There exists a strange sort of arrogance in Canadian culture. It’s one that helps us feel a meager measure of superiority over our larger, louder, more populous and far less concerned neighbors to the South. It’s one that values the idea of a cultural mosaic above that of a melting pot, and it imagines that such a hierarchy of values rings true in the hearts of every Canadian. It’s one that says:
Hey there, Mr. and Mrs. Immigrant, there’s a nice little place for you right here in the collective stained glass window of our nation.
It’s patently false. We’re a country of ignorant and stupid morons who discriminate against people with differences just like every other nation on earth. What’s so maddening to me about Canada’s xenophobia is that a) I live in this country and not others, where I’m sure I’d be equally disturbed by it; b) That we imagine ourselves to be so high above something that we’re not; and c) The continued platform given to Don Cherry by Canada’s national broadcasting network.
On the Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, Gurdeep Ahluwalia and Nabil Karim hosted TSN’s Sports Centre (notice the “re” instead of the “er”), as they did once before in March of 2012. Both Ahluwalia and Karim have brown-colored skin. This, to many Canadian sports fans who are used to seeing the white-colored skin of Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole was cause to take to social media and express off-colored jokes.
The blatantly racist tweets are obnoxious and awful, and the fact that they were so obviously written with the intent of being amusing – ”Hey buddies, look at me mock someone based on the color of their skin” – makes the whole disgusting business seem almost conspiratorial. It also leads me to believe that those using social media, including myself, lead a far more sheltered existence than we previously imagined.
The majority of the people that you and I follow online and who follow you and I in return are likely to be of a similar mindset to our own. We interact with these people a great deal, so much in fact, that it’s entirely possible one subset of social media users could believe the expression of their racism to be amusing to all, while another could hardly imagine such sentiment existing at all.
However, a tsk tsking of online racism is like throwing a glass of water into the ocean. I’m completely fine with leaving those elements of our society far, far behind the rest of us as we attempt to socially evolve away from minds made of primordial mush.
What’s of note in this specific case is the more inherent tone of racism suggested by social media users who imagined Ahluwalia and Karim to be lacking in sports knowledge based solely on their skin color. That one would ignorantly assume another to be uninformed without a shred of evidence may be the least humorous bit of irony I’ve ever encountered.
What saddens me specifically is that these miscreants who would make such comments – subtle and overt – are representatives of sports fandom and culture, something over which I’m obsessed and of which I count myself a part. These people are the reason why sports fans are typically seen by the non-sporting set to be little more than the Australopithecus who slammed them into a locker in high school on his way to having sexual intercourse with all of the cheerleaders. And as far as stereotypes go, there is far more evidence to support this one than brown-skinned Canadians not knowing anything about hockey.
So, how can this type of behavior be assumed to be acceptable by its perpetrators? Well, it certainly doesn’t help matters that a senile xenophobe is allowed to race-bait on the nation’s highest-rated television spot during the weekly broadcast of our country’s pastime through the purposeful mispronunciation of foreign names and affecting an effeminate voice to imitate any argument against him.
The acceptance of Don Cherry’s racist rantings as “telling it like it is” creates a celebration among hockey viewers of “politically incorrect” statements. Unfortunately, “telling it like it is” is merely code for myopic viewpoint ahead. While yes, ignorantly spouting off harmful opinions with little basis in reality that contain subtle digs at anything other than Cherry’s idea of the normal might be politically incorrect, the complete and utter lack of satire or any enhancement of perspective doesn’t make it heroic or valuable.
Embracing the racist stereotypes promoted by the seventh “Greatest Canadian” only serves to further another stereotype: That of the meat-headed and moronic sports fan. If ignorantly assuming another to be uninformed without a shred of evidence is the least humorous bit of irony imaginable, furthering your own negative stereotype through the embracing of another may be a close runner up. It’s to the credit of TSN, Ahluwalia and Karim that they all so ably rise above such nonsense, even while those who would insult them drown in the loathsome sea of their racist rancor.
The obliviousness of Canadians to their continued acceptance of racism stares a great many of them right in the face every Saturday night.