Greetings web denizens, heathens, zealots and the rest of you!
Sometimes a cigar, as the famous German once said, is just a cigar. But that doesn’t stop some people seeing a pumpkin dressed as Johnny Depp instead.
Confused? Now you know how I felt when I read a recent piece about last year’s charity boxing match between now Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and then Conservative senator Patrick Brazeau in the StarPhoenix newspaer .
By way of background, the pair squared off for an amateur boxing gala event to raise money for a cancer charity. Although neither is what you could call a polished fighter, it was a scrappy, entertaining event in which Brazeau was was stopped in the 3rd round.
According to the StarPhenix story, which turns on interpretation of the fight by Kim Anderson, an indigenous studies professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, the fight wasn’t about charity, fighting cancer, or two politicians using their national profile for a good cause. It was about racial subjugation. In this case the white “gentlemen” beating the “savage” first nations man. It was little more, in Anderson’s view, than a reflection of deeply ingrained white Canadian fear and hatred of aboriginal people.
To which I call shenanigans. I have no idea what Anderson’s credentials are, but I am going to assume she is a smart and capable woman. But based on the article, I am also going to assume she knows next to nothing about boxing, less about politicians and has a very narrow view of race relations in Canada.
Anderson starts off her “critique” by telling us that politicians shouldn’t box:
Anderson became interested in last year’s Trudeau-Brazeau charity boxing bout as it became popular in the news. She was intrigued by the consensus that it was a great event for a good cause.
“It just seemed ridiculous to me,” she said.”Since when is this a model for governance? Since when is this a model for what we want to see in leadership?”
Yah, because a charity boxing match to raise money for cancer research is all about governance. The fact is that some politicians have broad appeal and a national profile that is not used nearly enough for good causes. Both men used their names to put butts into seats to watch the match and by doing so, raised money to help those suffering from cancer. Whether someone bought a ticket to see Trudeau get beaten or to see the Tory senator kiss canvas didn’t matter. They bought their tickets to help their fellow citizens. That is a good thing.
If anyone looked at the charity about as a “model for governance” they have completely missed the point. Anderson’s dislike of boxing is evident and, I think, coloured her view of the entire event.
Anderson then goes on to tell us that, although no one was demeaning Brazeau because of his ethnic heritage or holding up Trudeau as a great white hope, the event was dripping with racism, even if no one in the news media expressed a racist thought, or no one in the audience was thinking about race at all:
…there were racial implications nobody was talking about, Anderson said.
“In the mainstream news, you’re not going to see people coming up with their critical race theory. But I was surprised there was none of that.”
The Canadian colonist narrative shows the indigenous person as “uncivilized … just this kind of brute, and that the gentleman defines himself by going to that frontier, taking on the brute, subjugating him,” she said.
That means either civilizing him or coming to blows- as happened in this case.
“He defines his own masculinity and also right to dominate by doing it, because the guy on the other side is this physical presence that also poses a threat to the civilized world,” Anderson said.
Even if people didn’t think to make that literal connection, Anderson sees a problem.
So apparently we thought of Brazeau as a savage brute to be beaten back to protect civilization even if we didn’t think that at all. Way to go Canadians, you racist bunch of back-bacon eating, imperialist jerks.
Anderson has missed the point ENTIRELY. It is very and sadly true to say we still have racism in Canada. We still have not resolved centuries old issues with our First Nations brothers and sisters. As I have written about before, the relationship between the First Nations and the rest of Canada remains a national black eye that we time and again fail to properly and honourably address.
But that doesn’t mean every interaction between white Canadians and native Canadians is defined by our sometimes ugly history. In fact, that race simply was not even a consideration for the boxing charity is a good thing and the absence of racism shows we saw the two fighters as men, not as proxies for racial conflict.
In fact, there was a media narrative about the fight, but it had nothing to do with race. Brazeau was the heavy favoured by most Canadian news reporters because they knew less than nothing about boxing and because they though the political allegiance of the fighters would tell us how they would box. So Brazeau was favoured to win because he was a Tory. The Conservative are the tough party, the party of the blue collar workers and friends of the police and military. This meant, according to some dullstone newspaper reports, that the senator would beat the Liberal MP because the Liberals were portrayed as soft and weak and afraid to fight.
It was all ridiculous. Just as their ethnic heritage had nothing to do with their boxing skills, their politics said nothing about their pugilistic abilities. In fact, anyone who knew even a little about boxing would not have favoured Brazeau to win. The senator had done some martial arts, but hadn’t any ring experience. Trudeau on the other hand had been in many a boxing gym, having been introduced to the sport as a boy by his father. Trudeau knew how to box. Brazeau did not. That was pretty much all you needed to know.
As I had expected, Trudeau handily won, and the media reacted with shock. The wimpy underdog Liberal had beaten the tough Tory!
Anderson either was unaware of all this very public talk about the boxing match, or simply refused to acknowledge it when passing judgement on the fight and the country as a whole. She failed to see two men trying to do a good thing for their country and that the pre and post fight narrative was not about race but about politics.
We actually need academics in this country to research and point out where we, as a society, can do things better. But evidence matters, facts matter, and imposing a racist overlay on an event that manifestly had nothing to do with race is not just inaccurate it’s irresponsible and divisive.
Sometimes a boxing glove is just a boxing glove.