By Stephanie Findlay - Monday, January 28, 2013 - 0 Comments
Debate rages after a writer implores white South Africans to be politically silent
White people should “just shut up and listen.” That’s the idea behind white South African writer Gillian Schutte’s recent opinion piece, “Dear White People,” which is being hotly debated in South Africa. In it, she advises white South Africans to “wake up and smell Africa with a fresh white nose,” reflect on what it means to be “born into unearned privilege” and stop “telling everyone who is not white how to behave, what to think and when to say what.” Schutte’s post, published online by South Africa’s Mail & Guardian newspaper, is rekindling the so-called “whiteness” debate in the country—that is, how to be ethical and white in post-apartheid South Africa.
Schutte’s controversial opinion that whites must be quiet is rooted in a theory promoted by a group of mostly white South African academics known as the “anti-racists,” who say the best way to deal with white privilege—sometimes called “whiteliness”—is to be politically silent. Continue…
By Brian Bethune - Friday, October 5, 2012 at 12:10 PM - 0 Comments
After centuries of racial—which is to say, skin-tone-based—slavery and its evil legacies, even the basic biology of human skin, which carries enormous health implications, has become a toxic topic. Anthropological racism up to the early 20th century was so deep-dyed that in the past 50 years most scholars have refused to go near what Jablonski calls a perfect example of “the complex interplay of biological and cultural influences that defines our species.” A Penn State anthropologist herself, Jablonski has crafted a lucid and precisely written book indeed. You can feel her weighing each word before setting it down.
As soon as we lost our ancestral fur, humans started darkening. But not for the reason popularly assumed. Yes, melanin does protect against skin cancer, but the latter rarely kills us in our reproductive years, when natural selection exerts its power. It cannot be why dark-skinned people were favoured by evolution in our ancestral African home. Scientists now point at the way melanin-rich skin protects folate in our blood. Folate deficiency is a proven cause of birth defects, meaning that a physical attribute that guards folate offers a huge evolutionary edge.
There are other long-posed questions to which the author provides the latest answers. Why do we lose, by natural selection, no more pigmentation than necessary? Inuit skin colour is an excellent “compromise between biology and culture”: their vitamin-D-rich diet mean they do not have to maximally “depigmentize” in order to collect their D from sunshine, and they can thus keep more cancer-preventing melanin than, say, Scandinavians. But most of Living Color is focused on how colour, the concept of race, and prejudice became entangled, and on the health effects now felt by dark-skinned people in the high latitudes and by light-skinned ones under a tropical sky. It’s time, Jablonski argues, that we start talking skin colour again.
By Ken MacQueen - Saturday, July 28, 2012 at 1:46 PM - 0 Comments
Sir Roger Bannister raises a controversial thesis at the London Olympic Games
Deep in Saturday’s Times of London is a riveting interview with Sir Roger Bannister, who comes out in support of a controversial thesis that has surfaced once again at the London Olympic Games: that black West African runners have a genetic “inbuilt advantage.”
Bannister, of course, was the first athlete to break the four-minute mile in 1954, a feat he repeated a month later in the so-called Miracle Mile race with John Landy in Vancouver, B.C.
Bannister, now 83, went on to a distinguished career as a neurologist and researcher, and a champion of drug testing in sport. He’s also a man to speak his mind.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 5:08 PM - 22 Comments
Mike Moffatt figures some minorities are underrepresented by the current electoral map.
My question to you is: Given the other tensions the electoral system needs to consider, how much under-representation is acceptable? Is it acceptable for the vote from a “West Asian” be worth 95% of an average Canadian? 90%? 80%? 70%? Where is the cut-off?
By macleans.ca - Thursday, November 25, 2010 at 10:30 AM - 624 Comments
We find the trend toward race-based admissions policies in some U.S. schools to be deplorable
Maclean’s annual University Rankings issue is our most popular and most discussed magazine of the year. The 2010 edition, released two weeks ago, was no exception. Alongside our comprehensive rankings of Canadian schools, we also tackled the biggest issues facing today’s university students. There were stories dealing with school stress, problem roommates, difficult school choices and sex. And when students told us race is becoming a conversation on Canadian campuses, we took a closer look at that as well.
