Friday, March 10, 2006

Racialized Poverty in Toronto

There is a new report based on the 2001 census that looks at the racialization of poverty in Toronto -- the "growing economic apartheid" in Canada, as an earlier report on related themes once described it. It's author is York University academic Michael Ornstein, who did similar work with the 1996 census. The current report looks at the worsening of the racial divide between 1971 and 2001. You can read a summary of the report or the whole thing (in PDF).

From the summary:

The census reveals that 40 per cent of African ethno-racial group members lived below the poverty line in 2001, compared to about 30 per cent of the members of the Arab and East Asian groups, and 20 per cent of the Aboriginal, South Asian, East Asian, Caribbean, and South and Central American groups. By comparison, only 10 per cent of European group members were below the poverty line, and for some European groups the figure was only about five per cent.

(From an email on the PAR-L list.)


Dark Daughta said...

I think that one of the "beauties" about having a critique that incorporates an analysis of the matrix of interlocking oppressions is that I'm free to understand how various oppressions work together even as they can also sometimes exist separately. Presently, no actually, for quite some time I've been exploring and writing about the existence and the value systems of the Black middle class. When I understand that there are burgeoning groups of middle class people among queers, among feminists, among anarchists, wherever, I have space to not conflate poverty with race, for example. Conflating any sort of oppression with class and/or the economics of poverty and wealth means that folks who should be, need to be questioning their access to money, credit, reputation, education, etc., are obscured from view. I'd like to see more work done to actually acknowledge the ways that the middle classes of various communities actually serve as an economic and social buffer directly impacting the well-being and economic access of people in those same communities who live in poverty. Oftimes I'm finding that class and/or economic oppression is upheld by those who have something to gain regardless of where they are situated on continuums of race, shade, sexuality, etc...

Scott said...

Great points.

I haven't been totally unaware of the role that members with class privilege play with respect to communities that are oppressed in other ways, but it hasn't tended to be a particular focus of what I've written and thought and done either. I have tried to emphasize the racialized and gendered nature of class/economic oppression as a response to -- well, to the circumstances in which I was first learning about the issues. That would be in both grassroots spaces and later in agency sector spaces in Hamilton. Mostly those spaces were very white and male-dominated, and poverty was most often treated as an undifferentiated entity (i.e. with no particular relevance to racism or sexism) or "vulnerable groups" (or some other euphemism) were treated as add-ons rather than integrated into the analysis/practice. This leads to organizing or research or writing or analysis of services or whatever that just don't cut it because you obviously can't understand poverty or do effectively whatever you are trying to do with respect to it without understanding that it is raced and gendered, and why it is. But as you undoubtedly know far better than I, there is usually resistance to even acknowledging that it is necessary, let alone to doing the work to figure out how to respond to those things. So I try to emphasize the fact that class/economic oppression/poverty are not monolithic, singular entities.

But I guess putting too much emphasis on that one aspect, as you point out, and just integrating that one element of complexity while ignoring other aspects of how class/economic oppression and other oppressions actually function in the world still leaves important things unsaid, unexplored, unresponded-to, invisible.

I will think more about this...