The Ontario NDPs held their first Black Caucus meeting on a summer evening mid-August 2019. The meeting was well attended allowing for a variety of voices, that aren’t usually heard, an opportunity to say what’s on their mind and offer ideas to the committee on initiatives in which they can focus their attention. It was a lot to take in, a lot of emotions, a lot of support, a lot of concern and a lot of community building. People were invited to sit at a table with a microphone located at the front of the room and speak their minds to a panel of committee members. I personally liked watching the interaction of one gentleman who was deaf and through sign language spoke about what concerned him while two people took turns interpreting what he had to say. I enjoyed watching the interaction and found it to be very touching. We heard from a gentleman who was part of the Toronto District School Board advocating better curriculum, a mother who literally was in tears talking about her frustrations with ‘the system’, with encouragement from everyone in the room telling her to speak her mind, get it out, she was able to give an impassioned plea regarding the challenges she faced with her son who suffers from autism and a nonprofit she was trying to run with no support from community leaders.
I heard another lady who, for the first time, filled out a charitable income tax return for personal money she invested in her non-profit organization she’s been running for over 20 years, always putting her own money not taking a dime out of the business to pay herself because she’s not eligible – for whatever reasons -for grants. She retired and used a portion of her own retirement money and invested about $12,000k in her non-profit initiative. I heard of a reformed gang leader who formed a group with other reformed gang leaders, trying to help youths to curb their dangerous walk to the ‘other side’. We heard about police carding of black youth, we heard from mothers who’ve lost their sons to violence who meet regularly to work on local initiatives they call their group a Crack in the Clouds – I forget the theory behind the name (something about beauty in imperfections, I think). At the heart of each and everyone of these stories was some element of racism, of being excluded from the community, being targeted, getting black listed and passed over for grants from various government agencies and being skipped over by the very people in government who should be helping them. I left the room with a general impression that a community in need is coming together to take care of each other to look after one another and some good things will happen as a result of their efforts. They’re sick of empty ears, false or broken promises, and being let down. It was a positive meeting – don’t get me wrong but you have to first hear what ails a community to know the best course of action for healing.
Facebook is forcing me to consider topics of race with every post there’s something about racism always rearing its ugly little head with catch phrases such as populism, fascists, refugees, immigration, anti-semetic, zionism, muslims, hijab, etc. It’s been going on for quite sometime and I know I’m not the only one who sees it and I suspect, I’ll have to adjust my news feeds (or disconnect). Have you seen the latest news about Maxine Bernier and the Immigration Billboards? National Post quotes Pattison Outdoor Advertising, which owns the billboards, “originally said that if anyone had an issue with the content, they should contact the third-party group running them, True North Strong & Free Advertising Corp.”
“The message on the billboard is not ‘controversial’ for two thirds of Canadians who agree with it, and for those who disagree but support free speech and an open discussion,” Bernier said on Twitter. “It’s only controversial for the totalitarian leftist mob who want to censor it.”
“Liberal candidate for Calgary-Confederation, Jordan Stein, organized the petition. She says the message is offensive and does not reflect the rich contributions new immigrants bring to Canada’s culture and community.” While we may be a little more accepting of new immigrants than Maxine Bernier, where a good number of them are visible minorities, I do have to wonder if their role is only to contribute to the economic fabric of their communities and that’s it? What about politically? I scroll through my feeds a bit more after having left the ONDP meeting, I keep seeing posts about NDP’s Jagmeet Singh. Now there’s a fellow who knows a bit or two about being a visible minority in politics and racial discrimination. Being the first leader who is a person of color of a major political party, I couldn’t help but make a comparison with what I just heard at the ONDP Black caucus meeting, Jagmeet Singh and Barack Obama since we have a federal Election coming up in October.
Is Canada ready for a non-white Prime Minister?
It’s a comment I often found reading in the comment sections over social media when Jagmeet won his leadership bid; it was a fierce online debate. I’m sure it was the same question Americans were asking when Obama was campaigning to become president. I would like for you to sit with this concept for a bit and think very hard about your answer, because if it’s not Jagmeet winning the seat of Prime Minister, there will be another – I suppose… and coming to think of it, there has been no other ‘person of color’ who’s been so courageous to aspire for the “top job” in politics. These are questions we should be asking especially since we’re beginning to see billboards protesting against mass immigration and larger discourses about the subject over social media with many actually agreeing with Mr. Bernier. Should we be worried; and has anyone studied what these newly expressed attitudes (not new attitudes – newly expressed attitudes) might say for people of color who are new immigrants wanting to enter Canadian federal politics? My focus is federally today, provincial and municipal seems to have better diversity in terms of representation.
