Meaghie Champion: To whom is John Horgan beholden?

When he bows down before the demands of whoever is running the "woke" movement, then I don't know who would be in charge of government.

A week ago, in the midst of British Columbia's election debate, NDP leader John Horgan, and all the other provincial political party leaders were asked: "to explain how they've reckoned with their own privileged positions as white people." 

Horgan, who has spent his decades-long career working on behalf of working-class people and the poor and underprivileged, answered with an example of how when he was growing up, playing Lacrosse with First Nations kids, "He didn't really see colour."

Those in the know about the latest acceptable views and terminology around race were aghast. For claiming to be "colour blind," or any of its variants, is now, a de facto admission of racism.  For adherents of a philosophy now labelled "Critical Race Theory"[CRT], Horgan had committed an egregious gaffe. He was soon hauled over the coals on this and asked to apologize. Which he did ... not once, but twice.

But the response surely came as a shock to many British Columbians.

For most of us mere citizens, the thing that was shocking in all this was not Horgan's comment about being colour blind, it was the fact that anyone had a problem with it. For those of us who grew up in the '60s and '70s, being racially "colour blind" was — and still is — considered an anti-racist position. Sure, some forms of claims to "colour blindness" can mask indifference to disproportionate outcomes between different racial groups that is grounded in discrimination. However, that shouldn't mean that seeing people primarily as individuals — rather than avatars of their ethnic groups — is a racist philosophy. 

Most of us have been committed to the ideals of anti-racism since Martin Luther King famously delivered his "I Have a Dream Speech." This was a masterclass of persuasion and rhetoric; one that convinced generations to re-frame their positions on racial inequity.  

King said that he hoped that one day his children would grow up to be judged, not by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character. That's the ethos Horgan channelled when he said: "I don't pay attention to skin colour or ethnicity."

But this is not good enough for those who promote Critical Race Theory, an emerging ideology that tips these values on their head. CRT presupposes that the world is dominated by white supremacists. Further, that all white people are racists — regardless of their individual actions — simply because they participate in a system that secures their own structural advantages. CRT redefines what "racism" has traditionally meant: bigotry or discrimination based on skin colour.

Under this new ethos, only white people are capable of racism, because racism is systemic and works towards keeping all power vested in the hands of the white supremacists. I'm simplifying this, of course, because CRT is a rabbit hole best tackled by people with a lot more patience than me. One of the laziest rebuttals that CRT's adherents use to deflect criticism is that its critics simply don't understand it well enough, and therefore need to spend endless hours of their lives "doing the work," integrating key academic texts, and absorbing their meaning until they fully accept the unerring truth of the ideology. If this tactic sounds indistinguishable from a deeply manipulative religious movement, well ...

I'm a "person of colour" and I have spent my whole life trying to be anti-racist. I agree with the idea that there are systemic problems involving racism in many institutions within society. Some of those systemic problems are destroying Indigenous nations, including my own. Where I disagree with the Critical Race Theory crowd is in their depiction of everyone who is not a person of colour as being inherently racist. I don't agree with their solutions for solving the racism problems we have to confront as a society. I don't believe that they are the only ones working against racism, or coming up with viable strategies for how to do so. We can have differing views about racism and how to combat it; failing to adhere to one single philosophy, or parrot a specific set of terminology, does not mean a person is racist.

Horgan has worked for decades to do what he thought best for all the people. He's been on our side in the struggle against racism all his life. The fact that he wasn't up-to-date on the latest acceptable phrases to speak on the matter doesn't negate that. 

And let's examine, for a moment, what the new rules of anti-racism are, and how quickly they seem to evolve.

Who wrote the rule that saying you "don't see race" is racist? Who wrote the rule that it doesn't matter that Horgan's intention was irrelevant? Who voted for the people who wrote these rules? Nobody. They are not elected. 

They are academics and activists and journalists. How are these rules enforced? By mobs on Twitter or sometimes in the streets with no accountability, no rights of the accused, no statute of limitations. There's no written version of these rules that well-meaning people can refer to in order to ensure that they not be labelled a racist. 

Horgan at least got a chance to speak in his own defence. Not everyone accused of racism is offered this basic right of the accused. Sometimes they are just "deplatformed," meaning coercively censored so that they are unable to reach the public with any answer to the accusations. They don't even have a chance to plead "not guilty" before the punishment begins.

In law, there exists a concept called: "ex post facto," which is latin for "from after the fact." It means that it is an injustice to punish someone for breaking a law that did not exist at the time of commission. There is an element of that here. True, Horgan's comments were recent, but he was describing events from decades ago. Was it wrong for him to treat people as individuals rather than prejudging them according to their race when he was a lacrosse player? He did exactly what the leaders of the anti-racist movement at the time demanded. Was he wrong to mention it now as evidence that he has tried all his life to not be racist?

There is a reason we don't have our actual laws written and enforced this way. We once understood that different people could have different ways of approaching these topics; a contrary philosophy doesn't make them bad, evil or even necessarily wrong. Demanding everyone recite the same mantras is not only wrong — it's creepy. We also understood that granting self-appointed judges the right to enforce constantly-shifting rules is not conducive to a fair hearing or a fair trial. 

If I were going to vote for John Horgan, it would be because I had confidence in him to be the premier of British Columbia. If I voted for him it would be because I trusted him to be in control of that process. When he bows down before the demands of whoever is running the "woke" movement and tries to obey their rules — even when their rules are screwy and sometimes unjust — then I don't know who would be in charge of the provincial government if I voted for him. Would it really be him or would it be the unelected people who are trying to place themselves above him and all of us without winning any elections?

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