Hysteria Knows No Borders

Discourse Online contributor, Kevin Richard responds to a November 11, 2016 Huffington Post article by Nicki Sharma entitled: “White Canadians, Be Honest: Do We Need To Be Afraid of You?” According to the Huffington Post, Ms. Sharma is a lawyer who practices aboriginal law.

Dear Ms. Sharma,

Since learning that I am so deeply feared on the basis of the colour of my skin, I thought I’d accept your open invitation for response. I must admit that I was somewhat puzzled by your article, especially in light of your commendable response to the racial slurs recently directed at you. I strongly suspect that the substitution of “white” for any other colour would make you quiver at the sound of your own words.

In case you’re wondering where I fit into the categories to which you assign much importance, I am a white, bilingual, bicultural (French-Canadian and English-Canadian), male. These categories may indeed provide some insight into my perspective, but to anyone who claims to judge a man on the basis of his character, they should have no bearing on my credibility as a man of independent thought and opinion.

Contrary to what you believe, my pale complexion didn’t completely shield my child-self from receiving insults that were designed to make me the “other”. Skin colour, though easily targeted, is far from the only basis on which this occurs. Othering is evidence of the harsh reality of the flawed human condition, and of the tendency to raise oneself by debasing another. While this practice is certainly alive and well at home and abroad, it is insufficient to claim social inequality on its basis alone, since the same claim could also be extended to large portions of broader society.

Though it is unreasonable for any serious observer of human behaviour to believe that othering can be completely eradicated, it should certainly be resisted. As a preventive measure, every generation should teach the next the virtues of civility and basic human decency; and as a reactive measure, every generation should teach the next how to develop resilience in the face of adversity. To claim social inequality and exclusion solely on the basis of insults is to concede victory to your verbal aggressor.

It is from this perspective that you then evaluate the results of the US presidential election. The ease with which it is assumed that Trump’s victory represents a racist and dangerous backlash from “White America” demonstrates an astonishing lack of investigative rigour. The evidence on which the character of an entire colour-category of people is attacked is flimsy and selective.

Can the multitude of factors at play in an election be so easily dismissed? Are there not legitimate distinctions to be made between illegal immigration and legal immigration, and between Jihadism and Islam? Isn’t condemning someone as a racist for receiving an unsolicited endorsement by a racist organisation an example of guilt by association? Didn’t American voters just recently elect a biracial man to two consecutive terms as President?

Following this loosely-constructed conclusion, white Canadians are then asked to explain how they feel about Trumps’ victory, hinting that any sense of joy is akin to supporting and embracing a long list of “isms”, and that non-white Canadians should therefore be dreadfully scared. I can’t speak for other white Canadians, but here is my answer:

Lacking any enthusiasm for any candidate, I was little more than a curious Canadian observer on election night. The only delight I experienced was in watching the baffled political foreseers lose all sense of orientation as voters harshly rejected their exaggerated smearing of Trump and his supporters. But rest assured, no joyful support was felt for the winner.

I’m not sure if my answer relieves your anxieties, but I would hope you could now worry less about at least one white Canadian. More importantly, however, is that I hope Canadians will rise above the frantic post-election hysteria that you and others are importing from the U.S. No good can from it, so please, as a fellow Canadian of equal status, I politely ask that you leave it south of the border.


Kevin Richard