Randall Denley: Is Canada really dominated by white privilege?
by Randall Denley (Ottawa Citizen)
Published on: July 20, 2016
Black community members and activists rallied the public to take part in a peaceful demonstration in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement to bring attention to racial issues, in Ottawa on July 17, 2016. The group marched from Major’s Hill Park to Parliament Hill, where they linked arms and chanted along Wellington Street.
Black community members and activists rallied the public to take part in a peaceful demonstration in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement to bring attention to racial issues, in Ottawa on July 17, 2016. (Photo: David Kawai) DAVID KAWAI / POSTMEDIA
Canada is one of the most welcoming and immigrant-friendly countries in the world, a place others look to as a model for how to build a pluralistic society. And yet, we are still told that we live in a nation riven by racism, where the majority keeps its “white privilege” intact by marginalizing people who are of a different skin colour.
Sure, Canadian police officers and black people are not gunning each other down in the streets on a regular basis, but that doesn’t mean that white people are not conspiring to keep other folks down. As my colleague Angelina Chapin said in a recent column, “the desire for white people to guard their privilege like a pot of gold is destructive and delusional.”
White privilege is generally defined as special advantages given to people simply because they are white. Whites help other whites, the story goes, keeping others on the fringes. Yes, people can point to black, East Indian or Chinese people who have succeeded in pretty much every area of Canadian society, but look how many more good jobs and powerful positions are held by white people.
It’s not surprising that white people would dominate many spheres of activity in Canada. They make up about 80 per cent of the population and their families have typically been here far longer than those of immigrants from non-white parts of the world. Among G8 countries, Canada has by far the largest percentage of its population born elsewhere, at 20.6 per cent.
If the big priority for white people was maintaining their supposed white privilege, why would Canada be admitting so many non-white immigrants? And why would we have federal laws encouraging employment of visible minorities and human rights commissions to help protect them? In Canada, we even fuss because the top people at our spy agency are not sufficiently diverse.
To those who see white privilege everywhere, even hiring targets for visible minorities are another manifestation. In a head-spinning example cited by the CBC, a representative of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Toronto said that when white people assume a black person got her job because of quota hiring, that’s white privilege.
A look at how immigrants are doing overall in Canada provides some useful context.
Canadian immigrants primarily come from South Asia, China and the African and Caribbean nations. Combined, those groups account for 61.3 per cent of the visible minority population.
Despite their numbers, we don’t hear a great deal about racial discrimination against Chinese or South Asian people. Nor do we hear much about their lack of economic success. In part, this is because they come from countries that have strong economies and education systems. Placing a high value on education is particularly important. Immigrants of Asian background are achieving a higher rate of post-secondary education than other Canadians.
Black Canadians are in a different situation. Slightly more than half of Canadian blacks are foreign-born and many have arrived in recent years, primarily from Haiti, Nigeria and Jamaica. That background puts them at a relative disadvantage to other immigrants. It’s not a surprise that black people aren’t doing quite as well as some other immigrants.
While there are many individual success stories, black people as a group have had less success than anyone would like. It’s convenient to blame that on racism on the part of white Canadians, but it’s not convincing. If other immigrant groups are doing well in our white privilege society, why not blacks?
Clearly, some black people feel that things are so bad that they have to assert that black lives matter. Yes, they do, and they will get better when black people start doing a better job of lifting each other up.
In Canada, self-flagellation is almost a national sport. We are always wringing our hands over some group that is said to be treated unfairly. No doubt our country is imperfect, but ask yourself this: If Canada is such a racist society, why do so many non-white people keep choosing it as their home?
About the writer
Randall Denley is an Ottawa commentator, novelist and former Ontario Progressive Coservative candidate.
Source: Ottawa Citizen