Archive for February, 2008

Re: race card

The letter I sent to the Globe & Mail’s editor-in-chief, comment editor, and Tony Jenkins:

Dear Messrs Greenspon, Martin and Jenkins,

The cartoon printed on Monday, February 18, attempts to take a stab at the substance of what an Afrocentric curriculum may look like. As many readers have noted, the cartoon is racist. I can imagine that, in your defense, you will say something along the lines of, ‘If we thought it was hateful, it wouldn’t be allowed.’ Mr Jenkins might assert that his cartoon is based on real life, and that it is only meant to shed light on a different viewpoint. After all, this is not the first time Mr Jenkins has expressed his racism through his art. On July 6, 1994 the Globe & Mail published a cartoon captioned, ‘Wisdom of the elders…’ This cartoon depicted Natives as drunken, smoking gamblers, passing on such “wisdom” to Native youth. A humourous turn of phrase, no doubt, in the minds of Mr Jenkins and the then associate editor of the Globe & Mail, Sarah Murdoch — but vile and racist, nonetheless.

In this latest cartoon, the ‘joke’, of course, is that knowledge itself is decisively nonracial and, indeed, can’t possibly be racialized — so the only way these schools would be “Afrocentric” is through the thick-lipped, ebonicized blackness of the teachers (and students).

In the cartoon, the key element of Afrocentrism is the ebonics (“S’up, dog?”), and this means that what characterizes African cultures (and the cultures of descendants) is the bastardization of proper, common standards of discourse (that is to say, knowledge), and therefore, behaviour. And this bastardization—this wanton inability to get it right—is all that separates the Afrocentric curriculum from the supposedly non-cultural, non-racial curriculum that gets taught in “normal” schools. So, not only are these Afrocentrists setting themselves apart, but they are going to ruin the ability of black students to interact with “mainstream” Canadians.

These assumptions and assertions, carried by the cartoon, are not only ignorant of the content of and debate surrounding Afrocentric schools, but wrong and deeply racist. Tony Jenkins and the Globe & Mail should apologize to all readers for printing this cartoon. It was not funny, it was racist. It was not enlightening, except to reveal how deeply racism is entrenched into Mr Jenkins’s art and the Globe & Mail’s editorial decisions. In addition, Mr Jenkins and those involved in deciding to publish the cartoon should attend anti-oppression and anti-racism seminars.

Awaiting your apology,
Noaman Ali

Yes, folks, letters can and will change the world. (Not.)

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Race cards

I googled Tony Jenkins, the cartoonist who drew the racist Globe & Mail cartoon I commented on earlier. It turns out this isn’t the first time Jenkins has been a racist. In 1994, Jenkins drew, and the Globe & Mail published, the following:

Jenkins on Natives

Does the racism in this cartoon need to be elaborated upon? Does anyone have to break this down?

Tony Jenkins, the cartoonist, defended his work, saying it wasn’t racist but based on fact or real life. He said the inspiration from the work came from a story about the Kahnawake community’s rejection of a casino project. There are about 60 bands waiting in the wings to get into gaming.

Natives are into smoking, drinking and now gambling, Jenkins said. At one time, Elders would pass on information about hunting and trapping. Now the knowledge that will be passed down will be about gambling, the cartoonist said.

Jenkins attempts to take the political issues of the day and make people laugh and think. It’s one man’s opinion, and is expected to be taken with a grain of salt, he said. The intent wasn’t to mock, but to shed light on a different viewpoint.

Globe and Mail Associate Editor Sarah Murdoch concurred. Racism is not allowed in the paper, but ‘fair comment’ is and Jenkins is given a lot of latitude, she said.
“If we thought it was hateful it wouldn’t be allowed,” Murdoch said.

So there you have it: If the Globe & Mail’s editor doesn’t think it’s hateful, it isn’t. If the Globe & Mail’s editor doesn’t think it’s racist, it isn’t. If the Globe & Mail publishes some vituperative, base, racist content, well, it isn’t.

