I’ve had a few requests to do some clarifying on some of my comments around race and Canada on some previous conversations I’ve been having online. I thought I would post some of my thought process for what it means that as a Canadian, that we are all guilty of racism in one way or another. There are folks far more suited to speak of things like race than me and I humbly offer up these thoughts recognizing my own complicity in racism and hope that they are receive in the spirit that they are intended.
Canada’s past and present treatment towards Indigenous people’s is one that is more visible if you’ve been paying attention. With broken treaties, residential schools and the mere existence of UNDRIP, I think that it is now self-evident that Canada as a country has committed horrendous death dealing crimes to Indigenous folks across this land.
What might be a bit more under the radar is the experience of black folks in Canada. Robyn Maynard book “Policing Black Lives“, and Desmond Cole’s “The Skin We’re In” (his book comes out early 2020) would be another source of research on how black people living in Canadian white society face extraordinary disadvantages and systemic injustices. I won’t get into all the statistics, but Indigenous and black folks are at a great disadvantage simply because of their skin colour or ethnicity.
My concept of ‘racism’ is tied to structural racism. The ‘ism’ is the important part of it for me. It’s the same use of the ism in Capitalism, Marxism, Communism – it’s a word that describes the framework/structure of a how certain things are ordered and the outcomes that arise from them being ordered that way.
So when we talk about racism, to me we are talking about how society is ordered in which people of colour are systematically at a disadvantage or oppressed.
I then tie this into being called a ‘racist’ – for me it’s similar as being a ‘Capitalist’ or a ‘Marxist’ – it is identifying particular features of your life, your words, your actions, your ideas as being complicit in that overall ISM.
I get called a Capitalist all the time – and in some ways they are right. I own businesses, I’m a shareholder of corporations, I live in a country in which capitalism is a pretty significant way that everything holds together and I am entrenched in it. But in some ways that term doesn’t describe me at all. My ideals are far from capitalist. I am a believer in shared ownership and public ownership, cooperatives, anarchist principals, socialist principals and that the free market should be regulated. I think the more capital that is generated the more it should be distributed. etc. All that to say – there is ‘truth’ behind calling me a capitalist, but it isn’t a term that describes my ideals and beliefs entirely, it is a term that describes my complicity in a system of capitalism.
So when someone passionately disagrees with being called a racist, to me it just means that they are completely ignorant to the racism that we are all in, because our society is racist and we are complicit in it. And the very pushback and denial of being called a racist is part of what makes us a racist society and shows your own complicity in racism.