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July 29, 2009

A Reversal of Tolerance - Part 1

Disclaimer: I am a Canadian born white male, married into a visible minority family. I consider myself very open minded and non-racist; however, I do have opinions - some of which may be interpreted as racist and/or prejudice. These opinions are my own, and I welcome any feedback as long as it remains civil.

As recently as 20-30 years ago in North America, racism and prejudice were alive and well. It was normal. People were ok with it (well, visible majorities were anyway) and governments looked the other way.

It was a tolerance of the intolerable.

Today, while not totally eradicated, it is now illegal and socially unacceptable to treat a person differently because of the colour of their skin. In fact, it has become unacceptable to a point of going out of ones way to not be accused of racism. We hire visible minorities solely because of the colour of their skin. We make exceptions to laws to accommodate varying cultural and religious beliefs, often to the absurd extreme. In many cases, people are infuriated by this, and governments are proceeding blindly.

The tolerance is becoming intolerable.

Canada is a nation of immigrants. 96% of us are not considered aboriginal. This means we have done nothing but adapt, change and accomodate from day one. So to some extent, not only should be accept this as the truth, but embrace it as what makes Canada truly unique.

Having said that, we are a sovereign nation. Our traditions, cultures and laws must be respected. Change can and will happen, but it must be fair to all, and not to benefit any one race, culture, sex or religion.

In the next several entries I will be discussing examples of where we (society, governments or individuals) demanded our rights, often at the expense of common sense. At the end of each example, I'll include my personal opinion. (Hey, it's my blog...)

White males need not apply
In the early to mid-90's, the Province of Ontario had the NDP party in office, with Bob Rae as Premier.
During this time, some unusual hiring practises were put into place designed at increasing the number of visible minorities, women and disabled employees within the government's employees, otherwise known as affirmative action, or more commonly known as "White males need not apply".

Interestingly, the Federal government had a similar policy in place in 2005-2006:
"All persons recruited externally must be from designated groups (persons who are visible minorities, aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities and women), except for cases having received ADM/CEO written approval."
Some people may justify this as "reverse discrimination", which is simply ignorant. Discrimination is discrimination.

During the first days of President Obama's administration there was a controversy surrounding a similar issue. Robert Reich, a top economic adviser to Obama, stated in a speech:

"I am concerned, as I'm sure many of you are, that these jobs not simply go to high skilled people who are already professionals or to white male construction workers...

... I have nothing against white male construction workers, I'm just saying there are a lot of other people who have needs as well. There are ways in which the money can be, criteria can be set so the money does go to others, the long term unemployed, minorities, women... "
It seemed the more Mr. Reich attempted to clarify his statement, the further he dug himself into a hole. You decide what he really meant. If nothing else, this is proof that the issue is still a sensitive one.

My opinion: While I certainly support equality between race, sex and culture, there was (is?) a clear misrepresentation of the public working within the government. I am all for putting policies, procedures and controls into place to prevent this from happening in the future. This is by no means a simple task, and I'm glad I'm not charged with it's ownership; however, we cannot change history, only learn from it. Discrimination against a majority is no less a crime than against a minority.

Go on - your turn.

Coming in Part 2...
Can there be anything more sacred to Canadians than the uniform of the RCMP? The entire world identifies us with that red uniform. Even Monty Python poked fun at it!


Anonymous said...

"As recently as 20-30 years ago in North America, racism and prejudice were alive and well. It was normal."

Its still IS normal, just in a different, sometimes more subtle form. This is one of the fundamentals in discussions of race and the reason many who read this will not see eye to eye with you regarding the rest of your article.

"We hire visible minorities solely because of the colour of their skin"

Soley? That is defintely not the case, this argument makes it sound as though PoC are being hired over whites who are MORE able to do the job, which is pretty much never the case.

People of colour are still at a huge disadvantage socially. White people benefit from being white. This is still the case on a global level.

Often white people, especially white men get uncomfortable when confronted by the ways in which they are socially privileged (eg, white,male, able-bodied, everyone carries some type of privilege) This discomfort translates into arguing that minorities are at advantage regarding employment, etc despite studies repeatedly proving this is not the case.

Rather than complaining how diificult it is for white men in the modern world, one's time would be better spent examining the ways race and gender truly affect one's position in society, and then fully understand how we can work to level the playing field.

