Friday, 2 February 2007


I've found some more news that seems ridiculous to me. Herouxville, a town in Quebec, Canada, has issued a statement of ethics and how to live in their small town of 1,300 people. The outline seems to be in line with things like the UN declaration of human rights but apparently a statement such as: "we regard as contrary to conventional behavior, such activities as killing women by public stonings or by burning them alive, or burning them with acid, circumsizing them, and so on." is offensive and racist to Canadian Muslims.
Let's go through that again. To say that it is unacceptable to stone, burn or circumcise women is racist.
It's not racist, it's decent. The statement was issued to 'help' immigrants settle into a new way of life in French-speaking Quebec. It also says that women are allowed to drive, write cheques, work etc. Pretty normal stuff for us lucky New Zealanders. And Canadians.
It reminds me of something a month or two ago, where a Sikh had a ceremonial dagger on an aeroplane. A woman noticed it, freaked out, and complained to the air hostess. The guy was asked to hand it over, and when he landed he complained of racism.
Everyone is searched when they get on a plane. I had a friend (young, white, female) whose tweezers were taken off her for goodness' sakes. If anyone had a knife on a plane it would be confiscated!
Sometimes I think people are too careful and too sensitive to racial slurs. I know that there are many people out there who do have negative views of other nationalities and religions. But from my point of view it seems that people often mistake a human opinion that could be directed at anyone that shows a particular character trait or behaviour as racism simply because it is directed at a black person, or a Muslim. If it was directed at a white person (as it often is) it is just passed by.
Are we too sensitive?
There's a new experiment called Project Implicit, where they test peoples unconscious race views. A 23 year old London girl took the test and this is what she said afterwards: "I never classified myself as having any racist feelings. I've always though I was liberal and open-minded. But the test told me I had a moderate bias in favour of white Britons. At first I thought it was wrong, but then I began to think it could be telling me something about myself I don't want to admit to. It's quite depressing." (BBC News)
Of course she has a natural bias. She is a white Briton. Would any black, hispanic, Arab (etc) people try to claim they didn't have a slight bias towards their own kind?
I am white. So perhaps I'm not as aware of racism as I might otherwise be. But the woman on the aeroplane complained about the knife, not about having to sit next to an Arab. The young woman who took the test never said she hated Africans. The Herouxville council didn't complain about the colour of anyones skin, or how they acted in their own country. They simply stated the standards their townspeople live by.
It seems people are just looking for reasons to get upset with one another sometimes.

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