Remembrance Day: A Sikh on the Poppy

Growing up as a Sikh in Alberta in the 80’s and 90’s was… interesting.  It seemed like we were always in the news, whether because of kirpans in schools or turbans in the RCMP, always because we were vying for our rights to honour both our faith and our country. 

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Who Counts as Chinese? The World of 9-Man

It's evident within the opening moments of director Ursula Liang's engrossing documentary, 9-Man, that the world it explores is knotted with issues of race and masculinity. "This was something uniquely ours," says a coach, reflecting on how pioneering Asian players didn't have to worry about their larger white or Black friends "muscling in." 

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Ontario Oreo: Court the Ethnic Vote, Keep the Centre White

How do you court the approval of white voters while trying to make everyone else feel included? In Ontario, you do it very carefully. Our province is home to a large percentage of Canada’s visible minority population, and has received the biggest share of immigrants to Canada for the last 10 years and beyond. But you wouldn’t know it by following our political campaigns.

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This One's For the Children

I'm a former child bookworm who was hurt and confused by the racism in some of my favourites (I suppose Frances Hodgson Burnett was just "a product of her time"). I'm also a very new parent who wants my babe to love books, but avoid those icky feelings. So I was unhappy to see the stark stats in a recent New York Times piece about characters of colour in children's books--of thousands of books published in the U.S. last year, not even 500 have African-American or Latina protagonists--and pleased that it sparked some good convos on Twitter.

I figured that compiling all of the suggested books into a handy list would be handy. Thanks to everyone for their suggestions, most especially Amena Rajwani of the Toronto Public Library . If you've got more, add them in the comments!

After the jump: a WHOLE BUNCH of multicultural books for babies, kids and teens (in absolutely no particular order):

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Navigating High School

In grade 10, I transferred from a small French-language public school to Oakwood Collegiate Institute on St. Clair West. In the papers, Oakwood was described as “multicultural;” to me, it was where my dad and uncle passed through after moving to Canada from Jamaica during their adolescence.

My old school was comprised of students whose parents were from Quebec and the Francophonie at large, especially African countries colonized by France. There, I learned that Toronto’s construction of “diversity” was  (to borrow from theorist Raymond Williams’ definitions of community) positive and warmly persuasive.

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Innocent Bystanders

The nightmare that has been Toronto’s political news scene for the past three years seems to have finally reached its awful zenith. With allegations that Mayor Rob Ford may have smoked crack and made homophobic, racist remarks on video, there is no end to the ill effects of this latest head-shaking fiasco: the continued reduction of our municipal political sphere to a never-ending circus; the serious harm done to Toronto’s international image by a man who claims to be raising its business profile; and the simple fact that a city that was finally starting to hit its stride has been seriously set back by its woefully inadequate mayor.

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David Mamet's Race at Canadian Stage

This is a Toronto blog, and here's my Toronto take on Race: America is weird. After seeing last night's premiere of David Mamet's play (starring, yes, Jason Priestley), my main thought was that we really need to do a Canada vs. USA issue of the Ethnic Aisle, and examine how very differently the two countries experience race and ethnicity

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Don't Name Your Sports Teams After Aboriginals. Just Don't.

Today on Twitter, the Ottawa Citizen’s Dan Gardner asked why sports teams named after aboriginal tribes/artifacts are problematic when the Minnesota Vikings et al. are not. I’ve been thinking about this ever since the Atlanta Braves announced the return of its “Screaming Savage” logo in December, so here's my answer.

The only team that I could think of that’s named after a symbol of privilege is the Ottawa Senators. So first off, why don’t we name teams after actual symbols of power, rather than just weird caricatures of power? The Toronto F.C. Derivatives! The Georgian Bay Docks! It's worth thinking about why some groups are allowed to be caricatured (like the Senate, am I right?) and some are not.

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Kendrick Lamar and the nuclear family in rap

Kendrick Lamar's Good Kid, m.A.A.d. city is one of the most remarkable albums of our time for a number of reasons. The music is groundbreaking, the lyrics are complex, and it appeals to all facets of what falls under the umbrella of hip-hop

But, in my mind, the most unheralded unique aspect of GKMC is one that's most important to society as a whole. Through the voicemail skits that drive the narrative of the album, Kendrick introduces us to his parents. His real parents, not voice actors.

Perhaps this is the first truly intergenerational rap album.

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Theresa, for Chief Theresa Spence

Melody McKiver is a young Ojibwe multi-instrumentalist, improviser, and academic that splits her time between Ottawa and Toronto. As a solo performer, she explores the range of the viola’s possibilities, spanning from minimalist to danceable, sometimes incorporating laptop processing and looping. Melody’s musical practice spans across viola/violin, drums and percussion, and guitar, drawing upon a broad set of influences that includes hip-hop, electronic, global bass, contemporary classical, jazz, and blues. Melody also records and produces digital media under the pseudonym Gitochige, which is the Anishinaabemowin word for “s/he plays an instrument.

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The Culture Bucket

In recent weeks, as stories about Idle No More or rape in India have populated our news media, I’ve been reminded yet again that differences in culture can’t be boiled down to pat clichés about cuisine, but are instead about ways of understanding the world. The tension lingering around divisions between cultural groups seems more present than usual, and I half expect that at any moment the city’s ethnic groups might break out into 1950s-style street fight replete with switchblades and greased hair.

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Authenticity at Jane and Finch: African Dutch Wax Fabrics

During my early childhood, my Ghanaian immigrant parents decided to move our family to the north Toronto neighbourhood of Jane and Finch. Jane and Finch hosts one of the largest Ghanaian communities in the city, so I became quite accustomed to seeing small parades of women (and occasionally their spouses and children) covered head to toe in African print fabrics.

