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FAQ: What is racism? What are different forms of racism? / What can you tell me about the history of racism? / What are important terms and concepts to know? / What is a Microaggression? What are Racial Microagressions? /Who are People of Colour? Why can’t I use the term “coloured”? / What is colour-blindness?/What is white privilege? / Is there such thing as “reverse racism?”/ What is meant by the racialization of poverty?/How does racism relate to the other “isms”? / Is the Canadian legal system in denial of its white privilege? /What if I have spent years using harmful language? / What should I do if I witness racial violence?
from racismfreeontario.com (deena) and http://fuckyeahethnicwomen.tumblr.com/definitions
SET 1 (will organize all together later)
Assimilation: means being absorbed into the cultural tradition of the dominant society and consequently losing one’s historical identity. This is in contrast to acculturation in which there is an adaptation to a different culture but retention of original identity (Garcia & Van Soest, 2006; Pinderhughes, 1989; Potapchuk et al., 2005; Robbins, Chatterjee, & Canda, 1998; Soto, 2004; Thompson & Neville, 1999).
Cultural Appropriation: Cultural appropriation is the adoption of some specific elements of one culture by a different cultural group. It can include the introduction of forms of dress or personal adornment, music and art, religion, language, or behavior. These elements are typically imported into the existing culture, and may have wildly different meanings or lack the subtleties of their original cultural context. Because of this, cultural appropriation is sometimes viewed negatively, and has been called “cultural theft. ( Haig‐Brown, 2010)
Discrimination: is often codified by laws, regulations, and rules. People experience oppression when they are deprived of human rights or dignity and are (or feel) powerless to do anything about it. Sometimes the negative act is in the form of exclusion, in which people are denied the opportunity to participate in a certain right, benefit, or privilege. Sometimes the negative act is in the form of marginalization, in which people find that they are on the fringe of political, social, or economic consciousness. That sense of invisibility results in decisions being made by those in power that may be harmful simply because the needs were not considered.
Ethnocentrism: is the tendency to automatically interpret reality from one’s own perspective as normative and or superior. Other groups are judged in relative to one’s own cultural beliefs (without cultural relativism), thus dismissing other perspectives as inferior or insignificant.
Eurocentrism: is a belief or position that asserts the moral or evolutionary superiority of Anglo-European culture as the standard by which others are measured and evaluated and found to be deficient (Fleras and Kunz).
Internalized racism: In contrast to white privilege, internalized racism is the development of ideas, beliefs, actions, and behaviors that support or collude with racism against oneself. It is the support of the supremacy and dominance of the dominant group through participation in the set of attitudes, behaviors, social structures, and ideologies that undergirds the dominating group’s power and privilege and limits the oppressed group’s own advantages (Potapchuk et al, 2005; Tatum, 1997).
“For there is no doubt that imaginative geography and history help the mind to intensify its own sense of itself by dramatizing the distance and difference between what is close to it and what is far away.”
– Edward Said
The idea behind Orientalism, according to Edward Said, is that the West has created a dichotomy between the romantic, exoticized notion of “the Orient,” and the reality of “the East.” Asia and the Middle East are viewed through a prism of racism and prejudice; they are constructed as a singular, monolithic race that is backwards, and without culture and history. In order to enlighten the primitive societies, (“modernize”) the West has created culture, history and a future for them. The vantage point from here is from “the West,” versus “the Other.”
Through Orientalism, women are objectified, their nationalities reduced to the “uncivilized,” and their identities to static, gender tropes. Asian women, for example- meaning women from anywhere within the continent of Asia- are products of this mysterious “Orient.” Western culture, as noted, depicts the “Orient,” as a savage, patriarchal land of harems, samurai and geishas. Elements from differing cultures around Asia are obscured and exoticized.
Otherizing: The process by which minority women and men are portrayed as people who are removed in time, remote in space and marginal to society. They are considered unbefitting of equal treatment because of their inferiority or irrelevance. Also “othered” or “othering.”
Prejudice: is the negative (or positive/idealized) attitudes, thoughts, and beliefs about an entire category of people formed without full knowledge or examination of the facts. And discrimination is acting on the basis of prejudice.
Racism is the practice of discrimination and prejudice based on racial classification supported by the power to enforce that prejudice.
