News   Jul 19, 2024
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is racism common in Toronto?

Disclosure: Grew up in Toronto and am biracial (black / white).

Firstly, I don't think we can consider racism as a binary. Racism exists on a spectrum of more or less racism.

Toronto, when compared to most (all?) cities on earth, is one of the least racist places you can live and work. Like anywhere, there is a contingent of the population that is "stuck in their ways" and unwilling to accept newcomers from all parts of the world to this city. With that said, the vast majority of people (in particular the children of immigrants), are very open minded about topics like interracial marriage, having a diverse set of friends, having friends with a diverse set of beliefs (religious, political, etc), getting along with coworkers from all backgrounds, etc.

We can always do better but there are few places I'd rather live.
 
I guess it depends on what you mean by "common". Is it racist compared to other parts of the world? Not at all. I feel extremely fortunate to live here.

Is it common in a North American context? I'd say probably moreso than we'd care to admit. In my experience racism is definitely present, but kind of swept under the rug or ignored in a lot of cases.

It's kind of like asking if Toronto is a progressive city. I'd say yes, but then I'd also say many of us didn't see Rob Ford having any shot of being elected.
 
Interesting question.

Some have tried to redefine racism as a systemic discrimination based on race by those with power. So, only white people can be racist.

And yet, what how do I describe the Chinese lady who used to cut my hair, telling me about her daughter's experience at university doing a group project with a black student, which made him lazy. unconscientious, etc. As a POC, she can't be racist, right?

I find it troubling that people are trying to emphasize 'race' as a part of individual identity. It's usually the least interesting thing about a person.
 
Interesting question.

Some have tried to redefine racism as a systemic discrimination based on race by those with power. So, only white people can be racist.

And yet, what how do I describe the Chinese lady who used to cut my hair, telling me about her daughter's experience at university doing a group project with a black student, which made him lazy. unconscientious, etc. As a POC, she can't be racist, right?

I find it troubling that people are trying to emphasize 'race' as a part of individual identity. It's usually the least interesting thing about a person.

Nope, white people definitely aren't the only people that can be racist; power is relative, not absolute - and it is context-dependent (your example illustrated that - Asians - particularly East Asians - typically have an easier time as the "model minority" - and racism against brown and black people from East Asians definitely is NOT rare - albeit mostly in a covert way) Also, someone who is a POC have to deal with the reality that your race, however much you don't like to - will be part of your identity simply by the way of how others chose to interact with you just by looking at you. You can't avoid and ease your way out of it just by changing your behaviour (unlike white ethnicities which has that option).

AoD
 
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Some have tried to redefine racism as a systemic discrimination based on race by those with power. So, only white people can be racist.
I travel a lot for work, in 2018-2019 I was in Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Seoul, Taipei and Kaohsiung (Taiwan). I definitely stood out, and I’m told these monocultural, (largely) mono ethnic places could be racist to outsiders. But I never felt it, and I wondered at the time if my lack of any experience of racism made me either impervious or more likely clueless to any racism directed my way. I didn’t have any “power“ as I walked the streets, did business and toured these places. If I was treated poorly or singled out for my otherness, I didn’t catch it.

In 2019 I applied for a job at a big international firm based in Markham as export sales manager. The owners, and all the staff were Chinese or Chinese Canadians. In the interview the owner told me, we want a token white guy to represent us in China. Was that racist? IDK, but I laughed and said I’ve played that role before, including standing below a huge projection vid of myself presenting my products at a show in Shanghai with people asking to take my photo below the vid, as their token westerner.
 
I travel a lot for work, in 2018-2019 I was in Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Seoul, Taipei and Kaohsiung (Taiwan). I definitely stood out, and I’m told these monocultural, (largely) mono ethnic places could be racist to outsiders. But I never felt it, and I wondered at the time if my lack of any experience of racism made me either impervious or more likely clueless to any racism directed my way. I didn’t have any “power“ as I walked the streets, did business and toured these places. If I was treated poorly or singled out for my otherness, I didn’t catch it.

