Wednesday January 17, 2018
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Canada’s Sikh officer who fought for right to wear turban honored

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Photo: Flickr

Vancouver: Baltej Singh Dhillon, who made the history after being appointed the first turbaned Sikh officer in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), was honored at an annual event held to eradicate racism on Saturday.

Organized by Spice Radio in partnership with Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, it was second annual Raise Your Hands Against Racism campaign that was launched on the occasion of Martin Luther King’s birth anniversary last year.

Dhillon’s appointment in 1990 had stirred lot of controversy as it led to quite the racist backlash with rightwing groups openly opposing his recruitment. However, he won the fight despite many challenges and hostility.

Dhillon told HT that the RCMP will soon have turbans for commissioned Sikh officers like himself which means uniform rules are going to be amended to accommodate turbaned officials.

Dhillon is the first individual to be honored as part of the anti-racism initiative that was started by Spice Radio CEO Shushma Datt, a seasoned broadcaster in the local South Asian community. She has announced that each year trailblazers like Dhillon will be recognised and honoured for standing up against discrimination in any form.

The campaign coincides with the festival of Holi and participants are encouraged to dip their hands in color and leave their handprints on a sheet of white paper along with a statement against racism at different locations across Greater Vancouver.

People from different ethnicities thronged to all these locations in Vancouver, Burnaby, Surrey and White Rock to participate in the campaign. The volunteers wore t-shirts carrying slogan #HandsAgainstRacism. The campaign location in Surrey, with a sizable Punjabi population, remained a crowd puller where Indo-Canadian MLA Harry Bains also showed up.

Both Vancouver and Surrey municipalities made proclamations recognizing the campaign.

At the opening event held at Roundhouse Community Center, prominent South Asian scholar Suresh Kurl spoke about the significance of Holi and its relevance in the fight against racism. Shiamak Davar dance team and a team of drummers led by popular radio host Gurp Sian performed on the occasion.

Source: Hindustan Times

  • Shriya Katoch

    Such bravehearted people that protect our culture in foreign borders should truly be rewarded .

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Why should we talk about Race?

Dr Kumar Mahabir, an anthropologist, brings out the topic of discrimination

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Race has always been a big deal whenever its been spoken about around the globe.
Race has always been a big deal whenever its been spoken about around the globe. Pic by Dr. Munish Raizada taken at the Race exhibition at Chicago History Museum. November 2017
-By Dr Kumar Mahabir
Even academics like me who often view certain topics through the lens of race sometimes
receive negative attention and judgement. Some people feel that speaking or writing
rationally about race is counter-productive and even racist.
Indo-Caribbean people (Indians), in particular, tend to receive condemnation when they
examine topics on the basis of race. Indian victims are often criticised for reporting
discrimination.
On the other hand, Afro-Caribbeans (Africans) receive either indifference or praise when they discuss race. For example, the following comment by a black calypsonian, published in a Trinidad national newspaper, drew praises: “In the midst of black consciousness in the 1970s, Bro Superior told black people ‘No matter where yuh born, Yuh still African’” (Guardian Nov 12, 2017).
Discussing race objectively with empirical data and statistical evidence is not racist. Racism
is the belief that another race of people is inferior. This attitude results in discrimination,
antagonism and domination individually, politically, economically and otherwise.
Race, ethnicity, class, sex, religion, nationality, geography, etc. are valid, legitimate and
appropriate social categories of difference in examining historical and contemporary issues.
Why should someone who talks objectively about race be criticised as a racist? Should we
also condemn someone who uses sex as a mode of inquiry as being sexist? To do so would be ignorant, biased and unfair.
In a recent public broadcast, the Prime Minister of multi-racial Trinidad and Tobago (T&T)
advised some citizens “not to see race in everything we do” (Express Sept 22, 2017). This ill- informed statement was made in relation to the mixed responses he received when he
appealed to citizens to open their homes to displaced Dominican refugees who were devastated by Hurricane Maria.
On the contrary, people should be encouraged to “see race” as well as sex (gender), class, nationality, geography and types of social identity. Studying race can reveal differences in the form of disparities, disadvantages, inequalities, power and privilege which have structured human life in the past and present. To overlook race would be to ignore the elephant in the room.
Criminologist and social psychologist Dr Ramesh Deosaran wrote a book entitled Inequality,
Crime & Education in Trinidad and Tobago: Removing the Masks (2016). He found that there was a toxic relationship among race, class, gender, family and geography, resulting in African students performing the worst in the education system.
Deosaran wrote: “Wittingly or unwittingly, the education system, to a large extent, becomes a racially segregated system. And with academic achievement also stratified by race” (page 163). His data showed that while 47% of African students went to university three years after secondary school, as much as 72% of Indians did so, and 49% of the Mixed group also attended.
Prospective students of Whitman College in the USA are encouraged to enrol in its Race and Ethnic Studies programme. They are told that “ideas about race and ethnicity have been central at many points in world history and remain salient today, whether we talk about ethnic pride or ethnic cleansing, about multicultural diversity or racial discrimination.”
Race and ethnicity are often used interchangeably. However, race refers to biological features (bone structure, facial features, hair texture, skin colour, etc.) and ethnicity denotes cultural traits (history, customs, religion, family-type, values, music, food, etc.).
In the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) CSEC Social Studies syllabus, Section A
(Individual, Family and Society) comprises of a content section that explains characteristics
of the population. These characteristics include age, sex, occupation, religion and ethnicity. In the CXC CAPE Sociology syllabus under Unit 1, Module 3, Social Stratification is
conceptualised according to status mobility, gender, class, colour, caste, race and ethnicity.
The topic of race and ethnicity is studied not only in sociology but also in history,
anthropology, cultural studies, visual culture, media, literature, communication, law, health,
human rights, gender, political science, economics, geography, public policy, international
relations, social psychology, etc.
In a research paper entitled “Understanding race and crime in Trinidad and Tobago,”
criminologist Dr Randy Seepersad (2017) found that most of the murderers, victims, accused and prisoners are Africans. His disaggregated data demonstrated that most of the violent crimes are committed by blacks against blacks.
In 2011, former National Security Minister John Sandy said, “We must recognise that it is
people looking like me who are being murdered, mothers like my mother, God rest her soul, who are out there weeping more than any other race” (Express Sep 3, 2011).
Race has always been a major factor in voting in all general elections in T&T. This form of
ethnic polarisation has been well documented by pollsters such as SARA, NACTA, ANSA
McAl and H.H.B. & Associates Ltd. Most Africans and Mixed persons support the PNM
while most Indians vote for the PP/UNC.
 
Dr. Kumar Mahabir is an anthropologist who has published 11 books. He lives in Trinidad.