Black students hindered by academic streaming, suspensions: Report

The data is convincing. But the interpretation may miss broader socio-economic factors that also contribute to the gap:

Black children in the GTA may start kindergarten feeling confident and excited to learn, but too many are “gradually worn down” by schools that stream them into applied courses and suspend them at much higher rates than other students, says a new report from York University.

The report found that while academic streaming was supposed to have ended in 1999, black students are twice as likely to be enrolled in applied instead of academic courses compared to their counterparts from other racial backgrounds. And they are more than twice as likely to have been suspended from school at least once during high school.

“Black students face an achievement and opportunity gap in GTA schools,” says the study led by York University professor Carl James.

“All evidence point(s) to the need for action if the decades-old problem is to be addressed.”

The findings were based on data from the Toronto District School Board — the only board to regularly collect race-based statistics, though a similar move is underway at the Peel District School Board. Consultations with 324 black parents, community members, educators, school trustees and students indicated “the same patterns exist in other GTA school boards,” said James.

Because much of the information in the 80-page report was produced by the TDSB’s research department, it comes as no surprise to director of education John Malloy.

“We aren’t running away from what the data is telling us, we’re willing to face it,” he said in an interview.

He said the board’s new equity framework plan launched last fall involves a sweeping review of everything from board policies to personal attitudes among staff and the barriers students of different backgrounds face when it comes to accessing programs and courses.

Streaming, which places students in academic or university-bound courses instead of the more hands-on applied courses based on perceived ability, is a key piece, he said.

The practice has been found to hit low-income kids and certain racial groups such as black students hardest.

Several high schools in Toronto have already launched pilot projects to end streaming in some Grade 9 and 10 courses, so that students aren’t making decisions so early that will affect their futures. And two years ago, a TDSB report called for streaming to be phased out and undertook to expand the pilots. But there are currently only about five in place.

“I think we are beginning to get a groundswell of support,” says Monday Gala, principal of C.W. Jefferys Collegiate, which was the first to begin a destreaming initiative and no longer offers applied options in Grade 9 geography, English, science or French or Grade 10 history, English and science.

But across the system, it’s one change “I wish would move faster,” added Gala. The school provides extra tutoring and lunchtime and after-school support and has seen pass rates increase across the board.

A similar result took place at Runnymede Collegiate, which this year offered only academic English to Grade 9 students and is hoping to add geography next year, said principal Paul Edwards.

Eliminating streaming is one of the many recommendations in the new York University report, which also calls for mandatory collection of race-based data by all school boards to illuminate barriers; use of alternative discipline measures, steps to diversify the teaching workforce, and ministry and board policies to address anti-black racism.

Among its other findings:

  • Between 2006 and 2011 — the latest period for which TDSB data is available — only 53 per cent of black students were in an academic stream program versus 81 per cent of white students and 80 per cent of other racial groups.
  • Forty-two per cent of black students had been suspended at least once during high school compared with 18 per cent of white students and 15 per cent of other racial groups. It also cited more recent stats showing almost half the 213 students expelled in the five-year period ending in 2015-16 were black.
  • Sixty-nine per cent of black students graduated between 2006 and 2011 versus 87 per cent of other non-white students and 84 per cent of white students. Twenty per cent — twice as many as the other groups — dropped out.
  • Fifty-eight per cent of black kids did not apply to post-secondary school versus 41 per cent in the other two groups.

Source: Black students hindered by academic streaming, suspensions: Report | Toronto Star

Our Trump moment might not be so white: Saunders

Doug Saunders reminds us of Rob Ford, that his base was largely the non-white suburban poor and the importance of addressing barriers that produce marginalization:

Canada’s most dramatic recent triumph of Trump-style politics occurred in Toronto, where nearly half the city’s voters (and Toronto has more voters than most provinces do) cast a ballot for a wealthy, unpredictable, populist, anti-immigration, anti-elite, racist-mouthed guy named Rob Ford in 2010, and a third voted for his movement in 2014. Many note the similarities between the late mayor and the current President. Others point out the big difference: Ford voters weren’t generally, or even mainly, white.

