feminist and are reacting defensively to what they see as criticism of activities or media they might enjoy, or those who consider themselves feminists or progressives who see focusing on pop culture as a distraction from more material feminist concerns.
I’ll start by looking at the former perspective because it’s less complicated. I get a lot of these responses to my annual posts critiquing racist and sexist Halloween costumes, and this year was no exception.
After this year’s Halloween post was quoted in the Huffington Post and on CBC, my views were attacked in a number of blogs and comments. I was listed on one blog with other examples under the following intro paragraph:
“This article is rather long for the modern attention span, but please read the entire thing so you can see just how nuts things have become. (People should be less concerned with offending others and just get on with life.)”
After quoting me, the author finishes the post with: “As a final note, the only thing I can add to this article is that these people have far too much time on their hands if this is what is important to them!”
Here are some other comments from the CBC website along these lines:
“If you’re offended by something, that’s your problem, don’t make it everyone elses. People need to stop being so sensitive, and they need to stop thinking that their feelings are everyone else’s responsibility.”
“If you look hard and long enough you can find racism anywhere. When there is nothing to fight about, people seem to create something.”
You get the picture. This type of comment generally denies that there is any legitimate problem and therefore the person being quoted (me) is wasting her time on something nonexistent. When I write opinion pieces I expect disagreement, but saying the problems are totally fabricated is sort of a non-starter, discussion-wise.
When you’ve spent at least a few hours laying out your argument in a blog post and someone replies you’re pulling stuff out of your ass, it’s hard to figure out where to go from there constructively. If there were actual questions or some acknowledgement they’d read the article, it would be easier to engage in dialogue.
This is especially true when, as in many cases, commenters add that they think I’m being sexist against men or racist against white people (for a great summary of why claims of “reverse sexism” are bogus, check out this article from Finally, a Feminism 101 Blog. Apply same framework to “reverse racism”). I don’t always have the time or energy to go through the basic arguments over and over in these cases.
Onto the second type of “isn’t there something more important to focus on” comments. These generally come from people who identify as feminist/progressive and object to pop culture analysis taking away from more material concerns.
There are so many issues feminists deal with that I am very sensitive to this argument. After all, if we’re spending all our time dissecting representations violence against women on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit how does that stop real violence against women? If we’re looking at photoshopping in advertising how does that help the struggle against poverty? Read more
Lately I’ve been feeling something I can’t really put into words. Every new story about Wall Street corruption or politicians finding new and creative ways to shaft us adds to a general sense of anxiety and frustration about the future. But apparently there is a revolution taking place. And it’s not somewhere far away like Egypt, or even as distant as New York. The Occupy movement has sprung up within walking distance of my apartment in Boston. There’s a good chance that an Occupy movement is taking place in your city, too.
Much like the social revolutions in the Middle East, young people are taking to Twitter and Facebook to spread the word and get people involved. I watched online with nervous fascination as the movement here began to pick up steam. Then when I found out Amanda Palmer was playing a free gig at the protest, I decided this would be a good opportunity to break the ice and see if the movement was something I could support.
It’s not that I didn’t think the protests were necessary. I just know a few things about social movements from the past. The second wave of feminism made huge strides for women’s rights, but it has been severely criticized for excluding women of color. Similar civil rights movements supported advancing the status of racial minorities, but often ignored those of women who stand at an often dangerous intersection between race and gender oppression.
While the “1%” does control most of the wealth in our capitalist system, there are many, many people in the “99%”, regular folks, who hold deep seated prejudices about race or gender. The reasons why are many and complicated, but even without the “bad guy” bureaucrats, women and/or people of color run the risk of being silenced and excluded. This movement is already being touted as our generation’s struggle. I needed to know for myself that this was a movement I could feel proud to join.
So my husband and I walked to Dewey Square, where all of the action is taking place. We kept to ourselves because we’re new in town and we don’t really have a social precedent for revolution etiquette. Despite trying to remain inconspicuous we were interviewed by The Boston Herald. Amanda Palmer’s set was amazing, and there on the street, with the witty signs and empowering music, I started to feel hopeful. Read more
Students at the Universite de Montreal’s Haute Études Commerciales (HEC) put their school on the map in a bad way earlier this month when a group of students took part in a racist “celebration” at the university stadium.
According to the Huffington Post:
“One witness, who is of Jamaican descent, said he felt uncomfortable and was shocked to hear some students chanting, ‘Smoke more weed.’
McGill law student Anthony Morgan, who happened to be on the campus at the time, says the students were doing the chanting in Jamaican accents. Some also wore yellow-and-green track outlets, like the Jamaican Olympic team.”
Here’s a video clip (trigger warning for racism):
As Renee at Womanist Musings points out in her excellent analysis of the incident, the school’s response was less than impressive. Initially, they released a statement essentially saying that the participating students had no ill intentions though the stunt was not acceptable. Only after Morgan went to the media and speculated that he would file a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission, did school representatives go on TV, apologize, and promise to incorporate racial sensitivity training into the school framework to ensure future incidents don’t happen again.
But this was an event which involved several students and was planned for weeks in advance, not likely something that can be easily resolved through making students take a token sensitivity class. Morgan is going ahead with his complaint to the HRC, in hopes that an official investigation will be better able to determine how HEC should proceed.
White people putting on black face makeup was a popular form of entertainment in the 1830s and 1840s. It was often used to demean black people and make them seem stupid and cartoonish, exactly what the students at HEC did. Whether or not it was intentional for all of them, at least some of them should’ve known better.
This type of incident reminds us that Canadians are not above these racist displays, and as much as we’d like to think individual racism is a thing of the past and we only have structural racism to tackle, the attitudes behind the minstrel shows are still with us.
(Photo via Wikimedia Commons by Jean Gagnon)
One of my favourite videos from the Onion in the past year.