Saturday, March 13, 2010
'Race' and God people
Not only in Canada institutions of higher learning have long been sensitive to concerns that students, staff or faculty might be subjected to unfair discrimination by virtue of their 'race', sex, sexual orientation and any number of other features. These concerns are well justified. You don't want anyone discriminated against just because they are of a particular skin color, or because they're female, or gay. The only thing that should matter, surely, is whether someone is best qualified for a job.
Of course, as we all know, common sense as this view undoubtedly is, the reality is quite different in many parts of the world. To my biased mind, it's not entirely coincidental that violations of this common sense rule are most frequently committed in developing countries. Also not coincidentally, to my biased mind, these violations seem to occur most likely in countries where religious ideologies are more rather than less influential. No wonder then that Muslims and Christians happily engage in genocidal acts against each other in Nigeria, gay folks are routinely subjected to mob 'justice' in Jamaica, women reportedly lose their lives during pregnancy in Nicaragua because Catholicism reigns supreme in that neck of the woods, and the list goes on and on and on.
Anyhow, I digress, so there's this Ryerson University in Toronto. It duly commissioned its own racism report. True to international form the writers of this report embarrassingly conflate racism (ie someone goes after you because of the color of your skin and other arbitrary ethnicity related features that are beyond your control) and discrimination because of something you choose (in this case your religious ideology). To be clear: I am not suggesting here that it is acceptable to discriminate unfairly against someone because she or he is Muslim, Christian, Jewish or subscribes to any number of other monotheistic ideologies. Quite rightly so, in a free society people are entitled to make those sorts of choices. The nice thing though, is that in a free society (unlike those men's outfits like the Vatican or Iran) people like myself are also entitled to make fun out of folks buying into such religious claptrap. Many religious people and their leaders don't like this bit at all, hence their attempts to get the same types of anti-discrimination protections that people are entitled to because of who they are as opposed to what kind of religious ideology they choose to believe.
It is deeply offensive to conflate in a report on racism racism with discrimination against people who make the choice to believe such stuff, and who then go out of their way to let the world know that they do (eg by putting black cloth over their heads, or wearing any number of religious knickknack around their necks etc). If you belong to an ethnic minority and you have been subjected to racism you will be permanently scarred to some extent or other. You will continuously wonder when the next shoe's gonna drop. Well, compare that to people who choose to wear religious paraphernalia in order to identify themselves as adherents to an ideology they have chosen. Surely this doesn't exactly fall into the same ballpark. Again, my issue is not at all that unfair discrimination against people because of the ideologies they subscribe to is fair game. Quite to the contrary.
Anyhow, back to the racism report at that Ryerson place. Here are some of the highlights that the experts who drafted the document included. Evidence of racism... a student quote: