Racism in North America
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The form that racism takes from country to country may be different for historic, cultural, religious, economic or demographic reasons.
- 1 Viewpoints
- 2 Canada
- 3 Trinidad and Tobago
- 4 Mexico
- 5 United States
- 6 References
Several academic statements have alluded to the notion that racism and ethnic discrimination are deep, inherent and fundamental aspects of North American society. Author Dereck Bell stated that "what we designate as racial progress is not a solution. It is a regeneration of the problem in a particularly perverse form. Racism is an integral, permanent and indestructible component of this society. Americans achieve a measure of social stability through their unspoken pact to keep blacks on the bottom ... black people will never achieve full equality in this country." American Political scientist Andrew Hacker wrote, "Most white people believe that persons with African ancestries are more likely to carry primitive traits in their genes ... I may believe this and hate myself for believing it." Legal scholar Charles Lawrence, speaking about the American political elite and ignorants said their "cultural belief system has influenced all of us; we are all racists". Philosopher Cornel West has stated that "racism is an integral element within the very fabric of American culture and society. It is embedded in the country's first collective definition, enunciated in its subsequent laws, and imbued in its dominant way of life."
In the recently released Social Progress Index, Canada is ranked second for tolerance and inclusion, Canadians have come to consider themselves to be mostly free of racial prejudice, perceiving Canada as a more inclusive society, a notion that has come under criticism. For instance, the Aboriginal population in Canada is treated worse and have more hardships than the African-American population in the United States. These perceptions of inclusion and "colour-blindness" have been challenged in recent years, with scholars such as Constance Backhouse claiming that white supremacy is still prevalent in the country's legal system, with blatant racism created and enforced through the law. In addition, throughout Canada's history there have been laws and regulations that have negatively affected a wide variety of races, religions, and groups of persons.
Canadians uses the term "visible minority" to refer to people of colour, and it is used in Canada's Employment Equity Act of 1995. However, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has stated that they have doubts regarding the use of this term since this term may be considered objectable by certain minorities and recommended an evaluation of this term. In response, the Canadian government made efforts to evaluate how this term is used in Canadian society through commissioning of scholars and open workshops. 
National histories operate to keep Canadian history within a Euro-centric perspective and there have been roadblocks to making Indigenous history mandatory within the educational system.[clarification needed] There is a learning of Europeans as the founders of the nation but there is also suppression or erasure of the conquest, genocide, slavery,and the continued exploitation of labour from Aboriginals and people of colour.[clarification needed]"Whiteness" (the white identity with the subtext of binaries from nothingness to awfulness) is enacted in subtle and overt ways in institutions and social spaces to maintain a "world racial order of white dominance". However, struggles and exploitation continue for minority peoples in the workforce along with racism which speak to the dilemma of the inherency of racism within Canada, as shown by how an 'ethni'-sounding name may affect job hunting for individuals". Further confusing this discussion of whiteness is that immigrants and refugees displace the Aboriginal struggles for decolonization.[clarification needed]
Canada's treatment of First Nations people is governed by the Indian Act. Many indigenous people were assimilated into the Canadian Indian residential school system. European settlers assumed the indigenous people needed saving; this is a form of "charitable racism". In 1999 the Canadian government created an autonomous territory, Nunavut, for the Inuit living in the Arctic and Northernmost parts of the country. The Inuit compose 85% of the population of Nunavut, which represents a new level of self-determination for the indigenous people of Canada. In August 2008, McGill University's Chancellor and International Olympic Committee representative Richard Pound made a statement in an interview with La Presse in which he said: "We must not forget that 400 years ago, Canada was a land of savages, with scarcely 10,000 inhabitants of European origin, while in China, we're talking about a 5,000-year-old civilization".[clarification needed]
In 2006, Amnesty International researched racism specific to Indigenous women in Canada. They report on the lack of basic human rights, discrimination, and violence against Indigenous women. Violence against First Nations women (age 25–44) with status under the Indian Act are five times more likely than other women of the same age to die as a result of violence. From 1928 to the mid 1990s, Indigenous girls in the residential school system were subject to forced sterilization once they reached puberty. The number of sterilized girls is not known because the records were destroyed. The numbers of Indigenous women and children gone missing or murdered within the next 10 years could reach 3,000. The issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women has been a social issue that has received a great deal of attention by the media, the Canadian government, and The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. The estimate of missing and murdered women have ranged from 500 to 3000, depending on the time period being studied and the method of calculating this statistic. The reason for the increased attention on this issue is the representation of murdered indigenous women in crime statistics are not proportionate to the general population.
Indigenous people still have to deal with systematic racism within Canada and the challenges that the communities face are often ignored. This is because of overarching societal stereotypes about the Aboriginal peoples and the lack of knowledge or education on the very pressing and numerous issues against them.[clarification needed] There are still very much negative stereotypes associated with Indigenous communities such as being free loaders, drug addicts or dumb. Aboriginal people are more likely to feel depression due to several factors such as: poverty, loss of cultural identity, inadequate health care and more. The aboriginal people are also continually colonized by the Canadian government due to the takeover of Indigenous lands for oil projects which have not been agreed upon and are still ongoing.[clarification needed]
Slavery of Aboriginals and Black Canadians
There are records of slavery in Canada from the 17th century. The majority of Canadian slaves were Aboriginal, and United Empire Loyalists brought slaves with them after leaving the United States. Marie-Joseph Angélique was one of New France's best known slaves. While pregnant, she set her mistress' house on fire for revenge or to divert the attention away from her escape. She ran away with the father of her child, who was also a black slave and belonged to another owner. The fire that she started ended up burning part of Montreal and a large portion of the Hôtel-Dieu. Later on she was caught and sentenced to death. In 1793 the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, John Graves Simcoe, passed the Act Against Slavery making it illegal to bring slaves into the colony, and mandating the gradual emancipation of all slaves in Upper Canada. Slavery was abolished in Upper Canada in 1793 by the Act Against Slavery and fully abolished in all provinces as a result of the Slavery Abolition Act which abolished slavery throughout the British Empire.
While most of the emancipated slaves of African descent were sent to settle Freetown in Sierra Leone, those who remained primarily lived in segregated communities such as Africville outside Halifax, Nova Scotia. Viola Desmond, a Canadian black woman, was kicked out of the whites-only area of the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, in 1946. This incident challenged racial segregation in Canada and starting a human rights debate in Canada nine years before the Rosa Parks incident in the US. Near Chatham, in Merlin, the last segregated Black school in Ontario was finally closed in 1965 following lobbying by concerned African-Canadians to have it closed. Elsewhere, segregated schools were phased out around the same time, with the last segregated school in Canada, which was in Nova Scotia, closing in 1983.
Black Canadians have a long history of discrimination and racism.Canada has had slavery, segregation, and a Canadian Ku Klux Klan. Racial profiling happens in cities such as Toronto. Black people made up 3% of the Canadian population in 2016. They lived disproportionately in poverty, were three times as likely to be carded in Toronto than Whites, and incarceration rates for Blacks were climbing faster than for any other demographic. A Black Lives Matter protest was staged at Toronto Police Headquarters in March 2016. The Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants wanted to propel discussion by collecting everyday experiences of Black Torontonians for an ad campaign targeting racism.
Starting in 1858, Chinese "coolies" were brought to Canada to work in British Columbia in the mines and on the Canadian Pacific Railway. After anti-Chinese riots broke out in 1886, a "Chinese head tax" was implemented to curtail immigration from China. In 1907, the Anti-Oriental Riots in Vancouver targeted Chinese- and Japanese-owned businesses, and the Asiatic Exclusion League was formed to drive the Chinese and Japanese out of the province. League members attacked East Asians, resulting in numerous riots. In 1923 the federal government passed the Chinese Immigration Act, commonly known as the Exclusion Act, prohibiting most Chinese immigration. The act was repealed in 1947, but discrimination limiting non-European immigrants continued until 1967, when a points-based system was introduced to assess immigrants regardless of origin. Despite petitions and political action, the Canadian government has not offered an official apology or financial compensation.
a British–Japanese treaty guaranteed Japanese citizens freedom of travel, so the Exclusion Act did not apply to Japanese Canadians. [clarification needed] They were nevertheless subject to anti-Asian racism in Canada, though to a lesser degree than the Chinese before World WarII, as an informal agreement between the Japanese and Canadian governments limited Japanese immigration in the wake of the Anti-Oriental Riots of 1907. In 1942, during World War II, many Canadians of Japanese heritage — even those born in Canada were forcibly moved to internment camps under the authority of the War Measures Act. At first, many men were separated from their families and sent to road camps in Ontario and on the British Columbia–Alberta border. Small towns in the BC interior such as Greenwood, Sandon, New Denver and Slocan became internment camps for women, children and the aged. To stay together, Japanese Canadian families chose to work in farms in Alberta and Manitoba. Those who resisted and challenged the orders of the Canadian government were rounded up by the RCMP and incarcerated in a barbed-wire prisoner-of-war camp in Angler, Ontario. With government promises to return the land and properties seized during that time period, Japanese Canadians left their homes. This turned out to be untrue however as the seized possessions were resold and never returned to the Japanese Canadians. Unlike prisoners of war, who were protected by the Geneva Convention, Japanese Canadians were forced to pay for their own internment. The Canadian government officially apologized and made restitution for the treatment of Japanese Canadians in 1988.
Muslim and Sikh Canadians
Muslim and Sikh Canadians have faced racism and discrimination within recent years, especially after 2001, and the spill over effect of the United States’ war on terror. A 2016 survey from The Environics Institute, which was a follow-up to a study conducted 10 years prior that there may be discriminating attitudes that may be a residual of the effects of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.
When it comes to opinions on both Sikh's and Muslims, a poll done by Maclean's revealed that only 28% of Canadians view islam favourably, and only 30% viewed the Sikh religion favourably. 45% of respondents believed Islam encourages violence. In Quebec in particular, only 17% of respondents had a favourable view of Muslims
Anglophone and Francophone relations
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Anglophone and Francophone relations in Canada are sensitive because of differences in ethnicity, language and provincial separatism (Quebec being a notable example). For centuries after the British annexation of New France, the French-speaking population of Quebec and other provinces felt victimized by discrimination, under-representation and disrespect of their culture and language. This is reflected in Quebec Bashing in the anglophone media.
On the other side, Anglophones feel that the imposition of laws in Quebec that reduce the presence of English, such as Bills 101, 22 and 78, as well as the proposed new bill, which places further restrictions on Anglophones, as well as the well-publicized recent actions of the language police ("pastagate", "spoon gate") have led to the rise of an anti-English attitude in Quebec. Other proposed laws, such as the upcoming "secularism law", as well as the debate over the wearing of religious symbols in soccer, has led to a growing belief among minorities that francophones in Quebec are uncomfortable with groups that are not "pure-laine" Quebecers.
The Canadian parliament has tried uniting Canadians through bilingualism and has recognized the French, along with the English, as the "founding people(s) of Canada". Canadians claim to strongly oppose racism in public discourse, believing that multiculturalism is a cherished national tradition.
There have been instances of anti-Semitism in rural Quebec where the Roman Catholic Church is prominent and quotas of Jewish students at McGill and Toronto University. Until 1954 the church held a seat on the Quebec provincial government. After the legal persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses during World War II, the Quebec government was ordered to remove the official state church clause dating to colonial times. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries Indo-Canadians, (South Asians, Indians) and Polynesian Kanaka people were considered a source of labour for mines, railroads and farms and faced discrimination from whites.[clarification needed]
Trinidad and Tobago
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The island nation of Trinidad and Tobago is a melting pot of cultures, yet it is also a place of tension between the politically and economically empowered Afro-Caribbeans and Indo-Caribbeans. Trinidad and Tobago is home to approximately 1.3 million people, with 95% living on Trinidad and 5% living on Tobago. Around 39% of Trinidadians are of African descent, 40% are of Indian descent and a small population are of European descent. Africans usually live in urban areas, notably the East-West corridor, while Indians usually live in the rural areas surrounding the sugar cane plantations.
Although both ethnic groups mix fairly well in daily life, racism exists on every level of society. It is thought that the British colonial government created the racial melange to divert attention away from the few whites at the highest ends of business and government. Tension existed between the two ethnic groups from the day African slaves achieved emancipation and Indians arrived to work on the sugar plantations.
Racism in Mexico has a long history. Historically, Mexicans with light skin tones had absolute control over dark skinned Amerindians due to the structure of the Spanish colonial caste system. Generally White Mexicans have made up the majority of Mexico's upper class and as such, many White Mexicans feel a sense of superiority over the Amerindian population who tend to be predominantly of low income. In Mexico, people who are darker-skinned or of indigenous descent make up the majority of the working classes, while lighter-skinned Mexicans of Spanish descent typically make up the majority of the upper class. It should be noted however that most of the poor in the rural north of Mexico are White Mexicans whilst in Southern Mexico, particularly in the states of Yucatán and Chiapas Amerindians make up a large part of the upper class.
When a Mexican of a darker-skinned tone marries one of a lighter skinned-tone, it is common for them say that they are " 'making the race better' (mejorando la raza)." This can be interpreted as a self-attack on their ethnicity.
