Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bullshit is the same color everywhere

One of Edmonton's websites has been raising hell lately among people with a frontal cortex in the form of a racist anti-racism message. The page in question addresses the audience, saying that "You" (and you know which 'you' they're talking to, you white person, you) need to "Acknowledge your white privilege" in order to combat racism. In case that didn't chap your bleached ass enough, the article continues on to say that white people "likely harmed non-white people with [their] own whiteness". Are we talking sun blindness here? Because I'm working on tanning. The whole junk was apparently cribbed from an old manifesto circa 1989 (Oh good grief, is that old now? Are the nineties far enough away to call them an obsolete culture? Groan) by a professor who was addressing white, male privilege, and I don't doubt that it was necessary and well-done at the time. But when I'm writing about cake making, I tend to assume Dear Reader has an oven rather than a hole in the backyard filled with fire. "Hang on guys; White folks enjoyed a privileged position? They trampled on other races? News at 11!"

What they are primarily wrong in stating, however, is not the notion that white people have enjoyed a privileged status, but the notion that they are the only race capable of counteracting racism. Back when "the White Man's Burden" was a scathing ironic criticism of white man's imperialistic and patronizing nature, I am pretty sure there were, and possibly even are, people who took it seriously; but these people should not be making municipally funded websites, since they obviously have their heads up a place where perspective is less than stellar. This sort of paternalistic attitude is, I hesitate to suggest, perhaps the result of a dependence on Affirmative Action programs. These programs were essential, I will be the first to admit, and provided an invaluable service to society in the years they were introduced and implemented, but with genuine racism being a sign of a backwards outcast I am not sure they are the best process to be using in this current time because of the fact that they did exactly what they were intended to do: give assistance. I think perhaps effective legislation to deal with individual situations of racism (which still occur) might be a better notion and would help erode this idea that we have to "help out" the "noble savage" to become like "us", rather than continue this belief that they cannot help themselves. Ironically the website asks whether we have committed racism because we: "Oppressed others of your own racial group because you believed in the negative racial stereotypes and prejudices presented by others?" which sounds a lot like what they were purporting to do, by assuming only whites were racist. Furthermore, "RACISM is often used to advantage people of European descent over people of African, Asian or Aboriginal descent." - I don't feel this detail was really necessary.

Perusing the site reveals a number of other idiocies that belie a lack of actual thought in the web site's direction. A helpful little box at the bottom of the site indicates that it is racist to ask someone where they are really from because they may be a fifth generation Canadian. True, it is stupid to ask someone where they're REALLY from, as if you could crack their secret code and be let in on their life story, but unless asking someone about their heritage is racist, it's not racist. It is an ignorant way to get the same answer (Unless you continue to believe that they are lying to you about where they originated from - that's racist). Also, the whole thing carries the suggestion that a fifth generation Canadian is "more" Canadian than someone who was recently granted citizenship (Canadianism tends to build up like DDTs). A little sticker informs us that "children don't see skin color", which is only sort of true. Children tend to pick up on tiny subtle cues that we may be giving off, and extrapolate on them to a point where they begin to display racist tendencies. They're like little magnifying sponges. So if they encounter the notion, somehow, that only white people are racist, that non-whites need babysitting, or that X people are Y, they tend to internalize it and act according to this manner. It also states that Edmonton needs to "Raise awareness of the positive contributions made by immigrants and Aboriginal people to the economy of the region", as if a) there are no immigrants or aboriginal peoples that don't provide a positive contribution or b) that is somehow justifies their presence, as if they need to "earn the right" to be here. Creating an idealized notion of non-whites simply means that if a person comes up against an example that does not fit their romanticized vision of people, they will simply abandon the notion that such people can provide a positive influence. They also suggest that to combat racism we should "Adapt your speaking style and vocabulary for the intended audience", which just opens a giant can of worms as to what is the appropriate speaking style and vocabulary for which intended audience...

Why, exactly, the website would include such an inflammatory and controversial position is a fact for some heavy debate, especially when the website openly contradicts itself by including such sentences as: "Negating the unique experiences of people with different racial characteristics e.g. “I don’t see people as having a colour – I see and treat everyone as the same.”" but I suspect the motivation for such has more to do with generating publicity than a genuine mistake (or even internal malice). After all, we are talking about it now. They say there's no such thing as bad publicity.

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