Friday, September 23, 2011

Reverse Racism Revealed in a Thousand Words (or Less)

A National Post letter to the editor claims that this photo is, well, revelatory:
Re: Photo with A Problem For Everyone, Armine Yalnizyan, Sept. 21.
What a perfect photo (shown below) to illustrate this column about income inequality. The beautiful young victim of the abusive husband droops artistically over the handwritten sign detailing her plight. She is seated on the steps of some grand institution probably a bank, while the young white man dressed in a business suit, shirt and silk tie strides cruelly past, completely ignoring her.
What an image.
Jean Lawrence L'Esperance, Ottawa.
A picture may indeed, as the old cliche goes, be worth a thousand words. But not here. How does Jean know that "the beautiful young victim of the abusive husband" is legit and isn't some scam artist (like, say, Toronto's infamous "shaky lady")? How does she know that the "young white man dressed in a business suit" has a tie made of silk, or that he's "cruel"? She knows nothing at all about him, save that he's wearing a suit and appears to be Caucasian. For all she knows, he could be on his way to work at an NGO that assists street people, or the starving in Africa.

We know nothing for certain about the people in the photo. From her letter, though, we do know a great deal about Jean. For one thing, she likes to make sweeping conclusions about people based on their skin colour. For another, she isn't too fond of capitalism and its "grand" (but heartless) institutions.

Mightn't we say that, in this case, a brief letter-to-the-ed is worth a thousand words--re the letter-writer and her (or his, if the "Jean" is French) prejudices?

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