Our reporters Stephanie Findlay and Nicholas Köhler spoke to university students, professors and administrators about campus racial balance and its implications. The resulting story was titled: ”‘Too Asian?’: a term used in the U.S. to talk about racial imbalance at Ivy League schools is now being whispered on Canadian campuses—by everyone but the students themselves, who speak out loud and clear.”
The article has generated a great deal of response, a representative sample of which is included in this week’s Letters (page six). Some of the comments we have seen on the Internet and in other media have suggested that by publishing this article, Maclean’s views Canadian universities as “Too Asian,” or that we hold a negative view of Asian students.
By Brian D. Johnson - Tuesday, December 8, 2009 at 3:19 PM - 0 Comments
Pop Prince Michael Jackson
Even more startling than the news of his death was its impact. Not since Diana has a celebrity’s sudden passing sent such a profound and lasting shock wave around the world. Michael Jackson’s career had been in the doldrums for over a decade, his reputation shattered by allegations of child molestation, his face ravaged by cosmetic surgery, his body wired on painkillers, his finances in shreds. Although his fans had remained fiercely loyal, snapping up tickets for a sold-out comeback tour that would never take place, for much of the world the King of Pop had become a sad freak—a literally pale shadow of the man-child who once moonwalked into our hearts. But after Jackson’s death on June 25, 2009, a miraculous resurrection began to take place.
As the media became consumed with conjuring his memory, parsing his significance and exploring the riddle of his death, it soon became clear that this celebrity death was shaping up to be an event on a par with the loss of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley. In death, the moral scales were instantly tipped. Jackson’s iconic stature would trump his human frailties. The man once accused of being a pedophile and a predator was now cast as victim, possibly a victim of murder by lethal injection, perhaps even the target of a conspiracy. The disturbing pathology of Jackson’s personality—the enigma of the lost boy trapped in a man’s body—only enriched the myth. As a showbiz prodigy forever trying to reclaim the Neverland of his stolen childhood, he acquired tragic nobility. Like Elvis, Marilyn and Diana, here was another martyr to celebrity. Jackson had always dressed as if auditioning for divinity. And in the months that followed, pieces of him would be auctioned off like religious relics, from his diamond-encrusted socks to the white glove he wore in the 1983 Motown TV special—which is considered the “holy grail” of MJ memorabilia.
As a black man who seemed bent on erasing his race and blurring his gender, Jackson’s shape-shifting was mocked when he was alive. In death it only magnified his cultural importance. Just as Elvis Presley and Mick Jagger had plundered the moves and music of black R & B to create their burlesque empires of rock ’n’ roll, Jackson merged black music with white pop, but from the other side. He seemed intent on transforming himself into an alien creature, as if the only ethnicity that really mattered to him was extraterrestrial. With Thriller, the monster video that broke racial barriers and virtually invented MTV, he tried on a ghoulish identity that would follow him to the grave.
Jackson always fancied himself a movie star, or rather a movie character. And he received some posthumous poetic justice with the release of This Is It, the movie stitched together from rehearsal footage of the concert that never was. The film, which has grossed more than US$200 million, puts a lie to all the media speculation that his heart wasn’t in the tour, or that he no longer had the chops to pull it off. His ethereal falsetto was still intact, and his quicksilver dance moves still dazzled, as if he had no choice: the music flowed through his body like an electric current, animating every move with semaphore precision.
Had he lived to perform the tour, no doubt there would have been a concert movie, but it would have shown a slicker performer. The rehearsal footage reveals a softer, more circumspect Michael Jackson. Though the film is more hagiography than documentary, it offers a glimmer of vulnerability, and of the creative soul behind the Oz-like armour of the persona. Jackson comes across as an adult, quietly focused and firmly in command. The movie lends credence to what Elizabeth Taylor once told Oprah Winfrey, that Jackson was “highly intelligent, shrewd, intuitive.” There’s a lovely scene in which Jackson is trying to hold himself back. “Don’t make me sing out,” he pleads. “I gotta save my voice.” It’s a moment freighted with sad irony in a movie that redeems a monstrous icon by reminding us that he was only an artist.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 11:36 AM - 13 Comments
At about the 3:20 mark of this interview with Heritage Minister James Moore, discussion turns to the subject of Canadians stranded abroad and Mr. Moore—quite rightly—dismisses those who would play the “race card” on this particular issue. Of course, then he goes on to say the following.
“The Conservative government, our party, is the most ethnically diverse political party in the House of Commons. We have more Canadians from more backgrounds and more diversity than any political party in Canada.”
