Strategy

The “Privileged” White North?

July 25, 2011


When we last left the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), they were defending their decision to permit sexually segregated Muslim Friday prayers in a public-school cafeteria—such prayers (and segregation) being in violation of provincial law, board policy, and (some argue) Canada’s flimsy excuse for a constitution.

The resulting uproar prompted mischief-makers to scour the TDSB website for more controversy fodder.

One particular downloadable document has now attracted considerable scorn.

Entitled Teaching about Human Rights: 9/11 and Beyond—A Resource Package for Educators Grades 7-12, this turgid tome could more profitably be called Only White People Are Racist.

(Not surprisingly, all the authors are female, except for a fellow who styles himself “gulzar raisa charania”—capital letters presumably being a patriarchal construct.)

9/11 and Beyond teaches children to loathe an imaginary past, fear an upside-down version of the present, and prepare for a future that will never arrive.”

The paragraph which has since garnered the most attention appears under “Working Definitions”:

Racism: While people in different contexts can experience prejudice or discrimination, racism, in a North American context, is based on an ideology of the superiority of the white race over other racial groups. Racism is evident in individual acts, such as racial slurs, jokes, etc., and institutionally, in terms of policies and practices at institutional levels of society. The result of institutional racism is that it maintains white privilege and power (such as racial profiling, hiring practices, history, and literature that centre on Western, European civilizations to the exclusion of other civilizations and communities).

Perhaps the publishers of Ying Ma’s new memoir Chinese Girl in the Ghetto can send a copy to everyone at the TDSB. When her family immigrated to California from China, Ying says she endured vicious racist attacks—perpetrated by her black and Hispanic classmates against Asian students.

According to the Toronto District School Board, such experiences are, by definition, impossible. On page after page of 9/11 and Beyond, Muslims are the ones held up as prejudice’s primary victims, all at the hands of those privileged and powerful “institutionally racist” whites (although the internment of Japanese-Canadians during World War II does receive a quick, guilty—and ominous—nod).

Readers of this document a century hence will conclude that immediately after 9/11, Canada devolved into a dystopia of mass Muslim exterminations:

In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, we need to acknowledge the heightened risks faced by individuals who identify as Muslim or are thought to be followers of Islam. Individuals of South Asian or Arab descent, whether Muslim or not, have been the targets of harassment, religious intolerance, and racist violence….

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