June 30, 2009

Continuing the debate

Peoples Voice, July 1-31
Johan Boyden

“Don’t blame it on my eyes, blame on my youth” Sammy Davis Jnr. once sang – but a bad infection in the organs of vision has frustrated writing my column. Never mind. My last two articles have created some online debate. Now I reply.

As a student heavily involved in student government and who helped coordinate our students' union's tuition campaign last year, I resent the claim (“Student Movement Today: Tactics and Priorities,” PV June 1-15) that the Canadian Federation of Students is the only way for students and that the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations is a right-wing plot to sabotage students. […] Student issues and access to education are too important to get hung up on ideology.

Respectfully, the history is there to be googled. CASA’s advocacy approach flows from their ‘line of compromise’ politics. Their founder recently authored a US think-tank report calling for a 25% tuition increase across Canada! Likewise, the ideas students demand of the capitalist state are dialectically connected to their struggle in the streets – a mobilized membership is the muscle backing up a student’s alternative agenda. This struggle is inseparable from ideology.

[T]he underlying issue is not "We should be profiling these kids who don't fit in", but why must they fit in? “The Stereotype of Dangerous Youth” PV, June 16-30. Not fitting in isn’t a prerequisite to becoming a reclusive, trigger happy psycho. There are plenty of kids who have flipped out at school who appeared to be perfectly normal children. […] Why should all children be the same and carry the same thoughts and beliefs? That's like asking for two identical bunches of bananas at the grocery store. It doesn't work. The only limitation that inclusive teaching faces is funding, but now we're getting into another issue (because funding should NOT be a problem when it comes to education or health care, but apparently the BC government thinks otherwise).

The Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives estimates that in 2004–05, $300 million would have been needed to maintain the same level of education funding as the 1990s, adjusting for inflation. But in 34 out of 92 BC school districts funding is frozen; overall it is decreasing. The BC Teacher’s Federation has also just documented that cash-strapped School Districts are hiring new administrators, not teachers. This is indicated by the decreasing teacher/administrator ratio in 42 districts from ‘04-‘05 to ‘08-’09 (like negative 30% in Kootenay Columbia District 20). However, with over 175 public BC school closures since 2002, when the Campbell Liberal’s took office, some districts like 52 Prince Rupert have positive results: both groups have lost jobs.

Re: “Dangerous Youth” I don't think racial profiling has anything to do with social malaise or a fetish of violence in terms of a cause. It has to do with one group of people repressing another and keeping them subordinate, not letting them get ahead. You could have upbeat social conditions and unarmed police but that would not solve the problem of racial profiling. Racial profiling is where racial fears are used to target people of a subordinate group and shake them down for anything that will stick. As long as there is white supremacy there will be racial profiling.[…]

Discussing racial profiling together with other forms of stereotyping was, I agree, awkward. A recent Huffington Post article by Rinku Sen, publisher of ColourLines magazine, talks about the murders of Stephen T. Johns (a black security guard at the Holocaust Museum killed by an anti-Semite) and also abortion clinic physician George Tiller (shot by a man with roots in the ‘racial purity movement’). “There's been lots of discussion about why hate crimes are rising and how to prevent future tragedies, yet we've largely missed the relationship between extremist racism and the less obvious version,” Sen writes. “Social psychologists […] tell us that notions of the innate goodness of white people and the equally innate badness of people of color are so deeply embedded in our minds that we're totally unaware of making such judgments.” Differences aside, Canadian and US history is the partly bloody tale of a ruling class fostering racism. What danger is posed to that ruling class by non-aboriginal workers, especially white workers, inseparably linking the national grievances of Natives with their own liberation, and considering Aboriginal people’s militancy proudly worth emulating?

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