In 2019 I applied for a job at a big international firm based in Markham as export sales manager. The owners, and all the staff were Chinese or Chinese Canadians. In the interview the owner told me, we want a token white guy to represent us in China. Was that racist? IDK, but I laughed and said I’ve played that role before, including standing below a huge projection vid of myself presenting my products at a show in Shanghai with people asking to take my photo below the vid, as their token westerner.

Power doesn't refer to interpersonal power - but societal power (and how races were viewed). East Asian cultures by and large aren't overtly hostile to whites (though they are still sensitive to inter-cultural faux pas) - what you will get is talk (generally harmless, but probably biased) behind your back that you don't hear about. Things will be a little different if you are brown or black.

AoD
 
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I think 'white' people are higher in the east Asian racial pecking order, so probably not subject to as much prejudice as others might be.
 
I think 'white' people are higher in the east Asian racial pecking order, so probably not subject to as much prejudice as others might be.

White people are often seen as "novelty" in monocultural East Asian societies -- especially those who are integrated to one degree or another into East Asian societies. They generally will get a pass.

AoD
 
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I think 'white' people are higher in the east Asian racial pecking order, so probably not subject to as much prejudice as others might be.
My white friend met a Japanese woman on a flight to Tokyo. Nine months later their son was born, and she moved to Canada. Her family was fine about the interracial mix. I wonder if that would have been different had my pal been black or brown.
 
My white friend met a Japanese woman on a flight to Tokyo. Nine months later their son was born, and she moved to Canada. Her family was fine about the interracial mix. I wonder if that would have been different had my pal been black or brown.

Her family is one thing; society at large is a different story:


Schools are where this would have been e a particularly major issue - if they had stayed in Japan:


AoD
 
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Back before multiculturalism, in Toronto the English hated the Irish, who hated the Italians, who hated the European Jews. Can we call this racism? Is racism only about skin colour?
The definition of racism is about prejudice on the basis of race, there's definitely other forms of prejudice against other groups of people. One thing to note about this question is what it means to be white has changed over time, back when toronto was mostly settlers from europe, english, german, dutch and nordic settlers were considered white, and other groups were well... considered to be the "others". Over time the meaning of white grew to include irish, italians and more but not all groups in europe is considered white here.
 
Over time the meaning of white grew to include irish, italians and more but not all groups in europe is considered white her
A former colleague of mine was, back in the early 2000s moving from his house in Bramalea, Ontario to a new house is Georgetown. He claimed that folks of South Asian and Caribbean descent had moved into his corner of Brampton, and that they were increasing crime, etc... typical racist talk. I asked why Georgetown and he said it was where the white Bramptonians had fled to. To which I replied, you know to those white people your Italian skin isn’t white, and that not too long ago Canadians of UK and Northern European descent fled Toronto’s little Italy for the same reason.
 
A former colleague of mine was, back in the early 2000s moving from his house in Bramalea, Ontario to a new house is Georgetown. He claimed that folks of South Asian and Caribbean descent had moved into his corner of Brampton, and that they were increasing crime, etc... typical racist talk. I asked why Georgetown and he said it was where the white Bramptonians had fled to. To which I replied, you know to those white people your Italian skin isn’t white, and that not too long ago Canadians of UK and Northern European descent fled Toronto’s little Italy for the same reason.

My boyfriend's dad is one of those south Asians that moved into Brampton about 30 years ago. Racism is still there, just goes in a circle. My BF's Dad is in his 70s and is rather racist towards people of African decent. For example he blamed the "Ugandan's" in his area for the thefts in the neighborhood recently.






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The definition of racism is about prejudice on the basis of race...

Exactly this.

Racism is a prejudice against someone based on their race. That's it.

Some people have tried re-defining it to fit their ideological narrative but it's just a prejudice against someone based on their race. End of.




I know and have known serious racists of all races, the worst of which was a Chinese bloke who was violently racist against south Asians, specifically Tamils. He was a nice guy otherwise, but wow, not sure what happened but he would go off. As far as violently attacking people. It was messed up.
Though his example would seem to be an almost Toronto-specific example of racism.

Anyway, everyone's a bit racist in some ways and in some contexts. It's human psychology at work, nothing sinister or malevolent. The key is to be self-aware enough of the prejudices and where they come from and to rationalise them out of existence so as to preclude acting on them in negative ways.
 

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