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Barbershop Battle: Is refusing haircuts a religious right, or gender discrimination?

    1. Shortly after being denied a hair cut at the Bay Street barber shop, McGregor filed a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission. The story itself, though, didn't make it to the papers till this month. On November 3, Xtra! ran a feature on the issue by staff reporter Andrea Houston:
    2. Toronto Star's Tim Alamenciak followed up this week:
    3. And then things heated up on Twitter yesterday. Whose rights trump whose? And need there be a hierarchy? Here's are some comments that stuck out for us.
    4. KimberlyAsal
      Why in the eff did I look at the profile of the lady who wrote the barbershop article. How about all the hateful white people just chill?
      Thu, Nov 15 2012 08:29:02

    5. dreahouston
      @KimberlyAsal If his religion prevents him from being a barber, and following Ont's human rights law, perhaps cutting hair is not for him.
      Thu, Nov 15 2012 08:37:55

    6. dreahouston
      @ccamilleb It's a slippery slope to a pharmacist denying a woman Plan B on religious grounds. @sol_chrom
      Thu, Nov 15 2012 08:02:37

    7. ccamilleb
      @dreahouston @sol_chrom and it's also a slippery slope to us all losing religious freedoms. this kind of hyperbole is pointless.
      Thu, Nov 15 2012 08:19:34

    8. dreahouston
      @ccamilleb @sol_chrom FFS! Do you know what "religious freedom" is? No one is trying to take away your right to be religious.
      Thu, Nov 15 2012 08:21:38

    9. KimberlyAsal
      @dreahouston @ccamilleb There's a very logical reason for what happened, but your bias prevents you from even considering what that might be
      Thu, Nov 15 2012 08:35:12

Thu, Nov 15 2012 08:27:15

  • dreahouston
    @ccamilleb You can't "impose" secularism. No one is saying you must reject your religious beliefs.
    Thu, Nov 15 2012 08:29:14

  • KimberlyAsal
    @dreahouston @ccamilleb That's exactly what's being argued. You can't cherry pick someone else's faith - ur not that man or his experiences.
    Thu, Nov 15 2012 08:36:22

  • KimberlyAsal
    We need to chill out on privileged snap judgements, assuming all Muslims are this one picture you have in your mind, baseless...
    Thu, Nov 15 2012 08:37:23

  • KimberlyAsal
    . @dreahouston ON law also protects his right to faith. No one forced her to be Muslim. She walked into his business for men only.
    Thu, Nov 15 2012 08:45:34

  • KimberlyAsal
    . @dreahouston You can't force a man to breach his faith for convenience. If that's offensive, you should really rethink your feminism.
    Thu, Nov 15 2012 08:48:18

  • dreahouston
    @KimberlyAsal I'd hardly call discrimination, "convenience." No one says he can't be a Muslim, but she has a right to not be denied service.
    Thu, Nov 15 2012 08:53:34

  • ccamilleb
    @dreahouston he can refuse service when it goes against his religious beliefs and she can choose to go elsewhere. no one should be FORCED.
    Thu, Nov 15 2012 08:51:54

  • KimberlyAsal
    . @dreahouston There's context & nuance to everything. This case is re trying to force him to do something w/ his body that he doesn't want.
    Thu, Nov 15 2012 09:03:06

  • dreahouston
    @KimberlyAsal Y'know you sound a lot like the Catholic school boards who screamed, "you can't FORCE us to accept gay-straight alliances!"
    Thu, Nov 15 2012 08:56:31

  • KimberlyAsal
    . @dreahouston No, you're saying you want him to be Muslim on your terms, & I'm saying that that's entirely absurd.
    Thu, Nov 15 2012 08:58:32

  • KimberlyAsal
    . @dreahouston No, this man wants to run a private business to provide for his family & the comparison is absurd. You seem to be scrambling.
    Thu, Nov 15 2012 08:59:31

  • dreahouston
    @KimberlyAsal Why is it absurd to expect that all businesses to serve all customers equally?
    Thu, Nov 15 2012 09:00:32

  • KimberlyAsal
    . @dreahouston What about female stylists who refuse to give beauty treatments to men? (which is SO COMMON).
    Thu, Nov 15 2012 09:01:21

  • dreahouston
    @KimberlyAsal And I believe there's been challenges to those as well. A woman-only fitness club faced a challenge. (looking for a link)
    Thu, Nov 15 2012 09:04:36

  • KimberlyAsal
    . @dreahouston I'm talking re how aestheticians won't give men Brazilian waxes, or even face waxes. That's not faith driven, it's preference
    Thu, Nov 15 2012 09:09:11

  • KimberlyAsal
    . @dreahouston & we know that freedom of religion & practice are protected in this country.
    Thu, Nov 15 2012 09:09:34

  • dreahouston
    @KimberlyAsal That's why the case of the barber shop is a case of "competing rights." The Tribunal will decide, not you or me. Democracy!
    Thu, Nov 15 2012 09:11:51

  • KimberlyAsal
    @RafayAgha @septembrea But I do believe if he really feels he shouldn't touch women outside his family, it's his right. It's his body & life
    Thu, Nov 15 2012 09:37:47

  • ccamilleb
    @dreahouston so you're ok with him being muslim so long as he doesn't practice it? that's on par with 'you can be gay but don't act on it'
    Thu, Nov 15 2012 11:17:03

  • dreahouston
    @ccamilleb Um, no. I think a larger public debate is valid when practicing a religion means another persons rights are violated.
    Thu, Nov 15 2012 11:23:12