Sunday, November 15, 2020

Brian Giesbrecht: Rosa Parks and The BIPOC Café

If you wonder how the social justice war is going, look no further than the University of Michigan-Dearborn. There, in the “diversity, equity and inclusion” activism that has all but replaced education in too many of our institutions of higher learning, the university’s “Center for Social Justice and Inclusion” established two remote “cafés”. 

One, the “BIPOC café” was for the exclusive use of “black, Indigenous and people of colour”. The other, the “non-POC café” was to be for white students only. The geniuses who dreamed this up abandoned the dreadful idea only after some heavy criticism on social media.

Perhaps the people who thought this was a good idea need a bit of a history lesson. One person they should learn about is Rosa Parks. 

She was the courageous black woman who famously refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama on Dec 1, 1955. It was her arrest that sparked the civil rights movement that ended once and for all the Jim Crow laws that had officially made black Americans second class citizens. Ms. Parks, Martin Luther King (MLK) and other civil rights giants insisted that blacks be allowed to ride on the same buses, drink at the same water fountains, and participate as equals. And they succeeded.

And now people like the BIPOC and non-POC café designers want to take us back to the dark days of segregation. Only this time they claim it will be a good kind of segregation. People who share the same skin colour will associate with one another, and not be troubled by people of a different colour.

Exactly why is this being done? According to the BIPOC advocates “marginalized and oppressed minorities” will be able to commiserate with one another.

But there seem to be some major problems with BIPOC institutions even if the completely absurd idea of “non-POC” institutions is garbaged. For instance, it seems rather difficult to make the case that many of the “POC” groups are “marginalized” or “oppressed” at all. For example, Asian Canadians are certainly people of colour. And at one time Asian Canadians, like Chinese and Japanese, were definitely both marginalized and oppressed.

Discriminatory laws and blatant racism faced both groups. However, those laws are long gone, and both demographics now earn more, and are better educated than the average. That is also the case with Indo-Canadians. In fact, even some black demographics, such as Nigerian-Canadians, do better than the average. So how would any of those “POC” qualify for the BIPOC café? It seems that they would have to seek membership in the “non-POC” café.

For that matter, would black billionaires like Oprah Winfrey and Lebron James qualify for membership in a cafe designed for “oppressed and marginalized” people, or would they have to move over to the non-POC cafe? And would a white minimum wage waiter serving Lebron or Oprah not be a better fit for the oppressed and marginalized cafe than those two billionaires?

Many more incongruities come to mind, but you get the idea. Rosa Parks knew that skin colour didn’t define her. It was an irrelevance, and she refused to bow to laws based on that divisive racial narrative back in the day. And we should refuse to bow to it now.

MLK was right – judge people by the content of their character, not by skin colour.

Brian Giesbrecht, retired judge, is a senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

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