Racism against Indigenous Mexicans
Since colonial times there has been a stigma attached to Indigenous culture and society. It was officially taught in Mexico until the mid-1940s that Indigenous culture and ways of life were inherently incorrect. As a result, Indigenous culture, art, education and languages were repressed. Indigenous peoples could not advance unless they abandoned their Indigenous ways and embraced Hispanic Mexican ways of life. Mexicans who retained their indigenous identity were harshly discriminated against for not accepting a Hispanisized way of life and as such were not allowed social advancement in Mexican society. Due to these factors, there remains a belief among many Mexicans, that anything Amerindian is inherently wrong and as such Indigenous Mexicans are looked at as inferior.
Today in Mexico this general ideology of class division based on skin color has not changed. In the last two decades many Amerindians have integrated into the middle class and held high ranking positions in society whilst retaining their indigenous identity; despite this, racism against Amerindians continues as there is a general idea among many non Indigenous Mexicans that Indigenous Mexicans are inherently inferior regardless of income level or social standing. To escape this discrimination many indigenous Mexicans historically embraced Hispanic identity. There is a common stereotype in Mexico that as one becomes wealthier or more well of in society that one must become Whiter to be considered being in upper class or else their capacity to advance socially is limited. Historically, the Mexican government has actively been involved in suppressing Amerindian peoples and has supported racialist policies against the Indigenous population, many times violently. However, following the opening of the Mexican political system, the Mexican government has reversed these practices and now is actively assisting in the development and advancement of Indigenous communities in Mexico.
Television media in Mexico has shown time and time again many dehumanizing images of and has made much mockery towards Indigenous Mexicans and therefore this prevailing discrimination in Mexican media has led to many false misconceptions of Indigenous Mexican which has cost modern Mexican society the ability to properly educate about co-existence between Indigenous Mexicans and the rest of Mexican society.
Despite improving economic and social conditions of Indigenous Mexicans, discrimination against Indigenous Mexicans continues to this day and there are few laws to protect Indigenous Mexicans from discrimination. Violent attacks against indigenous Mexicans are moderately common and many times go unpunished.
Racism against Blacks in Mexico
In towns around the southern parts of Mexico which neighbor with Belize there is a general negative attitude towards people of African descent. For example, Mexico's former president Vicente Fox has been quoted as saying that Mexican immigrants to the United States take jobs "that not even blacks want to do." This cultural mentality of Mexicans towards people of darker skin color is the root cause of the racial problems between Mexicans and Afro-Americans in the United States. In Mexico, Afro-Mexicans (who make up 1% of the population) report that they are regularly racially harassed by the local and state police. Mexican phrases that attribute negativity associated with the word Black – such as "getting black" (meaning getting angry), the use of "negro" (when used to mean ugly), a "supper of blacks" or "cena de negros" (meaning a group of people gathering together to cause trouble) "el negrito en el arroz" (translated as "the black in the rice" meaning an unpleasant dark skin tone), and "trabajar como negro" (translated as "work like black" which refers to work as a slave) abound.
Racism in the United States has been a major issue ever since the colonial era and the slave era. Legally sanctioned racism imposed a heavy burden on Native Americans, African Americans, Latino Americans, and Asian Americans. European Americans were privileged by law in matters of literacy, immigration, voting rights, citizenship, land acquisition, and criminal procedure over periods of time extending from the 17th century to the 1960s. Many European ethnic groups, particularly American Jews, Irish Americans, and Eastern European and Southern European immigrants, as well as immigrants from elsewhere, suffered xenophobic exclusion and other forms of racism in American society.
Major racially structured institutions included slavery, Indian Wars, Native American reservations, segregation, residential schools (for Native Americans), and internment camps (for Japanese-Americans). Formal racial discrimination was largely banned in the mid-20th century, and came to be perceived as socially unacceptable and/or morally repugnant as well, yet racial politics remain a major phenomenon. Historical racism continues to be reflected in socio-economic inequality. Racial stratification continues to occur in employment, housing, education, lending, and government.
As in most countries, many people in the U.S. continue to have some prejudices against other races. In the view of a network of scores of US civil rights and human rights organizations, "Discrimination permeates all aspects of life in the United States, and extends to all communities of color." Discrimination against African Americans and Latin Americans is widely acknowledged. Members of every major American ethnic and religious minority have perceived discrimination in their dealings with other minority racial and religious groups.
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