Ontario Oreo: Court the Ethnic Vote, Keep the Centre White

Paikin's non-indian tweetBy Desmond Cole

How do you court the approval of white voters while trying to make everyone else feel included? In Ontario, you do it very carefully. Our province is home to a large percentage of Canada’s visible minority population, and has received the biggest share of immigrants to Canada for the last 10 years and beyond. But you wouldn’t know it by following our political campaigns.

As Ryerson professor Myer Siemiatycki pointed out in a recent Toronto Star piece, white voters need to believe they are at the centre of political conversations. Politicians seen as giving too much attention to immigrants and people of colour face potential backlash. Immigrants and people of colour are disproportionately struggling in today’s economy, but saying so during an election is risky because it may make white people feel left out. When party leaders do talk about immigrants, the piece illustrates, it is most often to celebrate their vague potential value to the economy.

This dynamic is real, and it only works in one direction. There can never be too much focus on issues that appear to impact middle-class white voters—especially since such voters are rarely named and scrutinized as a group.

Politicians dare not campaign on the health of Ontario’s immigrants, even though many of them are being denied basic health care. They can say little about the disproportionate numbers of black and aboriginal people incarcerated in provincial jails. Our politicians refuse to address these issues directly–they seemingly prefer to pose for selfies with people with dark skin, or turbans, or exotic flags.

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Don’t Tell Grandma

Hazy Grandma PictureBy Helen Mo

One night when I was nine, my mother explained that my paternal grandmother would not return to our home in Canada. My grandparents had returned to Hong Kong for what was intended to be a short visit and it was there that my grandmother’s cancer made itself known. Doctors gave her three months. Because my father’s siblings all lived in Hong Kong, they decided that my grandmother should stay with them to be cared for in what time remained.

Meanwhile, my grandmother was unaware of her diagnosis. Her adult children shrouded her in unknowing. She had been told that her treatments were cancer “prevention” treatments, her medications also “preventative.” When my family flew to Hong Kong soon afterward, she was the only one not in on the secret that it was no ordinary reunion, but a last goodbye.

This story has a twist, however: to everyone’s surprise but her own, my grandmother defied her prognosis. She thrives to this day, seemingly oblivious to her fortune.

The next story has no happy escape. Two years ago, my teenage cousin died in an Algonquin Park car accident. My mother and grieving aunt called their sisters in Hong Kong; together, they decided not to tell their elderly mother. Her heart was bad, her spirits low. They reasoned that she was better off untroubled in what time remained.

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Lessons from an ‘Ethnic’ Wedding

By Helen Mo

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Ok, but why did Rachel’s wedding have an “Indian” theme again?

Thanks to a tidal wave of Millennials hitting marriageable age, who among us hasn’t scrambled for a wedding gift or flicked through a score of Facebook engagement shots lately? In my own demographic, the flurry of matrimonial undertakings seems have generated a real ambivalence. On one hand, most weddings are inherently joyous affairs. Two people starting a life together with a public declaration of love and a big party – what’s not to love? On the other hand, a public declaration of love and a big party in an age of heady materialism and narcissism – what such event could escape a firestorm of judgment and participant fatigue?

There’s already a well established backlash against the standard wedding, that tulle-enshrouded extravaganza now homogenized into a pastiche of emotionally loaded and frequently expensive conventions. And although indie weddings may have been conceived as the hip, artisanal repudiation of uninspired weddings, once DIY brides and blogging aesthetes realized that rustic stylings are eminently photogenic, the choice between a flower crown and a tiara soon reflected mostly differences in taste rather than actual values.

In the midst of this fraught landscape, I propose taking a few lessons from an unlikely source: so-called ethnic weddings. It seems – in some slices of Canadian society, anyway – “ethnic weddings” get something of a free pass, particularly from those outside the ethnic community in question:

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On Being Muslim and “Dark-Skinned” After Boston

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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

#Muslims.

Last Monday’s trending hashtag intensified my suffocating sense of dread, the one that’s ebbed and flowed since Sept. 11, 2001.