Three subtle types of racism are captured in the concepts of symbolic racism, aversive racism, and micro-inequities.
a) Aversive racism: is another subtle form of prejudice. People who engage in the practice see themselves as non-racists, but they will do racist things, sometimes unintentionally, or they will avoid people without overt racist intent. What they believe about themselves and will attest to is the importance of fairness, equality, and justice, but because they have been exposed to the ever-present societal racism just by living in the United States, they will reflect it in their conduct (Durrheim & Dixon, 2004; Tatum, 1997).
b) Symbolic racism: is expressed by those who may or may not perceive themselves as racist, but justify their negative judgment of others by asserting that the others do not abide by traditional values of the dominant group. People can perceive themselves as being fair and practicing equality by holding forth certain values, such as “individualism” or “work ethic” or “self-reliance,” and take negative action because the focal group does not share those values. So they perceive themselves as operating based on certain “objective” standards or “universal truths” rather than in opposition to the group based on their race (Durrheim & Dixon, 2004).
c) Micro-inequities: Finally, good people can do bad things to others in ways for which there is no formal grievance, but still have negative (sometimes unintentionally) effect. This refers to micro- aggressions or micro-inequities. Micro-inequities are “those tiny, damaging characteristics of an environment, as these characteristics affect a person not of that environment. They are the comments, the work assignments, the tone of voice, the failure of acknowledgement in meetings or social gatherings. These are not actionable violations of law or policies, but they are clear, subtle indicators of lack of respect by virtue of membership in a group” (Rowe, 1990). These are forms of racism that as members of this society we all commit. People of color may commit these acts or maintain these attitudes against other people of color. The charge is to become able to recognize them and move ourselves and others beyond them to facilitate systemic change.
Shadism: is a form of internalized, racial “self-hatred.” It is a legacy of cultural imperialism, and is a form of skin tone bias that identifies groups and individuals on the basis of their degree of pigmentation. It is an evaluation of people that registers traits such as skin color, hair, and facial features in order to construct racially charged social hierarchies.
Whiteness: a form of hegemony that allows one group to use its power to dominate a group in a position of less power” (Yee & Dumbrill, 2003, p. 102).
White privilege: is one issue that must be confronted as a precondition to releasing the energy required to successfully challenge institutional racism. It is the collection of benefits based on belonging to a group perceived to be white, when the same or similar benefits are denied to members of other groups. It is the benefit of access to resources and social rewards and the power to shape the norms and values of society that white people receive, unconsciously or consciously, by virtue of their skin color (Kivel, 2002; McIntosh,1988; Potapchuk et al., 2005;)
Yellowface: at its core, is not only the practice of applying prostheses or paint to simulate a crude idea of what “Asians” look like; it is non-Asian bodies (usually white) controlling what it means to be Asian on screen and stage, particularly in lead/major roles. Tied to blackface and the portrayal of African Americans on the stage by whites in the nineteenth century, the term yellowface appears as early as the 1950s to describe the continuation in film of having white actors playing major Asian and Asian American roles and the grouping together of all makeup technologies used to make one look “Asian.”
SET 2 for racismfreeontario.com by Sean Gee
Critical Race Theory is an academic discipline focused upon the intersection of race, law and power (Critical Race Collective).
Default Subcategory Erasure is the phenomenon in which the dominant group is considered the standard by which other groups are defined. In race discourse this is seen in stereotypes, but is not limited to stereotypes. An example of such is the stereotype that “Asians are smart.” Clearly here, people of Asian descent are not the standard (which is not overtly stated; it is erased), their status is measured in relativity to the dominant group. It is not the case that “White people are lacking in intelligence,” as white people are the standard by which other groups are defined (Critical Race Collective). See: Whitenormativity and Linguistic Markedness. (links below)
Whitenormativity is the underlying assumption at an individual or structural level that white is normal or prototypical of unmarked categories. Simply put, the assumption that, unless overtly stated, white is the norm of any given particular thing. Whitenormativity is the phenomenon ofDefault Subcategory Erasure as it applies to the white dominant group (Critical Race Collective).
Eurocentrism is the holding of European values as a standard in which all other values are compared and contrasted to (Critical Race Collective).
Holism is the view that one must study all aspects of a culture in order to understand the whole culture (Miller and Esterik, 2010).
Gender performativity is the tacit collective agreement to perform, produce, and sustain discrete and polar genders as cultural fictions is obscured by the credibility of those productions – and the punishments (see: the Heterosexual Market) that attend not agreeing to believe in them (Butler 1999, p 179).
The Heterosexual Market is the metaphor which describes the peer social order that develops in adolescent years which considers masculinity and femininity as complementing functions (Eckert 1996). The Heterosexual Market acts as a control of behaviour through social evaluation of peers.