I also have to give credit to the NDP for the bold move in placing ‘a person of color ‘ as the leader of their Party; why it wasn’t too long ago when Jack Layton was at the helm and prospects were looking quite good for him to become Prime Minister. Back then the question was; Is Canada ready for an NDP majority government and Prime Minister? I’m sure a follow up question would have been; Is Canada ready for a Prime Minister in a biracial relationship? We naturally accepted Olivia Chow, a dynamic woman who has rightfully won her political stripes on her own and very well respected, those two made a dynamic team that worked very well together! I wonder if Canadians would have made an issue out of it, if so how far and to what extent? In contrast the Obamas are a black couple so it was easier for the US to accept their relationship – too much to look at if Obama married a white woman, and had children!! “The horror!” I highly doubt he would have made it as far as he did if that were the case. I also wonder if Jack Layton would have made it as far as he did if Olivia Chow was a black woman? People respond differently to different racial groups.
You see, that’s what sets Canadians and Americans apart in terms of racism, in the US, it’s stark and in your face, you know what you are dealing with upfront, therefore you can name it and you can deal with it. Canadians are too polite, too nice, most hide it very well and for many they hold an unconscious bias so they’re missing it even for themselves which explains why ‘a person of color’ seems to this feeling that there’s ‘an elephant in the room’, you’re not quite sure what it is and you can’t put your finger on it… Yet, with every missed opportunity of this nature leaves room for more opportunities to crop up, and leave it to the New Democrats, we might have a second attempt at name what’s hiding in the shadows. Yes, the New Democrats once again are pushing the envelope determined to promote a non-white person in a position of power and good on them! For a country that professes to be ‘multicultural’ it should be reflected in the halls of government and in our leadership.
Side point: Has anyone looked at the Ontario PC caucus? not one person of color.
Losing the electoral reform file made me realize that perhaps underneath all those excuses by the ‘decision makers’ maybe they don’t want more women in politics and more so, women of color in politics or even just ‘people of color’. Seriously, there is absolutely no good reason for a negative response on Electoral Reform. It was a clear cut, yes we do need ER, an easy-peasy decision and we, as a country, were ready! I can’t help but think there was a lot more going on ‘behind the scenes’ and Canadians lost out on a good opportunity to improve our voting system.
“There are powerful, informal barriers that work to keep women out of politics, people who are not white out of politics, and people who are [I]indigenous out of politics. Simply changing the electoral system is not going to address any of these informal barriers that are in place.” Pipa Norris told the ER Committee who was also accompanied by Ann Decter. Present at the committee session through video link, Melanee Thomas went so far as to say that “…embedded in the recruitment process is sexist and racist perception of the ideal candidate.” The Supreme Court has ruled that the interpretation of the Charter must be consistent with Canada’s international human rights obligations. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, require member states to abolish all legal barriers to women’s political participation on equal terms with men.
“The deeper I got into the experience of being First Lady, the more emboldened I felt to speak honestly and directly about what it meant to be marginalized by race and gender. My intention was to give younger people a context for the hate surfacing in the news and in political discourse and to give them a reason to hope.” Michelle Obama, Becoming
It is been said that women suffer from systemic discrimination under SMP which is a form of FPTP. In a plurality system, women and minorities are less likely to be an on the ballot. Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley noted, “The current structure of parties and how local associations operate to discriminate against the participation of women.” It’s not because they are not electable; it’s because in the nomination process parties have historically favored “white male” candidates as the best choice for the winner-take-all competition. White men are often considered to be a more acceptable candidate, and thus there’s a disincentive to choose women to run. Amanda Bittner states, “Part of the problem is recruitment. Part of the problem is that senior party officials have this idea that women and racialized minorities are not successful candidates, even though there is no evidence to suggest that this is the case. All the evidence shows that when women run, they do win. So really, the issue is about recruitment.” concludes Jean-Pierre Kingsley, former Chief Electoral Officer.