Muslims.

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.

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Hennessy and Enemies: Booze, Brands and “Liquid Bling”

By Denise Balkissoon

Can you read that wine label? Cause this brand causes dictatorships.

Can you read that wine label? Cause this brand causes dictatorships.

There were many things to be upset about after last summer’s shooting on Danzig Avenue: the deaths, of course, plus the youth of the accused shooters, and how easy it seems for firearms to slip through our porous border.

Farther down on the list, but still troubling, was “Henny & Hip Hop,” a story that ran in the Toronto Star about 10 days after the incident. Dotted with lyrics by Mobb Deep and Eminem, the piece informed the reading public that “Hennessy has been part of hip-hop culture for almost 20 years.” It quoted a Brazil-based spokesperson from Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy, who emphasized that the company “was not part of the party.” In other words, it was embarrassing and nausea-inducing, and almost a year later, it still bugs me.

Does alcohol make people violent? Unquestionably, yes. But I can’t think of a culture other than hip hop for which a string of brand citations follows every incident. When Vancouver Canucks fans tore their city up after losing the Stanley Cup two years ago, I don’t remember hearing what kind of flat beer they were overcharged for in the Rogers Arena.  An upper-class Scottish chef killed his girlfriend last fall, but the news coverage has yet to inform me about what sorts of fine wines he might have been drinking. At a time when there were many important, heart-wrenching things to consider, “Henny & Hip Hop” was just another piece of Othering tripe letting us know that “in urban culture, [Hennessy] is seen as liquid bling.”

I have some questions of my own about liquor brands and identity, questions that I might have considered stupid if the country’s biggest daily hadn’t opened these floodgates. Let’s start with the most important one, and move on from there.

1. Obviously we all want a world without prejudice or hate. Anheuser-Busch InBev is on track to own every major beer brand in the world. When Corona tastes just like Rolling Rock tastes just like Hoegaarden tastes just like Quilmes, will racism be over?

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A Dubliner’s Rantings on St Patrick’s Day

By Séamus Conaty

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Being born and bred (and buttered) in Dublin, I will not attempt to debunk any myths regarding the stereotype that Irish people drink too much. We do. This is not because we have an inherent love for what smart people call C2H5OH. What we have is an inherent love for socializing, and this happens in pubs. Our fondness for the juice is a bi-product of our necessity for chat. You will rarely (if ever) see Irish people drinking with the explicit intention of getting rat-arsed. It just happens, like shit.

When I was growing up, St. Patrick’s Day was not unlike Canadian Thanksgiving. Until the early 1980s, pubs in Ireland were actually closed on St. Patrick’s Day. There was little or no alcohol consumed—it was like a day off from alcohol. One went to mass in the morning, had a nice meal with one’s family, went into the city to watch the parade, and then threw stones at Protestants. (Ok, we didn’t throw stones at Protestants, we actually all get along quite well despite what the newspapers would have you believe.) Anyway, I loved it. We used to have great fun mocking the Yanks that had made the 5,000 kilometre trip to the Vaterland for a relatively low key family affair where they were reminded that, no, they were not Irish, they were Yanks, and should go live with all the nasty shit they’ve done. Rather than being a phony celebration of all things green, it was a religious celebration of our most famous patron saint. (Tip: he’s not our only one. Having several patron saints is our bonus prize for tolerating a millennium of molestation, which is a delightful segway into the relatively kiddie-diddler-free land of the maple leaf.)

I moved to Toronto in 1998. Following my diasporic trail like a fly to shite, I ended up working in an Irish pub for a few years. I loved it! I met great people and earned lots of cash, which I spent on booze, drugs and guitars. As March rolled near, I first found the Christmas-like hype around my national holiday rather flattering. But when March 17th arrived, fuck me: my Thanksgiving was a complete and utter blatant pissfest. The worst of all pissfests! Premeditated, plastic, phoney and pathetic (nice alliteration there).

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