Racism’s Chronic Stress Likely Contributes To Health Disparities, Scientists Say : NPR

Interesting series of studies and analyses:

A poll recently released by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that roughly a third of Latinos in America report they’ve experienced various kinds of discrimination in their lives based on ethnicity — including when applying for jobs, being paid or promoted equally, seeking housing or experiencing ethnic slurs or offensive comments or assumptions.

Amani Nuru-Jeter, a social epidemiologist at the University of California, Berkeley, is another researcher working to find out how, as she puts it, racism gets under the skin. “How does the lived and social experience of race turn into racial differences in health — into higher levels of Type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease or higher rates of infant mortality?”

For example, black children are about twice as likely as white children to develop asthma, health statistics suggest. And racial and ethnic gaps in infant mortality have persisted for as long as researchers have been collecting data. People with diabetes who are members of racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to have complications like kidney failure, or to require amputations.

Genetics might partially explain some of the differences, Nuru-Jeter says. Research has suggested that different populations may respond differently to some asthma drugs, for example.

“But it’s not an adequate explanation for the very persistent dramatic differences we see in health outcomes between racial groups,” she says. And public health researchers have found that health disparities remain even after they take into account any differences in income and education.

Nuru-Jeter and others hypothesize that chronic stress might be a key way racism contributes to health disparities. The idea is that the stress of experiencing discrimination over and over might wear you down physically over time.

For example, let’s go back to how Montenegro remembers feeling that night when strangers assumed he was a valet. He said he was “turning red,” his heart was “pounding.” Those are signs his body was feeling acutely stressed.

“When you start to worry about something, whether that’s race or something else, then that initiates a biological stress response,” says Nuru-Jeter.

Hormones like adrenaline and cortisol shoot up, readying your body to flee or fight. Those hormones can help you kick into action to escape a wild animal, for example, or to run after a bus. Under such circumstances, the ability to experience stress and quickly respond can be benign — and valuable.

Whatever the source of the perceived threat, the physical response — higher levels of stress hormones, a faster heart rate — usually subside once the threat has passed.

“That’s what we expect to happen,” says Nuru-Jeter.

But research suggests bad things happen when your body has to gear up for threats too often, consistently washing itself in stress hormones.

“Prolonged elevation [and] circulation of the stress hormones in our bodies can be very toxic and compromise our body’s ability to regulate key biological systems like our cardiovascular system, our inflammatory system, our neuroendocrine system,” Nuru-Jeter says. “It just gets us really out of whack and leaves us susceptible to a bunch of poor health outcomes.”

A number of small studies have documented similar stress reactions in response to racism, and even in response to the mere expectation of a racist encounter.

In studying black women, for example, she has found that chronic stress from frequent racist encounters is associated with chronic low-grade inflammation — a little like having a low fever all the time. Nuru-Jeter thinks it might be a sign that experiencing discrimination might dysregulate the body in a way that, over time, could put someone at a higher risk for a condition like heart disease.

Now, this kind of research is complicated. There’s no thermometer that measures degrees of racism, and it’s not like scientists can take a group of people, expose some of them to discrimination, and then see how they fare compared with others.

“Unless we could experimentally assign people to racist or nonracist experiences over a life course, we can’t make causal connections,” says Zaneta Thayer, a biological anthropologist at Dartmouth, who is currently looking into how discrimination experiences might influence multiple aspects of stress physiology, including cortisol and heart rate variability.

So, researchers find correlations, not causal links.

For example, Thayer studied 55 pregnant women in Auckland, New Zealand, and found that women who said they experienced discrimination had higher evening stress hormone levels late in pregnancy than other women who didn’t cite frequent discrimination. Another study, at Duke University, found that black students had higher levels of stress hormones after they heard reports of a violent, racist crime on campus.

The connection isn’t just with hormones. Other scientists have found correlations between discrimination and various measures of accelerated aging, including the tips of people’s chromosomes and subtle alterations in gene activity.

Individually, such studies are rarely conclusive, Thayer says. “There are always more questions to ask.”

But collectively, she says, they form a compelling picture of how discrimination, stress and poor health might be related.

And sometimes, in rare situations, researchers do get a slightly sharper glimpse of how such a connection may be playing out.

On May 12, 2008, about 900 agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — including some who arrived in a couple of Black Hawk helicopters — raided a meat processing plant in Postville, Iowa. They were looking for people who were working illegally in the U.S.

“You could time exactly when it happened,” says Arline T. Geronimus, a behavioral scientist at the University of Michigan who has studied the event. “It was a surprise, and it was quite extreme.”

According to some witnesses, the agents handcuffed almost everyone they encountered who looked Latino. They ended up arresting more than a tenth of the town’s population, detaining many for days at a fairground.

According to Zoe Lofgren, a California representative who chaired a congressional hearing on the Postville raid, detainees were treated “like cattle.”

“The information suggests that the people charged were rounded up, herded into a cattle arena, prodded down a cattle chute, coerced into guilty pleas and then [sent] to federal prison,” Lofgren said at the hearing. “This looks and feels like a cattle auction, not a criminal prosecution in the United States of America.”

 The people arrested were charged with criminal fraud for knowingly working under false Social Security numbers, despite allegations of judicial misconduct and reportsthat few of the employees were actually guilty of that crime.

“People lost their jobs,” Geronimus says. “People were afraid to go home in case there would be raids in their homes. They were sleeping in church pews. Some fled the state.”

By all accounts, it was an extremely stressful event for the approximately 400 people who were arrested and their families.