I’m taking his words to mean it’s really up to the Party.
Canada seems a little too “green”, naive or too “politically correct” for this topic, let’s cast our eyes to the South and remind ourselves what Barrack and Michelle Obama had to go through, perhaps it’ll inspire us to send good vibes to the NDP on the road to election day.
A Black Man in the White House
A dear friend once told me that Barrack Obama’s biggest achievement or legacy would be getting into the White House and many have agreed with that statement.
This blog is named after a book by Ashley Jardina “White Identity Politics” and this section takes its subheading from Chapter 12: Black Man in a White House, where she explains “In the aftermath of Obama’s reelection, the tone of some news outlets’ election coverage was decidedly different from what it had been in 2008. Many conservative news sources once again highlighted the importance of race in the election, but not in celebration of the nation’s progress toward racial equality. Instead, many pundits and journalists focused on the notion that Obama and his electoral base posed a threat to white Americans.” Do we Canadians share the same sentiment casting our suspicious eye on new immigrants, especially who are visible minorities, as a threat to white Canadians? Is this fear the sole reason for erecting billboards cautioning against mass immigration? US Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh shared similar sentiments complaining to his listeners the day after the 2008 US election saying:
“How do you get promoted in a Barack Obama administration? By hating white people, or even saying you do, or that they’re not good, or whatever. Make white people the new oppressed minority and they are going along with it, because they’re shutting up. they’re moving to the back of the bus. They’re saying I can’t use that drinking fountain, ok. I can’t use that restroom, ok. That’s the modern day republican Party, the equivalent of the Old South, the new oppressed minority.”
Even Bill O’Reilly offered an explanation for the outcome:
“The white establishment is now the minority. The demographics are changing. It’s not traditional America anymore….For a long time, skin color wasn’t really much of an issue, in the ’80s and ’90s we didn’t hear a lot. yeah, you always had your Farrakhans and your Sharptons. We always had those people but – Jackson – they were race hustlers, but it was a money thing. But now, whiteness has become the issue. All right. So if you’re a white American you are a part of a cabal that either consciously or unconsciously keeps minorities down. Therefore, that has to end and whiteness has to be put aside. That’s what the border is all about. The open-border people, and believe me this is behind the movement in California and in the Democratic precincts. Let everybody in. Everybody in. All right. That would diminish whiteness because minorities then would take over, as they have in many parts of California. That’s what that is all about. Getting whiteness out of power.”
I had a chance conversation with a stranger not too long ago and we were briefly speaking about the New Democrats wondering why up to now have not gained power. The NDP are known to promote ‘people of color’ within their party ranks and makes it part of their rules to promote women allowing them an opportunity to hold a seat in a riding. Demographically, I believe New Democrats historically have had more visible minorities and women in their ranks than other parties. But that in itself may not be the reason. New Democrats would most likely make a few well deserved changes that would improve the way government operates and others are scared because it runs against “tradition”. Yet they have very good ideas, [BTW – has anyone read Jack Layton’s book?] their ideas seem to be so good that the Liberals have moved more to the left absorbing their ideas virtually leaving no room for the NDPs – it must be draining!
“A few days after Bill O’Reilley’s comments, left-leaning New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd penned a piece in which she suggested that the “white male patriarchy” was in a “delusional death spiral.” What you get from these quotes is a sense that white Americans felt threatened by the election of Obama,” says Jardina, “by the composition of the electorate that helped him in office, by immigration, and by the nation’s racial and ethnic diversity. What is more, many conservative pundits were undoubtedly reiterating this perspective to their viewers. But were white Americans viewing the political world through this lens? Did such beliefs influence the way they thought about Barack Obama in 2012 or Donald Trump in 2016?”
“Barack Obama, undoubtedly serves as the most symbolic displacement of whites’ political power by way of his blackness.” Jardina continues observing that, “Theoretically, however, whites high on racial identity should be opposed, in the abstract, to the election of any non-white candidate to the nation’s highest office, regardless of whether that candidate is black or another non-white race. We should also find, therefore, that whites oppose the possibility of a Latino candidate winning the presidency.” She also argues that white racial identity and consciousness ought to be tied not only to opposition toward candidates they view as threatening, but also to support for political candidates or movements whites see as maintaining or restoring their political power.”