Gender is not something one is born with; it is not something one has; it is something that one does (West and Zimmerman 1987). Gender is something we perform (Butler 1990). Gender is the performance of learned behaviours associated with social constructs of masculinity and femininity (Cahill 1986). [Butler’s definition, there are other ideas about gender]
Cultural Relativism is the view that each culture must be understood in terms of the values and ideas of that culture and must not be judged by the standards of another culture (see: Ethnocentrism) (Miller and Esterik, 2010).
Absolute Cultural Relativism is the ideology in which whatever practices occur within a culture must not be questioned or changed because doing so would be ethnocentric (Miller and Esterik, 2010).
Critical Cultural Relativism offers an alternative view that poses questions about cultural practices and ideas in terms of who accepts them and why, and who they might be harming or helping (Miller and Esterik, 2010).
Ethnocentrism is the judging of other cultures by the standards of one’s own culture (or the dominant culture) rather than by the standards of that particular culture (Miller and Esterik, 2010).
provided by Sean Gee
For the Brown Canada Project.
Brown Canada: Komagata Maru Plays Volunteer Posting
(Part Time – Until end of June)
Start & End Dates : May- end of June 2012
Brown Canada, lead by CASSA, is a community-led history project to encourage South Asian communities to create and document their histories in Canada creatively, through writing, video, interviews, art, theatre or other means. Our collective entry point for this project is through the Komagata Maru incident of 1914, when a ship of South Asian people was denied entry into Canada due to restrictive immigration policy known as the continuous journey regulation. Through this project, we are creating an interactive website, offering educational and creative workshops, producing a short video as well as seeking to tour a short theatre piece to raise awareness of the incident and spark community dialogue within Ontario.
The Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA) is currently recruiting a team of volunteers to help out with the final Komagata Maru Play that will be held on June 27.
We are looking for a team of volunteers to be responsible for assisting in media relations, community outreach, stage hands, costume design . These positions will work closely and report to the project coordinator.
CASSA is committed to employment equity & encourages applicants from equity seeking groups.
Brown Canada & CASSA
Position Type: Arts / Crafts, Community Outreach, Event Helpers, Performing
Duration: Short term (Less than 6 months)
Great For: Youth (ages 13-18), Youth (over 18), Groups, 40 hour high school program, Physically Challenged, English as a Second Language, Virtual (can be done remotely), Wheelchair Accessible
376: number of passengers on Komagata Maru when it arrives in Vancouver Harbour
12: number of Hindus aboard Komagata Maru
24: number of Muslims aboard Komagata Maru
340: number of Sikhs aboard Komagata Maru
90: number of people declared medically unfit to land
20-24: number of people who claimed to have Canadian domicile and were allowed to disembark
$150,000: Amount of damages claimed by Gurdit Singh for Canada not allowing him to land and sell coal stored aboard Komagata Maru
15: Number of core members of Sshore Ccommittee, local South Asians who were mobilizing to support the Komagata Maru passengers
500: ??Unknown: number of local South Asians present at meetings to support Komagata Maru passengers, held at the the Khalsa Diwan Society at Gurdwara
$5,000: amount collected at once at first meeting at Gurdwara by local South Asians to support Komagata Maru passengers
$17,000: amount collected at future meetings by local South Asians to support Komagata Maru passengers
150: number of immigration officials and police who attempted to board Komagata Maru on July 17, 1914
$4,000: value of provisions Canadian government placed on board the Komagata Maru for the return trip
2: number of months the Komagata Maru stayed in harbour off the coast of Vancouver
2: number of years shore committee struggled legally with government after Komagata Maru was forced to return to Asia
$3,000: further legal expenses of shore committee after Komagata Maru forced to return to Asia
6: number of months Komagata Maru passengers spent aboard
via Brown Canada Project: Komagata Maru
The Komagata Maru incident involved a number of key players – individuals whose actions played a significant role impacting the lived experience of Komagata Maru passengers. These key players can be viewed within four three main groups:
- Komagata Maru Passengers
- Canadian Officials
- Legal Personnel
- Shore Committee Members
Each individual’s complete story is not captured here; instead these profiles provide snapshots of each key player, and some context of their lives. For some of these individuals, their profiles have become legacies by the memorialisation efforts of scholars, activists, community members and artists.