Tim Wise articulates white privilege extremely well. You might have heard of him, he has vids on youtube or you could google him.

Chunky Lover said...

Thanks for the feedback!

Just to clarify, I am certainly not stating that white males are now at a disadvantage - we are not. Visible minorities still are. Just a sad fact. And I'm definitely not "complaining how diificult[sic] it is for white men in the modern world".

My point was, some organizations are trying to correct past unfair hiring practises by deliberately hiring visible minorities over the typical white male. This is equally unfair and wrong, and it does happen.

No one deserves an advantage because of their skin colour - white, black, asian... whatever.

becoming race conscious said...

"No one deserves an advantage because of their skin colour - white, black, asian... whatever."

But sometimes we do need to put practices in place to force employers not to just hire people like themselves which appears to be a human tendency. Read this article:
and tell me why making sure that equally qualified individuals that happen to be non-white should not be highlighted in hiring practices to make sure that unconscious discrimination is not taking place!

Chunky Lover said...

Very interesting article, thanks!

"... tell me why making sure that equally qualified individuals that happen to be non-white should not be highlighted in hiring practices to make sure that unconscious discrimination is not taking place!"

Because I don't believe 'conscious' discrimination should be used to circumvent 'unconscious' discrimination.

Interestingly, I deal more and more with agencies who, when they send candidate's resumes, they leave the names off (for competitive reasons). Additionally, I have seen a number of HR departments do this internally (for anti-nepotism reasons).

I had never thought of the impact on race, but it would certainly apply here. And you are correct, it is a human tendency to give preference to someone more familiar (in this case by name). As long as we're dealing with humans, there will never be a perfect system. Doesn't mean continuous improvement isn't worth the effort.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like your main problem is with affirmative action then?
I can understand that, though I don't agree.
'becoming race conscious' puts it well, why is hiring minorities over typical white males a problem (all else being equal)? By calling this unfair you make it sound as though white males are more entitled to the job.

You talked about trying to correct 'past unfair hiring practises' but like I said in my first comment, it isn't the past, it's happening now and affirmative actions practises are an attempt to prevent that, it's an attempt at equality and in no way does it put minorites at an advantage over white men.

I don't see how, if you acknowledge the racism faced by people of colour, you can see affirmative action as unfair. It's not ideal, but I think it's a start unless you can think of alternative systems to ensure minorities are not overlooked?

Chunky Lover said...

Well yeah, this article is about affirmative action, as described in the first paragraph (look for Bob Rae's portrait).

All else being equal, whites vs. non-whites should roughly split the award of new jobs (in this fictitious ideal world). Sometimes a white male will get the job, sometimes not. That is fair, albeit rare still.

Deliberately having a policy in writing in place stating NOT to hire a white male is just plain wrong. Mom always told me two wrongs don't make a right.

Do I have a perfect solution? No. Then again, I have my own day job to do. Our elected officials are the ones charged with this task, and I have to believe that, given the money time and effort spent, there's a better answer than "stop hiring whitey".

Anonymous said...

I don't really see why it's wrong, it's absolutely not a perfect solution and yeah, all else being equal, jobs would be split between races fairly in an ideal world, but with the history of this world I don't see it as a huge injustice.

Really, my reaction is, well, so what? I don't think white men are at a huge disadvantage as a result of this and so I don't really care.

I'm not 100% behind AA at all, but I'm more concerned with the possible backlash against the minorities who may get employed as noted in your link. A cliche often spouted by white people is the idea that any minority in university or a good job is there because of AA and not based on merit.
I've heard people of colour argue against affirmative action because they want to be taken seriously and viewed as competent, which makes sense, of course. So those affects of AA should be taken into consideration for certain.

The temporary ban on hire white males looks like a quick-fix solution and I really doubt it will make much of a dent in racism, or the way minorities are viewed and so on, so I don't want to sound like I'm championing it or anything. However I really dislike articles whining about discrimination against whites when racism as a system that negatively affects PoC is still a reality and a far more pressing concern.

I think there certainly needs to be regulations in place to ensure minorities are not being overlooked by employers, and are given chances equal to whites. Without such regulations white males would defintely get unspoken preference.
Are the current practises ideal? Probably not. But with the 'old boys club' still alive and well, I think the concern for white men is misplaced.

Anonymous said...

Argh, apologies for any incoherence, majorly distracted :/

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