After all, anyone who didn't vote for President Obama must have been a racist, right?
And we are know that the "tea baggers" are nothing but a bunch of racists ... even though the latest polls paint a slightly different picture, revealing that although they were slightly more likely to be employed, male and definitely more conservative, in several other respects, "their age, educational background, employment status, and race -- Tea Partiers are quite representative of the public at large."
But what do I know? I just find it strange is all.
Not that Canada is that much better.
As just one example, we have the complaints made on behalf of Cheryfa MacAulay Jamal to the Halifax Regional Police and the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission about a 2008 cartoon in the Chronicle Herald. The police complaint was apparently made under under Section 318 of the Criminal Code, as "hate propaganda", more commonly known as a "hate crime".
Of course, whether you're default position is racism or some other form of discrimination, the result is really the same. Real racism and real discrimination do occur. But when we find it lurking under every rock or in every bizarre (uncaring, stupid, pick your word) comment someone makes, we are marginalizing the whole concept to the point of meaningless. And that is dangerous.
So why bring this up now?
Yesterday, I thought this story in the Chronicle Herald was a bit odd - two parents were more than a little upset about a comment made by Karen Hilchey, a substitute teacher, to their 12-year-old daughter. The teacher, who was filling in for a music class allegedly pointed at their daughter, who had been adopted from China, and said, "We are all white Christians here, except for you."
The child's mother not only wanted an apology from the school board, but had also contacted the RCMP and the provincial Education Department "seeking an investigation and a guarantee that the teacher will not be in the classroom again".
That was all of the story we had yesterday, no context to even try to explain the comment. Which, admittedly, struck me as more than a little strange and unusual for a teacher to make. What call would a music teacher have to even note such a thing? Yet alone point out the child in front of the whole class?
A stellar example of good teaching practice? Not so much.
Were the parents justified in seeking an explanation? Sure.
The headline read "Racist Remark Sparks Outrage". The mother referred to never having experienced any racism before. And the police received a complaint and had visited the school as part of their investigation.
Today, we see the teacher scrambling madly to clarify the "misunderstanding" and give the comment some context. You can read her side of the story for yourself and draw your own conclusions.
I would think that an apology to the child and an explanation to the parents are no doubt in order. Perhaps even some sensitivity training in assisting the teacher with implementing her good intentions in the classroom. Or perhaps not.
But here is what I don't get.
Tait [the mother] said she’s still bewildered about the classroom address. She is pursuing the matter with the RCMP to see if the incident with her daughter can be considered an alleged hate crime.A hate crime?
Lord, give me strength.
"Every one who advocates or promotes genocide is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years." [sec. 318, Criminal Code]Right.
Because a comment that everyone in a room "are all white Christians", with the exception of one student, while it may be more than a little stupid and insensitive for a teacher to make, doesn't quite qualify as "advocating or promoting genocide", does it?
I mean you can all but visualize the teacher handing out swords to the other students so they could rid the classroom of this little invader, can't you? [That was sarcasm, by the way. For anyone out there who couldn't tell. Of which I'm thinking there are probably a few.]
So tell me, have we all lost our minds?
Or have I simply went down the rabbit hole? Again?
Update: As pointed out in comments, other potentially relevant Criminal Code sections include s. 319 (1) and (2) ["public incitement of hatred" and "wilful promotion of hatred"].
Although, in my opinion, the singling of a person out as being of a different religion or race, without more, does not qualify as either inciting or promoting hatred, I note that two of the available defences to a charge of willful promotion of hatred are (a) "if the statements were relevant to any subject of public interest, the discussion of which was for the public benefit, and if on reasonable grounds he believed them to be true"; or (b) "if, in good faith, he intended to point out, for the purpose of removal, matters producing or tending to produce feelings of hatred toward an identifiable group in Canada". Both of which, I submit, might well apply here assuming the teacher's version of events is true.
But my real point is that so many different things have now been alleged as racist or hate crimes in the media that