But the event also sent ripples throughout the state. Apparently, as Geronimus and her colleagues reported this year in the International Journal of Epidemiology, it may even have affected the unborn children of some Iowa residents who were pregnant at the time.

In the months after the raid, Geronimus says, some Latina women living in Iowa started giving birth to slightly smaller babies.

The researchers looked at birth certificates of more than 52,000 babies born in Iowa, including those born in the nine months following the raid, and in the same nine-month period one and two years earlier. They found a small but noticeable increase in the percentage of babies who weighed less than 5 1/2 pounds — the definition of what pediatricians term low birth weight — born to Latina moms.

“Pregnant women of Latino descent throughout the state of Iowa — including those who were U.S. citizens, including those who were not right at Postville — experienced, on average, about a 24 percent greater risk of their babies having a low birth weight than they had in that very same period of time the previous year,” Geronimus says.

Before the raid, 4.7 percent of babies born to white moms were low birth weight. After the raid, that number dropped to 4.4 percent. Meanwhile, the percentage of babies with a low birth weight born to foreign-born Latina moms went up from 4.5 percent (76 babies) to 5.6 percent (98 babies). And it went up for the babies of U.S.-born Latina moms, too — from 5.3 percent (42 babies) to 6.4 percent (55 babies).

Overall, that’s a difference of just a few dozen children, each probably born just a few ounces underweight. But at that stage of life, a few ounces can make a difference, Geronimus says. Babies born small are at higher risk of dying in infancy and of having health and developmental problems later on.

“Low birth weight in general is not higher in the Latino population than in the white population,” Geronimus says. “And in Iowa it was not higher before the raid, and it was not higher years after the raid. But there is a spike that happens to be exactly when the raid was.”

And it’s worth noting, she says, that the effect even occurred among babies born to Latina moms who were U.S. citizens — people who shouldn’t have been worried about being arrested or deported.

“So why did it suddenly spike?” Geronimus asks. “Well, there’s a lot of research that suggests that stressful events during pregnancy can result in some complex immune, inflammatory and endocrine pathways and can increase the risk of low birth weight.”

She and her colleagues think the poor treatment of people who “looked Latino” to the immigration agents might have caused additional stress among women outside the immediate area of the raid who were pregnant around that time.

“People could begin to worry this could happen to them or to people they know or in their communities,” she says. “And those worries alone can activate these physiological stress responses, even if they never did have a raid in their own hometown.”

In fact, other researchers have noticed similar connections.

In the six months following the Sept. 11 attacks in the Eastern U.S., babies born in California to moms with Arabic-sounding names had a higher risk of being born small or preterm than observed in that group during the same time period the year before — a change that didn’t apply to other babies born in the state.

Both studies investigated the impacts of specific, dramatic events — and the results were consistent.

“You could time exactly when it happened,” says Geronimus. “We could measure before and after.”

But she views such events as merely slivers of insight into patterns that may quietly be happening on a much larger scale among many populations. Patterns that are harder to tease out and measure — like the effects of centuries of racism against black Americans, or a persistent series of incidents involving police brutality against minorities.

Maybe, Geronimus says, the cascade of stress that such events initiate sets the stage for health disparities in a generation of children — before they even enter the world.

via Racism’s Chronic Stress Likely Contributes To Health Disparities, Scientists Say : Shots – Health News : NPR

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Black people awaiting trial in Ontario jails spend longer in custody than white people

Good data-based analysis and discussion on the factors behind the data:

Black people in Canada’s most populous province spent longer behind bars awaiting trial than white people charged with many of the same categories of crimes in each of the past five years, according to data obtained by Reuters.

Between April 2015 and April 2016 — the most recent period in which data is available — black people awaiting trial in Ontario jails were there longer, on average, than white people charged with the same crime in 11 of 16 offence categories Reuters examined. There were approximately 6,000 black people and nearly 26,000 white people remanded to pre-trial detention during the period.

The data showed similar patterns in the four prior years.

Among the categories examined, black people spent almost twice as long in remand in 2015-2016 for weapons offences, equivalent to an additional 38 days. They also spent 46 per cent longer for serious violent offences and 36 per cent longer on charges of obstructing justice.

In three categories, white people awaiting trial were held longer in remand during the same period. Those included drug possession, theft and traffic offences. In two categories, the difference was 1 per cent or less.

The data also showed black people arrested and held in custody between 2011 and 2016 were more likely than white people to spend more than a year in pre-trial detention.

Reuters obtained the previously unreported data through access-to-information requests from Ontario, which asks inmates to indicate their race when they enter jail. Other provinces either do not collect this data or categorize it differently.

A spokesperson for Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi said the province “takes systemic racism seriously and is working to address racial inequities,” but declined to comment on the data. The Ontario Crown Attorneys’ Association, which represents the province’s prosecutors, and the Association of Justices of the Peace, which represents the people who decide most of Ontario’s bail cases, declined to comment.

More than a dozen defence lawyers as well as prosecutors, criminologists, and a judge interviewed by Reuters said shortcomings in Canada’s bail system appeared to play a role in the racial disparities shown in the data.

Unlike the United States, Canada virtually eliminated cash bail almost half a century ago. Instead, courts often require prisoners awaiting trial to secure a surety, meaning a relative or close friend who can appear in court and subsequently monitor them.

A surety needs assets to pledge, a crime-free record and, often, a home where the accused person can live until the case is complete. A surety cannot represent more than one defendant at a time.

Current and former prosecutors interviewed for this story said securing a surety can be onerous and the requirement is perhaps relied upon too often; but some said sureties remain the best way to protect the public and ensure defendants show up for trial.