An analysis by University of Toronto geographer Zach Taylor found that the Torontonians who voted for Mr. Ford overwhelmingly lived in inner-suburban wards whose populations were mainly racial and ethnic minorities, mainly lacking university education and mainly getting by on family incomes of less than $100,000 a year. Those voters are what the journalist Naheed Mustafa, in an analysis of their backgrounds, called “the non-white suburban poor,” whom Mr. Ford pitted against an unseen, well-paid downtown elite (and sometimes against newer immigrants) – “Despite his personal wealth, he gave the impression that he spoke the language of the marginalized.” Sound familiar?

Since the eighties, new Canadians and their families have tended to live in the low-cost, poorly transit-connected high-rise suburbs; they are more likely to be excluded from the housing boom and the secure new-economy jobs that have buoyed Canada; they are generally not white. Mr. Ford spoke their specific language of outsider resentment; he stoked the anger felt by many marginal Caribbean, African, South Asian and East Asian Canadians, and worked their Evangelical and Pentecostal churches. He knew their sense of exclusion could be turned into angry intolerance and he gave his voters a mythic “them” to be angry about. And it worked.

Likewise, the 2011 federal election was the first in which most ethnic and religious minorities voted Conservative. The Harper Tories certainly weren’t a populist far-right party, but they didn’t attract these new voters by moving leftward.

This doesn’t mean minorities in Canada have turned to the far right – they haven’t, any more than anyone else has. It does mean that anger and exclusion and paranoia in Canada, and even racial intolerance and xenophobia in Canada, are just as likely to entrap minority Canadians. The places where I most often hear overtly pro-Trump opinions are on Toronto’s black-music radio station or in the suburban flea markets: His outsider message works there.

Canada has traditionally avoided extremism by offering hope: If you start on the bottom rung, you can make it higher. But the second and third rungs are no longer so secure. If they fail, we could wind up electing the world’s most diverse form of self-destructive intolerance.

Source: Our Trump moment might not be so white – The Globe and Mail

First Nations School of Toronto ready for brighter future

While I always have mixed thoughts about ethnically (or religiously) based schooling given that it can hamper integration, understand the pressures particularly with First Nations.

It will be important to have some long-term evaluations of this school’s effectiveness, not just in terms of graduation rates (important, where I expect improvement) but 10 years post-graduation in terms of employment and income:

Twenty-five years ago, Shannon Judge was an indigenous student in a Barrie high school where sports teams were named the “Redskins.”

A generation earlier her mother, from Wasauksing First Nation near Parry Sound, wasn’t allowed to speak her first language of Ojibwe at the elementary school she attended on her reserve.

Today, Judge’s two children are finally breaking the cycle at First Nations School of Toronto. Raven, 9, and Rayne, 8, are part of a new era of indigenous education that teaches them through the lens of aboriginal experience and history.

Thanks to their school, both children now speak Ojibwe with their grandmother, which has inspired Judge to take lessons too, provided by volunteers through the school. Morning smudging ceremonies and daily 40-minute language and culture classes with an elder are part of their routine.

“I feel like my kids are getting something from school that’s not only education, but a connection to their history and identity that empowers them and gives them a sense of worthiness,” says Judge.

As of this month, students will have the option of keeping that connection until they graduate from Grade 12, following the school’s long-awaited move from its cramped quarters at Dundas Street Public School.

The Judge family - Shannon and Neal with Raven, 9 and Rayne, 8, - are shown outside the First Nations School of Toronto, which opened in its new location this month.

The move to the spacious building — site of the former Eastern Commerce Collegiate, which closed in 2015 due to falling enrolment — means that beginning in September, First Nations School will introduce a new high school grade each fall. The new Grade 9 class next September will become the first graduates in 2021.

That will make it Ontario’s first publicly-funded school to offer aboriginal education from kindergarten through Grade 12.

“The dynamics have changed,” principal Jonathan Kakegamic said following the Jan. 10 opening on the six-acre property, also home to the Aboriginal Education Centre run by the Toronto District School Board.

The kids, currently in kindergarten through Grade 8 and from all over the city, were beside themselves to see all the space, inside and out. Instead of eating breakfast and lunch in a crowded classroom, they now have a cafeteria, along with their own gym and an auditorium.

“I’m just excited to be here,” says Kakegamic, who moved from Thunder Bay last August to become principal. “It’s an honour to be part of this new era.”

Attendance has already risen to 131 students from 96 in September and the new site will accommodate 600.

Teacher Maliha Mitha reads to her Grade 1 and 2 class at First Nations School of Toronto during the children's first week at the new site.

