I had a traumatic experience recently. One of our main funders, CHUM Television, invited me to the Genie’s (Canada’s equivalent of the Oscars).
When I arrived at the spiffy event, there were around 6 or 7 hundred white people milling around. I counted 10 people of colour, including the “help”: 3 Aboriginals, 3 Chinese people, and three “Other”. Whenever my eyes made four with another “minority” we exchanged rather embarrassed wordless screams of incredulity and desperation.
I left early, slipping into the snowy night. Down on Yonge Street, between the taxi drivers, street car drivers, and late night workers returning home, it was hard to spot even one white face.
What a world of difference between the elite crowd in the windowless room I had left, and the actual demographic of this beautiful city I am proud to call home.
Just think! Events like these take place every day across Canada. And we say nothing. We just carry on, amidst the ever more self-righteous rhetoric of a multiculturalism that is reflected on the street, but not in the institutions of power.
Weeks later, still nursing my pain, a magazine crossed my desk: “Broadcast Dialogue”. On the cover, a picture of Bev Oda, our new Japanese Canadian Minister of Heritage. Inside, an article on “Diversity in Broadcasting” I scanned it hungrily – Could this be that mythical thing: a local media publication that is representing the demographic of this country…?
But when I opened the magazine and turned its’ pages, my heart fell. On almost every page, pictures of white men and women, sometimes pictured singly, often in groups, of 2, 4, 10, 20 or 50 at a time.Even the article on “Diversity” was richly illustrated with photos of the noble Caucasian men and women who are “leading the way” in Canada’s bold initiative.
I find it is even more painful when, as here, it seems an effort has been made to adress the issue, but not carried through. It highlights the discrepancy. A bit like being invited to the Genies.
I decided to speak out! I wrote a letter and sent it to the Publisher of Broadcast Dialogue.
Dear Broadcast Dialogue
I was delighted to see that the March 2007 issue of your magazine had 3 articles exploring race and diversity (“Diversity in Canadian Broadcasting”, “Sexist? Racist?” “Little Mosque, Dragon Boys, and Jozi H”), and one on gender, in canadian broadcasting. This is good and progress.
I then went through the magazine and counted the number of images of people of colour versus white people, and men vs women. The results shocked me. Here they are:
Images of white people in the march issue: 166
Images of people of colour of any race at all: 7
Percentage of images of people of colour: 4%
Percentage of Canada’s population that is visible minority: 13.4%
Images of men: 147
Images of women: 26
Percentage of images of women 15%
Percentage of women in the Canadian population 51%
I think it is outrageous that your magazine, like the rest of Canada I might add, feels satisfied to talk the facile talk of multiculturalism and gender equality while shamelessly perpetuating the same old, same old, racist sexist WALK.
Get with the millenium please! If America can nominate a white woman and black man for president, & appoint a black woman to be secretary of state and defense, how can Canada justify continuing to pack the halls of power and privelege in this country exclusively with white males?
Minutes after I pressed “SEND” I got a phone call from Howard, said publisher. Delighted, I told him my Genie’s story.
“I had enough!” I exclaimed “I decided to speak out!”
“Really.” he replied. “Well let me tell you something. Take your “shock” and your “horror” and your “sexist” “racist” nonsense, and peddle it elsewhere. I’m not interested.”
I hung up.
And wrote to him again:
What I wrote is not nonsense and I have no intention of listening to abuse.
Broadcast “dialogue” indeed.
(Photos: The somewhat misleading cover of Broadcast Dialogue, showing a photo of our own Bev Oda. The two other photos show typical inside spreads, with photos of white men singly and in groups of 2, 4, 10, 20 and 50.)