Some still skep­ti­cal over restau­rant in­ci­dent

Moose Jaw Times Herald - - OPIN­ION -

Dear Ed­i­tor, On June 20th the Times-Herald pub­lished a let­ter to the ed­i­tor ti­tled “Racism in Moose Jaw.” It was col­lec­tively writ­ten by four prom­i­nent and re­spected women in the com­mu­nity. The let­ter dealt with a se­ries of tweets put out by Dawn Du­mont, an indige­nous pre­sen­ter at the Fes­ti­val of Words who has writ­ten three books and pens a col­umn in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

The tweets: “As I’m on stage talk­ing about my books and racism, my mom and son were re­fused ser­vice in a lo­cal restau­rant.”

“A man spoke up for them but my mum left. How do you eat af­ter that?”

“My mom says ‘don’t tell any­one’. I know how she feels. Racism can make you feel guilty when all you wanted was toast and tea.”

Un­der­stand­ably, peo­ple in Moose Jaw were skep­ti­cal of these claims. But the writ­ers of the let­ter took is­sue with the skep­ti­cism, say­ing:

“She has given us no rea­son not to be­lieve her, ex­cept for the fact that she is an indige­nous woman” and then they mud­died the wa­ters by claim­ing that be­ing jus­ti­fi­ably skep­ti­cal of these claims is “how we get to be a coun­try with over 1000 miss­ing and mur­dered indige­nous women”.

What kind of in­flam­ma­tory non­sense is that? Smear­ing skep­tics in Moose Jaw by equat­ing their ac­tions with the cov­er­ing-up of mur­der?

The fact is, I can name five rea­sons why I was skep­ti­cal. And none of them had any­thing to do with her be­ing indige­nous.

1) Dawn was sim­ply re­hash­ing an event she had heard which hadn’t yet been ver­i­fied. 2) I have never once heard of a restau­rant in Moose Jaw turn­ing cus­tomers away be­cause of their skin colour. 3) The own­ers of the restau­rant in ques­tion, are them­selves indige­nous. 4) The restau­rant in ques­tion has kicked peo­ple out be­fore for not or­der­ing a meal. They aren’t a cof­fee­house. Dur­ing busy hours, they want ta­bles re­served for cus­tomers or­der­ing more than “toast and tea.” You could ar­gue that this is bad pol­icy. But it cer­tainly isn’t racist. 5) Dawn Du­mont her­self has given peo­ple plenty of rea­son to ques­tion her claims. She of­ten sees racism where it doesn’t ex­ist and

she of­ten as­serts the mo­tives of peo­ple she knows ab­so­lutely noth­ing about.

Case-in-point, the first para­graph from her June 13th piece “Why Cul­tural Ap­pro­pri­a­tion is a Thing”: “Some of you may be won­der­ing, what is cul­tural ap­pro­pri­a­tion? It’s not su­per-com­plex. It’s ba­si­cally as­sum­ing that be­cause you’re bet­ter than an­other race — y’know, just nat­u­rally su­pe­rior — that you can do their stuff bet­ter…”

“Think­ing you are bet­ter than an­other race” is the ex­act def­i­ni­tion of racism. She is claim­ing that adopt­ing some­thing from an­other cul­ture is racist.

Most peo­ple don’t adopt things from other cul­tures be­cause they think they are bet­ter than those peo­ple. They do it be­cause they like things from other cul­tures. It’s why I do Mex­i­can night and Greek night at my house, even though my bur­ri­tos and sou­vlaki kind of suck.

If she wasn’t as­sum­ing other peo­ple’s mo­tives she wouldn’t have come to the con­clu­sion that they “ap­pro­pri­ated” some­thing be­cause they think they are su­pe­rior be­ings.

Fur­ther­more, the let­ter stated “sadly, the vo­cif­er­ous re­fusal to ad­mit that an

act of racism oc­curred in our “Friendly City” ac­tu­ally proves that there is a cul­ture of racism that is alive and well.”

Firstly, be­ing skep­ti­cal of some­thing isn’t the same as re­fus­ing to ad­mit it oc­curred.

And how, ex­actly, does this prove that racism is alive and well here? A state­ment like this needs fur­ther ex­pla­na­tion. In­stead it’s just a vague at­tempt to si­lence crit­i­cism by la­belling the crit­ics as racists.

A quote by Christo­pher Hitchens is worth re­mem­ber­ing: “Ex­tra­or­di­nary claims re­quire ex­tra­or­di­nary ev­i­dence.”

What’s most dis­heart­en­ing is that one of the sig­na­tures on this let­ter was from the Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of the Fes­ti­val of Words.

The Fes­ti­val of Words is my favourite thing about Moose Jaw. It’s a great lit­er­ary fes­ti­val that I at­tend ev­ery year. Lit­er­a­ture, to me, is sup­posed to be all about skep­ti­cism and crit­i­cism and in­de­pen­dent in­quiry and truth-hunt­ing. So, to see a great lit­er­ary fes­ti­val ef­fec­tively sham­ing peo­ple for at­tempt­ing to do ex­actly that is a mas­sive let-down.

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