Harder on the poor

Critics of the system say the poor are less likely than middle-class or wealthy people to have connections to provide the assets to pledge or housing to act as a surety. They add that this has an outsized impact on minorities, who are over-represented among Canada’s poor.

“Surety is a huge issue in Ontario,” said Nicole Myers, a criminologist at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. “If you are from a marginalized community or a criminalized community, it can be very difficult to find a surety the court deems appropriate.”

The data did not take into account specifics of each case, the person’s criminal record, the frequency of plea deals, whether the person had a bail hearing and why bail may have been denied.

Reuters focused on offences with the largest pre-trial populations when comparing the average periods in remand, to minimize the impact of outliers. Inmates charged in multiple offence categories were counted in only the more serious one; multiple charges could affect someone’s chances of getting bail.

Studies, including one published last year by the Ottawa police, have found Ontario’s black communities are more heavily policed than white ones.

Source: Black people awaiting trial in Ontario jails spend longer in custody than white people – Toronto – CBC News

Does Ontario’s Black Youth Action Plan do enough? – Melayna Williams

The paragraphs on data collection, part of Ontario’s Anti-Racism Strategic Plan are key (the question of enough is more rhetorical as governments have to balance priorities, and activists will never admit that there is “enough”):

Indeed, a conversation about Black youth in Ontario cannot be viewed in isolation. The layers of oppression that characterize a system that fails to serve Black youth is a failure of many systems that often work in conjunction: our education system, justice system, and child welfare system. That consideration is bolstered a timely report recently released by the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent on its Mission to Canada. While the report’s buzziest recommendation may have been its suggestion for the federal government to consider paying reparations to African Canadians and apologize for past injustices and slavery, it also offered insight into the shortcomings of Ontario’s plan.

For one thing, the working group flagged the lack of nationwide data collection that’s disaggregated by race, colour, ethnic background, nation of origin, and other identities, something that the racial justice community in Canada has long been lobbying for. While activists and citizens living in neighbourhoods consistently targeted by law enforcement are instinctually aware of realities like carding, educational streaming and over-incarceration without statistics, a lack of data often makes it easy to ignore or disbelieve realities of oppression and inequality. Data is raw policy-driven proof that is indisputable, and simply helps to create better policy.

“Lack of disaggregated data obscures the degrees of disparity and in this case, highlights the inequities that we noticed in the treatment and specific human rights concerns of African Canadians,” says Ahmed Reid, a member of the UN Human Rights Council and one of the five independent experts on the working group who visited and met with groups in Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and Halifax. “We hope the government will take it on board; Canada has a serious lack of race-based data.”

The report also noted issues around racial profiling, citing research on carding and street checks from York University and the Ontario Ombudsman. It flags the “excessive use of force and killings by the police, especially in response to cases involving vulnerable people of African descent, who are mentally ill or otherwise in crisis,” and the working group calls for a trained mental health professional to be on the ground when police are called to a scene. “We looked at interactions and noticed where you see an African Canadian being killed by law enforcement, oftentimes you will read this person had a mental problem,” says Reid.

The link between deficiency of police accountability for killing Black people cannot be separated from the failure by governments to collect and analyze the data. The report notes that Ontario’s police watchdog, the Toronto Police and the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services do not collect race-based statistics on fatal police incidents; Statistics Canada and the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics only track fatal police shootings if an officer is criminally charged, and doesn’t track data on race.

Also, the compounding of issues that Black women confront—which also affects their children and families—have a wide-ranging effect on the Black community in Canada. An understanding of intersectionality can go a long way in addressing the unique issues Black youth face by contextualizing not only their circumstances, but their caregivers.

“Every city that we went to, we realized that people understood the racialization of the issues, but the feminization understanding was stark from our vantage point,” says Reid. “We hope the provinces deal with issues of intersectionality—this goes back to disaggregated data—this is where you can identify disparities and issues, as it relates to education, housing, and other issues.”

The report cites the alarming rates of Black child apprehension by child welfare agencies across the country, stating that 41.8 per cent of the children and youth in the care of the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto are of African descent, despite Black Canadians making up only 6.9 per cent of Toronto’s population and just 8 per cent of the city’s population is under the age of 18. These are the same youth that Ontario’s action plan seeks to lift up. If the state lacks the cultural competency to support and trust Black women in building and sustaining their families, how can communities have faith that the government has the tools to encourage Black youth to succeed?

The Ontario Black Youth Action Plan is an important step in recognizing the unique barriers faced by Black youth. But it remains to be seen if the provinces and the federal government will divest in the systemic barriers that manifest institutionalized anti-Black racism; without that, plans, strategies and consultations will continue to fail in achieving real change for Black Canadians.

Source: Does Ontario’s Black Youth Action Plan do enough? – Macleans.ca

Systemic racism thrives in Britain (as does the dishonesty about tackling it): Shaista Aziz

Aziz on the first UK audit on racial disparity:

Ms. May announced she had commissioned the report in September 2016 but it was only published last week, alongside the Prime Minister’s call to address “burning injustices.”

The report is the latest in a number of government reports released this year alone into the state of Britain’s minorities, focusing on integration, the criminal justice system and social mobility.

There is nothing new in the report – but the one thing it has succeeded in is this: there is now accessible data stored in one place, laying bare the ugly truths of structural racism in Britain. There are huge discrepancies in the opportunities afforded to and the value of life placed on non-white people in Britain.

The audit shows black men are nearly three times more likely to be arrested than white men, and black children three times more likely to be excluded from school. Black, Asian and mixed-race women are most likely to experience common mental health disorders. Mental health is a complex health issue – but let there be no doubt, racism and the impact of racism is visceral. For many on the receiving end, it manifests mentally and physically.

