Tuesday, November 25, 2008

In defense of older white guys

There was an opinion piece in The London Free Press by Lorrie Goldstein that I found more than a little annoying. The article is entitled, Grits become party of older white guys.

Goldstein comments on the unusual fact that the three contenders for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada are all white privileged sons of diplomats, two of whom are in their 60s. He mocks the party for its self-advertising as the party of diversity with this lineup.

Talk about identity politics.

First, there are no barriers in our political system for women seeking public office. Many do, and succeed. Women have been leaders of political parties, including the provincial Liberal party, as well as federal parties. Second, the same lack of barriers applies to ethnic minorities and visible minorities; Ujjal Singh Dosnajh has been the premier of arguably Canada's most racist province.

Suggesting that it is inappropriate for the Liberal Party to field only older white guys as the leadership contenders is disrespectful to our history, to our liberal-democracy, and to white males generally.

It is almost like saying white fiction writers cannot speak with black or aboriginal voices in their works because they are not black or natives, an argument that ethnic activists occasionally make.

With respect to visible and ethnic minorities, how does Goldstein think they got to this country in the first place? It was an old white guy named John Diefenbaker and the white MPs from the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada that opened the doors to world-wide immigration to Canada. He was a small town prairie firebrand who probably never saw anything but white faces until he got to Ottawa, but that didn’t prevent him from doing the right thing.

I remember Lincoln Alexander, Ontario’s first black Lieutenant-Governor, once saying that he occasionally had to remind some strident voices in the black community that it wasn’t black people who first voted him into office, it was white people.

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