Yassine Zaime and Salah Barhoun are both innocent, but worried that this New York Post cover could affect the rest of their lives
By Ali Zafar
Last Monday’s trending hashtag intensified my suffocating sense of dread, the one that’s ebbed and flowed since Sept. 11, 2001.
That dirty word stripped Dzhokhar Tsarnaev of his white privilege: he had been identified in news reports as a Chechen, terrorist and radical, but never American.
Because he’s Muslim. Like me.
I’d logged off from the 24-hour cycle of the world’s misfortunes that afternoon, deciding to take a breather before my workday started. I always expect something big to be breaking when I show up for my evening newsroom shift, but the news of the Boston Marathon bombings was still a shock. My stomach churned as I looked at graphic images on the newswire: the blood-splattered streets, the volunteers racing to help a man in a wheelchair with a missing leg.
And my heart dropped when I logged onto Twitter and saw #Muslims trending alongside #PrayforBoston. Was it possible that a person who calls himself a Muslim was behind those horrific images? What if his first name was Mohammad? Like mine? What if he had dark hair? Dark skin? Like me?
Anxiety, embarrassment and a shade of fear began bubbling inside me like a violent thunderstorm. Watching the news made it worse.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Ali Zafar, assumptions, Boston Marathon bombings, dark-skinned, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Muslim, news, politics, representation, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, terrorism
Jason Priestley, Cara Ricketts and Nigel Shawn Williams in Race.
By Denise Balkissoon
This is a Toronto blog, and here’s my Toronto take on Race: America is weird. After seeing last night’s premiere of David Mamet’s play (starring, yes, Jason Priestley), my main thought was that we really need to do a Canada vs. USA issue of the Ethnic Aisle, and examine how very differently the two countries experience race and ethnicity. The literal black/white dichotomy of American race politics is always curious to me. It’s not surprising that the Atlantic slave trade has such an enduring legacy on just about every single way Americans look at everything. But at the same time it seems strange that a play debuted in 2009 makes just an offhand mention of one immigrant, and barely flicks at the ever-changing, multifaceted view of race and ethnicity that is my Toronto-born view of the topic, and the world.
By Denise Balkissoon
Today on Twitter, the Ottawa Citizen’s Dan Gardner asked why sports teams named after aboriginal tribes/artifacts are problematic when the Minnesota Vikings et al. are not. I’ve been thinking about this ever since the Atlanta Braves announced the return of its “Screaming Savage” logo in December, so here’s my answer.
The only team that I could think of that’s named after a symbol of privilege is the Ottawa Senators. So first off, why don’t we name teams after actual symbols of power, rather than just weird caricatures of power? The Toronto F.C. Derivatives! The Georgian Bay Docks! It’s worth thinking about why some groups are allowed to be caricatured (like the Senate, am I right?) and some are not.
Team names are meant to be mythologizing. As such, they are kind of dumb (who else is still mad our NBA team is named after a Spielberg movie? BAH). Rooting for the Toronto Maple Leafs doesn’t mean being kinder to urban trees or considering the effect of climate change on maple syrup. Yes, this is a tangent (but no, I shouldn’t lighten up): my point is that team names aren’t connected to their namesake in any meaningful way.
This disconnect allows a group that is now privileged to mythologize its history. The Vikings are the ultimate example, because the history of Swedes in Minnesota is now celebrated. In the United States, the Vikings are 100% history. So go for it, wear a foam spiked helmet and consider yourself badass.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged atlanta braves, cleveland indians, Denise Balkissoon, ethnicity, logos, prejudice, race, representation, screaming savage, sports, stereotypes
Roger Keil, the director of the City Institute at York, mentions the Ethnic Aisle (he calls us wonderful!) in his post about the NYT’s latest take on gentrification (which, says Denise who is posting this, I found fairly annoying and definitely dismissive of ethnicity).
Melody McKiver is a young Ojibwe multi-instrumentalist, improviser, and academic that splits her time between Ottawa and Toronto. As a solo performer, she explores the range of the viola’s possibilities, spanning from minimalist to danceable, sometimes incorporating laptop processing and looping. Melody’s musical practice spans across viola/violin, drums and percussion, and guitar, drawing upon a broad set of influences that includes hip-hop, electronic, global bass, contemporary classical, jazz, and blues. Melody also records and produces digital media under the pseudonym Gitochige, which is the Anishinaabemowin word for “s/he plays an instrument.
by Navneet Alang
In recent weeks, as stories about Idle No More or rape in India have populated our news media, I’ve been reminded yet again that differences in culture can’t be boiled down to pat clichés about cuisine, but are instead about ways of understanding the world. The tension lingering around divisions between cultural groups seems more present than usual, and I half expect that at any moment the city’s ethnic groups might break out into 1950s-style street fight replete with switchblades and greased hair.