The same day the racial audit report was released, a report by the Runnymede Trust and Women’s Budget Group showed how the government’s cruel and disastrous austerity program is disproportionately impacting women of colour the hardest. They are still most likely to live in poverty.

The report says the poorest black and Asian households have faced the largest fall in living standards: 19 per cent and 20 per cent respectively.

Tinkering and repackaging structural systems of racial oppression rather than reforming and dismantling them is something our political leaders and establishment have perfected over the decades.

As evidence of the deepening structural racial injustice and disparity keeps mounting, so does the deliberately dishonest rhetoric about racism.

Britain has never been comfortable about talking about race; any attempt to talk about racism truthfully and meaningfully almost always turns into an exercise of defensive derailment.

In 2017, in Britain (just as in the United States) racism is being weaponized by the powerful against minorities and the marginalized.

Even when reams of data and the realities of our lives show we are being denied our rights to live as equal human beings and citizens, we are told the data is creating a culture of victimization and victimhood. We need to stop playing the race card, they say.

This is the ultimate political punching down.

The shameful, uncomfortable truth is that there is a lack of genuine political and societal will to tackle structural racism in Britain. Because, in order to dismantle structures of oppression, it is the privileged who have to make way for change – and it is not in their interest to turn the tables on a system that they benefit the most from and denies minorities our rights.

Source: Systemic racism thrives in Britain (as does the dishonesty about tackling it) – The Globe and Mail

Calculs politiques déplorables: Francine Pelletier on Quebec’s systemic racism hearings

Great column by Francine Pelletier on identity politics being played with respect to the Quebec hearings on systemic racism:

À la suite des piteux résultats dans Louis-Hébert, on presse Philippe Couillard de larguer la commission sur le racisme systémique, une des raisons, dit-on, de la « claque sur la gueule ». Selon l’ex-ministre libérale et animatrice de radio Nathalie Normandeau, les Québécois n’en pourraient plus de se faire dire « qu’on est racistes, xénophobes ».

Mais d’où vient l’idée (farfelue) que nous assistons ici à une « commission d’accablement des francophones »? Par quel tour de passe-passe une consultation sur la discrimination de minorités visibles devient-elle un exercice de discrimination envers la majorité ? Depuis les années 1960, toutes les grandes problématiques de l’heure — éducation, santé, justice, égalité hommes-femmes — sont passées par des consultations publiques. A-t-on crié au « procès des Québécois » au moment de la commission Parent ? Cliche ? Charbonneau ? Pourtant, à chacune de ses grandes dissections de la société québécoise, il y avait de quoi croupir de honte.

Il serait donc possible de contempler un Québec ignare, corrompu, toujours soumis à un patronage éhonté sans grimper dans les rideaux, sans y déceler autre chose qu’une façon d’y voir plus clair ? Mais entendre parler de racisme de la part de ceux et celles qui le vivent serait un affront inimaginable, une « farce », un « procès du nationalisme québécois », la mutilation de « l’âme et [du] coeur d’un peuple entraînant des conséquences irréparables »?

 Nous voici donc plongés dans une autre tragicomédie dont le Québec semble avoir le secret. On retrouve ici le même dialogue de sourds, la même indignation outrée de part et d’autre, la même incrédulité devant les propos de gens qu’on croit pourtant connaître (eh ? il a dit ça ?), amèrement vécus lors du débat sur la charte des valeurs dites québécoises.

Ce n’est pas par hasard si la première salve dans ce nouveau combat identitaire a été lancée par le chef du PQ. Après l’annonce de la commission en mars dernier, Jean-François Lisée a été le premier à dénoncer ce « procès en racisme et en xénophobie que les Québécois vont subir ». Claque sur la gueule oblige. À la suite de la défaite-surprise du PQ et du rejet de sa proposition de charte aux dernières élections, l’occasion était tout indiquée de reprendre l’initiative en peinturant l’adversaire dans le coin honni du multiculturalisme. « Ça suffit de culpabiliser les Québécois qui tiennent à la laïcité ! » de s’indigner M. Lisée. La pelure de banane était lancée. À partir de ce moment-là, nous assistions à un pugilat entre, d’un côté, ceux qui défendent le bon peuple (le « nous ») et, de l’autre, ceux qui défendent, à l’instar d’Ottawa, les pauvres immigrants (le « eux »). Devinez qui risque de l’emporter.

Il y a évidemment toutes sortes de raison de se méfier des intentions du gouvernement Couillard dans cette affaire. En perte de vitesse auprès de l’électorat francophone — qu’il n’a jamais su, c’est vrai, bien défendre —, M. Couillard a intérêt à garder les communautés culturelles solidement dans son coin. La diversité n’est pas une question entièrement neutre pour le PLQ, pas plus que la laïcité l’est pour le PQ — ou encore pour la CAQ, qui, à l’instar de ces gros footballeurs qui s’empilent les uns par-dessus les autres sur le même petit ballon, n’a pas tardé à se jeter dans la mêlée. Dans tous les cas, le pari électoral pue au nez.

 Cela dit, l’enjeu, dans le cas qui nous occupe, n’est pas la laïcité mais bien la diversité. Ce n’est pas exactement le même débat. La laïcité, d’abord, n’a jamais été perçue ici comme problématique. Les 50 dernières années sont un testament à la transformation harmonieuse d’une société archicatholique en une société qui n’est plus du tout guidée aujourd’hui par des considérations religieuses. Applaudissons l’exploit, mais admettons qu’en ce qui concerne la cohabitation gracieuse d’une société multiethnique, nous avons encore quelques croûtes à manger. La série noire de crimes haineux contre la communauté musulmane, pour ne rien dire de la montée de l’extrême droite ici comme ailleurs en Occident, est là pour nous le rappeler.

