Can’t Ignore Race When Talking About Gains in Politics

by | May 13, 2015
filed under Politics, Racism

It was Rosemary Brown who once said: “Until all of us have made it, none of us have made it.”

It seems this message has been lost on the team at CBC Radio’s Day 6 program, whose recent segment focused on whether gender and sexual orientation have turned into non-issues for candidates seeking elected office.

To weigh in, they recruited an all-white panel: Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, PEI Premier Wade MacLauchlan and former Wildrose party leader Danielle Smith.

It bothered me that this segment left out any mention of race (except in the context of getting our votes). This glaring omission was obvious, from the pictures on the webpage to the content of the interviews.

"More women and openly gay leaders in Canadian politics: Are barriers coming down" headline and photos for the segment on the Day 6 website - Rachel Notley, Wade MacLauchlan and Kathleen Wynne

The headline and photos for the segment on the Day 6 website

It ignored the terrible stories of racism we have heard from women on recent campaign trails. Like Katherine Swampy, a First Nations candidate in Alberta who has run up against racism all her life – and has said the campaign trail was no different; or Jacqueline Tuplin, a First Nations candidate who ran for the NDP in PEI and had her signs vandalized with offensive slurs. She called it what it is – misogynistic racism.

It ignored the fact that in PEI, women’s representation in the legislature actually decreased to 19% – a very far distance from parity. Premier MacLauchlan’s own party only ran seven female candidates of 27. I can’t even find information on the number of visible minorities elected.

And, while their elections are indeed historic, just because Premier MacLauchlan and Premier Wynne didn’t experience barriers on the campaign trail related to their sexual orientation doesn’t mean that will be the experience for everyone – especially for those candidates who are also visible minorities. The failure to even mention sexual identity also happens all too often (the show made no mention of the barriers facing trans candidates).

So, we’re not “there” yet. The glass ceiling has not been shattered. Many barriers exist. Race matters. Racism exists. And, people have intersecting identities.

By ignoring this reality, this segment succeeded only in sending a painful reminder to people like me (the deluxe pizzas of the world, if you will), of just how far we have to go to achieve more inclusive and diverse governments.

Photo of Kathleen Wynne by Uiaeli (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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