“Yet, a pernicious seed had been planted – a perception of me as disgruntled and vaguely hostile, lacking some expected level of grace. Whether it was originating from Barack’s political opponents or elsewhere, we couldn’t tell, but the rumors and slanted commentary almost always carried less-than-subtle messaging about race, meant to stir up the deepest and ugliest kind of fear within the voting public. “Don’t let the black folks take over. They’re not like you. Their vision is not yours.” ~ Michelle Obama, Becoming
The notion that white identity might be a powerful predictor of vote choice in any election is a provocative one. Choosing a presidential candidate is one of the most visible and most common forms of political identification and ideology play a powerful and durable role. In addition, we also know that racial prejudice, and especially racial resentment, was powerfully linked to attitudes toward Obama. These factors were so obviously potent in driving vote choice that we might think it highly unlikely that any other variable could be meaningfully implicated in whites’ voting decisions. ..Yet the profound symbolic threat Obama may have presented to whites’ political power is one that we ought to take seriously….many whites were not exclusively driven by racial animus; some were also independently motivated by a desire to protect their in-group and its status. Jardina conducted a few surveys, in one of them she was able to conclude, not surprisingly, party identity was the most powerful factor in shaping voter choice, with republicans far more likely to vote for Romney and Democrats far more likely to vote for Obama.
“Barack, of course, got most of it – the public adulation as well as the scrutiny that rode inevitably on its back. The more popular you became, the more haters you acquired. It seemed almost like an unwritten rule, especially in politics, where adversaries put money into opposition research – hiring investigators to crawl through every piece of a candidate’s background, looking for anything resembling dirt….He was aware of rumors and misperceptions that got pumped like toxic vapor into the campaign, but rarely did any of it bother him. Barack had lived through other campaigns. He’d studied political history and girded himself with the context it provided.” ~ Michelle Obama, Becoming
In a previous blog, (See: Identity) I noted that voters would continue to vote a totalitarian, authoritarian leader in power and keep voting him in there – despite his oppressive behavior- because he is of their political party. Voter’s are loyal to their party first and foremost. Electoral competitions often confronts voters with a choice between two valid but potentially conflicting concerns; democratic principles and party interests. The likes of Chavez (Venezuela), Orban (Hungry), and Erodgan (Turkey) excel at exploiting precisely this dilemma. These incumbents ask their supporters to trade off democratic principles for partisan interests, these are primarily about allegiance to a party or a leader they refer to voters’ interest in specific economic and social policies. Recent history shows that supporters, unfortunately, data shows we would rather tolerate their authoritarian tendencies than back politicians whose platforms these supporters abhor. Then when it is time to punish a leader for his authoritarian tendencies, and it requires voting for a platform of another party or a person that his supporters detest, many will find this too high of a price to pay. They will keep their allegiance to the party despite not liking the leader and it is this way of thinking that continues to undermine democracy and that’s how these authoritarian leaders get away with their bad behavior. It seems with race it is no different; party identity is the most powerful factor in shaping voter’s choice.
“February 24 when Barrack addressed a joint session of Congress. The event is basically meant to be a substitute for the State of the Union for any newly inaugurated president… I took my seat that evening in the balcony ..From where I sat, I could see most of the chamber below. It was an unusual, bird’s eye view of our country’s leaders, an ocean of whiteness and maleness dressed in dark suites. The absence of diversity was glaring – honestly it was embarrassing, for a modern, multicultural country. It was most dramatic among the republicans. At the time, there were just seven non-white Republicans in Congress – none of them African American and only one was a woman. Overall, four out of five members of Congress were male..I watched from the balcony as republican members seated through most of it, appearing obstinate and angry, their arms folded and their frowns deliberate, looking like children who hadn’t gotten their way. They would fight everything Barack did, I realized, whether it was good for the country or not. It was as if they’d forgotten that it was a Republican president who’d governed us into this mess in the first place. More than anything, it seemed they just wanted Barrack to fail. I confess that in in that moment, with that particular view, I did wonder whether there was any path forward.” ~ Michelle Obama, Becoming
“Political ideology also played an independent role, with self-identified conservatives more supportive of Romney and liberals more likely to vote for Obama.” noted Jardina, “The condition of the national economy also mattered; voters who rated the national economy as worse off than the previous year were also less likely to vote for Obama. Racial resentment was strongly and significantly associated with vote choice, such that more racially conservative whites were less likely to vote for Obama. Yet, neither levels of education, age, nor gender were significantly associated with white voters’ preference, all else equal.”
