(H/T V. Wong, @vywccnc)
Torontonians headed to the polls today to elect the city’s newest mayor, someone who will hopefully replace the eternally disgracefully (yet endlessly entertaining) Rob Ford. One of the candidates was Olivia Chow, a Chinese Canadian, former City Councillor and former member of Parliament. Chow was running as the New Democratic Party candidate and — if my Facebook timeline is any indication –stood a pretty good chance of taking the Toronto mayorship in a tight race; election results published just a few minutes ago show that Chow lost to Progressive Conservative candidate John Tory, coming in a distant third after Ford’s equally-as-obnoxious brother.
Yesterday, Chow’s campaign was forced to deal with a shocking cartoon published by the Toronto Sun, the city’s answer to the New York Post. The caricature shows Chow inexplicably garbed in a Chinese Communist outfit and with distinctly slanted eyes literally riding the coattails of her late husband, former NDP leader Jack Layton who died in 2011.
This cartoon is as racist as it is insensitive.
While it’s true that Olivia Chow is not a native-born Chinese Canadian, her connection to Communist China is dubious at best (and racist at worst); Chow was born in Hong Kong in 1957 and her family emigrated to Canada in 1970, nearly two decades before the British colony was handed over to the Chinese government. Chow’s association with the Chinese Communist Party exists only insofar as some cartoonist — in this case Andy Donato — thinks that all Chinese people must come from China. Furthermore, garbing Chow in the uniform of the Chinese Communist Party invokes the suggestion that Chow is disloyal to Canada, a country she has called home for over forty years. Instead, the joke reinforces the anti-Asian Perpetual Foreigner stereotype; even after two decades of public service, Chow’s loyalty to Canada is still in question.
Furthermore, the cartoon is disgusting in its invocation of Jack Layton. The basic thrust of this cartoon — that Chow is riding the coattails of her late husband to political prominence — is not only morally distasteful, it seeks to deny and erase Chow’s own lengthy credentials for the office of mayor. As mentioned, Chow has served as a City Councillor in Toronto for roughly 15 years, and a Member of Parliament for an additional 8 years. Chow developed that resume by the strength of her own efforts and intelligence; the assertion that Chow — in this or any previous position — is only enjoying the fruits of being married to a powerful man is alarmingly sexist.
In the middle of the final full day of campaigning, Chow was forced to issue a response to the Toronto Sun. She told local news station CP24 that she found the cartoon “disgusting”. Reports CP24:
“Because I am Chinese-Canadian, I must be a communist and have slanted eyes and glasses … and since I am a woman, I must be inferior and therefore not good enough for the job of the mayor so I must rely on my deceased husband so it is both racist and sexist.”
Chow said she is surprised to see these types of stereotypes still circulating today.
“I remember getting that kind of attack in the 80s when I first became a school trustee,” she said.
“I thought those kind of racial stereotypes were long past us and then to bring up my deceased husband and to drag him in… it is just quite outrageous.”
For a city that I take pride in pointing to for its relative progressiveness — both racially and otherwise — this incident is disgusting. (Although, we all have to note, this is the Toronto Sun, which in my day was still publishing a picture of a half-nude woman on the inner cover along with a set of bullet points about the girl’s likes and dislikes.)
As of Election Night, there has been no word from the Toronto Sun‘s editorial board on the publication of this racist and sexist cartoon. However, if social media is any indication, many of Toronto’s voters were outraged over the caricature. I will keep you posted if I hear the Sun is issuing an apology, however, you can tweet the Sun at @TheTorontoSun or contact the editorial board through their website.