Kakegamic and others in the community stress that expanding to secondary school is critical to reducing high dropout rates among indigenous students, who often feel lost in a larger system that doesn’t teach their perspective and history.

Source: First Nations School of Toronto ready for brighter future | Toronto Star

Mixed in the Six pop-up events created to support multiracial Torontonians

Another example of multiculturalism at work:

“At our first coffee date, Haan mentioned that he has wanted to host a dinner bringing together mixed people,” says Oades, who identifies at Filipino and Canadian (her father was adopted), “It wasn’t until we ran into one another with our sisters at a concert that we all became mixed Asian best friends for life and realized that we should do this. It’s a perfect platonic marriage.”

The two got to work on a $25 ticketed event that would showcase live music by local multiracial musicians like Bray, and Charlene Dorland, while guests dined over Palcu-Chang’s fusion-style feasts.

“I think for most people, but particularly those in mixed families, food is a very important element to their stories. It’s a reference point we use to ground us, give us perspective and make us happy,” says Palcu-Chang, who identifies as Chinese-Romanian. “For me, the food element is more than just feeding people. It’s a symbol for what we are trying to do with Mixed in the Six: generosity, community, family, nourishment.”

As the former president of the Mixed Students Association of York, Oades was reunited with members she hadn’t seen in nearly 10 years. And although the 2006 census indicated that 7.1 per cent of GTA marriages were interracial (a number that is expected by Statistics Canada to grow), the sold-out dinner showed Oades that there is still a need for mixed-race spaces in Toronto.

“People have shared with us that they feel a sense of belonging and acceptance at MIT6,” says Oades. “That feeling of not being, for example, ‘black enough or white enough’ seems to dissolve when you get to connect with other people who have had similar experiences as you.”

Professor G. Reginald Daniel, who edits the Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies, both based out of the University of California, Santa Barbara, understands mixed-race events are naturally fun and exciting but he hopes young attendees recognize the legal, physical and psychological struggles and trauma older multiracial generations have gone through. For example, the U.S. law against interracial marriage was only outlawed in 1967.

And while MIT6 guests often cheekily gush over one another’s attractiveness (many attendees happen to work as models, actors and performers), Daniel hopes mixed-race millennials don’t get caught up in a strictly superficial multiracial discourse.

He notes how the mainstream media has latched onto the “happy hapa,” “magical mixie,” “happy hybrid,” “racial ambassador,” and “post-racial messiah” stereotypes of multiracial individuals that are dangerous because they portray “overenthusiastic images, including notions that multiracial individuals in the post-Civil rights era no longer experience any racial trauma and conflict about their identity.”

MIT6 attendees know too well that a post-racial world free of racial prejudice and discrimination does not actually exist.

“The key is to ground that enthusiasm and capture it in a way that is meaningful so you can work with other groups. So you aren’t seen as so self-centred and seem solely focused on your ‘mixie’ concerns,” Daniel stresses. “This would mean moving beyond the specific concerns of multiracial individuals and see the link with the concerns of other communities relating to anti-immigrant sentiments, Islamophobia, native American land rights, and even the concerns of women, or the LGBT community, etcetera.”

MIT6 is going beyond bringing people together for food, taking on an advocacy role, with a donation drive for Syrian refugees as well as highlighting the difficulty of those with a mixed-race background to find bone marrow transplants. Oades met 11-year-old Aaryan Dinh-Ali, who is Vietnamese and Afghani and is suffering from aplastic anemia and desperately needs a bone-marrow transplant. MIT6 invited U of T’s Stem Cell Club and Canadian Blood Services to set up a clinic at the dinner, successfully registering 17 new mixed-race donors.

Source: Mixed in the Six pop-up events created to support multiracial Torontonians | Toronto Star

New archive highlights years of racism faced by Chinese Canadians | Toronto Star

A good reminder of our history:

Seventy-one years ago Mavis Chu Lew Garland and eight of her preschool classmates were photographed on the porch of the Chinese Canadian Institute on the corner of Dundas St. W. and University Ave.

Times were different, rather “extremely difficult,” she says, being born to a Chinese immigrant father and a white mother when interracial marriages were seen as unacceptable.

But now, at the age of 76, Garland and her classmates have come together to recreate a photo that was taken during a period of discrimination, and now represents a snapshot of Canadian immigrant history.

