Saturday, July 21, 2007

Racism alive and kicking - why every ethnic group is capable of being racist

This is Evon Reid, a political science studies graduate from the University of Toronto. Evon shot to unexpected (probably international) fame because a government employee responsible for managing a recruitment process (and his job application) referred to him as a 'ghetto dude'. The Toronto Star newspaper reports the story today. Here's a brief excerpt:

'Evon Reid couldn't believe his eyes yesterday morning when he opened an email from the Ontario government's cabinet office where he'd applied for a position. "This is the ghetto dude that I spoke to before," said the email to the University of Toronto honours student from the very person handling his job application.
... Ghetto dude? It means I'm black. It's very insulting," Reid told the Star yesterday. "It's still pretty shocking to me." As he sees it, the email explains why he hasn't gotten a followup interview for a job as a media analyst. He applied July 3 but missed a July 10 call from Aileen Siu in the cabinet office. Although he called her back and sent followup emails, there was no response. Until yesterday's email. "Based on my resumé I deserved to be called, but I was not worthy of being called back once they heard my mother's voice and my voice," said Reid, 22. "She has a Jamaican accent and it's about the way I talk. There's a nuance." ...

The email was never intended for Reid, according to Siu, who learned she had sent it to him only when the Star telephoned yesterday. An acting team leader in cabinet office hiring, she said she was "multi-tasking" Thursday when she hit the wrong button and copied Reid on an email she was sending to a job-search colleague. "It wasn't directed at Evon at all. That was internal ... It didn't have anything to do with any of the applicants," said Siu, 26, and a recent U of T political science graduate. She insisted the email didn't refer to anyone "outside my circle of friends."
Siu acknowledged the term is negative but said, "I don't even know what nationality he is, right?" She added she's of Asian descent and doesn't want anyone to think she makes racially based judgments.'

There we have it... a truly neat example of somebody one would think would have reached the bottom of the pit that she's dug herself into, but then she musters all her strengths and continues digging even deeper. First Ms Siu is pointing out to us that he wasn't meant to see the message and that it was directed at someone else in her office. Obviously, one should be concerned about the culture in her work environment, because seemingly such language and conduct must be considered acceptable there. Perhaps talking in suitably derogatory socially charged terminology about job applicants is one of the hallmarks in this government office.

Secondly she proposes that she couldn't make racially based judgments because she is of Asian descent. I have heard all of that before, in South Africa. Many 'black' folks, while talking in the most racially charged terminology about 'white' folks, insisted that they couldn't possibly be racists by virtue of their ethnicity. In fact, seeing the history of that country, one shouldn't be too surprised about such conduct. Also, lest someone charges me with being biased, in that country, I also heard 'whites' making racist comments about 'blacks', folks of East Asian descent would make nasty comments about both of the just mentioned groups, and so did folks that go under the label of 'coloured' in South Africa. My main point is that ethnicity (minority or otherwise) does not in its own right prevent racist conduct. Just think of continuing conflicts between African American and South Korean migrants in the USA... - So, Ms Siu's remarks are not only ill-considered, they also make one wonder about the quality of a political science degree at the University of Toronto. Surely one would expect graduates of such a programmes to be aware of such issues.

As a post scriptum: A few of the comments I received since I posted this comment, naturally anonymised.

'Thank you for sharing your solid view on the shocking attitude that exists
within Queen's Park. Since I am not a highly educated person I tend to keep
fairly basic in my thinking, as it serves me well. It struck me that Aileen
Siu would not have made that comment, unless she sincerely believed that it
was the type of grammar her 'job search colleague' enjoyed.'

'I just read your BLOG I totally agree with you. As a black Canadian male I see it all the time with my friends and society in general. Stereotyping other racist and nationalities it sickens me that someone young would have thoughts like this, if it was someone older you can at least use age or a generational gap as part of their ignorance.'


  1. Thanks for the information.

  2. I cannot believe such language not even in a government office but anywhere at any professional environment. For MS. Siu to forward such an email to her co-worker with "Getto" comments on it means they both have something in common. That’s why it’s so hard to get jobs even with all the qualifications.

  3. one of the most disgusting way to live, as a racist, no matter if you are white, black, or from any other ethnic group, we are only one species, human being.


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