What has me perplexed though, is that the solution to these problems seems pretty clear. Immigrants and people in developing countries need to learn to put certain parts of their culture aside and think clearly. Tucking your bias away and looking at things objectively is the only way things will ever change, right? So I’m not sure why these silly people aren’t using their Culture Buckets.
A pile of Vlisco prints at a Jane and Wilson shop
By Adwoa Afful
During my early childhood, my Ghanaian immigrant parents decided to move our family to the north Toronto neighbourhood of Jane and Finch. Jane and Finch hosts one of the largest Ghanaian communities in the city, so I became quite accustomed to seeing small parades of women (and occasionally their spouses and children) covered head to toe in African print fabrics.
While we lived there, I barely took notice of these women or the beautiful multicoloured and intricately patterned textiles they dressed themselves in. I also grew up in a household where what seemed like small mountains of similar fabrics were haphazardly arranged in cardboard boxes and large Rubbermaid bins and stored in the basement. Usually they would sit there for years. During epic bouts of spring cleaning, I would mentally label them as “Ghana Stuff,” and then put them back where I had found them.
I mostly took these fabrics for granted, and rarely thought of their potential cultural significance. I was equally apathetic about their origins and history. In my mind, the fabrics were sent to us in big brown airmail packages from relatives in Ghana, and so were Ghanaian. Then, last year, I read Eccentric Yoruba’s excellent post “African Fabrics: The History of Dutch Wax Prints” on the blog Beyond Victoriana: a multicultural perspective on Steampunk. It seems that the fabrics that I had thoughtlessly labeled as “Ghana Stuff,” were actually the products of an interwoven (pun intended) history of the West African, Indonesian, and Dutch textile manufacturing industries.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Adwoa Afful, Africa, authenticity, black, Dutch wax prints, fashion, Ghana, immigrants, Jane and Finch, representation, Toronto
By Jef Catapang
The Toronto International Reel Asian Film Festival is back and running from November 6 to 11 in downtown Toronto, with a second round November 16 to 17 in Richmond Hill. This year’s program includes a lot of worthy pictures, and for the first time includes a South Asian feature.
If you can’t make it out to all of them (what’s wrong with you?), check below for a handy guide of five films to catch at the 16th annual Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival.
A chauffeur for a prominent congressman, Marlon (Arnold Reyes)’s most frequent driving assignments include his daughter, the congressman’s daughter, and the young girls that his boss abuses. When a kidnapping goes awry and his daughter is mistaken for the congressman’s, Marlon finds himself caught in a plot that worms down into Manila’s child prostitution rings. An unsettling, uncompromising thriller that squeezes the morality from its well-drawn characters, Graceland is hard to take and hard to forget.
THU NOV 8 | 9:55 PM | INNIS TOWN HALL
VALLEY OF SAINTS
Valley of Saints traces a low-key romance between a working-class boatman named Gulzar and a young scientist, Asifa, in a Kashmir community near the Pakistan border. The two meet when a military curfew kiboshes Gulzar’s plan to blow town, and he instead takes a job ferrying Asifa as she collects water samples. Naturalistic performances perfectly capture the emotions as Gulzar falls for Asifa and learns about the fragility of the local ecosystem, and director Musa Syeed keeps the threat of political violence bubbling near the surface of the gorgeous, pastoral lake setting.
FRI NOV 9 | 8:45 PM | THE ROYAL
By Desmond Cole
Since 2006, it’s been City of Toronto policy that all advertised civic appointments—both paid jobs and hundreds of volunteer opportunities—make a direct appeal for applications from “women, youth, First Nations, people with disabilities and racialized communities.” In late September, a damning report by the city’s ombudsman, Fiona Crean, (who is, in fact, a woman) revealed that mayoral staff tried to delete the line calling for diverse applications during the appointment process for 120 citizen positions on city boards this past spring.
The revelation of mayor Rob Ford’s interference was another troubling window into his administration’s dismissive approach to inclusion and diversity. It also shed more light on Ford’s bizarre political posturing: even as he trumpets his private commitment to charity for marginalized people, the mayor reassures to his base that public, systemic change is out of the question.
Ford’s response to Crean’s report was a standard denial and dismissal. “That’s a ridiculous question,” he said when asked if he was against diversity. In the face of such a serious accusation, it would have been easy to drag out Toronto’s well-worn “Diversity, Our Strength” motto to placate concerned residents. The mayor’s refusal to even pay lip service to the idea was a silent statement that those who believe in the motto, and its accompanying policies, are not worth his attention.