Au Québec comme ailleurs, le défi de l’heure n’est pas tant celui de la tolérance religieuse que la tolérance tout court. Sommes-nous prêts, non seulement à accepter parmi nous, mais à traiter comme nos vis-à-vis, nos égaux, ceux et celles qui ne nous ressemblent pas ?

Malgré tous ses défauts, une consultation sur la discrimination systémique m’apparaît, au contraire, tout indiquée.

Source: Calculs politiques déplorables | Le Devoir

Racisme systémique: des calculs politiques déplorables / Hearings on systemic racism in Quebec haven’t started but already nationalists are feeling victimized

Not going well (enquiries and consultations on divisive issues are hard to manage):

Les membres de la Table de concertation contre le racisme systémique ont dénoncé la politisation et l’ingérence du premier ministre dans la consultation sur le sujet, indiquant que c’est précisément cela qui est en train de faire dérailler le processus. Dans un point de presse mercredi, ils ont jugé « déplacées » les déclarations faites par Philippe Couillard au sujet de sa déconfiture à l’élection partielle, qui ouvraient la porte à l’annulation de la consultation sur la discrimination et le racisme systémique.

« Si le premier ministre aujourd’hui déclare qu’à cause de ses résultats électoraux dans Louis-Hébert il faut repenser la consultation, c’est qu’il n’a pas compris ce que ça veut dire, l’indépendance de la Commission des droits de la personne [et des droits de la jeunesse]. Ce n’est plus Philippe Couillard, le boss, c’est la Commission des droits de la personne », a insisté Émilie Nicolas, l’une des porte-parole de la Table de concertation contre le racisme systémique. « Les calculs électoraux des libéraux et la saison électorale, ça n’a strictement aucun rapport avec le mandat que s’est fait donner la Commission. »

L’exercice consultatif est trop important pour qu’il soit soumis au jeu politique et récupéré par des intérêts partisans, a indiqué pour sa part Haroun Bouazzi, président de l’Association des musulmans et des Arabes pour la laïcité au Québec. « C’est un problème de société profond qui demande du tact. »

Pour la Table de concertation, ce serait une déception si la consultation était annulée. « Mais on le serait aussi si ça se tenait tout croche. Et quand on a de l’ingérence politique dans ce qui doit être indépendant, c’est croche », a soutenu Émilie Nicolas. « Il ne faut pas d’ingérence. On veut un exercice qui soit serein et quand on se crie par la tête à l’Assemblée nationale, ce n’est pas ce que j’appelle de la sérénité. »

Conditions de réussite

Pour qu’il soit réussi, l’exercice consultatif doit se tenir à certaines conditions : la garantie de son indépendance, mais également de sa transparence. « Imaginez une seconde une consultation sur l’égalité entre les hommes et les femmes et qu’on veuille cacher les femmes victimes de sexisme », a renchéri M. Bouazzi. Il doit aussi être doté des moyens en temps et en argent, a-t-il rappelé, évoquant ainsi les critiques de l’opposition devant l’ajout de 400 000 $ portant à 900 000 $ le budget de la consultation. « Juste en pub pour la Charte des valeurs, ça a coûté 1,9 million ! »

Samira Laouni, coprésidente de la Table de concertation, déplore que certains Québécois voient dans l’exercice une manière de les accuser de racisme. « Certains médias, et je dis bien certains médias, jouent beaucoup avec les terminologies pour monter les citoyens les uns contre les autres. On a bien compris le message, nous l’entendons, le vivons sur le terrain : ce ne sont pas nos concitoyens qui sont racistes, mais les institutions », a-t-elle insisté.

Haroun Bouazzi rappelle qu’il est important de distinguer le racisme systémique, celui des institutions, de ce qui ne l’est pas, comme les actes isolés. « Une femme qui se fait cracher dessus dans la rue — malheureusement, ça existe — parce qu’elle porte un foulard, ce n’est pas un acte de racisme systémique. Mais ça le devient quand la police de Sherbrooke refuse de prendre la plainte de cette femme-là. »

Possible annulation

Mercredi matin, le premier ministre avait laissé entendre qu’il était disposé à annuler la consultation sur la discrimination systémique et le racisme et qu’il allait discuter de cette possibilité avec les membres du caucus libéral.

En après-midi, le député de Mercier, Amir Khadir, a rencontré M. Couillard et la ministre de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion, Kathleen Weil, afin d’améliorer le processus de consultation, notamment « pour être sûr que personne au Québec [ne]puisse continuer à croire que c’est le procès des Québécois ». « La rencontre a été positive et l’écoute, attentive. Nous espérons que notre échange pourra contribuer à trouver des solutions pour surmonter les appréhensions concernant cette consultation », a-t-il affirmé au Devoir, dans la foulée de sa rencontre.

Pour leur part, le Parti québécois et la Coalition avenir Québec demandent tous deux au gouvernement libéral d’en finir. « M. Couillard s’entête aujourd’hui. Il veut sauver la face. L’important, c’est qu’on agisse, qu’il n’y ait pas de procès et qu’il y ait de l’action », a lancé le chef de l’opposition officielle, Jean-François Lisée.

