Cartoon by Susan Dubrofsky
Racial disdain and distance goes beyond incidents of hatred on the streets, defiling of monuments, police arrogance and brutality towards minorities or the ignorance-based proto-working class commentary that spews out of AM radio and TV. How often do we hear the plaintive wail of schlock radio jockeys– “what are we poor white folks to do in these politically correct times? Do we not have a right to feel crowded out sometimes?”
Mr. Boisclair, the Parti Quebecois’ floundering jewel-eyed boy, did not goof up. In fact he also defended himself quite vociferously, as did for Premiers Bouchard (“white babies”) and Parizeau (“ethnic vote”) before him. His behavior reflects a general unstated disdain for the growing number of “others” who also want to call this land, theirs. Mr.Dumont, the rising star on the Quebec right wing, on the other hand, is very cunning. He picked up on the tempo, distanced himself from any blatantly racist statements and capitalized on the overall post-911 Islamophobic hysteria in the centre-right segment of the Quebec populace. His interventions paid off in the recent elections.
From the time of the Hollywood Gunga Din/Fu Man Chu type stereotyping, Kung Fu boiler-plate Asian flick scene or the stupefied disgust at the hip-hop scene, racial disdain has had an extraordinarily acceptable continuity. It is no wonder that now in the era of Homeland Security, no-fly lists etc, it is tame and acceptable to be subjected to daily profiling in Immigration and Customs lines at airports. The harassment to people of color (and for those sporting full beards especially or head covers) is now a routine game at the US border. To make people sweat, make them hesitant and unsure and falter is the objective of the petty officials in uniform. In the meantime, here in Montreal, beating up on local anti-globalization activist Jaggi Singh, desperately trying to railroad him (despite several acquittals), finding any excuse to bust him, has become a favorite goon tactic of the Montreal police force. They do it, because they want to set an example for any other people of color who want to express their views. It is a calculated move. In doing so, both the Police chief, the Mayor and the premier come across as not only racist, but also a mysogynist lot. (Note the organized and unprovoked attack on women participating in the March 8th Women’s Day march)
It’s back to basics too often when one comes home and pumps the remote, surfing the channels. The media gets to work on you immediately. Beer with pasta and red meat or boiled cabbage and barbequed chicken legs supplement the atmosphere while watching the heroics of Anderson Cooper in New Orleans or re-runs of Law and Order. All designer-made to create this benevolent image of this righteous troubled white society taking care of natural disasters, hooded terrorists and unknown sexual predators. And of course no real news even gets through at the evening rush hour. No Spike Lee, no Tariq Ali, no Norman Finkelstein. Notwithstanding that some hipper folks have dangerously waded into the world of Tikka and Shawarma, the world remains culturally segregated and unsure about otherness and continues to watch this charade that separates and divides rather than build the Great Canadian Railroad that our ancestors worked so hard on.
In this issue of Montreal Serai, we have contributions to newer discourses on racial disdain and cultural distance whether it is through the impact of food, sports commentary, FM music channels, movie recommendations and schooling choices to segregation between city and suburbs in life style choices. We handle the issues of Italophobia, a very dominant aspect of Montreal life as well as several other aspects of life style choices that ice-up the gap.