Friday, January 27, 2006

King Arthur, not a racist?

Fred from Montreal had this to say in the comments on my Ones to Watch post, about Andre Arthur.

First thing is that there really were students at the Laval university sent their by their parents from africans country who happened to be either the dictators themselves or high ministers for dictatorial regimes. These students were given special treatments because of the money their parents transfered to the university, it was a local scandal when all of this came out. And the cannibal comment came from that, not from the act of eating human flesh, but rather as a reference to the way these regimes were eating up the ressources of their own country while their people died.

It was an outraged comment on a situation where the university was accepting money that was cannibalized by dictators from their own country.

So, to set the record exactly straight, let's see the entire quote, from Wikipedia.

"All that aside, we're always saying how global we are and taking in foreign students in Quebec at the university, especially students from North Africa. Laval University is one of the biggest universities in North Africa.
The problem is, people forget that in Africa, in Muslim countries and countries in Black Africa, the ones who are sent abroad to study are the sons of people who are disgusting, the sons of the people who own the country so that they can govern it better. They're the sons of plunderers, cannibals who control certain Third World countries and can afford to send their children to Quebec to go to school, if it's not outright corruption by companies that want to get access to natural resources in Africa and will pay to have the sons of the disgusting people who govern those countries study in Quebec.
But they're still proud in Laval to accept foreign students. They forget to say that those foreign students, by definition, with some exceptions, are all children of the most disgusting political leaders in the world, people who are sucking their countries dry, people who kill to gain power and torture to keep it. People we call cannibals, people who are extremely cruel."

On further reflection, is the statement still racist? I think not quite, but it's skirting the line pretty close. Not in condemning the university for accepting and coddling students who are the offspring of dictators, but in tarring virtually all African students with the same brush. That's obviously a gross oversimplification of the issue. Africa has a lot of petty dictators, but it has more than a few democracies as well. So I'd say that Arthur can't be directly judged as racist purely on the contents of this quote, but he can be judged as pig ignorant about Africa and Africans. And that kind of ignorance does inflame and encourage existing racism.

Should he have been censored? I believe in absolute free speech, so I'd say no. Should he have been elected to public office? Fuck no.


eugene plawiuk said...

Cannibals? cannibals is not quite racist. I would say it certainly was.

Matthew said...

There's not enough information in that one quote to say if he's a racist or not.

Because he was talking about Africans, you can easily infer that he was referencing the Africans-as-savages cliche - which would have certainly been racist. But if he had used the same cannibal metaphor about, say, George Bush or Dick Cheney, we would know it didn't have anything to do with racism.

It could have been just an incredibly poor choice of metaphor - we need to see more of his public statements about minorities to be sure. He certainly bears watching. I'm just saying that based solely on this one quote, which is all I have to go on, I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt.

For now.

Thanks for commenting. I like your blog.