A disservice to victims of racism (Editorial)

By John Hobel
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 05/24/2005

Political grandstanding and name calling are nothing new. But federal politicians deserve a slap on the wrist for the shenanigans they engaged in earlier this month.

First the Conservatives presented a spoof of the television show

The Sopranos

with a “Librano$” poster featuring the faces of scandal-plagued Liberals looking like mobsters. Immigration Minister Joe Volpe, a Liberal of Italian heritage, went ballistic, and charged the insult showed the Ku Klux Klan was alive and well in the Conservative Party. He has since apologized for the Klan remark.

A few days later it was the Conservatives’ turn to be outraged about a “racial” remark.

Manitoba MP Inky Mark said the Liberals approached him with a plum patronage offer designed to get him to resign his seat and reduce the Conservatives’ numbers in the House of Commons. Treasury Board President Reg Alcock countered that if he were recruiting someone for a posting he’d go higher up in the gene pool than Mark. Mark charged that the remark was a slag on his Chinese heritage. Flanked by 15 equally outraged fellow Conservatives, Mark told TV cameras the comment was similar to the genetic superiority theories that fuelled the Nazis’ Second World War atrocities. Alcock apologized for the comment, but denied the remark was racially intended.

A disgusting display all-round. But while the Librano$ and gene pool volleys are the typical buffoonery that passes for political discourse, it’s the reactions of Volpe and Mark that really hit rock bottom.

By playing the race card Volpe and Mark do a disservice to the real victims of discrimination. It’s an insult to targets of Klan brutality and the Nazi war and Holocaust machine. In contemporary terms, by choosing to portray these remarks as racist, Volpe and Mark harm the cause of those who suffer discrimination in society and the workplace.

Many Canadians are denied jobs and promotions due to racial make up and ethnic heritage. Showing that the tenets of Canadian multiculturalism and fairness are strong, diversity initiatives seek to create colour-blind workplaces. For those employers who don’t get it, human rights commissions have been created to ensure equality.

However, workplace racism does still exist. When people complain of discrimination, they deserve to be listened to, but when allusions to Hitler and the Klan are casually tossed around the words are blunted. It’s akin to the little boy who cried wolf. Soon everyone stops listening.

Charges of racism must be reserved for real injustices. Here’s to the day that you can call someone on Parliament Hill inferior without it being a racial comment.

Add Comment

  • *
  • *
  • *
  • *