Saturday, 24 June 2017

Overt Racism, Hidden Racism and the Negation of Canadian Values in Favour of "Accommodation"

This past week, a video surfaced of a woman in Mississauga demanding that her son be seen by a white doctor. I think that most Canadians would agree with me that this woman's behaviour was absolutely disgusting and has no place in our society. But inasmuch as we would like to condemn her racist rant, perhaps we should take a deeper look at ourselves, because I think we'll find that many of us are guilty of the same kind of prejudice that she was extolling.

Why do you think, for example, major Canadian cities like Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver have so many so-called ethnic neighbourhoods? The simple reason is that many if not most human beings feel more comfortable being amongst people who are of a similar ethnic, racial, religious or linguistic background. This is especially true of people who are newcomers to a country. In fact, for new immigrants to Canada, so-called ethnic neighbourhoods help these people make a smoother transition to Canadian life, although I would argue that sometimes they can do just the opposite when members of those communities ghettoize themselves and refuse to inter-mingle with the rest of society. It's just basic human nature. People often want to be with other people who they view as being more like them. And it's not just about where you live. It's also about who you work with, where you shop and who you choose to provide you with certain services. Yes, we may all want to chastise this rude woman in the aforementioned video, who went into a racist tirade demanding to see a white doctor, but how many of us have doctors or other professionals who we choose to serve us in part because they belong to the same ethnic, racial, religious or linguistic group that we do? Let's be honest, folks. At some point or another, we would all rather be with the people we call "our own". Does that make us racist? Yes, it does. Hence, the only difference between the woman in the clip and most other people is that she chooses to make her racism explicit and public, whereas the rest of us try to hide it and pretend it isn't there.

I should also add that whereas most of us think of someone explicitly demanding to see a white doctor as being offensive behaviour, many Canadians don't seem to mind when someone insists on seeing a male or female doctor because of their religious beliefs. In fact, rather than characterize this kind of insistence as sexism, we call it accommodation. So basically, respecting and accommodating someone's different beliefs means negating gender equality, which is something that I would consider to be amongst Canada's fundamental values. And this is just one example. How about when public schools are used as prayer spaces where males and females are segregated? Or, when we allow a woman to take a citizenship oath while wearing a veil over her face in deference to a sexist religious doctrine that dictates that women must cover their faces while men don't have to? My point is that in attempting to accommodate other people's differences, we fail to adhere to some of the fundamental values that are supposed to define Canada. Demanding to see a white doctor due to a racist bias is offensive, but demanding to see a male or female doctor based on sexist religious doctrine isn't!? I just don't get it.    

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