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Monday, April 18, 2011

Toronto Councillor Joe Mihevc's White-Privileged, Exclusionary Farmers Market

The Artscape Wychwood Barns, in the heart of Toronto's midtown Ward 21, has won urban planning awards and has become a community hub; a veritable cathedral of Birkenstock socialism where local Councillor Joe Mihevc proudly plays the role of high priest. One of the Barns' most prominent features, where Joe often appears, is a weekly Farmers' Market inside the Barn's spacious open interior as well as its scenic exterior park. Local musicians serenade the shoppers as they peruse the costly, showcased organic offerings that one comes to expect from such a venue.

Now, whatever one may think of his competence following his shepherding of the St. Clair street car fiasco, still the subject of civic suits against the City, there are few politicians anywhere with a stronger commitment to non-discrimination and equity than Joe Mihevc, who was the lead at City Hall in making the Barns project happen.

So it might come as a surprise to Mihevc that, according to a recent Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) Master's Thesis in their Sociology and Equity Studies in Education (SESE) Department, his crowning achievement is a 'white privilege' zone that makes people of colour feel excluded.

Rachelle Campigotto, the author of the thesis, Farmers' Markets and their Practices Concerning Income, Privilege and Race: A Case Study of the Wychwood Artscape Barns in Toronto, claims the Wychwood Barns famers' market is patronized by whites at a ratio disproportionately high to the area, which creates an exclusionary area of white privilege. She reaches her conclusions by using "Whiteness Theory" - something that on the surface sounds like a subject more appropriate to a lecture by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke than an area of study at the University of Toronto.

Preposterous race-fixation is nothing new to UT/OISE's crackpot Sociology and Equity Studies in Education department, which behaves like a cult that conditions its adherents to view everything in terms of race. It is notorious for producing Jenny Peto's anti-Jewish master's thesis that alleged "a mainstream Jewish community that is dominated by racist.. ideologies" and postulated a Zionist plot to use Holocaust education for nefarious purposes. This same department also produced a Master's Thesis recently purporting that Western feminists opposed to female genital mutilation are racists motivated by a "preoccupation with genitalia" and the "pleasure of whiteness."

The Farmers' Market thesis says the "concept of whiteness is a critique of the privilege afforded to those who are white based solely on ‘being white’." So amid all the mumbo jumbo, the idea that Mihevc's farmers' market would be an exclusionary, white-privileged environment is a foregone conclusion.

Characteristic of SESE, the thesis is hopelessly flawed. The author did a survey of participants at the market and measured it, with limited insight, against the demographic data for all Ward 21 rather than the immediate area surrounding the farmers' market. Ward 21 is large mid-town ward where the overwhelmingly predominant mother tongue of constituents is English and like the rest of Toronto, there are a variety of ethnic groups in it. The largest identified ethnic group in Ward 21 is Jewish.

But the Barns themselves are a block away from Wychwood Park, a private neighbourhood that is one of the most affluent in the city. It is a stone's throw from the Forest Hill and Casa Loma neighborhoods, two more of the city's richest areas. The residential streets around the Barns comprise a middle/upper middle-class neighborhood that is predominately, as my Italian friends would say, "mangia cake" (i.e. white bread).

The patrons of the Wychwood Farmers' Market reflect the neighbourhood it is in.  It's no surprise that something produced at OISE and its pathological racial obsessions would fail to take such an obvious factor as that as well as something as basic as culture into account.

Culture may correlate to race on occasion, but they have no intrinsic link to each other. There is no racial component that makes a person more or less predisposed to be at a Famers' Market; that behaviour is a cultural attribute. While I'm not a cultural relativist and think Canadian culture is one of the world's best, it does have an element that is inferior to those of East Asia, the Caribbean and other locales from which many of Canada's immigrants are drawn.

Those cultures aren't so stupid as to produce a large segment of people who pay five times the value for a dirty bundle of carrots or a bug-eaten head of lettuce just because a vendor displays a piece of cardboard with the word "organic" on it. That particular attribute seems to be the province of dumb-ass, upper-middle class North Americans, of whom most happen to be white. That people from countries where the majorities are non-white are less inclined to be conned in that way speaks to a certain cultural superiority among those groups.

What is disgraceful about all of this is the University of Toronto continuing to give imprimatur to OISE's idiotic racialism. Unlike the enlightened part of society that seeks to treat individuals as such, OISE's Sociology and Equity Studies in Education department continues to implicitly teach that we are less individuals than representatives of our racial group.

The public has an interest in what goes on at OISE for two important reasons. One is that we help to fund it through our taxes. But more significantly, generations of Ontario's teachers are produced at OISE and promulgate this backwards type of thinking in classrooms across the province.

It's time the destructiveness of such programs were evaluated and we as Ontarians asked ourselves, are OISE's inane, intellectually vacuous race theories what we want our children to be brought up on?

1 comment:

truepeers said...

Whiteness is essentially the condition of being unmarked by any victimary status, so as to appear normal or neutral. So, if one holds the view that pesticides and other supposedly non-"organic" chemicals create pathology, then going "organic" is indeed an attempt to remain unmarked, white. Just buying the stuff, wherever, would be a sign of your racial privilege. However, in an age when white guilt is no longer a "preserve" of the pale-skinned but can be experienced and avowed by anyone who feels some privilege removing them from those marked out for victimization, one must wonder at why all your "superior" cultures don't buy into the unmarking, de-pathologizing, that goes under the sign of the organic. Don't they realize that consumer culture exists to make all positions and statuses maximally exchangeable? Is their problem lack of filthy guilty lucre? do they share your claim that the organic is itself the agent of economic victimization? Or perhaps, subversively, do they dare play the consumer game to imply that industrial produce is itself the unmarked normal, the equivalent of the good old white bread? Are the organic mangia-cakers really now racial sore thumbs? Seriously, has OISE defined the racial legitimacy of "organic", in any retail context? Inquiring minds want to know :<)