The photo, which Garland found while scrounging through old shoeboxes is just one of the artifacts donated to the Toronto Public Library as part of a three-year initiative, the Chinese Canadian archives, which opened on Tuesday at the Toronto Reference Library.

Since the announcement calling for donations in July, the library has received hundreds of articles to commemorate the historic voices of the Chinese people in Canada. Among the collection are old photographs of the city’s first Chinese restaurants, and businesses that once existed in the area where City Hall stands today.

But among the pieces of colourful memorabilia are documents highlighting a Canadian history of discrimination, including documentation on the racist Chinese head tax, showing how it rose from $50 in 1885 to $100 in 1900 and eventually to $500 in 1903 — at the time the price of buying two houses in Toronto.

Seventy-one years ago Mavis Chu Lew Garland and eight of her preschool classmates were photographed on the porch of the Chinese Canadian Institute on the corner of Dundas St. W. and University Ave.

Times were different, rather “extremely difficult,” she says, being born to a Chinese immigrant father and a white mother when interracial marriages were seen as unacceptable.

But now, at the age of 76, Garland and her classmates have come together to recreate a photo that was taken during a period of discrimination, and now represents a snapshot of Canadian immigrant history.

The photo, which Garland found while scrounging through old shoeboxes is just one of the artifacts donated to the Toronto Public Library as part of a three-year initiative, the Chinese Canadian archives, which opened on Tuesday at the Toronto Reference Library.

Since the announcement calling for donations in July, the library has received hundreds of articles to commemorate the historic voices of the Chinese people in Canada. Among the collection are old photographs of the city’s first Chinese restaurants, and businesses that once existed in the area where City Hall stands today.

But among the pieces of colourful memorabilia are documents highlighting a Canadian history of discrimination, including documentation on the racist Chinese head tax, showing how it rose from $50 in 1885 to $100 in 1900 and eventually to $500 in 1903 — at the time the price of buying two houses in Toronto.

Then there was the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1881, when an estimated 17,000 Chinese workers were brought to Canada and endured long working days, for around $1 a day. Due to the poor working conditions and illnesses, records estimated that they died in the thousands.

“All of them remained nameless in the history of Canada,” the monument standing just outside the Rogers Centre commemorating the Chinese CPR workers reads.

“I feel like a lot of the lives, work, and contributions of Chinese-Canadians have remained nameless,” 28-year-old Coly Chau told the Star.

Chau immigrated to Montreal from Hong Kong at the age of 5.

“Elementary and secondary education gave me very little exposure to the history of Chinese Canadians” Chau says.

After graduating high school, Chau said a lack of belonging pushed her to “dig deeper” to research and learn about her history.

“As an immigrant, my experiences have been greatly attributed to the contributions and experiences of those Chinese Canadians that came before my family and I,” Chau said. “There are instances of racism that I’ve experienced, or the feeling of being an outsider — but those that came before me worked very hard to dismantle a lot of it, and lessen it for us now.”

Source: New archive highlights years of racism faced by Chinese Canadians | Toronto Star

Toronto lifts curtain on extremism prevention plan, quietly operating for more than 2 years

Part of the arsenal in combatting extremism and increasing resilience:

Police in Toronto are lifting the curtain on an extremism prevention program that has been quietly operating in the city for more than two years — but experts in the field say getting young people at risk of radicalization to use it will come down to a question of trust.

The project, which first sprouted in 2013, has been purposely kept from public view until this week.

“At this point in time we feel that we have a good service in place and we’re ready for people to participate in it,” Deputy Chief James Ramer told CBC News. Together with the City of Toronto, Ramer said, the force hoped to fine-tune the program behind the scenes through direct involvement from community groups, rather than simply present a made-by-police project.

Here’s how it works.

A person deemed at risk for extremism is referred by a police officer or a participating agency to one of four hubs, each consisting of 15 to 20 bodies, including medical professionals, faith groups, the school board and community housing.

Referrals require the consent of the person at risk and are based on a list of some 103 risk factors. Participation, said police, is entirely voluntary.

Cases are assessed at the hub, and depending on the most pressing concerns, two participating organizations are chosen to lead an intervention, which can range from spiritual counselling to mental health assistance.

Referrals anonymous

“All of this is done in complete anonymity,” said Ramer, adding that the hub process meets the privacy commissioner’s “gold standard” in terms of protection of personal information. Only cases that involve a criminal element or pose risks to public safety are formally investigated.