Indeed, the Conservative caucus includes 12 MPs who the Public Policy Forum identified as “non-white,” meaning the government side is a mere 91.6% white.
Mind you, if you choose to measure your diversity as a percentage of the population, the prize goes to the Liberal side, which is only 88.3% white.
By the PPF’s count, 7.8% of Canada’s 40th Parliament is “non-white,” a slight decrease from the 39th Parliament. For the record, visible minorities account for some 16 percent of the general population.
By John Parisella - Monday, July 27, 2009 at 3:06 PM - 24 Comments
Why it was important the President spoke up about the incident involving Henry Louis Gates
An African-American president and a high-profile case involving allegations of racial profiling certainly make for a powerful mix. The arrest of Henry Louis Gates should have been a regrettable one-day news story. But Barack Obama’s intervention at last week’s press conference helped escalate it into a matter only a meeting between the parties at the White House over beer—with the president himself as conciliator—could be expected to resolve. Talk about over-dramatization!
Obama was right to meet the national press on Friday afternoon to bring the temperature down and correct the trajectory of his earlier remarks. After all, his comment rendering a judgment on the Cambridge police actions (“[they] acted stupidly”), prefaced by an admission that “he did not have all the facts” was sure to send shockwaves. Conservative commentators, led by Rush Limbaugh, quickly pounced and condemned Obama’s remarks, while the local police union adding that an apology would be appropriate in the circumstances. The so-called bully pulpit evidently has its advantages, but it also comes with constraints.
By John Parisella - Friday, July 24, 2009 at 4:40 PM - 51 Comments
In what should have been a press conference on the status of his healthcare…
In what should have been a press conference on the status of his healthcare reform package, Barack Obama strayed from his usual habit of staying on message and waded in on the controversy surrounding renowned Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and his arrest by the Cambridge, Massachusetts, police outside his own home last week. No one was surprised that the question came up in the hour-long media conference and the president evidently had a point of view. Obama’s statement that the police acted “stupidly” in handcuffing the professor, a 57 year old man with a cane, has done much more than anything else to give the story legs.
One week after Gates’s arrest, the facts related to the incident remain incomplete and ambiguous. The arresting officer, Sgt. James Crowley, was originally portrayed as an overzealous policeman falling prey to racial profiling. But photos relating to the incident show the presence of an African-American policeman and quite possibly an Hispanic officer as well. And we have since found out that Crowley teaches a class at the police academy in how to avoid racial profiling. Crowley argues that the arrest was prompted by disorderly conduct and the fact the call was related to a possible burglary in progress. However, it is still not clear why Gates was handcuffed once it was established he was indeed at his home.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 4, 2009 at 10:27 AM - 63 Comments
The Public Policy Forum report is available online as a power point presentation here.
By their count, the current Parliament is 92.2% white. (The U.S. House of Representatives is 82.7% white. The British Parliament 97.7% white.)
On education, 65.9% of Parliamentarians have a university degree (Just under 93% of Congressman claim at least one degree.)
By party, that breaks down as follows: Liberal 83.1%, NDP 64.9%, Conservative 59.4%, Bloc 59.2%.
By Andrew Potter - Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 12:40 PM - 6 Comments
The bigger race issue in the U.S. is a cult of black authenticity familiar from hip hop
The third week of Black History Month was not exactly a high-water mark in race relations in the United States. Last Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder (who is black) caused a storm of anger when in a speech he called America a “nation of cowards” for refusing to have a frank conversation about race.
The same day, the New York Post ran a political cartoon showing two policemen standing in front of the bullet-riddled body of a chimpanzee. One of the cops is shown holding a smoking gun, while the other looks at him and says, “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.” The Post’s offices were promptly picketed by a few hundred demonstrators who denounced the paper as racist, led in a chant of “end racism now” by civil rights activist and professional race-baiter Al Sharpton.
Must-reads: Don Macpherson on the Quebec election.
The day after the morning after…
Must-reads: Don Macpherson on the Quebec election.
The day after the morning after
Audacity of hope, please meet the $455-billion deficit.