“The message seemed often to get telegraphed, if never said directly: “These people don’t belong.“~ Michelle Obama, Becoming
“The effect of white racial identity on vote choice in 2012 is powerful and robust, even after accounting for a number of other factors that might explain whites’ voting behavior. All else equal, whites with higher levels of racial identity were far less likely to vote for Obama. …While political scientists have been attentive to the power of racial animus, especially in the Obama era, the results demonstrate that out-group attitudes are not the only factor, or even necessarily the primary factor, motivating voters. Many whites in 2012 also seem especially concerned with protecting their racial group’s status.”
“For more than six years now, Barack and I had lived with an awareness that we ourselves were a provocation. As minorities across the country were gradually beginning to take on more significant roles in politics, business, and entertainment, our family had become the most prominent example. Our presence in the White House had been celebrated by millions of Americans, but it also contributed to a reactionary sense of fear and resentment among others. The hatred was old and deep and as dangerous as ever. We lived with it as a family, and we lived with it as a nation. And we carried on, as gracefully as we could.” Michelle Obama, Becoming
“The symbolism of Obama’s election as a displacement of whites’ political dominance is hard to dismiss. But many whites might also have opposed Obama not merely because he represents their group’s political displacement, but also because they worried that Obama might, in practice, favor his own racial group at the expense of whites. In other words, whites high on white identity might see Obama as a real threat to their group’s interests and may doubt that Obama represents all groups equally.” [Jardina]
Perhaps we’re already seeing a bit of this coming into play when you hear reports stemming out of Equal Voice where three racialized women felt bullied by their peer but instead got fired for harassment and defamation of Equal Voice both internally and on social media platforms. “To some onlookers, the sudden termination of these three women of color is a manifestation of long-time problems with the organization: discrimination, racism and a general lack of inclusivity.” quotes the National Observer. “But the three women who came forward about their termination last week, and the dozens more who have since spoken up about their negative experiences with Equal Voice…
“This is a cultural issue deep within the organization,” Wong said in an interview. “Equal Voice is an organization that has refused to draw the line. Whenever policy or political ideologies are brought up — like why are you supporting this candidate who is blatantly racist? — we don’t talk policy, we only talk about, ‘support all women in politics.’ That’s their catchphrase: we support all women no matter what they believe in. And that has manifested into a kind of tolerance for white supremacy. And it’s tolerance for sexism, tolerance for ageism, and all the other kinds of discrimination.”
✔@MPCelina: “I‘ve heard many #NotSoEqualVoice stories about #DOTV over the years, so I’m not surprised to see these young womxn sharing their story publicly. Speak your truth. Share your experience. Make the change you want to see. Your voice does not need to be equal, it needs to be LOUDER!”
“…because the personal stakes felt so high. I was stepping onto the stage after having been demonized as an angry black woman who didn’t love her country. My speech that night gave me a chance to humanize myself, explaining who I was in my own voice, slaying the caricatures and stereotypes with my own words.” Michelle Obama, Becoming
Jagmeet Singh presents an interesting new dynamic this coming election where we can begin gauge responses from Canadians on the prospect of a non-white Prime Minister. Will Parliament’s white political dominance feel displaced? Do our feelings, values and fears reflect those of our neighbors? If so, where and how deep is this divide? We all know there’s something there waiting to be exposed, it might not come out in full display through Singh this coming election but I think there will be enough information to consider for future would be non-white leaders to ponder whether they be women of color, men of color or just women of any kind running to secure the top job. Jody Wilson Raybould, for example,many knew of her aspirations to some day become Prime Minister, had she been allowed to stay on as a Liberal would have felt the same pressure as Jagmeet Singh, especially her Native heritage would have added an additional dimension in her climb for the top job.
Is Canada ready for a female Prime Minister?
Is Canada ready for a female Prime Minister of color [including Native]?
Is Canada ready for a Prime Minister of Color – male or female?
Is Canada ready for a Prime Minister in a bi-racial marriage?
Addressing the white-majority: Why does it matter?