As for what kinds of extremism the program addresses, Sgt. Kelly Gallant said it runs the gamut from Islamist-inspired, to white supremacist to environmental extremism, to name a few. “We talk about all different kinds of extremism.… Not just what we mostly see on TV.”

It’s not the first time a deradicalization program has been floated in Toronto, but it is the city’s first police-led initiative.

Toronto police

Deputy Police Chief James Ramer, Sgt. Kelly Gallant and Staff Sgt. Donovan Locke say the extremism prevention program has been quietly operating in the city for more than two years. (CBC)

Six months ago, the Canadian Council of Imams announced plans to open two to three deradicalization clinics in Toronto that would take a “holistic” approach, as early as this fall. Those clinics, Toronto imam Hamid Slimi told CBC Toronto, have not yet taken off owing to a lack of community support.

Toronto’s program is housed under the police’s existing community safety program, which also tackles gangs and drugs. Montreal also has an anti-radicalization centre, but not one led by police.

Trust ‘in shambles’ in some communities

But whether young people will consent to being involved in the program will ultimately depend on whether they feel safe engaging with police, says University of Waterloo religious studies post-doctoral fellow Amarnath Amarasingam.

“It depends much on how the police are able to gain the trust of communities. In some communities, this trust is in shambles, but in others, there is a history of working together. So, it really depends if the cops can shed some of this baggage,” Amarasingam said.

Source: Toronto lifts curtain on extremism prevention plan, quietly operating for more than 2 years – Toronto – CBC News

Lessons learned from ‘The Jewish Hour’

Rick Salutin comments on some of the insights from the early Jewish community in Toronto and how they may apply to today’s integration challenges:

That community, in Toronto, is described in a lovely, loving new book by the late Michael Mandel: The Jewish Hour. He focuses on weekly radio shows in Yiddish, in Toronto — in 1938 there were three competing “Jewish Hours” — and on local newspapers from the 1930s to the 1950s. The papers were in Yiddish, but helped integrate their readers by covering Toronto events, unlike the dominant New York Yiddish press, which was devoured here.

By the 1930s, Jews were less than 10 per cent of Toronto — far fewer than the quarter to a third in New York or Warsaw — but still the largest non-British group. You could say they were white, unlike today’s minorities, but in ways they were viewed as non-white. They were assumed to have distinct, identifiable physical traits though they could sometimes “pass,” much like other non-Caucasians. You could also say they shared Canada’s “Judeo-Christian” heritage, but you’d be wrong. Canada was then universally considered a “Christian nation.” As part of the integration of Canadian Jews, the term slowly expanded to Judeo-Christian.

To some degree at least, that process of integration is unstoppable. Mandel’s dad, who was a regular on radio, was known in the Yiddish press as a “showman” — spelled out literally in the 1,000-year-old language of Eastern European Jews. Toronto’s many cantors — leaders in prayer — often crossed over to secular performances, just like Al Jolson in the first talkie, The Jazz Singer.

In return, newcomers made their contributions. The Yiddish papers had no illusions about the rise of Hitler, from the start. They warned Canada. When the war ended, they had no illusions about what would follow: “If we are going to have an era of peace, it is only because humanity is now exhausted and broken — not because it finally realizes the absurdity of the atrocities of war.”

Like every immigrant community, there were fierce internal differences, about which the larger society tends to be oblivious. Instead it tries to homogenize groups, as it now does with Muslims. But there were communist Jews, socialists, Zionists and anti-Zionists, Tories and Liberals, rich versus poor — who attacked each other regularly. The presence of a crisis, such as 9/11 or the Holocaust, sharpens the differences while underlining the need for unity.

The outlets declined as Yiddish did. In 1931, 96 per cent of Jews here called it their first language. By 1951, it was 51 per cent, and 11 per cent in 1981. The papers tried to adapt with English sections: the Star’s memorable theatre critic, Nathan Cohen, edited the English pages for the communist “Vochenblatt.”

Till the end, the voices were eloquent: “That is how it goes in Jewish history, from Moses’s time till the present: the presidents and rich ones commit themselves only when there is an ark” — meaning a secure shelter like Noah’s — “and a place of honour.” You can’t get enough of that kind of journalistic feistiness, in any language.

I know there are different challenges with racialized immigrations, like those of the last 50 years. But I don’t think they’re insuperable, due to both the will of immigrants to join their new society and its urgent need for what they offer.

