White picket fences

December 21, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Anthony Carnovale

There are times when I read something and I’m, like, “Wait, did I just read that?” Sadly, it happened while reading Brian Lockhart’s column, “Unity is Our Strength.” We may write for the same paper, maybe even live in the same community, but it doesn’t mean we have to see eye to eye; and the fact that we don’t, I believe, makes this a stronger paper, and by extension, a stronger community. Based on what he wrote last week, Mr. Lockhart would seemingly disagree.

He starts his column by using three idioms that he claims are thousands of years old, phrases that sound more like rallying cries from the films Gladiator and Paw Patrol than they do the annals of time. ‘United we stand, divided we fall’ is, in fact, attributed to the German fairy tale writer, Aesop.

(I hope I’m not coming across as curt or dismissive. If I was being dismissive, I would have stopped reading after the first couple of paragraphs. Instead, I read his column a few more times — and am still not any closer to figuring out what he’s getting at).

What he doesn’t seem to get is that diversity is not supposed to be an easy sell. When entire systems of governance, capital and culture have been built and designed by a ‘unified collective’ (white + men) breaking that system up, blowing that system up, is going to come with an inordinate number of casualties —and some hard- to-swallow discussions. The legacy of these decisions and designs cannot be rectified overnight. Watch the “Black Doll/White Doll Experiment” on YouTube and try telling me that what’s been built doesn’t need dismantling.

United we stand:

Is he upset at what he sees on TV, all those commercials and shows now populated with people that don’t look like either of us? With families that may not look like his own. Prior to this shift in the media landscape, it was different faces and genders and identities slammed down the throats of the same people who are still shouting and fighting and marching for increased diversification, for representation. To be heard. To be seen. Is this why he feels like it’s being ‘jammed down our throats’? The script has been flipped and Mr. Lockhart doesn’t like the role he’s being asked to play.

Divided we fall:

Did he feel that way when George Bush threatened the world in the ‘War on Terror’ when he declared: “You’re either with us or against us”. How did that united front work out? He then claims…wait for it…wait for it… ‘that diversity doesn’t create strength, the opposite happens’. And makes his case by stating that ‘there are several thousand examples of this in the history books’. Not dozens or hundreds, but ‘thousands’! And yet, he doesn’t provide a single one to support his claim.

All for one, I guess.

Well, here’s an example of how diversity can work:

Recently, Johns Hopkins University published a paper titled “The Long-Run Impacts of Same-Race Teachers” by the National Bureau of Economic Research. It reported that a black student is more likely to do well in a class if they see a black teacher in their school. Having one black teacher in elementary school not only makes children more likely to graduate high school—it also makes them significantly more likely to apply for college. Black students who’d had just one black teacher by third grade were 13 percent more likely to enroll in college—and those who’d had two were 32 percent more likely.

United we stand.

I mean, should we all be united in Israel’s response to the Hamas terror attacks? What about all those people marching in support of Palestinians? Who gets to decide which side is the correct side? You? Me? Progressives? Conservatives? The Pope? Elon Musk? Or maybe the universe is just too damn complicated for a right and left, an ‘us versus them’. If you want easy you get Trump, Ford, Poilievre, Trudeau, Tik-Tok. So, while some people are pining for America to be great again, there are still people out on the street screaming: “Hands up! Don’t shoot!”.

Divided, some fall.

When I think about diversity and this town, I’m always reminded of an ad that appeared in one of our local papers. It was a double page spread for a local real estate office wishing the town a Merry Christmas. There were headshots of about 150 agents — which included zero people of colour. How does that happen in the 21st century? Somebody hired all those white faces. Which means someone didn’t hire any black faces. Or brown faces. There’s more than one way to build a white picket-fence.

Truthfully, I’m tired of all the half-baked arguments for these complex issues that we’re faced with. I understand that people are frustrated, exasperated. But letters like the one a resident wrote in support of Mr. Lockhart’s column aren’t going to help. The man claims that 90% of Canadians feel the way Mr. Lockhart feels, and then claims that Trudeau is a dictator and a nincompoop (I agree with the latter).

Of course, Mr. Lockhart is entitled to his opinion. But when you put your opinion into the public realm, you need to be prepared for some bite-back. This is the only way we’ll survive and thrive, man. Otherwise, we’re just rolling with the status quo (and look where that got us).

And if we want to inspire people can do better than quote a passage popularized by The Three Musketeers. Instead, we can turn to the likes of Albert Einstein who wrote:We must not only learn to tolerate our differences. We must welcome them as the richness and diversity which can lead to true intelligence.”

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