Racist Memes

Lately, I have seen way too many racist memes and text on social media and racist policy from our government. Much of these messages include untrue stereotypes and conflated comparisons so I have decided to make a list of truths.

The following list contains truths as I see them. I am a white, atheist male born in Canada so I do not purport to be an expert on the Muslim faith. I am open to learning though…

Debunking Canadian racism against persons of Muslim faith (in no particular order):

  1. Newcomers are not going to ‘steal your jobs’ and they are not going to drain the economy. Canada has welcomed newcomers for hundreds of years and, for the most part, our economy has continually grown.
  2. Refugees from Syria are largely educated and secular. They are not responsible for civil war in Syria. They are civilians and are not a threat to Canada.
  3. Citizenship should be permanent. And if government insists on policy to remove citizenship from those deemed to be convicted terrorists, it should be removed by a rational-thinking judge using evidence and  NOT by politicians.
  4. Muslims do NOT hate Jesus. Jesus is a prophet in the Qur’an.
  5. Muslims do NOT hate beer. Some abstain and some drink tasty craft beer.
  6. Burkas, Niqabs and Hijabs are all different and not all Muslim women wear them. Descriptions can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk
  7. Various forms of head coverings are also worn by Christians and Jews.
  8. If you think the Qur’an is about war and terror, try reading the Old Testament.
  9. The Klu Klux Klan cover their faces to avoid being caught committing hate crimes. Some women cover their faces for reasons of modesty. The KKK is not comparable to women of faith.
  10. Two women in approximately 700,000 immigrants have requested to wear a niqab during Canadian citizenship ceremonies and Conservatives made it into an election issue.
  11. Banning the niqab at citizenship ceremonies and other public events will only act to further oppress Muslim women.
  12. Many Muslim women who wear head coverings are strong, feminist women.
  13. The presence of terrorism was, at least partly, created by western meddling in the middle east. ISIS didn’t exist before US invaded Iraq following the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.
  14. Neither Iraq nor ISIS were involved with the attack on the World Trade Center in New York.
  15. Christians are not judged and branded as KKK members and Muslims should not be judged and branded as terrorists.
  16. Sharia law is not coming to Canada.
  17. If you are worried that newcomers will change your way of life for the worse, you probably don’t know many newcomers. The only newcomers to significantly change the way of life in Canada were early Europeans who invaded and oppressed those who were already living here.
  18. Diversity is awesome! Diversity can be celebrated and we can all learn new things when meeting persons of cultures different from our own.

Please feel free to use any of the above with or without credit. Just please spread truth and peace rather than hate and racism.


Canadian Nationalism & Racism

Captain Canuck and -isms

Canada Day

Canada Day

As a child, I felt some patriotism – I was a big fan of Captain Canuck and I liked attending Canada Day fireworks in Portage la Prairie. I remember a time when a box of fireworks caught fire and created a spectacular flurry explosions in the air.  This also meant that Island Park bridge might catch fire. If memory serves (and sometimes it doesn’t), my father, a volunteer firefighter at the time, helped put that fire out before the bridge was damaged.

As with many Canadians, I tended to define Canada in opposition to the United States. My affinity to Captain Canuck was possibly a result of Captain America.

I was too young and unaware during the Reagan years to understand the damaging aspects of Reaganomics and Thatcherism. During the second Bush years (GW years), it was easy to feel superior as a Canadian. While our government was still neoliberal, Bush was more neoconservative and quite imperialistic (note: in my view, neoliberalism favours small government and fosters economic – & social – inequality while neoconservatism adds big prisons and big military combined with imperialistic intentions of spreading neoliberalism under the guise of ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’).

As I aged and learned more about my country and about world politics, I became less and less patriotic.  And then the Harper years began in Canada and Obama soon rose to power in the United States.  By Canadian standards, Obama is still right-wing but Harper and his team worked (and still work) to make Canada ‘unrecognizable.’ I used to think he intentionally echoed the Bush’s politics but maybe – with his peculiar affinity for Canada’s monarchist roots – it’s the Thatcher years he really admires.

Nowadays, I usually celebrate Canada Day with family and neighbours and I cheer for Canada in the Olympics and in women’s World Cup football.  Even then I feel unease though… While patriotism and exceptionalism can create global inequality, international tensions and war, communities and sports are, in many ways, peaceful and unifying.

While living in St. Lucia, it was even easy to cheer for their national team at a recent cricket match.  I enjoyed the fact that the audience included many passionate – albeit peaceful – fans of both teams.

