Tag Archives: people of colour

The Ugly side of Diversity

6 Feb

It intrigues and saddens me to notice how often celebrations of diversity result in xenophobia.

One of this year’s Superbowl ads is a shining example of this.

Coke ran an ad featuring the song America the Beautiful, sung in seven different languages and featuring a diversity of cultures and people. The backlash on twitter and on the comment feed were instantaneous. Many comments were about language – and the sentiment that people should speak English in America.

We may be tempted to shake our heads here “up north” at our southern neighbours and assume that couldn’t or wouldn’t happen here. But I’m afraid we would be wrong.

Xenophobia is everywhere. As is ignorance about our countries’ histories as colonized nations.

Remember, except for the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, we are all immigrants or descendants of immigrants here.

That would make the official languages of the Americas a variety of Aboriginal languages. Some of these are still spoken today – but many have been extinguished as a result of colonization, residential schools and various other forms of genocide that sadly many of us don’t know about, because they generally aren’t part of the school curriculum (see my earlier post about that, and the debate of the use of the word genocide). 

So once again an attempt to highlight the beauty of diversity has instead brought out the ugliness of living in countries that some people claim as “theirs” while discounting the original inhabitants (and the difficult history of contact as well as the difficult reality of their present situations such as high rates of poverty and incarceration), as well as the many contributions of those who are considered to be immigrants (read: people of colour).

But it’s a great ad.

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Copyright 2014 Annemarie Shrouder
Author, Speaker and Facilitator on issues of Diversity and Inclusion.


The Politics of Labels

15 Aug

Earlier this week I had a conversation with a friend – about a conversation he had with someone who is new to Canada.

It went something like this:

“What is this “people of colour” business?”
“Well, that’s what we call people who are not white” (note: my friend is white, his friend, who is new to Canada, is not).

“What about coloured people?”
“No! We don’t say that anymore. That’s disrespectful! Actually a new word that is being used is Racialized.”
“Racialized? What does that mean?! Is it a verb or a noun?”
Good questions.

This is a simplified version of the conversation- since my friend is well informed and aware of race and privilege etc. But what came up for us as we spoke about it is that the terms  still label from the white perspective. There is no special term for people who are white. Except white. Or caucasian. But somehow the rest of us get lumped into a broad category that identifies us by what we are not (we are not white, so we are People of Colour) or by how we are seen or maybe treated (through race which is also not white). Racialized suggests to me that something is being done to us – it suggests the negative impact of power and privilege and the experience of not being white in Canada, rather than describing what we look like.

It made me think: what if white people were People  without Colour  in comparison to everyone else? Seems strange, no?

And there we have it. The strangeness is a signal of privilege, and perspective. White still is the colour of power. And the interesting part of labelling is not just the words chosen, but who carries the label. If we had 2 labels – people of colour and people without colour, or racialized and non-racialized – it would suggest a level playing field. But as soon as only one group has a label that differentiates them, it indicates imbalance – and marginalization of some sort.

Ah words.

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copyright 2012 Annemarie Shrouder
Author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity & inclusion.

The Lorax

6 Mar

A little departure from the ordinary, but it all ties in, I promise.

I went to see the movie The Lorax this past Friday. It’s a heartwarming cartoon about the environment – based on the book of the same name by Dr. Seuss.

Great story, great message, great animation. Whether or not you have kids it’s a worthwhile way to spend $13 and a couple of hours.

But that’s not what I want to write about.

A few things struck me, diversity-wise (see, it ties in).

Firstly. All the black people had Afros! A welcome change from the straight flowing hair we sometimes see on people of colour in the movies. It’s a cartoon, but still.

Secondly, and what bothered me enough to blog about it: Why is it necessary to have a character we laugh at, just because of who they are? A character whose sole purpose is entertainment at their own expense. This time it was a large character. A bear, to be exact. But he fit the damaging and hurtful stereotypes of people who are of larger size: he ate the most marshmallows, he was the slowest, and he could never keep up. It made me sad that in a movie with such a great theme (and meant for kids), “the fat kid” had to be the one to add some laughs – for all the wrong reasons.

And just like that, someone gets put aside for who they are – and the rest of us have one more opportunity to reinforce the stereotypes.


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copyright 2012 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity & inclusion

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