For other individuals involved in the Komagata Maru incident, they remain unnamed or their stories are unknown. For example, little is known about many of the passengers. There is not enough information about the hundreds of South Asians already living in the Vancouver area who were passionate about supporting the Komagata Maru passengers. There is scarce documentation of the white allies who attended ing community meetings. For those who died upon their return to British occupied India, there must have been so many unanswered questions for their unnamed friends and families. For the 28 individuals who were unaccounted for after the Budge Budge (Baj Baj) incident, some like Gurdit Singh we know a lot about – but for others, where did their lives take them?
With the intention of this website to invite readers to reflect on the broader impact of the Komagata Maru incident, this section asks you to interrogate how we remember the individual people in communities, how we write (or do not write) their stories.
Komagata Maru Passengers
This is very short list of some passengers who played key roles in the departure of the Komagata Maru from Hong Kong, and its experience once in Canadian waters.
Gurdit Singh was a successful businessman who decided to charter the Komagata Maru from Hong Kong after meeting with and speaking with other Indians there. Singh (sold tickets up until two days before the Komagata Maru’s departure, and was briefly held by officials for selling illegal tickets for what was deemed an illegal trip). Singh was a nationalist, who believed in an Independent India. At the Baj Baj (Budge Budge) incident, he escaped capture. After remaining a fugitive in India for several years, he finally surrendered after prompting by Mahatma Gandhi (whom he respected deeply) and served a five-year jail term in Punjab. It was after Singh’s prompting did the federal government of newly-independent India erect a plaque at Kolkata (then known as Calcutta) memorializing the Komagata Maru.
Munshi Singh, one of the 376 passengers aboard the Komagata Maru, was selected as the representative for the test case. He was a Sikh farmer from Punjab, someone who was interested in migrating to Canada for the purposes of buying some property and farming.
Government agents very obviously played a heavy role in the Komagata Maru incident. Both Hopkinson and Reid held very strong anti-South Asian views and prior to 1914, both had been actively pushing for exclusionary immigration. For Reid, his daughter felt (in the 1980s) that the way he was remembered was unfair1; for Hopkinson, an often-staged play by Sharon Pollock fictionalized his mixed-race heritage and his surveillance work, which could be described as internalized racism2.
Malcolm Reid was the Chief Immigration Officer of Vancouver during the Komagata Maru incident. Posted to the position with no experience, his proposals of how to expel the Komagata Maru contradicted even those of the federal government. He was explicit in his anti-Asian sentiments, and was motivated to use whatever force necessary to remove the ship and its passengers. For example, on June 24, 1914, Reid wired Ottawa to ask for permission to have the Komagata Maru passengers forced onto the S.S. Empress of India, which was departing the next day. The answer was no – an appearance in court (through a test case) is how the federal government wanted to proceed.
Martin Burrell was the federal Minister of Agriculture at the time the Komagata Maru was stationed in Burrard Inlet. He became involved at the very end of the two month period, at the urging of Prime Minister Robert Borden. It was Burrell’s letter to Albert Howard McNeill dated July 21, 1914, that seemed to bring forward a compromise. In it, he refers to the Shore Committee and community members who had provided financial support. Burrell said that he would “urge that full and sympathetic consideration be given to those who deserve generous treatment. I must point out, however, that this is conditional on the passengers now on the Komagata Maru adopting a peaceable attitude, refraining from violence, and conforming to the law by giving to the captain control of his ship immediately, and agreeing to peaceably return to the port when they came.”13
William Charles Hopkinson
William Charles (W.C.) Hopkinson was an immigration inspector at the time of the Komagata Maru. Working for the federal government since 1909, mostly based in British Columbia and working in the US as well, his focus was on the surveillance of Indian political activists. He was fully occupied with the Komagata Maru while it was in Burrard Inlet for two months. After the Komagata Maru was sent back, his role became important in the context of war – he provided information to officials in Canada and British India about Indian agitators on the Pacific coast who were supposedly plotting to return to India to “take up arms against the British while they were at war in Europe”4 Hopkinson was mixed-race (Anglo-Indian), which he both used in his work (he could understand Hindi and Punjabi) and denied outright. In 1914, he was killed by Mewa Singh at the Vancouver Court House.
In a hostile environment of British Columbia in 1914, two legal professionals took on the case of the Komagata Maru passengers. J. Edward Bird handled the bulk of the case.
