The City of Edmonton has pulled controversial language from its Anti-Racism Campaign after public complaints over a statement on the the campaign’s website regarding “White Privilege.” For more background on the campaign and public uproar, read “City’s Anti-Racism Campaign Targets ‘White Privilege,'” “Race and Racism — Or Putting the ‘You’ in Yeg,'” “Anti-Racism Website Bizarre, Offensive to ‘Real’ Edmontonians,” Edmonton’s Centre for Race and Culture’s “Letter to the Editor,” or watch Alberta Primetime’s “Alberta’s New Anti-Racism Site” and “Indy Future?” segment.
Although I think the messaging should have been revised, I am disappointed at the lack of public debate on the issue. Not only did the media fail to fully represent the views of proponents, but they framed them to be outsiders, with no understanding of Edmonton or its history. In doing so, real, substantive discussion on what is racism, Edmonton’s unique cultural and racial history, how racism manifests in our city today, and how best to address racism, was prevented from happening.
Instead, we received assertions that Edmonton’s unique history made imported American theories on race inapplicable, with no real substantiation. We can all agree that Peggy McIntosh’s views on race were written with the United States’ racial experience in mind, but that does not prove that they have no relevancy in Edmonton today. In fact, many have applied similar notions as what McIntosh discusses to Canadian society (as well as Edmonton).
Further, limited supporting viewpoints were provided, indicating that Edmontonians as a whole were opposed to these ideas and that those who may subscribe to McIntosh are outsiders just like her. This is a false representation, which denies the diversity of views in our city and attempts to discredit opposing views not on substance, but by who expresses it. I don’t agree with the messaging because of who it targets, how it defines racism, how represents “visible minorities” like myself, and what it implies is the solution — not who is proposing it. The public would have been better served if they received all views on this issue, not the most popular.
However, the biggest problem was that though many were willing to condemn the campaign, few were able to recommend alternative policies. Obviously, many didn’t think it was appropriate, but we didn’t get any public discussion of what the campaign should look like. By failing to do so, we missed the real issue: racism is an issue in Edmonton and we need a strategy to address it.
Policy issues are decided by those who show up. In this particular case, those who showed up had views that differed from the majority of Edmontonians. Hopefully, those who were outraged will take initiatives like developing municipal anti-racism policy seriously and participate in the future.
. . . → Read More: Straight Outta Edmonton: Edmonton’s Racism Debate: Lacks Substance and Misses Point