Canada’s Flag

Canada's Flag

Canada’s Flag

Aesthetically, Canada’s flag is pretty – red, white and maple. The flag turned fifty in February which, on some levels, protects itself from the stigma of the Confederate flag of southern USA states.

The Confederate flag has recently taken additional heat for the echoes of the racist roots of USA. While slavery also existed under the current US flag, the Confederate flag has become a symbol for racism and many are justifiably wanting the flag taken down from public view.

When thinking of the Canadian flag and Canada’s extremely racist colonialist roots, in many ways, Canada’s flag escapes that symbol of racism because of its young age. Slavery, the brutal residential school system, segregation (aka, apartheid), dishonoured treaties and more were all created under the Union Jack (Britain’s flag).

The Canadian flag was first used in 1965. The Portage la Prairie residential school was not closed until 1975 and the last of Canada’s residential schools operated until 1996.  Systemic racism continues to oppress indigenous peoples living within Canada’s borders and our governments continue to ignore the need for an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women (info on MMIW at aptn.ca, CBC.ca, Amnesty.ca). It is for these reasons that, perhaps, Canada’s flag should not escape acting as a symbol of racism.


Residential School System

Against the Grain (click to view)

Against the Grain (click to view)


"Indian Horse" by Richard Wagamese

“Indian Horse” by Richard Wagamese

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women on Twitter


Hey White Boy!

This morning, as I walked past a market area in Castries, from somewhere in a small crowd of people, I heard, “Hey white boy!”

I turned because – as is often the case – I was the only white person in the area. A man sporting dreadlocks somewhere between his mid-twenties and mid-thirties asked, “You okay?”

I gave him the universal thumbs-up symbol with my right hand and said something like, “Yes I am. Have a good day.”

I think it has to do with the island’s French history that it is common to ask, “You good?”, “You alright?”, “You okay?” where French speakers would ask, “Ça va?”

Okay, back to being the ‘white boy’. While that is the first time hearing that label since arriving seven weeks ago, I do recall being referred to as, “white man” or “white guy” once or twice. I also regularly get asked for money…

There’s a man I often see in town who always approaches me with a fun, friendly and somewhat loud, “Hey buddy you gonna’ sponsor me today?” and “Jesus will bless you”.

I head into downtown Castries about once-a-week for lunch (when there are no leftovers in the fridge and I run out of time to make a sandwich). I was sitting down eating a felafel (I love felafel) in front of the take-out window last week when a man approached me for money – he had approached me before.  I do not usually give money – I am not wealthy, I am here working for free as part of my schooling, and I have a family back home. This young man proceeded to tell me that I told him I would buy him lunch last time we spoke. I looked up at him and said, “I did not say that.”

The conversation was getting heated and he would not take, “No, sorry” for an answer. He said, “you’re not sorry, you come here from your country because you don’t like something back home and you act the same way here.”

I knew, even then, that this young man was hungry and that he was angry because of that hunger but I was also getting angry. I looked up at him again and quietly said, “You do not know me.” He said a number of things afterwards…

He suddenly started backing off into the alley and yelling to the shop owner and workers. He said something derogatory about Syrians and mentioned that they were weak and that he was strong while pushing his chest out and his arms spread wide, “I’m from Colombia and my father is Venezuelan, I’m strong!” .

Race, racism and oppression are often in my mind. I feel unease writing this posting because I am privileged – I am a white man from Canada. While I have experienced poverty and periods of hunger to the point of losing weight, I haven’t been forced to live that way for periods of time lasting more than a year. I haven’t left a country seeking refuge. I have a reasonable expectation of finding meaningful work when I am finished my practicum in St. Lucia. I have always had a home. I have never had to sleep outside, in the streets, or in the bush, or on the beach.

Play That Funky Music White Boy

Play That Funky Music White Boy

Being called “white boy” doesn’t feel like racism. Racism works differently in the Caribbean where white colonizers and slave owners left a long time ago. The vast majority of St. Lucians are of African descent and some are of Indian descent. The vast majority of white people are tourists – and tourists tend to like living in their own cultures even while traveling.

Like any country, there are systems of oppression that work against certain communities. And, as with Canada, that oppression creates long-term poverty and hunger. Oppression also creates anger and resentment among both the oppressed and oppressors.

I also want to point out that the vast majority of Lucians I meet do not make mention of my skin – except maybe to remind me of the importance of sunscreen. This country is warm and welcoming in so many ways.

I am fortunate to have this experience. It makes me think. And I am thinking…I know this posting became a bit disjointed and rambling…I am going to think about that too…