J. Edward Bird, solicitor
J. Edward Bird was hired by the passengers of the Komagata Maru to represent the passengers as they lodged a legal challenge to the Orders in Council that were prohibiting them from being able to disembark. The government decided to only have one test case, and Bird was assigned the task of preparing his case very quickly. Bird made the argument on behalf of Munshi Singh (the test case) using constitutional terms, arguing that the passengers of the Komagata Maru were entitled to disembark and settle in Canada as British subjects. Unfortunately, the five judges disagreed with him, and the case was lost. Bird was a socialist, and was opposed to the anti-Asian sentiment around him in British Columbia – proving this by creating a space for Indian socialists to gather.
Albert Howard MacNeill
Partner to J. Edward Bird, he took over the Komagata Maru case in the latter stages after Bird received a threatening letter and opted to travel out of town. He was an established lawyer in Vancouver, with connections to many powerful individuals. He sent a personal cable to Conservative Prime Minister Robert Borden (McNeill was a member of the Conservative Party himself) to encourage him to think about the Komagata Maru situation beyond what he was told by immigration officials (like Reid and Stevens).
Shore Committee Members
While the Komagata Maru was forced to stay in Burrard Inlet, South Asian community members in the Vancouver area mobilized to support the passengers. The 15-member group, coming together initially at the Khalsa Diwan Society, was called the Shore Committee. The Shore Committee raised awareness, raised funds, spoke out about the exclusion, and was heavily involved in retaining legal representation for the Komagata Maru passengers.
Hussain Rahim was one of the Shore Committee members, an active member of the Indian community in British Columbia, and the editor of the short-lived English newspaper The Hindustanee. Rahim spoke English, Hindi, Punjabi and Gujrati, and was vocal about his thoughts on the ways the governments of Canada and British Columbia treated Indians. Rahim was instrumental in mobilizing community members to support the passengers of the Komagata Maru.
Bhag Singh was one of the Shore Committee members, an active member of the Indian community in British Columbia, and Secretary of the Temple Management Committee at the Khalsa Diwan Society gurdwara. His own experience of challenging Canada’s immigration policy in 1911 meant that he was one of the very few Indians in Canada to have been able to be reunified with his wife and child.
- Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog - Frequently Answered Questions
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Racism, Race, & Culture
- Institutional/Structural Racism Within a Context: A Historical Glimpse at the Concept of “Race”
- Definitions - Racism Free Ontario Initiative
- Different Forms of Racism
- What is a Microaggression? What are Racial Microagressions?
- Appropriation vs. Appreciation
- A Look at the Myth of Reverse Racism
- Who are People of Colour? Why can’t I use the term “coloured”?
- Colourblindness: Colorblind Ideology is a Form of Racism
- The Angry Eye (YouTube)
- Racialicious (Tumblr)
- ladyatheist (Tumblr)
Sizeism & Body Positivity
- Truth Behind Fat: References
- Obesity, Health, and Metabolic Fitness
- Don’t You Realize Fat Is Unhealthy?
- Diets Don’t Work, But…
- Reality vs. Relativism
- THE HAES MANIFESTO (pdf)
- Fat Acceptance FAQ
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GSM (Gender & Sexuality Minorities)
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- Trans Etiquette 101: No Offense, But That’s Offensive (Tumblr)
- Cissexism, Transphobia, & Cissupremacy. (Tumblr)
- So what’s a genderqueer, eh? (Tumblr)
- Gender Neutral Pronoun Blog
- The Spoon Theory written by Christine Miserandino
- Ableist Word Profile
- FWD/Forward: FWD (feminists with disabilities) for a way forward.
- Where’s the Benefit?
- Bad Cripple
- Leaving Evidence
- Diary of a Benefit Scrounger
- Don’t Support Autism Speaks
- I’m Autistic, But Autism Speaks Doesn’t Speak for Me.
- An Autistic Speaks About Autism Speaks
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- Checking Your Privilege 101 (pdf)
- Male privilege checklist (pdf)
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- Heterosexual privilege checklist (pdf)
- Checklist of Neurotypical Privilege
- Christian Privilege Checklist
- Christian Privileges in American Society: Hidden Ways Christians are Privileged
- Privilege even in veganism
- Vegan Privilege
Dear Shameless reader,
I’ve just come home from watching popular film of the week The Hunger Games with a sour taste in my mouth and an angry grumbling motion vibrating through my intestines. It seems as though the white-washing of Hunger Games protagonist Katniss has given me yet another case of racial indigestion. In fact, I’m currently cursing myself for being hopeful in thinking that some satisfaction could be had with regards to how people of colour are represented in our popular media.
Can you blame me though?
