Ever since that Fête Nationale parade fiasco I’ve been watching the columns pop up from both sides and I’ve pretty much read them all. The denial and the unwillingness to acknowledge that something went astray and that it was symbolic of a bigger problem has left me speechless – and more than a little disappointed.
Not that I have to show my Quebec card for my point of view to have added value, but this is how I woke up on June 24 and this is what I tweeted.
— Toula Drimonis (@ToulasTake) June 24, 2017
This is what I immediately tweeted out after two minutes of watching that debacle.
@fetenatmtl, vous êtes à l'aise avec ça? Personne n'a remis en question cette décision douteuse?
— Toula Drimonis (@ToulasTake) June 24, 2017
It shouldn’t have taken the parade organizers two entire days to come back with an official apology. It was a mistake. A bad one, and one that would have blown over for the most part by Day Two if they had simply come out and admitted it and vowed to do better. Instead, all that denial simply escalated the situation even more. With accusations flying left and right, let’s just clarify a few things here.
No, Quebec isn’t any more racist and intolerant than the rest of Canada, but that’s not saying bloody much. No one should get a medal for being less racist or equally racist. It’s not a race to the bottom here.
No, I don’t think that the unfortunate optics that took place were deliberate or malicious, but they were a clear representation of willful blindness and whitewashing that happens here, like elsewhere.
The fact that that embarrassing mistake was even allowed to play out and no one EVEN NOTICED speaks volumes about the lack of diversity in upper management of such events and the lack of historical awareness and cultural sensitivity that often plagues them. It needs to be rectified.
No, I don’t want to hear about how “you don’t see colour” (only white people say that shit, by the way) when systemic discrimination and racism has been repeatedly documented here and in the ROC, when only five out of 125 members of the Quebec National Assembly are from racialized communities, and only four out of 103 City of Montreal councillors are racialized, even though visible minorities account for 30 percent of this city’s population.
I’ve refrained from adding my two cents to this conversation until now because I’m frankly exhausted at my allegiance and loyalty to Quebec being questioned every single time I point out that we have a problem.
Because, in Quebec, this is always how it plays out: If you’re a Francophone Quebecer and say something bad about Quebec, you’re treated as a traitor to the cause.
If you’re an Anglophone, you’re already suspect and must prove allegiance to Quebec. Anything deemed as critical of Quebec will instantly lead to accusations of committing “Quebec bashing”. Even if, as in my case, I have written a ridiculous number of columns over the years attacking the ROC’s Quebec bashing, my motives are always suspect because I write in English and Toula is clearly not a name any of les Filles du Roi had while coming over on that boat oh, so long ago.
If, on top of living and working as an Anglophone, you happen to be an Allophone, you are routinely told to “go back to where you came from, if you don’t like it here” in the comments section. It’s a waste of time to try and explain that you were born here and that despite speaking three languages and living abroad for a decade, you actually CHOSE to live here because you LOVE it here.
As someone who moderated the comments sections of news websites for years, I’ve seen the hateful and dismissive messages that many from the ROC will launch against Quebecers. I’ve also seen the terrible messages that French-speaking Quebecers will post against English speakers. If you think that one particular group has a monopoly on civility and fairness you are going to be sorely disappointed. Blinders (particularly of the political and linguistic kind) have the ability to make people see what they want to see and nothing more.
Our racism problem isn’t any bigger than everyone else’s racism problem, but it’s a PROBLEM and it needs to be tackled, not denied or swept under the rug just to appease those who feel bad about being called out.
Being called out on your blind spots is SUPPOSED to feel bad and uncomfortable. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or a malicious human being. It means you have a BLIND SPOT and in this day and age, with the internet at your fingertips and with this specific issue coming up multiple times in the past few years, there is simply no more justifying to be had for ignorance and lack of awareness and there is no more excuse for it.
Our biggest problem as I see it now is our inability to criticize what’s happening under our noses without the conversation always being derailed by people too concerned about how it makes Quebec look.
I DON’T CARE HOW IT MAKES US LOOK!! Parade apologists can’t possibly claim that the optics were bad for that float, but no one should be concerned by it, and than with the very same breath be horrified by the optics concerning Quebec. Which is it? Do optics matter, or don’t they?
This isn’t a hateful attack from “outsiders”. A Francophone took the video footage, most of the people I’ve seen outraged have been French-speaking. To imply that this criticism is motivated by linguistic politics or by internalized hatred of Quebec is to minimize and diminish people’s real concerns. It’s unfair, it’s counter-productive, and it’s equivalent to sticking our heads in the sand.
I love this place enough that my expectations are high. I’m not “picking” on Quebec because I hate it or because I’m looking to make Quebecers look bad (as way too many columns have already suggested of anyone appalled by that parade visual). I AM a Quebecer, why in the world would I want to make us look bad? I simply love this place enough to expect and want better for us all.
Derailing the conversation, getting our backs up against the wall, and making excuses is helping no one. We can do a lot better. And right now the only thing we’re excelling at is denial.