First, you need to know that the Star does not refer to any person’s race or ethnicity unless it is relevant to the story. When relevant, writers should aim to avoid blanket labels and be as specific as possible in identifying the race or ethnicity of individuals or groups.
But that isn’t always possible. In such cases, the Star’s style guide advises we should use the term “visible minority.” But, the guide tells us, this is not a perfect solution either.
“Visible minority” is defined by Statistics Canada as “persons, other than Aboriginal Peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour.” As many critics of the term “visible minority” have pointed out, census data indicates that 47 per cent of Toronto’s population reported themselves as being “visible minority” so the minority is almost equal to the majority — and will soon be the majority.
Last fall, the Ontario Human Rights Commission announced that it will use the terms “racialized person” or “racialized group” instead of labels it now regards as “outdated” and “inaccurate.” These include “non-white,” “visible minority,” “racial minority” and “person of colour.”
While the Star’s style committee has not discussed the use of “racialized” as a term that might now be preferable to “visible minority,” some Star writers have begun to use it. Others refer to “people of colour” as I did here in referring to Whiting as a “woman of colour,” largely because that’s how she described herself.
As a middle-aged white woman, I am hardly the one to declare answers to these questions of critical importance to our diverse community. This seems to me an area where the Star can show leadership by reaching out to people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds to seek further understanding — and possibly, some consensus — on how we best talk about race and ethnicity in the Toronto Star.
What do I think? I think it must be awful to be a middle-aged white woman, and therefore the beneficiary of "white privilege" in a society chock-full of "racialized" victim groups. The angst that goes along with that must be overwhelming, certainly enough to propel many sufferers into years of psychotherapy--to no avail.What do you think?