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Open Letter re: Rob Ford

blogTO received via Karen Sun an open letter written by Victoria Shen (Co-President of the Toronto Chapter of the Chinese Canadian National Council) in reaction to Toronto city councillor Rob Ford's recent comments. We've decided to publish it here in its entirety.

The comments made by Councillor Rob Ford on Wednesday (March 5, 2008) were appalling and offensive. They were offensive because the term "Oriental" is outdated and derogatory. For those wishing a more thorough analysis of the term, we invite you to review Edward Said's "Orientalism".

Racism is a belief or ideology that members of a race possess characteristics or abilities that make them superior or inferior to other races. So while the term "Asian" may be more socially acceptable, any essentialist generalization about a racial group is racist. This is regardless of whether the generalization is intended to be complimentary or derogatory.

The irrational fear and moral panic that a racial or other minority group is "taking over" has historically led to oppressive and even violent attempts to control such groups. Within Canada's own history, legislation such as the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Continuous Journey Regulation which operated to block South Asian immigration, and the War Measures Act which authorized the internment of Japanese Canadians during WWII, all radically curtailed the rights and civil liberties of Asian peoples. Such patently discriminatory policies were justified on the basis that they were necessary in the interest of protecting "Canadians", the Canadian economy and national security.

We, at the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter (CCNCTO), are thankful that other City Councillors, the Mayor and the media have recognized that the comments made by Councillor Ford were racist, unacceptable and worthy of censure. But we are not fooled. Politically correct speech does not mean the absence of racism.

The issue for us is not that Councillor Ford has made inappropriate comments, but that a City Councillor can hold beliefs we consider to be racist yet still be elected into office by his constituency and remain in a position of power to formulate public policy.

Despite the diversity of our city, people of colour remain woefully underrepresented in City Council. We ask, why is it that the people of Toronto would rather have racism than people of colour in City Council?

It is not enough to deride and be outraged by racist comments. Words are empty. Sanctions are merely palliative. We challenge those who are genuinely offended by Councillor Ford's comments to run for office at the next Municipal election. It is the only way.

Victoria Shen
Co-President
Chinese Canadian National Council, Toronto Chapter

Photo by 416style.


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