We see here how deep Jenkins’s racism is, and how entrenched racism is in Globe’s editorial decisions.

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Race card

Fathima has a brilliant post about the virulently racist editorial cartoon featured in the Globe & Mail on Monday, comparing it to The Star’s two editorial cartoons as well.

Racist Cartoon

What’s particularly interesting about this Globe & Mail cartoon (by Tony Jenkins) is that, unlike the ones in The Star, it takes a stab at the substance of what an Afrocentric curriculum (so to speak) may look like. The joke, of course, is that knowledge itself is decisively nonracial and, indeed, can’t possibly be racialized — so the only way these schools would be “Afrocentric” is through the thick-lipped, ebonicized blackness of the teachers (and students).

In asserting that the key element of the Afrocentrism is the ebonics, “S’up, dog?” [sic], it asserts that this, this is what characterizes African culture and its derivative culture: the bastardization of proper, common standards of discourse (that is to say, knowledge), and therefore, behaviour. And this bastardization, this wanton inability to get it right, is all that separates the Afrocentric curriculum from the acultural, aracial curriculum that gets taught in “normal” schools. So, not only are these Afrocentrists setting themselves apart, but they are going to ruin the ability of black students to interact with “mainstream” Canadians.

(In all of this I imagine certain administrators from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Arts & Science looking at the cartoon and saying, “I can see how it’s offensive, but it’s not quite racism.”)

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the Nooz! (2)

4. And in Afghanistan, Canada has brought a considerable measure of self-governance to its puppets. Not really:

Kandahar Gov. Asadullah Khalid said he tried to warn the police commander away from Sunday’s event, much like he warned Canadians away from Spin Boldak on Monday.

“We informed the Canadian Forces to avoid patrolling the border areas because our intelligence units had information that suicide attackers were in the areas and wanted to target Canadian or government forces,” Khalid said.

“Despite informing the Canadians, they went to those areas anyway.”

The Canadian military bristled at the suggestion the deaths and injuries could have been avoided, saying the Canadian Forces make the decisions on where its soldiers will patrol.

“We regularly receive threat warnings and obviously we go where we want to, when we want to in our area of operation,” said Lt.-Cmdr. Pierre Babinsky.

“We obviously take notice of these warnings but our aim is to operate freely within our area of operation despite those.”

Note that their area of operation is … all of Afghanistan. And, hold on, wait, this is not colonization?

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the Nooz!

Kosovars declare independence.

1. Kosovo, NATO’s other colony (next to Afghanistan), has declared itself the 54th American state, after Canada, Israel and Britain.

2. “Democracy” rears its ugly b(h)utt(o) yet again as voting begins in Pakistan. This, of course, is the “best revenge” (00:31).

I can’t go jogging. Even the dog hasn’t had a proper walk in a while.

3. Frustrated by the fact that the people of Sderot cannot walk their dogs (indeed, one even died!) because of the not-so-constant barrage of the world’s most underwhelming rockets, Israel’s Prime Asshole Ehud Olmert has given a “free hand” to the Israeli occupation army to carry out as many more massacres1 (of, well, humans) as it wants in the Gaza Strip. If the people of Sderot can’t walk their dogs, by dog, then the people of Gaza can’t access electricity, fuel, clean water, food, or medical supplies: “…there is no justification for demanding we allow residents of Gaza to live normal lives while shells and rockets are fired from their streets and courtyards at Sderot and other communities in the south.” He also reminded the people of Gaza that the world’s longest-lasting military occupation as well as the total land, sea and air blockade is “normal.”

1. Note that the headline talks about the “activist” who was killed, and not about, well, his wife and children. Imagine if it said, “Blast kills woman and children.” But, of course not — who will cry for the dogs of Sderot!?