M. Couillard songe à revoir les modalités de la consultation. Il balaie cependant l’idée d’annoncer une série de mesures visant à enrayer la discrimination et le racisme au Québec sans avoir entendu préalablement des victimes. « Il faut laisser les gens s’exprimer aussi. On ne peut pas juste dire : “On va dicter nos solutions” », a-t-il fait valoir. Le forum public qui doit réunir plusieurs experts et acteurs du milieu pourrait donc avoir lieu comme prévu en novembre, à Montréal.

Confiance en la CDPDJ

La Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse a été plongée dans la tourmente après des révélations au sujet de la gestion autoritaire de sa présidente, Tamara Thermitus. Cette organisation doit-elle continuer à piloter la consultation sur la discrimination et le racisme systémique ? « On est encore dans les spéculations, et j’aimerais que la Commission réponde aux questions de journalistes et aux questions hypothétiques qui sont soulevées », s’est contentée de dire Émilie Nicolas.

Pour Nicole Filion, de la Ligue des droits et libertés, la « crise » à la Commission des droits a été instrumentalisée pour faire dérailler la consultation. « On pense que la Commission pourrait même avoir le pouvoir de décider elle-même de mener cette consultation. Je ne suis pas en train de dire que c’est ce qu’elle va faire, mais ça fait partie de ses mandats. »

Haroun Bouazzi en a profité pour réitérer l’importance de la consultation. « Lutter pour l’égalité, contre le racisme, c’est quelque chose de noble dans une société et je pense que c’est une occasion qu’on a pour montrer qu’on est capable en tant que société, en tant que nation québécoise, de mener à bien l’exercice. »

Source: Racisme systémique: des calculs politiques déplorables | Le Devoir

National Post account:

Before a single witness has been heard at Quebec’s hearings on systemic racism, before a single study has been tabled, a clear portrait of the victims is emerging.

François Legault, leader of the Coalition Avenir Québec, this week called on Premier Philippe Couillard to “end all unfair accusations against Quebecers” and cancel the commission. “Quebec doesn’t need an additional crisis on the identity issue, and especially not a crisis created by the Liberal Government,” he said.

Parti Québécois leader Jean-François Lisée said an examination of systemic racism is unnecessary and would “simply put vinegar in the wounds.” He said Couillard should “stop being so arrogant towards the will of the people” and scrap the hearings.

In a column in the Journal de Montréal last July, sociologist Mathieu Bock-Côté helped set the tone of the debate around the racism hearings — or “public self-flagellation” as he called them — scheduled to begin this month.

“We will witness an immense trial of Quebec society and, more specifically, of Quebec nationalists, who will be accused of all evils,” he wrote.

The premier’s resolve seemed to be weakening on Wednesday when he acknowledged that members of his caucus were blaming Monday’s by-election loss of a previously safe Liberal riding in Quebec City on the racism consultations. He said he would steer the process, overseen by the Quebec Human Rights Commission, “in the right direction” and assured nobody would be put on trial.

The manner in which the debate has derailed has left representatives of minority communities, armed with stacks of examples of discrimination against their members, scratching their heads. How did a debate over protecting racial minorities from discrimination get twisted into a campaign to stop labeling Quebecers as racist?

Emilie Nicolas, a board member of an umbrella group fighting systemic racism, said part of the problem is that the concept of systemic racism is poorly understood in Quebec. “It doesn’t mean that people are systematically racist,” she said.

Whereas neighbouring Ontario has been wrestling with the issue for decades, in Quebec, even the word “racism” is seen as taboo, she said.

“Any kind of gap in actual equality based on race that is a result of institutional practices is systemic racism,” Nicolas said. “It’s not about individual intentions, and it’s not about people being good or bad people.”

Source: Hearings on systemic racism in Quebec haven’t started but already nationalists are feeling victimized | National Post

Massey College under pressure to cut ties with professor after comment denounced as racist

Surprising that someone like Marrus whose extensive scholarship on the Holocaust and human rights could make such a flippant and inappropriate remark:

Massey College, an independent residential college affiliated with the University of Toronto, is under pressure from faculty and students to sever its relationship with one of the university’s professors after a comment he made was denounced as racist.

The comment was made during lunch on Tuesday by Michael Marrus, an emeritus history professor at the University of Toronto, scholar of the Holocaust, and a Senior Fellow at Massey.

Dr. Marrus was sitting with three Junior Fellows, graduate or professional students whose academic and extracurricular accomplishments have earned them a prestigious residence spot at Massey.

Hugh Segal, who leads the school and has the title of Master of Massey College, asked whether he could join the table. At that point, Dr. Marrus asked a black Junior Fellow: “You know this is your master, eh? Do you feel the lash?”

After the students left the table, Mr. Segal stayed and spoke to the professor.

“I made it clear to the Senior Fellow that the remark was completely inappropriate,” Mr. Segal said.

The three students took the issue to the dean of the college the same day and the comment was raised at a meeting of Massey’s governing board the same day. A written complaint by nine students – the three present during the lunch and additional members of the diversity committee – has been lodged with Mr. Segal, who is working with Massey’s governing board to deal with the requests made by the students.

In the wake of the comments, a petition signed by almost 200 faculty and students was sent to Massey College on Thursday asking for Dr. Marrus to end his association with the college.

“In our eyes, the very legitimacy of Massey College hinges on the effectiveness of your response to this incident,” the petition states. “We encourage you to approach this moment with the seriousness it demands, and with the courage and vision to make this an occasion for fulsome transformation.”

The petition also asks that the college issue a formal public apology, organize mandatory anti-racism training and drop the title “master” to refer to its director.

Mr. Segal said he would be open to that change.

