EDPS 360 (A2) Fall 2013

Race & Racialization in Canada

In Cooperative Blog Posts on October 31, 2013 at 10:13 am

(by Emma, Mike, Josh, & Shenai)

In Jennifer Kelly’s Under the Gaze, Kelly explores “the process of racializing society” and looks into how “social groups are distinguished and subjected to differential and unequal treatment on the basis of supposedly biological, phenotypical and cultural characteristics”. I found the discussion lead quite well into the critical conception of ideology brought up in the previous readings by Thompson. I found that Kelly took a similar approach to this ideology, although possibly had a slightly more negative conception of ideology, stating that: “we can understand the function of ideology as one of obscuring the exploitative relations”. By obscuring these relations, an ideology can allow for the maintenance of that relationship and its power differentials.

Although potentially originating in scientific study of genetics and human origins, the idea and concept of race has become largely integrated into the social structure as a way to define groups “as being phenotypically different”. This is used in racist theory as a “justification for the exploitation and subordination of Blacks”. This plays well into the critical conception of ideology, in that the support of this ideology allowed and continues to allow for the power differential between “Whites” and “Blacks” to remain as is (although this carries into other races as well, especially seen in the treatment of Aboriginal people).

Upon first reading this article I found myself angry and frustrated with it, especially when I read the quote that stated, “if Canadian society is supposed to be a salad bowl then the whites are the green part: they dominate everything!”  My reaction soon turned from frustration to sadness when I realized the truth behind those words for the majority of minority cultures.  I’m realizing that although not nearly as many people are racist, or degrade other cultures as our history has, there are still a lot of people who do (far too many) and unfortunately the state of various cultures living environments, which are a direct result of their ancestors and their treatment by society, are still out of their control.  Based on African-Canadian’s treatment by Caucasians in history, they have been subjected to areas their ancestors were forced to endure, live, work with governmental racism that did not allow them (for the majority of the population) to advance, or become successful.  Those forced to immigrate to Canada through the underground railway, or with masters and later freed were subjected to areas that, as we all know, were dirty, had no water supply, contained factories with filth and pollution deemed unsafe for areas of the cities populated by Caucasians, and had little to no chance for financial success or betterment.  That, or they were given small farms with infertile soil and inability for economic growth, because of this history their environments have not had much of a chance to improve even though societies’ oppression ‘mostly’ has.  It is unfortunate that there has not been much of an opportunity for improvement and I honestly am more angry with the fact that most are still being subjected to the indirect oppression and still do not have as many chanced to succeed as Caucasians, because of their environments, backgrounds, and histories.  I also find the point of racialization and that our society has grown into one that consists of identity as being a piece (a large one) of our racial identity and we construct ourselves automatically as different based on our ethnicity and races, thereby automatically encoding in us the knowledge that our race is different than other races.  This is proved in today’s society through the many different “doll test” experiments done and illustrated on youtube (particularly the video “black doll white doll”) and demonstrates the effects race still has on humanity and children right from birth that is ingrained in us.

Initially when I read Chapter Two from Kelly’s Under the Gaze I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it in terms of our present conception of race.  The provided section deals primarily with the history of race in Canada during the 19th century which, although informative, didn’t seem to apply to a discussion of race as it is viewed now.  However after looking through some of the articles in the racialization basket I could see some of the parallels between these two different time periods.

In particular I think it’s important to focus on the idea of race as a social construction.  In a big way race and racialization are not the result of genetics but rather of society.  Kelly provides several examples of how African Canadians were segregated and treated differently in the 1900s which is a history that we should all be aware of.  Yet we can still see remnants of this in today’s society; Rushowy talks about the intense debate in Ontario over the creation of black-focused schools.  On the one hand it sounds like segregation but on the other there are clearly some issues with regards to crime in black communities that might warrant this kind of focus.

By looking at the way that racialization has occurred in the past I think we can be better aware of how it is happening today.

These experiments are a good example of “acting your” race. It is said to be out of the norm if you act different than “your race’s” stereotype. So what does it mean to be “white”, or “back”? Who determines these stereotypes and what the desired race is?

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  1. I think to answer that final question you’ve posed, we have to step back and look at humanity as a whole. One of the things we are best at is categorizing. I’m not simply talking about black, white, brown, or purple, I’m talking about the systematic grouping of almost everything we do. Stereotyping is simply a form of grouping or categorization, and in many ways I believe that this process of categorization happens not because we are innately evil, but instead because we are looking to build or construct meaning from our surroundings. I’m not trying to justify this process by any means, but instead, I am merely suggesting that if not colour or race, we would be categorizing people in some other way. I’m not sure you can stop any single individuals from categorizing at least some things. This process has some benefits, but as we can see in the case of stereotyping, it also has many drawbacks.

    The dominant culture, or the most elite within a particular society often depict what stereotypes exist as well as which races may be desired. If we look back throughout human history, there is often some sort of categorization of people and then following that categorization there are often terrible conflicts and mass amounts of bloodshed. Again, this is not simply because people are evil, but instead is because they can convince a mass amount of people that another group or category of people poses some sort of threat, be it religious, cultural, or other. Just a thought.

  2. Race is a classification of human beings that was created by Europeans. Race assigns human worth and social status using “white” as the model of humanity. The concept of race was designed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining privilege and power. (Information taken from Dr. Sockbeson’s EDU 211 lecture) This white privilege labeled White as superior and all other populations, in particular Native populations as inferior.

    “Racialization is a concept that brings attention to how race has been used and is continually used to justify inequality and oppression of Aboriginal peoples” (St. Denis, 2009, Rethinking culture theory in Aboriginal education).

    One of the most devastating impacts of this racialization is that of the legacies. The intergenerational legacy of the Indian Residential Schools has had a tremendous impact on the Aboriginal population. Those who attended the schools were mentally, physically and sexually abused and isolated. They had their culture, family, innocence and life lessons viciously removed. Many turned to alcohol or drugs to cope with the pain and loss they experienced in the schools. They were not taught how to love and were not loved while they were at the schools. This has lead to members of the Aboriginal population that do not know how to love or raise a family because they were never given this education and opportunity and thus cannot pass this on to their families. Instead they have been taught they are inferior and have been given few chances resulting in some of the “stereotypes” that are so often faulted as their own choices. Society has made decisions that have helped to improve the opportunities for FNMI members however this unacknowledged legacy will still have impacts for a number of generations. Thus racialization can have surviving influences even if it were to cease in its entirety (if that will ever happen).

  3. I’d agree with Brent. It’s the dominant culture (not necessarily the majority) that “rules”. I think it is a bit humorous because I have seen instances where two siblings have the same background but one is darker and one is lighter. People accept the lighter skinned one as white but classify the darker one as “other”. In reality they are the exact same. White, black, etc. are just physical descriptions of skin and should have no bearing on how someone is treated. They also have no bearing on how somebody acts. Colour has just become a way to oppress people.

    I actually appreciate the salad bowl comparison. Eurocentric, partriarchical, and heteronormative culture dominants our society. I don’t think Canadians are as explicitly racist as people 50 years ago but there is definite racism (institutionally and socially).

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