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Reflections on Israeli Apartheid Week: Zionists retreat, Islamophobic racism at UofT


So, as I described in my last post, on Wednesday February 6, Zionists set up a display about “Islamic State Apartheid” in Vari Hall at York. I was two hours late for class and felt too embarrassed to enter, although my professor John Saul is very cool (and was involved in the anti-apartheid and anti-colonial struggles in Southern Africa), so I hung out and took a look what was going on. As I noted earlier, the aim was to “trivialize the use of the word “apartheid” when associated with Israel.”

There was a large crowd of students gathered in front of the display — set up in the middle of Israeli Apartheid Week. A lot of Muslim students were angered. Other Palestine-solidarity activists were there, too. One could notice “circles of debate” where a Zionist was debating with someone else, and a sizable crowd would gather around. I noticed one pro-Israeli speaking lyrically to a group of about six or seven students about how Israel was founded by freedom fighters, fighting for self-determination. How Israel was a democracy. How there was no one to back Israel up, and how Golda Meir went around to Jewish organizations in the United States asking for money. How Israel was not a racist state. This, that, and the other.

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Israeli Apartheid Week 2008

I have some observations I’d like to point out, but for now this video will have to do. Enjoy!


Last Wednesday, Zionists at York organized a display in Vari Hall, labeled “Islamic State Apartheid.” The aim, a Zionist acquaintance of mine told me later, was to trivialize the use of the word “apartheid” when associated with Israel. By pegging every problem in Muslim societies — and make no mistake, these problems are real — as “apartheid,” the idea was to deflect attention away from Israel and focus it, instead, on Muslim societies. There is an implicit assertion here that there is a more-or-less homogenous application of “Islamic” values within these countries, that the racism, sexism, etc. prevalent in some of these countries is a result of “Islamic culture.” There is no attempt at an actual, historical analysis of what these terms mean and how they play out in these countries. For instance, racial discrimination in Saudi Arabia has less to do with skin colour, as such, and more to do with national origin. The roots of this racial discrimination lie in the systemic super-exploitation of migrant labour from the rest of Asia (including other parts of the Middle East). Xenophobia doesn’t take on the same terms as it does in the West, but it exists, and populists try to enact policies of “Saudiization” of the work force.

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On Dubai and racisms

I’ve been alerted to a situation in Dubai where someone was, apparently, detained arbitrarily. The person hasn’t been charged and seems to have to jump through a lot of hoops. This is not correct, and it’s certainly deplorable in any case to hold someone without even laying charges. I am not going to defend the autocratic regimes in Dubai and the rest of the UAE, and I can certainly feel for someone who has — apparently — been detained arbitrarily. Yet the racism and stark ignorance that pervades the discussion about Dubai is indicative of more than just bitterness toward the regime. It’s Orientalism 101.

I don’t claim to be an expert on the UAE or anything, but what I am talking about in the following isn’t rocket science.

First, Dubai is a major transportation and commercial hub. This is true because of its coastal location in the Persian Gulf. This is also true of its airport, which is perhaps one of the busiest airports in the world — but certainly the busiest in the region of Middle East and South Asia. On any given day, up to 100,000 people pass through this airport, which translates into nearly 35 million every year. People in all shapes, shades, sizes, from all class backgrounds, dressed in all manner of clothing: “ultra-conservative” as well as “ultra-liberal” pass through this airport. And, in fact, this is also generally true of Dubai itself. In the streets, you can see people wearing skirts and tank tops, as well as people wearing burqas. What does this mean? Just that if you’re traveling through Dubai airport, don’t presume that you have to dress conservatively. In fact, you don’t.

Yes there is plenty of racism in Dubai. If we accept that racism is a structural mechanism of discrimination (rather than just the surface expression of racial slurs and profiling), then we see that the racism in Dubai is the massive, racialized super-exploitation of migrant labour from Asia. When we say Asia, we are not talking about East Asia, but rather, South Asia and the Philippines.

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