Thursday, July 19, 2018

Andrea Horwath needs to be careful how she wields the word "racist"

Much as I dislike standing up for Conservative politicians, something needs to be said about the response to comments by Michael Tibollo, Conservative MPP for Vaughan-Woodbridge and the new Community Safety Minister in Doug Ford's Ontario cabinet.
Tasked with the need to "actually see what it's like" in Toronto's violence-prone Driftwood neighbourhood at Jane and Finch, Tibollo reported to the legislature that, "Personally, I went out to Jane and Finch, put on a bullet-proof vest, and spent 7 o'clock to 1 o'clock in the morning visiting sites that had previously had bullet-ridden people killed in the middle of the night". He wore the vest on the advice of the local police division after a standard safety assessment for the politician's "ride-along".
NDP leader Andrea Horwath, though, called this "inexcusably racist". The Jane Finch Action Against Poverty group also called Tibollo's comments "racist and discriminatory".
Er, no. There is nothing racist about what Tibollo said. Jane and Finch IS a dangerous and violent area, that's just an unfortunate fact, and I'm not sure I would want to be wandering around there after dark either. But there is nothing inherently racist or race-based about Tibollo's report or its phrasing, which makes no mention of race of any sort, even if a good proportion of the people who live in the area are in fact black. Horwath's throwaway comment is kind of like calling white soldiers on duty in Syria racist for wearing armour and carrying guns.
The word "racist" has attained substantial power in this day and age, but it needs to be used judiciously and correctly, and not just to score cheap political points.

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