Some still skeptical over restaurant incident
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.