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.”