It is difficult for me to be objective when discussing race relations since I share DNA with relatives who are generally presumed to be of a different race than me. I have one full blood sister who has two children, one of whom is black. Therefore, apart from my own immediate family, half of my closest relatives are black. However, when they see us together, the assumption made by many people is that his blackness means he is part of a different race than me since I am obviously white and of European ancestry. The truth of the matter is that we are provably closely related both genetically and socially, closer than I am to most other people with whom I am supposed to share a racial heritage.
His existence raises a very interesting point about the perception of blackness in a racial context. The black nephew is my sister’s son and she is white. It is his father who is black. The fact is that, in a hereditary sense, he is as much white as he is black, more so, in fact, since his father’s ancestry included some white and Chinese people. The question, then, since he is more than 50% white, is why is he referred to as being black? The short answer is that he is. His skin is quite a dark brown, well within society’s assumed definition for being considered to be black. Nevertheless, while in appearance he is black, he was raised in a typically English household by a typically English family, eating typically English food and taught typically English manners and customs. In other words, apart from his skin colour, he is typically English. As most people are aware the English are descendants of the Angles and Saxons, both white, Germanic races. He is typically white in everything except skin colour. The point is that his skin colour is an anomaly of his genetics since he is more than half white according to his genes. I might also add that there is a clear family resemblance between him and one of my own sons.
He obviously is the exception that proves, or tests, the rule. In fact, his blackness tests two rules: the rule that English people are white, and the rule that black people are of a different race than white people. He not only tests the rule, he proves it to be wrong in both cases. He is thoroughly English and is no different from any other English person in attitudes and lifestyle.
I have used my nephew as an example to show just how ridiculous it is to classify people according to the degree of melanin in their skin, yet this is done regularly both by individuals and by nations. It is not only black people who are treated like that. People with distinct physical characteristics, whether that is skin colour or body features, are treated much the same way by the majority in their country of residence. This leads to the ridiculous situation of having a group being denigrated in one part of the world, and complaining about it, and doing the denigrating in another part of the world and rejecting the same complaint about themselves. When are we going to reach the state when we fully and truly accept that there is only one race among humans?
Have you ever heard someone say something like, “Well, I don’t care if she goes out with him, and I’m not prejudiced against abc (enter the racial group of your choice), but I don’t see why she wants to marry him. Couldn’t she find somebody xyz (enter the speaker’s racial group)?” I’ve heard expressions like that, both in the UK and Canada. It reflects an attitude all too common, that being friends and socialising is one thing, but marrying, having sex and children who are neither of the one racial group nor the other and who consequently “contaminate” the family, is a calamity. It is not a calamity. The children are just children and will reflect whatever culture indoctrinates them as they grow and mature. They will be as much a delight to the family as are all children.
This anti-others attitude shows up in other ways as well, sometimes in what are usually considered to be quite respectable environments, such as mainstream newspapers. Right now (July 2015) it is quite common to hear and read comments about the success of the Chinese economy and how China has so much money invested in western corporations and as loans to western governments that they may already own the world’s economy. Such comments are always expressed in a manner which raises the fear that Chinese economic success must, almost by definition, undermine the economic success of the west.
The subject of free trade agreements with various nations is a topic that leads to a great deal of discussion, pro and con. I do not want to get embroiled in whether it is desirable for Canada or not, but there is undoubtedly an undercurrent of racial focus, if not outright discrimination, to the debate. Apparently we are to believe that increased free trade is of benefit only if it is between those nations who have the approval of political influenci who think their opinions on such matters should guide our country, and that trade between an approved nation and one on the non-approved side of the tracks, such as China, will bring economic disaster. In other words, we are told at one time that free trade under NAFTA is guaranteed to bring prosperity, but at another time we are told that free trade with China will be a calamity. How is that not racist? Fortunately, this kind of subtle racism is declining as the world moves towards greater integration of the economies of all nations.
