I recently denounced a capsule from the “in class” section of the Télé-Québec website addressing the notion of “systemic racism”. Last I heard, the Ministry of Education has never included such teaching in its curriculum, and I sincerely believe that we should have a serious social debate before considering teaching this concept in our secondary schools.
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The notion of systemic racism and its related theories, such as “white privilege”, “white fragility”, “microaggressions” or “gun words”, in my opinion pose several risks for social peace, as I do. explained in a previous letter. Recent events, such as the censorship of The Little Life, the sidelining of a film professor and the call for help from law professors at the University of Ottawa, the banning of the book White Negroes of America and the professor who had dared to mention it to Concordia, the dismissal of a CBC reporter for the same reason, the grants awarded on the basis of skin color by Ottawa to calls from academics to “define the police ”, should urge us to be extremely careful.
Systemic racism is a vague and catch-all concept, from which, however, only one conclusion can be drawn: there is racism. Moreover, Télé-Québec uses a very different definition of this concept from that of the Human Rights Commission. Invariably, however, we will use the same two paths leading to the conclusion of racism. The first is to say that as soon as, subjectively, one feels a microagression or an inequity, it is that there is systemic racism. Any questioning of the existence or not of racism on an objective basis then amounts to ignoring the victims. The second is to argue that when there is social inequality between groups, sorted according to their skin color, it is again necessarily proof of systemic racism.
In short, we simplify the issues and inequalities, through the unique prism of skin color. In doing so, we are missing out on what are central issues; for example, the Télé-Québec capsule seems to suggest that colonialism is only the act of white people subjugating people of color. The reality is that a white person can also be a victim of the colonialism of another empire – the history of Quebec, you know?
By putting in people’s heads the idea that they should be sorted by race or by color, we create classifications that are not only simplistic, but which will potentially exacerbate the problem of racism by reviving racial identity to the detriment of citizen identity. We are no longer Quebeckers, we would henceforth be skin tones, with the roles of predetermined victims and torturers.
Bullying is central to how these theories become now indisputable “facts”. Certain intellectuals and academics have started to organize a counter-discourse in front of this ideology; this is notably the case with Chomsky, Atwood et al. in their letter on justice and open debate and the book Cynical theories: How universities explain everything by race, gender and identity – and why this harms everyone.
The Parti Québécois is the bearer of a national citizen and universal identity, in which we are all Quebeckers, regardless of our individual differences. Our civic vision implies a fight against racism that we fully assume, particularly with regard to institutional racism against the natives. Canada promotes a racial and community identity, in addition to maintaining the Indian Act. So we have choices to make.
Contrary to what Québec solidaire claims, it is not for teachers to decide what to teach children: we have a National Assembly and a Ministry of Education for that. We therefore come to the only possible conclusion: the capsule on systemic racism must find its rightful place on the Télé-Québec site, because it is part of the public debate, but we must avoid associating it with the school curriculum. . So let’s take it out of the “in class” section and discuss it openly.
Paul St-Pierre Plamondon
Leader of the Parti Quebecois