Gilles Duceppe on Uncle Toms, and how to get oneself shot

Duceppe just described francophone MPs serving with other parties as “the Uncle Toms from Quebec”, thus implying he concurs with the assessment of FLQ leader Pierre Vallières’ 1968 book Nègres blancs d’Amérique (“White N—-rs of America”) that the situation of French colonial immigrants to North America is comparable to that of African slaves in the southern US, since both groups were forcibly imported to the New World and subsequently exploited by aristocratic anglo-saxon capitalists.

This, of course, is preposterous and highly offensive. As a brief reminder of what it’s like to be black in North America, I keep reading interviews with black people in the US who say they’re afraid to support Obama for president because if he does too well in the race, he might get shot, just as MLK, Malcolm X, and other black leaders were before him. French Canadians got a pretty rough deal here before 1970, it’s certainly true, but it just wasn’t on the same scale. Systematic discrimination in employment and education just can’t be compared to routine lynchings.

Duceppe was responding to a recent study showing that within the next 10 years, the percentage of households in Montreal which primarily speak French is likely to drop under 50%. This is usually blamed on immigrants, even though ever since Bill 101 many of those speak French when at school or work. The root cause of this is actually low birthrates in francophone households, and why this the fault of immigrants is completely beyond me. But if Duceppe wishes to integrate those immigrants into francophone culture — a noble goal — he ought to show a little more awareness of and sensitivity to other ethnocultural groups.

PS: A brief PSA: if you haven’t read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, do yourself a favour and don’t bother. Even aside from the famous racism it’s a truly terrible piece of writing which should only ever be opened by overzealous cultural studies and literary students. Just read the wikipedia summary, that’s more than enough to get a taste for the thing.