“The term is tied to Oxbridge and the idea of master of one’s craft or art, not a master-slave reference. But we should be open to revision if it is no longer appropriate,” he said.

That demand has been made in the past. As a result, a task force has worked for several months examining whether to drop the title. It will report back in several weeks, Mr. Segal said.

He has also invited the students to meet with him.

Dr. Marrus did not respond to a request for comment. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the author of eight books on the Holocaust, including The Holocaust in History, Lessons of the Holocaust and co-author of Vichy France and the Jews, and a former dean of the University of Toronto’s school of graduate studies.

That history does not excuse the remark or make it less hurtful or offensive, Mr. Segal said.

“His scholarship would indicate someone who has fought his entire life for human rights. Younger Junior Fellows may not be familiar with it; it is reasonable to react how they did,” he said.​

Source: Massey College under pressure to cut ties with professor after comment denounced as racist – The Globe and Mail

Racisme systémique: la CAQ demande l’annulation de la commission

Ongoing denial among the major opposition parties:

La pression s’accentue sur le gouvernement Couillard afin qu’il abandonne l’idée d’une consultation sur la discrimination systémique et le racisme. Après le Parti québécois (PQ), c’est au tour de la Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) d’en demander l’annulation complète.

Lundi, la porte-parole caquiste en matière d’immigration, Nathalie Roy, a fait valoir que le gouvernement rate sa cible lorsqu’il parle de racisme «systémique». «On ne croit pas que ça existe», a-t-elle affirmé lors d’un entretien téléphonique avec La Presse canadienne.

Le racisme systémique, ou racisme institutionnel, est une forme de discrimination qui s’exprime par le traitement inégalitaire d’individus racisés par une société et ses institutions.

Mme Roy a dit ajouter sa voix à celles des nombreux «analystes, leaders d’opinion, éditorialistes et chroniqueurs» au Québec qui s’opposent à une vaste consultation sur le racisme.

Le PQ avait aussi demandé, le 6 avril dernier, l’annulation des procédures dans une pétition réclamant «l’abandon immédiat du projet de consultation sur le racisme et la discrimination systémique».

Il est illusoire, selon les partis, de penser que l’on puisse tenir une telle consultation en année préélectorale, lorsque traditionnellement les esprits s’échauffent.

«Vous savez très bien que ce sont des sujets extrêmement délicats et qu’il ne faut pas faire de politique sur le dos des communautés culturelles», a affirmé Mme Roy.

«Cette consultation-là repose sur une stratégie de M. (le premier ministre Philippe) Couillard qui va exacerber les divisions et les tensions à un an des élections.»

Par ailleurs, la députée de Montarville maintient que les libéraux ont failli à leur tâche d’accroître la représentativité des membres des communautés culturelles au sein de l’administration publique.

En 2008, Yolande James, l’ex-ministre libérale de l’Immigration, avait pourtant déposé un plan d’action, intitulé «Diversité: une valeur ajoutée», qui fixait un objectif d’embauche de 25 pour cent.

Elle promettait, entre autres, d’intensifier la diffusion ciblée des offres de recrutement, l’analyse des outils de sélection en vue de s’assurer qu’ils ne comportent pas de pratiques discriminatoires, et la promotion des possibilités d’emplois dans la fonction publique.

Or, selon les informations obtenues par Mme Roy lors de l’étude des crédits, le gouvernement serait encore bien loin de sa cible, aux alentours de huit pour cent.

Annonce de la Commission des droits de la personne mardi

La Commission des droits de la personne, qui dirige la consultation, ira tout de même de l’avant et lancera ses travaux mardi, a appris La Presse canadienne.

Elle accuse du retard; la liste des organismes à but non lucratif qui sont impliqués n’est toujours pas connue, alors qu’elle devait être publiée le 1er septembre dernier.

La commission est également aux prises avec des difficultés à l’interne. La nouvelle présidente, Tamara Thermitus, serait visée par des plaintes pour abus d’autorité et mauvaise gestion.

Le lancement des travaux se fera donc sans tambour ni trompette, soit par communiqué de presse, a confirmé l’agente d’information Meissoon Azzaria.

Le PQ et la CAQ en ont également contre la décision de la Commission des droits de la personne de tenir ses premières consultations locales, auprès de personnes racisées, à huis clos.

«Le huis clos, c’est la goutte qui fait déborder le vase, a soutenu Nathalie Roy. C’est cette même commission-là, à l’intérieur de laquelle la chicane est pognée, qui va faire une consultation avec, entre autres, des témoignages à huis clos. Ça ne tient pas la route, c’est parti tout croche.»

La ministre de l’Immigration, Kathleen Weil, a pour sa part affirmé que la consultation sera à la fois publique et privée, pour permettre aux gens de s’exprimer librement.

«Notre gouvernement est déterminé à éliminer les barrières à la pleine participation des Québécois de toutes origines», a-t-elle déclaré dans un courriel, lundi.

«Le racisme et la discrimination en font partie. Nous avons le devoir d’agir et de mobiliser toute la société pour contrer ces phénomènes. C’est pourquoi nous avons confié le mandat de cette consultation à la Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (CDPDJ) qui procédera d’ailleurs sous peu à l’annonce des organismes retenus pour les consultations locales», a-t-elle ajouté.

Source: Racisme systémique: la CAQ demande l’annulation de la commission | Caroline Plante | Politique québécoise

Conrad Black’s rubbish column on racism a fine example of white privilege: Paradkar

Appropriate takedown of Black’s earlier column (Conrad Black: Racism is dying, yet hateful people are still frequently accusing non-racists of it):

Many who never experience racism view it as a now shunned but once socially acceptable reality of a bygone era, kind of like smoking in the ’60s.

