Skin, Hair and Bones

I just got home for the holidays, and all I have to say is this: I can’t possibly be the only sociology student that avoids certain conversations with some family members. I guess sometimes we don’t like to acknowledge that our very own parents are capable of having racist biases.

My father, who is 67 years old, works for Statistics Canada. Many aspects of our lives, and our international relations as Canadians depend on this institution to provide us with neutral statistics, and although it hasn't really come up in conversation before, I thought I would be safe to tell him all the eye-opening things I have learned in my course at Saint Mary’s; Race, Racism and Colonialism.

For someone who supervised Canada’s aboriginal statistics program for many years in a row, he didn't seem too open to the empirical fact that indigenous people collect on average significantly less social assistance money from the government, I had to look it up and show it to him before he would go against his misconceptions.

He also certainly didn't believe something that I learned in class and from Michelle Alexander’s New Jim Crow book, which is that although black people are overwhelmingly over-represented in prisons for drug-related crimes, most statistics prove that although they usually do different drugs than white people, they usually do a bit less, especially during adolescent and young-adult periods of their lives.

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

My father continued to essentially make a case for biological racism: “Asians are just naturally good at quantitative work, and indigenous have a biological dependency on alcohol” I was shocked, but only because this was from my father who I love. This isn't his individual fault, it’s a societal thing, but on that note, if everybody thought with the same logic and deflected racism from themselves and their friends and family; nothing would ever change. I didn’t get mad at him, I just explained to him something I learned in Dr. Leroux’s class: Race affects skin, hair and bones only — the rest is socially constructed, often by those who have power.

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