CBC’s radio program The Current recently examined the politics of courting the so-called ethnic vote in the context of Canada’s current federal elections. The conservative ad embedded above, which opens with historical photos of the Komagata Maru and MP Nina Grewal saying “things haven’t always been fair for us, but the conservatives have always recognized our history…” is one of several ads–liberal and conservative–targeting ethnic voters. Political parties court ethnic communities presumably because they want their support. But things can go sour in this courtship if people feel disrespected. Take for example, last week’s “ethnic costumes” request coming from the campaign of Toronto conservative candidate Ted Opitz, seeking to create a multicultural photo-op at a rally in support of him and the Prime Minister.
“Do you have any cultural groups that would like to participate by having someone at the event in an ethnic costume? We are seeking one or two people from your community,” the email signed by Zeljko ‘Zed’ Zidaric said.
“The opportunity is to have up to 20 people in national folklore costumes which represent their ethnic backgrounds,” the email said.
People who didn’t like the idea of being ethnic props responded with a counter-rally.
A Facebook page formed after the email was leaked calls the email “patronizing and offensive” and invited people to participate in a counter-rally outside the Etobicoke event.
“Whether you’re Chinese, Arab, Portuguese, Italian, South Asian, Irish, Vulcan, Klingon, Zombie, or Ewok. Let’s show the Conservatives that ‘ethnic voters’ are not props for photo-ops,” the Facebook page says. (CBC News)
One advocacy group composed a bit of musical satire in response. Their take on Michael Jackson’s “Beat it” aims its lyrics at the kind of politician who would reduce important issues relevant to a community down to song and dance and food: “We have to show them that we’re more than a vote/We have our views and voice, our rights are not a joke/They call us when they need us/To join their campaign bus…” Brownpeople.tumblr.com first brought it to my attention.
They are taking aim at politicians who get their photos taken eating various ethnic fare… baklava, guava, okra, spring rolls or samosas, cassava or rice.
Avvy Go came up with the idea for the song Go Ethnic Go — and the video that goes with it — as a way of expressing her concerns about being labeled and targeted as an “ethnic” voter. The song and video were released last week by an advocacy group called The Colour of Poverty. (The Current)