For tens of thousands of years humans have moved from one part of the world to another, trying to improve the quality of life and opportunities for their family members. This is a very ancient practice going back to paleohistoric times when species of man migrated out of Africa in waves to populate Europe and Asia, culminating in the final migrations of Homo sapiens and producing offspring with Homo neanderthalensis and Denisovan man to populate Europe and Asia respectively. This process is still going on as populations constantly shift throughout the world.
In Canada, being a young nation, immigration from other more populated parts of the world is a major factor in the growth of our nation and economy. Although immigration is fairly strictly controlled, our population has almost doubled since I came to Canada with my wife and son in 1967. Then the population was about 20 million. Now the population is about 36 million. There have been changes, though. In those days migration into Canada was predominantly from Europe, particularly the United Kingdom, and British immigration was particularly encouraged as Canada was an important part of the Commonwealth and had been a traditional source of new Canadians. British immigrants were also treated differently than immigrants from other parts of the world, being able to become citizens by swearing in front of an immigration official by appointment rather than in open court on specified days, for instance. In addition, since the languages spoken were essentially the same, it was much easier for British people to assimilate so that they were viewed as Canadians very quickly.
Most of that has now changed. A large part of the immigration into Canada is now from countries other than Britain and Western Europe and special privileges for any one group have been removed so that all are treated equally. This has resulted in some changes regarding from which parts of the world new Canadians now originate. In addition, Canada has often increased immigration during times of violent social unrest and wars in various countries, taking in numbers of refugees as a humanitarian gesture. Consequently, the population in Canada is significantly more varied than it used to be. This is sometimes seen as a defect and dire calamity is prophesied if it continues. Once again, this is nonsense, and there is absolutely no indication that Canada is at risk of a Muslim jihad because of immigration by people who are followers of Islam. There are always fanatics, in Christianity as well as Islam, but neither is about to take over Canada and turn it into a theocratic state any more than the influx of Vietnamese after the American defeat led to Canada becoming Buddhist. The vast majority of Canadians value our democracy and I fully expect it to continue and thrive well into the future.
Religion, however, is not the only basis for prejudice in immigration. It is not uncommon in British Columbia to hear negative remarks about Chinese and South Asian immigrants. Since people who speak the same language tend to live in the same areas of cities they can become, or appear to be, a large group who do not assimilate. Once again, the perception is misleading and the children of these immigrants assimilate perfectly well, speaking both English and their mother tongue. Despite that, older immigrants who do not speak English and prefer the freedom to associate with other immigrants in similar circumstances are seen as the standard for their group, when they are, in fact, a minority within it. The racist element in this attitude becomes obvious when we consider that English immigrants also meet with each other, as do Germans, French, Irish and many others, and they do so without race based criticism. Sometimes people just want to talk in their own language or dialect, while relaxing in an environment of their own culture. It is not unique to Chinese people and East Indians. Almost every group does it to some degree, but to single out and comment negatively on a group who stand out due to some physical characteristic is to practice discrimination in its most negative connotation.
It is often said that there is only one race among mankind: the human race. That is a truism, but there are many people who do not follow through on the consequences of that, preferring an arbitrary and divisive classification of people based on a few, unimportant, physical characteristics and language. If we truly believe that there is only one human race, then it must surely follow that success by any part of it is success for all of it. The economic rise of China now is equally the economic rise of humanity in general as was the economic rise of Great Britain and that of the USA in the past. Surely it can be seen that improvement in the economies of various nations is part of a centuries long process leading to a rise in living standards for all mankind. I do not object to other countries wanting to improve the living standards of their population. I welcome it, although I do want it to be in a manner which does not cause irreparable damage to our only home.
The rise in the economy of Europe has already happened, as has the rise of the North American economy. The Asian economy, including China, Korea and other nations, is currently on the rise. I presume that when that is accomplished there will be a rise in either the South American or African economies, or perhaps that of the Pacific Islands or the Middle East. I suspect I will no longer be present to see the whole world benefited in this way, but I do expect it will happen. Perhaps along the way we can learn to accept and respect each other no matter where we live.
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