The Problem With Racists

Focus groups are good at focusing. If there is a strong racist voice in the group, they might start to focus on race.
CP/Bank of Canada

When I heard the news this morning mention the Bank of Canada changed the image of a woman on the $100 because she wasn’t white-bread enough, I thought I must have missed something. I couldn’t understand what the point was. That’s because there isn’t a point. It’s pointless racism, plain and simple, and formalized by the Canadian bank.

(I also immediately pulled one of the $100 bills I keep from under my pillow {kidding}, and checked what the fuss was about. Turns out, the image on the bill had already been changed {not in the time between hearing the report, and looking under my pillow}.)

I’d actually looked at the $100 a few days ago, inspecting it closely for the first time. At no point did I think, “You know, I think that should/shouldn’t be an Asian woman on the back.” What I did think strange was that I couldn’t find a name of a single Canadian medical innovator on the bill, even though it says “Medical Innovation” and they have a bottle of insulin and a DNA structure on it. Not sure why DNA is there, although there are no doubt important Canadian innovations in that field, Watson and Crick were not Canadian. Banting and Best were. I was a little confused why they were not gathered at the microscope on the bill while their life saving, world changing innovation appeared in bottle form in the foreground.

I found someone suitable for a Bank of Canada focus group, on Twitter:

I can imagine the process this debacle went through. Here’s a dramatization with thought bubbles for your amusement/horror:

Focus Group participant (in their inner voice): “I know I’m supposed to focus on this money, but all I can think about is Asian women. Holy crap, it’s because there’s an Asian-looking woman on the $100! Maybe that’s what the Bank wanted me to notice? I’d better say something.”

Bank of Canada group guide: “Our money isn’t supposed to make people think that only Asian Canadians know how to use microscopes to make medical innovations. We’d better use a race-neutral person, yet still female so as not to say that only men can make innovations, since we wouldn’t want to be sexist. There’s no race more neutral than white people, because white includes every colour, that’s a scientific fact. Scandal averted. Hooray for cultural sensitivity and political correctness! We didn’t offend Asian-looking Canadians by suggesting they have the capacity to be medical innovators and equal opportunity to appear on our money.”

Media: “OH RLY?”

Public: “Canadian Actress Sandra Oh should be representing medical innovation on our $100 note.” #GreysAnatomy

Me: *Head desk*

Oh RLY $100, Canadian $100 bank note before the bank took off the "Asian-looking" woman.


10 responses to “The Problem With Racists

  1. Guess our neighbors down south can never have a picture of a Black President on their banknotes because it would be stereotyping, especially now that they do actually have a Black President.

    The part that I really enjoyed was that this person is now a “light” shade and they consider that as “neutral”.

    Did you watch the Olympics recently? Did you see all those athletes representing Canada who were not of the “neutral” shade?

    And we pat ourselves on the back as a society for being more inclusive than those racist Americans.

  2. Pingback: Blog News Summary August 17 2012 | The Wellington Street Post

  3. I agree they made a bad decision, & that it shows the whole idea of focus groups can backfire if you only do it half-way or make decisions too rashly based on them.

    But as I heard it, the focuser’s (or -s’? : they haven’t released how many) objection was a PC one (altho admittedly a somewhat bizarre one, to think it’s all that offensive to those involved, even if it DID cause some to think it) rather than a racist one: that using an Asian in the geeky lab role perpetuated the stereotype that they’re just nerds.

    They’re supposed to weight these things — how frequent, strongly held, & wingnuttty are the objections/-ers — before acting on them. And instead of just deciding, oh, ok, so let’s use a ‘neutral’ person, the BoC should have also considered, “Hmm, what if this gets out (if a focus-group participant blabs, e.g., much less the ATIP), what would the blow-back be?” & done a focus group on THAT, if necessary (if they were too stupid or timid to imagine that what HAS happened WOULD happen: they’ll end up looking like racists &/or idiots).

    • “In the development of our $100 bank note, efforts by the bank note designers to avoid depicting a specific individual resulted in an image that appears to represent only one ethnic group.

      That was not the Bank’s intention and I apologize to those who were offended –”

      I think the apology is sincere, and it’s better they try that than deny there was a problem. I still think the point is missed, however. There’s not a problem if one ethnic group is depicted on a single bill in a single series. The Queen (English) and Macdonald (Scottish) represent other ethnic groups, as examples. There’s (rightly) been First Nations art depicted previously on another bill in another series.

      The problem is the fretting and political correctness run amok, to the point where such an effort to be fair was made, that they didn’t get on with the business of representing Canadians, one ethnicity, one depiction at a time. And they wasted money to do it, and promise to use more too.

  4. Well, it appears after a close look that they didn’t remove the Asian looking lady from the note excepting that she finished looking at the X-ray and moved on to expose the white looking lady using the microscope who was there all the time.

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