Every time I hear that a big shot film depicting some form of oppression or discrimination is coming out, I get excited. I get excited because I start hoping that there’s been some equitable representation of people of colour in these movies. I get so excited that I start hoping with all my might that some representational justice will be done to the racialized character(s) and that they won’t be doomed to forever remain as the one-dimensional support system to the main, typically white protagonist. I start hoping that maybe, just maybe the character(s) of colour will finally be presented as full, complex human beings.
But I was wrong.
If you already haven’t been blasted with Hunger Games-saturated trailers and interviews as of late, do let me remind you that Katniss is the central character of the story, whose experiences as a contestant of the Hunger Games make up the storyline of the book. In addition to being characterized by author Suzanne Collins as a radical female hero-warrior combating institutionalized oppression in a dystopia in the future, Katniss is also characterized as being olive-skinned. But as Hollywood page-to-screen synergy would have it, the casting call for Katniss indicated that only Caucasian actors apply.
While some critics and die-hard fans of the Hunger Games universe would and have indeed rationalized this not-so subtle change of the character’s race in the film as a necessary modification required to draw out more audiences to earn the film its blockbuster status (Jennifer Lawrence was already a big name), I would argue that the race-swap of Katniss’ character brings to attention a handful of uncomfortable questions regarding the representation of people of colour in popular media.
One of these key questions is: why are all the characters we see in Western film and TV white?
Other questions include: even when they’re not white, why is it common practise to white-wash characters of colour?
Why is it also common practise to hire white actors to play racialized roles?
Is there a lack of actors of colour? Or is there something else at work?
What kinds of messages does erasing the race of characters put forward for readers? Does it imply that that characters of colour are not worth learning about?
How does a story’s narrative suffer when the full complexity of people from all walks of life are erased/denied?
To me, whenever I hear someone legitimating the racial erasure of a character in my favourite film, book or show, I feel they are implying that racialized characters don’t deserve the viewer/reader’s attention in the story. Whenever someone brings up the fact that Marlon and Damon Wayans dressed up in “whiteface” for their film “White Chicks” to underscore the systemic trend of white actors donning blackface and yellowface in Hollywood, I feel like they are implying that only white actors can have the power to play different roles. Whenever I discover that the most popular book franchise of the day centers on the experiences of a white character, I feel like authors are implying that only white characters are worth writing about.
While it is commonly understood that there will be variations between how a character is presented in a book and how they are depicted on screen, the explicit whitewashing of characters in Hollywood films reflects a larger move in exercising cultural domination. Haunani-Kay Trask explains in her essay, “The Color of Violence,” that “colonialism began with conquest and is today maintained by a settler administration created out of the doctrine of cultural hierarchy, a hierarchy in which European Americans and whiteness dominate non-European Americans and darkness.” Trask goes on to explain that the exercise of cultural domination of people of colour and Indigenous people by a colonialist country like Canada operates according to a flawless logic that requires a hierarchy of power based on race in order to exist. According to Trask, this power hierarchy can only function if people of colour are kept subordinated by the exercise of cultural domination. For the interests of this post, it is worth considering how such a form of cultural domination can be manifested in something as simple as storytelling.
The creators of stories, whether that story be conveyed orally, through print, video, film or television have much power in opening up spaces from where stories can be expressed differently from the racist, sexist, ableist, heteronormative way many stories have been told in the western media. I believe the power in storytelling stems from the fact that it allows an audience to imagine otherwise by stepping into that world of fantasy. And by imagining otherwise, I mean enabling an audience to imagine narratives with different societal structures, different ways of communicating with one another and different worlds. Whether the story be based in fantasy, myth or reality, stories have always given people the chance to escape their everyday life and step into spaces where they can feel safe and comfort.
Having said this, what troubles me the most is the fact that even in fantastical stories like The Hunger Games, the structure of racial privilege as it stands currently simply gets reinforced as normal. I find this reinforcement of racial privilege to be especially scary for people of colour, since stories and storytelling end up creating destructive stereotypes of what a person can and can’t be. I also find this reinforcement of racial privilege in storytelling to be particularly dangerous in the way that it upholds the experiences of white people to be THE universal experience.
In closing, instead of suggesting a possible solution to this systemic trend in storytelling, I’d rather ask you, the reader, what you think storytellers could do to make characters of colour have more of a voice and representation in stories. More specifically, how can storytellers go beyond simply just representing more diversity in their stories to present characters of colour as the full, complex, human beings they are?