Source: Lessons learned from ‘The Jewish Hour’ | Toronto Star

Robyn Urback: How can Black Lives Matter claim ‘victory’ when Pride has left so many divided?

One of the better commentaries:

BLMTO’s leaders and their allies claim their interruption was a necessary reminder that social movements often work in the interests of their wealthy white members first — early feminism is an obvious example — leaving its communities of colour to pick up the slack behind. And they’re not wrong. BLMTO can claim, with some credibility, that its disruption of the parade was important, or necessary, but it will have a hard time making the case that it did more good than bad, especially as hundreds of simultaneous Facebook fights about “pinkwashing” and “anti-blackness” enter their second day. And surely it would not tolerate a similar protest by Pride Toronto members at the Toronto Caribbean Carnival parade later this month.

Ian Willms/Getty Images

The question of future police participation in subsequent Pride events has only compounded the mess, with many accusing BLMTO of undermining recent progress made between the LGBT community and Toronto police, which included an historic apology offered by Police Chief Mark Saunders last month for a string of raids made on gay bathhouses in 1981. They claim, rightfully, that to ban future police participation in Pride events would be a step in the wrong direction, and would only alienate gay members of the Toronto Police Service, including Const. Chuck Krangle who penned on open letter urging the organization to reconsider its promise to BLMTO, arguing that “exclusion does not promote inclusion.”

Indeed, the tens of thousands of onlookers who have watched Toronto’s annual Pride Parade march down Yonge Street have surely noted the diversity of its participants: there are Liberals, Conservatives, church groups, unions, Arabs and Jews, all marching to support inclusiveness, diversity and the freedom for people to love who they love. That’s what this year’s event, and all Pride events, should be about. Instead, this year’s Pride parade left supposed allies fuming from separate corners, while BLMTO’s leaders proudly claimed victory for a job well done. It’s hard to see how starting a fight between groups that are working toward the same goals is really a cause for celebration.

Source: Robyn Urback: How can Black Lives Matter claim ‘victory’ when Pride has left so many divided?

Anti-Islamophobia ad campaign draws heated debate online

Means it’s working:

An ad campaign drawing attention to Islamophobia has Torontonians talking — and that’s just the point, backers of the campaign say.

The poster, recently rolled out at about 150 TTC stations and bus shelters across the GTA, depicts a young white man squaring off against a young woman in a head scarf.

“Go back to where you came from,” he says.

“Where, North York?” she replies.

The ads, launched this week by the City of Toronto and the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI), have sparked a flurry of comments online and on the street — precisely the point, said Amira Elghawaby: “to have constant dialogue … and force people to rethink their assumptions.”

Elghawaby, spokesperson for the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said recent events have rekindled latent prejudices.

The idea for the campaign was brought forward last fall, to cushion the arrival of Syrian refugees, she said, but has become all the more urgent in the wake of the Conservatives’ proposed partial ban on the niqab in 2015, presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric, the fallout from the Paris attacks and mass shootings in San Bernardino, Calif., and Orlando, Fla..

“Islamophobia has become a serious concern in many communities in Canada,” said Elghawaby, whose organization was consulted on the ad’s creation but isn’t an official part of the campaign.

It’s not uncommon for women wearing a hijab to field unsolicited questions about their origins or criticism of their appearance, Elghawaby said. “That almost goes with the territory of being a visibly Muslim woman in Canada.”

Hijabs and hockey don’t clash; head scarves and beavertails aren’t incompatible, she says: “In other words, I’m as Canadian as the next guy or gal. And newly arrived immigrants and refugees will eventually be as well.”

Some people saw the ad as entrenching stereotypes and inflaming tensions.

“I think it’s in poor taste. I think it feeds into a racial stereotype,” said Toronto resident Bryan Carras, referring to both figures depicted.

“It’s an oppressive form of expression. It makes me sick to think of the countries where there’s human rights problems and where (the hijab) is everywhere,” he said.

Reddit post of the ad sparked more than 200 comments in less than six hours last week.

Some were supportive: “I suppose it’s good for these messages to be out there, as a reminder — to victims as well as perpetrators — that this s**t isn’t acceptable.”

Others less so. “It creates a further divide between people by playing on a stereotypes (sic),” one commenter typed. “You think it’s just white people spewing Islamophobic rhetoric?” wrote another.