The Toronto Star’s Bob Hepburn elevates himself from the merely inimitable to the almost unbelievable by painting a portrait of an America that, despite having just elected its first black president, has achieved basically nothing in the field of race relations. A white Democratic candidate might well have done better, he suggests, and there will apparently be “55 million Americans who voted against [Barack] Obama … watching for him to stumble.” When he does, Hepburn predicts, many white people, such as an idiot friend of his who couldn’t decide on Tuesday whether she could bring herself to vote for a Muslim, “will be saying smugly to their friends: ‘I told you so!’” Now, we’re not saying Obama’s victory solved anything as far as day-to-day race relations. But Hepburn’s operating assumption here seems to be that every single American voted on the basis of race! It’s true, as he says, that nearly 90 per cent of white Mississippians voted for McCain and 98 per cent of black Mississippians voted for Obama, but the numbers in 2004 were 85 and 90, respectively, and John Kerry—last we checked, anyway—is quite fair-skinned. So the situation would seem to be rather more complex.
The Star’s Haroon Siddiqui, meanwhile, is well chuffed with Obama’s victory in a general sense, arguing he’s done nothing less than “make Americans rediscover the common weal.” But the president-elect needs improvements in the following areas: Afghanistan, where he “think[s] mostly in terms of a major military surge” instead of negotiations, and Pakistan, where he’s suggested “cross-border attacks” instead of a “Marshall Plan-like economic blueprint for the border region where [Taliban] militants are recruited.” Nevertheless, Siddiqui argues, Obama is already being well-received in the Muslim world, if only because he pronounces Taliban “taa-li-baan” rather than “tay-le-ban.” (Really? Who the hell says “tay-le-ban”?)
By John Parisella - Tuesday, August 5, 2008 at 11:30 AM - 0 Comments
What a difference a week makes! The daily Gallup tracking poll had Obama up…
Last week, this blog referred to the Rove Effect, and it solicited a number of responses. Does anyone still think Rove is not involved? Innuendo, subtle messaging, and turning an asset into a liability is his style—and the Obama camp had better realize it. When Rove referred to Obama as a pretentious snob a month ago, he knew where he was going with this, just as he did with the Swift Boat strategy after the Democratic convention promoted John Kerry’s military record. If you recall, the Democrats wanted to show that Kerry could be a stronger commander-in-chief than Bush, and he was believable until the Swift Boat ads. Rove and his operatives decided they would raise doubts and they succeeded. The Paris Hilton/Britney Spears spot was intended to mock the rock star image Obama cultivated on his overseas trip by associated him with vampish celebrities of dubious reputation. It also had subtle racial overtones—blond, white girls with the black rockstar. This ad and the one that followed—with Moses parting the waters—had as a goal to narrow the gap. It worked. (In 2004, Kerry took a full two weeks to respond to the Swift Boat accusations and, by then, he was 8 points behind.)
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Monday, May 12, 2008 at 1:32 PM - 0 Comments
I’m finally back from almost three weeks of back-to-back travel that included a longish stay in Indiana. My in-laws live there so it was a particularly interesting way to experience the nail-biter than was the Indiana primary. Clinton won — but barely. It was not enough for her to change the dynamic of the race, and may have signaled the beginning of the end of her candidacy. What was fascinating though, is that the race and class patterns that have been shaping the campaigns thus far continued to persist.
I had set out for Indiana with two questions to answer about the role of race and class in this race:
1) Why is Barack Obama having such trouble winning over white, blue-collar Democrats? Or, to put a more positive spin on it, why are white blue-collar Democrats so loyal to Hillary Clinton? Afterall, the two candidates’ policy platforms are very similar, and their socio-economic backgrounds are not radically different. Obama was raised by a single mother and came from a no more financially privileged background than did Clinton.
2) Why have African-American Democrats, who overwhelming support Obama, been so quiet about the Rev. Wright controversy which has damaged their preferred candidate? And how much has it really hurt Obama?
My goal was to listen very, very closely to what the voters were saying, and to report their voices back. The answers I found are in the current issue of Maclean’s and on-line here:
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Monday, March 24, 2008 at 10:24 AM - 0 Comments
I’m personally still processing Obama’s speech on race — and so is much of the country, it seems. Conservative pundit Bob Novak argues it has finally branded Obama as the “black” candidate. Meanwhile, David Broder loved it, sort of. The speech, as well as the comments of Geraldine Ferraro, and this op-ed by Gloria Steinem about gender being a greater political obstacle than race, has also prompted a lot of coverage of the allegiances of black women. (Both in this article and in other interviews I’ve heard, they tend to say race has been a bigger obstacle in their lives.)