I’m NOT racist – I’m multi-tasking! July 22, 2007


253417_3-evon-reid.jpg(RICK EGLINTON/TORONTO STAR)
Evon Reid was in waiting mode on his job application at Queen’s Park until email message arrived.”

I’m just a run of the mill, middle aged, white baby boomer, living in northern Ontario. I do, however, appreciate the ironic moments our modern society often affords those of us who are on the look out for such moments. The online version of the July 21 Toronto Star has a perfect example.

Staff reporter Linda Diebel writes how “Evon Reid[pictured above] couldn’t believe his eyes yesterday morning when he opened an email from the Ontario government’s cabinet office where he’d applied for a position.” She reports that the Email was accidentally copied to Mr. Reid, and that the contents stated that “”This is the ghetto dude that I spoke to before …””

Diebel explains that the author of the Email, Aileen Siu is “[a]n acting team leader in cabinet office hiring, [who] said she was “multi-tasking” Thursday when she hit the wrong button and copied Reid on an email she was sending to a job-search colleague.” By way of explanation Diebel quotes Siu, “… herself a recent U of T political science graduate”, saying that the Email “… wasn’t directed at Evon at all. That was internal … It didn’t have anything to do with any of the applicants …” . Ms. Siu is herself a member of a visible minority. What is painful to see is that the issue for Ms. Siu is not WHAT she said, rather, it’s that she “hit the wrong key”, while multi-tasking, and so Mr. Reid read her comment. Mr Reid, however, does feel there is a problem – a big one that could prevent him from getting a job he is more than qualified for.

Reid’s resume and references, reported in the article, are “stellar” and this issue has opened the whole idea of what racism is and how we all perceive what it is. Ms. Siu is in effect saying that using the term “ghetto dude” is not racist and was meant only as an internal reference. However, racism is not just about guys cloaked in white robes and pointy hats. Racism is a set of assumptions about those perceived as the ‘other’. Racism exists in our minds, mostly unspoken, and it is incidents like this that prove it.

The realization for those of us who belong to the dominant, settler society, is that any of us could have been caught out in the open as Ms. Siu was. We carry hundreds of years worth of a race theory that sought to divide us into superior and inferior cultures. We are on the long road to freeing ourselves from it. And we must, as the global population moves all around the world. Ms. Siu is a reminder of how far we have to go.

In an update in today’s online Toronto Star, Mr. Reid says he “… remains interested in landing the media analyst job, [and] said yesterday the reference to “ghetto dude” is the kind of slight that keeps young black men from getting a job in the first place. “This isn’t a Confederate flag in a pickup truck,” he said. “But it’s the kind of private view that affects decisions about someone like myself in the job market.””

Progressive Conservative leader, John Tory was quoted as saying “[t]here is no place that this should be happening in the Ontario government, but that it comes from the premier’s office is beyond comprehension,” New Democratic MPP Paul Ferreira (York-South Weston) “agreed the apology should come from the premier, and went a step further in urging “sensitivity training” for government employees.”

7 Comments

Filed under Human Rights, Linda Diebel, Racism, Toronto Star

7 responses to “I’m NOT racist – I’m multi-tasking! July 22, 2007

  1. To me this seems more a matter of social and economic class then race. I don’t associate “ghetto” so much with a race as with the poor. I have seen just this kind of class based silliness in my own life, and I’m white, working class…

    There should be an apology and if the fools are smart they’ll give the guy the job!

    The scientifically impossible I do right away
    The spiritually miraculous takes a bit longer

  2. Thanks for the comment. The Premier of the province actually telephoned Mr Reid to apologize. Numerous other functionaries tripped over themselves to distance themseselves from Ms. Siu saying things like she was very “low level and unimportant! Mr Reid said she was VERY important to him since she was his only contact with a job he really wanted.

    It was intersting to see some class issues here – the higher ups being afraid to be assiciated with a person they are responsible for hiring. My point is we all have to do some soul searching and Ms. Siu was a good example as to why we should.

    Take care

  3. Jennifer Teeluck

    It was painful to see these negative beliefs and behaviours very much alive and flourishing in the next generation.

    Mr Reid was described as a “ghetto dude” suggesting he is poor and black. There is a class and race bias.

    This incident is such a good example of the “house slave” mentality I’ve encountered as a Canadian immigrant. The greatest difficulties I encountered when I moved to Canada were caused by individuals who were first generation Canadians. These folks thought of themselves as “the real Canadians” and were not about to let anyone else in the door. They acted as though they “owned” the country and were both zenophobic and racist. Yet when they went home, their parents and grandparents spoke a different language and in some cases spoke neither of the two official languages.
    Sensitivity training must be required for all individuals employed in Human Resources in both the private and public sectors. In fact, it should be a standard part of any worthwhile human resources training program.

  4. Sensitivity training can help open the eyes of individuals in the workplace. However, it won’t solve the problem of centuries of conditioning we receive from the culture we live in, including the media, family biases we grow up with and so on.

    Something is happening from the time we are very young to the time we get into the workworld in which one can say without even thinking, a term like “ghetto dude”. Some would argue that we live too fast and speak without considering the consequences of our words on others let alone ourselves.The term dehumanized Mr Reid as surely as if he were refered to as simply a number. We are forgetting that there are always human beings at the other end of the technology. We are also forgetting the decades of human rights work which has tried to break down the barriers of race and class.

    This story has sure opened the floodgates of debate and awareness.

    Paul Chislett

  5. THIS IS ABSOLUTELY ABSURB,,AS FOR MS.SIU,,I THINK SHE HERSELF SHOULD TAKE A COURSE ON A NUMEROUS OF CLASSES,,EG:PUBLIC RELATIONS,,SENSITIVITY TO MINORITIES,DISCRIMINATING NON GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES,,BEING A MINORITY HERSELF,,I ASSUME SHE IS CAUGHT UP IN HER POSITION OF POWER,WHICH AGAIN IS ANOTHER ISSUE,,I FIND A SUSPENSION IS IN ORDER,,AND A COURSE OF THE MENTIONED ABOVE WOULD BE APPROPRIATE TO THIS NATURE!AND TO SAY IT WAS A MISTAKEN CLERICAL ERROR,,ONES MISTAKE MAY BE ONES REALITY CHECK!HER MISTAKE MAY BE AN EYE OPENER FOR MANY,,, IM SO APPAULLED AT THIS,,AND TO MR.REID,,MAY GOD BLESS YOU WITH ALL THAT YOU ARE DESERVING OF!!!!KEEP UP YOUR JOURNEY TO SUCCESS!!!!

  6. Hi
    I did read that Ms. Siu has left the job she was in. It wasn’t made clear if she left voluntarily or was dismissed.

    Paul

  7. Alexandria

    Ms. Siu, by her explanation, obviously felt comfortable enough to share her racist views with others in her office. Which begs the question, is racism against black people so openly accepted in this office that it is openly exercised amongst the staff?

    As an (ex) employee of a well-known telephone company, I witnessed numerous incidences of racism, typically against black people, in my office. I found that the few individuals that were courageous enough to attempt to have the issue addressed via the company’s established channels, received no support from management and were often labeled as “trouble makers.”

    I commend Evon Reid for having the intestinal fortitude to bring this matter to the public eye. I hope that all who read the article will take a moment to engage in some self-analysis.

    Racism is an offence against ALL decent people.

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