I don’t even know what to say about this one:
The B.C. government has terminated a contract with a Surrey forestry company after 25 workers – many of them immigrants from the Congo – were found living in substandard conditions near Golden in late July.
That’s not even the bad part; this is:
Most of the 25 workers had travelled from eastern Canada for jobs clearing brush near Golden. They were living in a bush camp and complained of a lack of food and inadequate facilities, a church worker in Golden told The Vancouver Sun. And the workers told government officials they were not fully paid and on the job seven days a week.
Slavery makes good economic sense. It’s even practicable – get people who have few options, take them away from any resource they’d have to achieve alternate employment, then bully and threaten them into accepting low wages (or no wages). When they have no other options, they’ll take whatever they can get. It’s the ultimate victory of free-market capitalism: get as much as you can for as little expenditure as possible.
But then of course, there’s the whole thing about being evil. Inconvenient, eh?
I try to make these posts have a bit more relevance than simply linking you to news items I find in the paper. There’s an underlying theme here that I think is interesting, but most of you probably won’t like. There’s a hip-hop artist called Ras Kass who released an amazing album back in 1996 featuring a song entitled The Nature of the Threat.
Warning: language and content advisory
Nature of the Threat is an interpretation of history whose thesis is essentially that white people are inherently evil – highlighting the atrocities perpetrated by whites throughout history. It’s quite a task to separate the fact from the fiction in the song, but there are a number of points that deserve exploration and discussion (Euro-centric teaching of history, the legacy of systemic racial discrimination at the hands of Europeans). I like the song, even though I disagree with many of the components, and doubt the validity of the thesis. The above story makes me think that slavery has nothing to do with the colour of people’s skin, merely a desire for power and the opportunity to exploit others. It is an unfortunate coincidence that many of the workers are black Africans, but the business owners are not white:
Khaira owner Khalid Bajwa said he has been treated unfairly by the ministry, who didn’t give him an opportunity to correct any camp deficiencies. “I don’t know why they are complaining. We never had problem with our camps. It is a bush camp. It is not a tourist camp,” he said. “We were setting up the camp. We had just moved there.”
Of course Mr. Bajwa’s story paints only part of the picture:
Quesnel native Christine Barker, 24, had worked in the woods for other companies for five years without incident. The single mother said Tuesday she has never dealt with abuse like what she experienced at Khaira…
“When we started the work refusal, that’s when the camp conditions got even worse – showers were denied. … We were refused food because we weren’t working for him at that time.” She said she witnessed a supervisor threaten to kill one of her Congolese co-workers and throw a knife at him.
Sounds like slavery to me.
The point is that while we can blame white Europeans for a lot of the problems in the world, we can’t do so based on the colour of their skin. There’s nothing genetically cruel or inhumane about white people, just as there is nothing genetically lazy or stupid about Africans. People are people, and given the right set of circumstances and motivations, they will commit the same atrocities, or acts of kindness, or feats of inspired genius. The situation we have now is merely a product of how things shook out in the world. We cannot rely on the inherent goodness or evilness of people, we must realize that the situation determines out behaviour better than we suspect, ensure that all people have equal access to protections under the law, and then work to ameliorate those situations that lead to destructive or oppressive behaviour.
I feel motivated at this point to make an unequivocal statement that I don’t have any particular animosity toward white people. As a sometimes student of history, I recognize that the story of our world has been filtered through a European lens, and that my white friends and family members are victims of the same system that I’ve been speaking out against. Those of you who know me personally will be able to attest to this. For those of you who don’t, you may read through the rest of my writings (particularly last Monday’s post) if you doubt my sincerity. If I have caused offense, please accept my apology (and tell me so in the comments).
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