Identity, in a little prarie town

In partial response to Balbulican’s comment on my last post, (and Update: to this from Desi In Toronto) this is something I wrote to my liberal freind who had kindof scoffed at my simplistic small town sense of identity politics after I’d mentioned that American hispanics appeared to like Hillary over Obama significantly and posited that it had to do with a sense of Obama as a rival minority. (some names are changed)

I can’t say I like to think that Hispanics would vote against Obama. I had assumed that they would vote with him almost as strongly as blacks. Growing up in a town where different colour skins are novelties is a powerful insulation from identity politics. I had no exposure to people being anything other than people – the one and only black guy in town? He’s not The Black Guy, he’s another person as visible in the school lineup as anyone – all of us were unshrouded by labels because instead of The Popular Girls there was Jamie, Sarah, Megs, and Jenna. Smart Girls? Nope, just Hailey, Ashley, and Marion. Jamil was not half black or so, and didn’t play basketball – he was Jamil, and those things second. When I started university I was shocked – first by the application that asked if the applicant considered himself a visible minority. It was a risible concept to me and I reacted with deep emotion – this was the polar opposite of the Canadian racial equality that had been the lynchpin theme of high school and of my labelless experience. I felt betrayed – and the feeling flares again to think of it, despite several years of ironic suppression of the dichotomy – and I wondered whether I could be considered a “visible” minority. Tall-Canadian? What about Canadian-Canadian? What was this? A fairly short time after I actually arrived on campus I had absorbed something of an attitude that was grotesquely manifested as a letter to the school paper decrying the racist white colonial leftover that disgraced our campus with the debilitating reminder to blacks of their true position of residual slavery and shamed us: licorice candies at the tuck shop called Black Babies. I began to panic when I saw Black people. Don’t stare, for god’s sake, are you staring at them? You noticed they’re Black, why – are you looking for that? Don’t be racist, don’t be white. You think Sage isn’t a good Chem partner – because he’s black? You’re white, you’re racist… geez! Don’t not look at them!

The “liberal” arts college of the university of saskatchewan was battering race conciousness into me. I’d never been white before. There’d never been a guilty “us”, a fragile “them”. I was supposedly an us now and white guilt was making me racist. Rebelling against this revolting attitude has become a hobby of mine, along with other aspects of Liberal political correctness. Its why I don’t defend Coulter – I admire her.

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