Nathan Denette via The Canadian Press

Brown people's proximity to whiteness can bolster white supremacy and Islamophobia too

Karan Saxena (@karsaxenaaa)

It is not the first time that the National Post has published a column that was tone-deaf, poorly timed, and a clear attempt to shut down a national conversation on race and violence. 

On June 9th, three days after the murder of 4 members of the Afzaal family in London, Ontario, the National Post published an op-ed boldly claiming that Canada is “one of the most tolerant places on earth” and argued against Jagmeet Singh’s speech calling Canada a racist country.

Yes, three days after this racist act of violence that left a 9-year old in the hospital, and his family members dead. 

Reading this in the Post, right after such a numbing incident, was not shocking at all. 

The past few weeks have been deeply troubling to many racialized communities. 

Indo-Canadians were traumatized from the poorly managed second wave of the pandemic which killed hundreds of thousands in India. Those in the Palestinian diaspora continued to feel the aftermath of watching the 11-day bombardment of Gaza. Indigenous communities across Canada mourned the 215 Indigenous children when their remains were found in Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc—at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School--preparing themselves (and everyone else) for such undocumented deaths to be revealed across the nation. 

The list goes on and on.

Despite this, it was extremely important for Rex Murphy to write about how anti-white racism exists, scouring the internet for examples and adding unattributed, anonymous comments. The article is now updated with entirely different content, thanks to the editorial standards of the National Post, but a screenshot in Max Fawcett’s tweet speaks to the atrocious editorial days after 4 members of the Afzaal family were murdered. 

Sadly, this is expected from someone like Rex Murphy--who has been under fire for spewing racist rhetoric several times in the recent past, undeniably contributing to this white supremacist violence today. It is expected of this media conglomerate to platform Islamophobia

The most upsetting thing about the recent column on how Canada is quite tolerant was that the columnist was, in fact, Indian.

The column starts by acknowledging the Islamophobic murder, how racism has been on the rise. In fact, she even writes, “any evidence that racism is on the rise is deplorable and every racist incident must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.”

Then what exactly is the issue with NDP leader Jagmeet Singh saying that Canada is indeed a racist country? Is that too strong of a condemnation for Subramanya?

She bolsters her own identity as “an immigrant and a person of colour” to denounce that Singh’s claims are nothing but exaggerated, and that she cannot get behind this extreme position. This does nothing but make for great content that white supremacists can now weaponize. 

“Are there racists in Canada? Sure. Is Canada a racist country? Absolutely not.”

Subramanya claims that people are racialized before they get to Canada. She supports this by easily confusing colourism and discrimination with racism, different forms of prejudice she says to have experienced back in India (for being darker-skinned) and the Middle East (for being a non-Muslim, because now is certainly the time to bring that up).

Racialization is not only the experience of learning one’s race due to prejudice, but it is also a negative process of being placed in environments like Canada, where under the guise of “multiculturalism”, people are relentlessly othered.

But, since she herself has not experienced racism in Canada, it is bound to not exist. Sound argument. 

To her credit, she does bring up how conversations around racism are not nuanced. 

Subramanya discredits Singh’s claims as results of “a culture of political correctness and the woke creed.” 

Ah yes, the woke creed--holding people accountable for their actions. What a horrific culture holding people accountable for their actions.

It appears as though she has not engaged in left-wing discourse over the past few years. That she is unaware of how the South Asian community is trying to reckon with its own anti-Black racism. That people are calling for more solidarity between Indigenous peoples and immigrants.

Did she completely miss the concrete actions that Singh did call for following the murder of the Afzaal family?

What was this column about then?

As South Asians, especially as non-Muslims, we always find ourselves in difficult positions. We often fall within the model minority myth that is almost white, but not quite--because we will never be white. 

But we all know that the desire to be white seldom goes away. 

And we undeniably tend to achieve whiteness in all other ways possible.

This toxic proximity to whiteness makes us engage in horizontal hostility that hurts other  racialized communities including our own--something Subramanya herself would like to address, or so she says.

Then why is she engaging in this hostility herself? Does she have a better way to condemn and call upon an end to systemic racism and Islamophobia? Is this fodder for white supremacists going to help her, personally? Is such a think piece conducive to anyone, as Muslim people across the country mourn these attacks? As they fear for their own lives, that this might happen to them?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. But as non-Muslim South Asians having witnessed far-right Islamophobic rhetoric, we need to stand up to everything that contributes to the violence that stems from it.

Instead of losing her mind over pedantic issues, having no concrete solutions to prevent such violence, and actively causing harm to a grieving community, perhaps Subramanya should do the same.

“The reality is that Canada has been, and continues to be, a welcoming home for everyone, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexuality or any other identity marker,” she writes. 

A Muslim family was murdered on an evening stroll. Yet, Subramanya says Singh’s words were too harsh and in her own words says “nothing could be further from the truth.”


Karan Saxena (he/they) is a journalist and writer from Mumbai, India. He is currently in Vancouver pursuing his Master of Journalism at UBC. He graduated from the University of Manitoba with a BA (Adv.) in Political Studies and a BA in Women's & Gender Studies. Karan loves researching and writing on queer culture, climate change, immigration, power structures, fascism and violence. He could talk for hours about fashion, French pop music, the ongoing exploitation of the global south, wealth inequality, and the versatility of tote bags!

5X Press is a forum for opinions, conversations, & experiences, powered by South Asian youth. The views expressed here are not representative of those of 5X Festival.

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