In line with that thinking, Black draws on history to say “most whites considered non-whites inferior, most Chinese considered non-Chinese inferior . . . I and a very large number of readers remember the murder of millions of Chinese and Cambodian and Vietnamese non-communists, and of Rwandans and Sudanese of a minority tribe or religion.”

This reduction of racism to “We all have prejudices,” springs from a half-baked understanding of the subject. It creates false equivalence between groups, just like Trump did with “all sides” at Charlottesville.

It results in ideas such as reverse racism — “racism against whites is acceptable,” Black says.

I’m not surprised when ordinary people shoot off such ideas in their emails to me. I am disappointed, however, when a rich white man with the privilege and authority to open minds instead normalizes ignorance.

All humans have prejudices and biases, of course they do. Humans discriminate. But racism isn’t just about human bias — it’s bias in the context of societal and historical power dynamics. It is also about supremacy, or the discrimination that is stitched into a socio-economic system that privileges one identity above others. In India, for instance, it benefits upper caste Hindus. In Singapore, it benefits Chinese. In Britain, it privileges men who attended private schools.

In North America and many parts of the world, thanks to colonialism, it benefits whites.

In my reading of them, serious newspapers no longer publish columns by men saying sexism is a relic of the past, or that glass ceilings are a feminist invention. Yet, such stories on racism by white people are allowed because delegitimizing progress on that front aligns with the interests of the existing racial hierarchy.

“Power concedes nothing without a demand,” said the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass in 1857. “It never did and it never will.”

I understand when working-class whites chafe at the concept of white privilege. What privilege, if you’ve just lost a job and there are mouths to feed? I suspect some views would soften if they knew white privilege just means that in their exact same circumstance, a darker-skinned person is likely to be worse off.

But when rich white people deny racism, it suggests white power is threatened. They attempt to derail advances by dictating the terms of conversation.

Increasingly this is taking the form of discussions around, “Does racism exist?” It’s in their interest to keep everyone debating on square one rather than move on to, “What are we doing about it?”

Source: Conrad Black’s rubbish column on racism a fine example of white privilege: Paradkar | Toronto Star

White people must understand that racism is real: Coren

Good commentary:

The one constant and reliable conclusion about people who argue that racism no longer exists is that they are white. And naive of course. It’s a crass statement, to be thrown in with claims such as unions have outlived their usefulness, fascism and Communism are as bad as each other, poverty a result of laziness, and the rest of the reactionary mantra. The lions of the suburbs preaching, as it were; gratingly comfortable and darkly unworldly in their invincible smugness.

The bunch of banality can usually be dismissed but lately a number of influential and even respected journalists have joined in. Sometimes they couch their arguments with a vague intelligence, often in tabloid hysteria, but the theme is repetitive: traditional values are under attack, political correctness is oppressing us, free speech is moribund, and radicals are violent and unreasonable. We’re all going to hell in a handbasket and the world has to know about it.

Most of the writers are middle-aged, as am I. In my case not only middle-aged but a white, middle-class man to boot. As such do I find some of the claims and demands of many young progressives to be shocking? Yes. But does that mean that they are wrong? No. If I can break out of my comfort zone there’s no excuse for anybody else.

Thing is, aging needn’t be synonymous with conservatism. In fact, the maxim that we become more right wing as we grow older is often the opposite of the case. Life experience, years of parenting, an increasingly safe distance from the daily economic struggle faced by younger people, the sobering reality of immortality, should all lead one to become more empathetic and reasonable.

It should also make us braver and not more fearful, but it’s fear — even hysterical fear — that seems to characterize so many of the comments from this new right collective of journalists and pundits.

Judging from what they say and write they are threatened and intimidated by the anti-Fascist movement, by Black Lives Matter, by students asking for language to be more inclusive than it used to be. Yet while these may be new movements in their specifics, there is nothing new in a fresh generation wanting a better world. When my uncle went off to Spain as a 16-year-old to fight against Franco, his parents in London were outraged. They later celebrated him as a hero.

Complacency is the last refuge of the privileged. It’s nasty in the bar or the social club but unacceptable in the pages of national newspapers. This increasingly militant wallowing in nostalgia, this reverence for a time that never was, doesn’t expand but simply destroys the debate. Yes of course such attitudes will attract fans but that says nothing — the politically blind leading the politically deaf.

It’s like the boorish parent bemoaning the music their teenagers listen to and the clothes they wear. You become figures of fun at best but at worst you’re causing harm. After one recent article denying that there was very much racism in Canada I asked a Black friend about his experience. Had he ever been stopped by the police?

He laughed. That was all. Laughed. It wasn’t a laugh of contempt but of resignation. Of course he had been stopped, several times. Is it really too much to ask those who will never be treated thus to make a small leap of empathy? Isn’t that what real journalists are supposed to do?

In the case of racism for example, it might be one thing to question some of the actions of radical groups in the Black community but quite another to refuse to understand why they were radicalized in the first place. The majority, those who enjoy power, is always frightened by anger but that does not mean that anger is not justified. As for students, socialists, and social justice campaigners, remember that liberation has to breathe. Give it some room, allow for the a few rough edges, let go and enjoy the ride.

Terms such as racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia and the rest did not develop from a vacuum and without cause. They are, alas, undeniably real. Getting old is inevitable, being young at heart, mind and soul is a choice. Do not go gently into that dark night of irrelevance.

Source: White people must understand that racism is real: Coren | Toronto Star