Here comes that racial thing again

By Pat Watson Wednesday May 14 2014 in Opinion
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There was a time, or at least a moment, after Barack Obama was first elected president of the United States when the term ‘post racial’ arose in social currency. It turns out that discourse was really nothing more than optimism on the part of those who were weary of pervasive rejection on the basis of so-called race.


The rejection of those who appear to be outwardly different maintains a hold on the imagination of many and remains current regardless of what era we are in. In fact, extreme dislike of African descended people is rebranded with each new age. Before there was racism, there were terms such as colour prejudice and racial discrimination.


However, with recognition of universal human equality, racism has become the most contentious. Initially identifying White superiority attitudes of the dominant group, the individual ‘racist’ has evolved into a generic slur for anyone who exhibits hatred or otherwise antagonistic attitude towards a person of a different ethnic description. So that, in effect it has lost any meaning. In fact, it is now more acceptable to use the n-word than it is to slag someone as racist. As proof, note apologists for notorious Toronto mayor Rob Ford, who is no stranger to the use of racial slurs.


What this movement away from the original meaning has done is to remove responsibility for racial abuse from the dominant group and spread it ‘democratically’ across the land. We are all now racists, it seems.


When we are all racists, we shoot race-hate darts at each other. The corollary is that we can now all claim to be victims of unfairness based on race. As proof, you can hear the charge in the most unlikely places. Early last month, Toronto city councillor Mike Del Grande asked city hall’s employee and labour relations committee whether the city had a policy to discriminate against hiring White males.


At the time, Councillor Janet Davis responded by moving a motion to ask the city manager for “an affirmative action plan for White, straight, able-bodied males, to address the historic under-representation of this group in the City of Toronto workforce”.


Davis was only joking, of course, but Del Grande’s comment is but one indication that White male privilege is now perceived to be under threat.


A few days ago, it was the secretly recorded conversation of billionaire basketball team owner Donald Sterling that again offered a look behind the curtain. Sterling was censured for his comments to his assistant, or whatever their relationship is, that he would prefer she not be seen with Black men in public. Apparently, he tried to cover his tracks later by stating that his sentiment was rooted in envy of Black men. Go figure.


Another thread sees members of the dominant group seeking cover under science. This is how intelligence testing came to give superiority to the dominant group generations ago. But with science as our new god, and genetic mapping the new frontier thanks to the explosion of computer technology, this racism rubric can go one step further – mind you without calling it that.


In a new publication New York Times science writer Nicholas Wade speculates that genetic evolution has also resulted in particular groups developing particular cognitive traits also influenced by cultural traditions, which can then explain economic forces in terms of the rise and the success of the West and, conversely, the relative insecurity of the rest.


Now, Wade could have taken the genetic findings and speculated in any number of ways, but his speculations denote the superiority/inferiority paradigm that is all too familiar. And if you’re looking for information to shore up a sense of privilege that one fears is drifting, then voilà.


If it were only as simple as the late Rodney King put it in his beautifully prosaic plea in the heat of the 1992 Los Angeles Riots: “Can’t we all just get along?”

A note on the weather changing…


Wait for it. The flowers are coming up, first the crocuses, now the daffodils, and soon the tulips. Enjoy the spring. Then go out and get yourself a good fan or an energy efficient air conditioner. We can anticipate a reverse of the last horrendous winter when the hot, hazy, humid days of summer descend upon us.

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