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If There Weren't Any Canadians You'd Have To Invent Them
In the past few days I have been intrigued by a news story emerging from a district attorney’s office in Texas. A memo sent by an assistant DA to a prosecutor congratulated him on overcoming “a subversive defence that had some "Canadians" on the jury feeling sorry for the defendant. Canadiands it seems was a new euphemism for a certain ethnic minority group

If There Weren’t Any Canadians You’d Have To Invent Them
by Ian R Thorpe
2008-02-01
CREATIVE COMMONS: Attribute, non commercial, no derivs.
KEYWORDS: news, race, black, canada, america, texas, television, mythology, canadian, canadians, human, humour, humor

If some of the gags in this seem a little laboured, its probably because it was written for an American audience. I couldn't be arsed doing anything original today cos its been a shite day, if fact what I saw through the window at midday could hardly be described as daylight.

About thirty - five years ago a television drama imprinted itself on the national consciousness here in Britain because of the insight it gave into racial. It was titled “If There Weren’t Any Blacks You’d Have To Invent Them,” and described how a whole mythology of difference had been built around the fact that some people have darker skin than others. Race and the myth that somehow people of a different race are threatening has long been a favourite took of those who exploit fear and panic in order to advance their agenda but the use of fear and panic seems to be getting more subtle.

In the past few days I have been intrigued by a news story emerging from a district attorney’s office Texas. It seems a memo sent by an assistant DA to a prosecutor congratulated him on overcoming “a subversive defence that had some Canadians on the jury feeling sorry for the defendant.

Had I read this literally it would have been quite surprising to learn of Canadians sitting on a jury in Texas., however is spite of having seen “Canadians” being used as a derogatory term before I had not encountered its meaning “black people.”

There are many reasons why America’s Rabid Right, particularly those down in the Bible Belt would want to disparage Canadians; their irreligiousness, laid back attitude, strict laws on gun ownership, tolerant attitude to abortion and their anti war stance to name but a few. And there is also the irritating fact that like the Irish and Swedes, Canadians are sure of a warm welcome anywhere in the world simply because their country does not stomp around the globe pissing off other nations. But why use “Canadians” as a term for wogs*.

Well the point of that TV drama, in which the main characters were a blind man, a man who refused to open his eyes thus needing to be led by the bind man, and a man who insisted on walking backwards. The allegory is clear, there are many ways of refusing to see what is going or around us. And what reminded me of the play in that court case down in Texas is the way “Canadians have been drafted in as a convenient cover for all those words some people resent not being allowed to use to categorise people we dislike, distrust or find threatening. Of course I could be judging those Texans harshly, I know lots of Texans who are charming and perfectly reasonable people, but it is also possible that many from the Lone Star State have not only never stepped across America’s northern border or even seen a Canadian and so they assume Canadians must be different. If not they would be Americans, and every Texan knows Mexicans are different but Mexicans are easy to spot. Silly Hats, silly accents and silly moustaches, no problemo.

Bearing in mind it is The Bible Belt we are talking about, an area where black Americans might think it foolish to stray out of their own neighbourhood, there are precedents for people in isolated communities thinking strangers with a different physical appearance are something frightening or exotic. The native people of the Caribbean Islands and central America mistook the Spanish Conquistadors for Gods and the people of some Islands in the Indian Ocean thought the first Dutch sailors they encountered were demons. So is it any wonder some Texans think black people are Canadians, after all Canada must seem like a distant and almost mythical land to folk so detached from civilised society they have gone beyond having eyebrows that meet in the middle and now have eyes that meet in the middle.

The only thing this proves is when a problem goes that deep it is going to take a lot more than empty talk about dreams, visions, hope and change to tackle it head on.

* Workers On Government Service

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