One of the most daunting things about blogging like this is that I don’t consider myself an expert in very many topics. A couple of weeks ago I was invited to speak for 40 minutes at a conference on a skeptical topic of my choosing. I was immediately paralyzed by indecision – I’m not an expert in skepticism; on the contrary, I’m actually quite a novice insofar as this movement is concerned. While I may be able to write and speak clearly, perhaps even convincingly, on a few topics that catch my interest, I’m not an authority on anything. Sure, there are things in my job that I have an above-average level of knowledge about, and I have a few opinions on things like free speech or race that are unique, but I would never consider myself so knowledgeable that I would imagine anyone should listen to me rant for 40 minutes.
And then something like this happens, and I feel much better:
Aboriginal leaders are calling for two Parks Canada employees in Manitoba to be fired after the pair were disciplined for circulating a racist joke by email. One employee forwarded the vulgarly worded email, which made fun of aboriginal and black people, to a colleague. That person then accidentally sent it to all 180 Parks Canada workers in the field unit at Riding Mountain National Park in western Manitoba.
Please don’t misinterpret my meaning – I am not at all happy that government employees think it’s appropriate to spread racist statements among each other. I’m not happy when anyone engages in acts of racism, regardless of their employer. But I do derive some small satisfaction of being able to shove this in the face of morons like Mindelle Jacobs and others who say that Canada doesn’t have a race problem. Racism exists beneath our thin veneer of “post-racial” assumption. The longer we purport to address racism by sticking our fingers in our ears and believing we can will ourselves to ignore centuries of sociological racialization through sheer strength of conviction, the deeper racism becomes entrenched in our psyche, and the harder it is to deal with.
For further evidence of this, scroll down on that news item and take a gander through the comments. It’s been 2 weeks since I saw this item, so I am writing this completely blind, but I’d be willing to wager that there are at least 10 comments in the first 10 pages that say something like “you shouldn’t be sending personal e-mails on government accounts anyway”, thus completely missing the point of the story. In fact, I’m willing to go so far as to say that anyone who takes that away as the message of this story is intentionally ignoring the racism aspect.
I spent about 5 minutes trying to track down the text of the e-mail, before I realized that it’s somewhat akin to entering a “World’s Ugliest Man” contest – even if I succeeded, I’d lose.