A fourth quipped in response: “It’s almost as though, in this instance, white men take things ‘too personal’ and need to stop ‘looking for reasons to be offended…’”

More than 80 per cent of Muslim respondents in an Environics survey last April said they were very proud to be Canadian, 10 per cent more than non-Muslims. Yet an assumption remains “that people who look different are not from here,” says Patricia Wood, a York University geography professor who focuses on diversity and urban citizenship.

Not only can that harm a person’s sense of belonging or safety, it’s simply not accurate, especially in Toronto, Wood says.

Source: Anti-Islamophobia ad campaign draws heated debate online | Toronto Star

Understanding where I’m coming from on Toronto’s race relations: Paradkar

Shree Paradkar on the City of Toronto/OCASI poster (see Toronto campaign against Islamophobia an insult: Fatah). Merit in her idea to have a series of posters that cycle through various groups. One of the more positive legacy of former Minister Jason Kenney was his broadening of integration and multiculturalism discussions to include inter-group relations, not just the white/visible minority dichotomy:

“Where are you from?” is a common enough question in multiracial Toronto.

“Where are you really from?” is the common enough subtext directed at minorities. As a relatively recent immigrant, this doesn’t offend me. I did come from somewhere else. This country is a beloved home as is my country of origin. For second-generation and older minority immigrants, however, I can see why that can be offensive.

“Go back to where you’ve come from” is the other insult directed at minorities that drives home the flawed idea that the default Canadian is Anglo-Saxon. It supposes that everybody else, including our First Nations, is the unwelcome “other” who doesn’t have modern Canada’s best interests at heart.

And so a recent Toronto city-sponsored anti-racism ad takes this statement head on. In a poster a young white man says that to a hijabi, to which she retorts, “Where. To North York?”

It’s an accurate depiction of a frequent occurrence but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

The Toronto ad was made in partnership with OCASI, an agency that helps immigrants. About 150 ads were placed on bus shelters last week and the campaign will run until July 10. Perhaps they will depict more races and more examples. If they don’t, they could simply be polarizing.

Anti-racists erroneously assume everyone understands why — at the moment at least — any talk on racism predominantly challenges the white mindset.

In reality, if you fed that poster to a program that cycled through various racial or ethno-religious backgrounds for both people, and came up with, say, an Asian on the left and a black person, or a Hindu on the left and a Muslim, or an immigrant of 20 years on the left and a new immigrant of the same country, the “Go back to where you’ve come from” sentiment would still be accurate.

 So why focus on whites? While racism, xenophobia, homophobia and sexism exist in all cultures, they are most harmful when they come from a dominant group or a “ruling class,” which in Canada is obviously white and male.

These are the people who construct systems and govern institutions that determine equality and social justice. They create organizational structures and offer jobs. These are the interpreters of the law. If they are themselves afflicted by the “otherness” syndrome, then their views translate into severe injustices in a diverse society.

Eventually, though, if we get the diverse leadership in political and corporate governance we talk so much about, then narrow-minded attitudes in any leader — not just a white male — would be just as harmful.

In the U.S., I see conversations on racism reduced to a binary — white vs. black. That creates divisions; non-black minorities feel marginalized, blacks feel their legitimate historical and contemporary grievances need to be dealt with first, and many whites feel anti-racism is just politically correct hocus-pocus.

Canada has to champion a more nuanced conversation on discrimination.

A poster like this would speak volumes to the people affected by xenophobia. I can’t imagine it would change people who say things such as, “Go back to where you came from.” It could also estrange younger white men who might feel they’re not even given a chance to be fair. These are people in their intellectually formative years who are also exposed to the aggressive rhetoric of the aggrieved far-right. who sees themselves as victimized.

Reservations against this alienation are not about catering to white desire for, and comfort with, the status quo. It’s about reaching out to people who don’t experience racism and therefore don’t think of it as real or harmful.

“The overarching long-term goal is to create a Toronto that says ‘No’ to all forms of discrimination and racism,” the OCASI says in its media release.

Saying no is the easy part.

Bullheaded bigots may be unreachable, but making meaningful strides will mean making the regular white Joe and Jane see from the non-white perspective how their circumstance, whatever it is, still benefited from a privilege not available to others. That won’t happen when divided camps are left talking within themselves.

Source: Understanding where I’m coming from on Toronto’s race relations | Toronto Star