Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The First Ever....

So.... Calgary just elected its first ever Muslim Mayor.
So what!?
He was the choice of the people. Clearly he won the election for varied reasons: his platform, ideas, ability to engage the electorate and cause them to buy into his vision for Calgary, his effective use of social media. Did he win because he is a Muslim? Did anyone step behind the ballot box and say, "hmmm I think it is about time we elected a Muslim".  Who cares that he's Muslim? Is Naheed Nenshi qualified to do the job? Time will tell whether the people's choice was correct but regardless of the outcome I can pretty much guarantee that Mayor Nenshsh's religion will not be a factor.
The Hon. Glen Murray, was the first ever openly gay Mayor of a major North American city, representing  Winnipeg, Manitoba from 1998 to 2004. Did the people of Winnipeg decide it was time to have a gay guy running things or did they just chose the candidate with the best credentials?

George Smitherman kissed his spouse in front of a group of reporters "an action normally seen only by heterosexual politicians". So what? They're gay and they are married.  Did we expect them to shake hands?

Kim Campbell was Canada's first ever female Prime Minister in 1993. This may be a bad example since her abysmal failure might have been, in part, due to her gender because lord knows the powers that be on the bible thumping religious right don't like feeling emasculated. But nonetheless, did Canadians say "we need a woman running things"? No. They were voting political right in Canada and she happened to be at the helm.

And of course, probably the most notable first ever was watching Barack Obama become the first ever black president of the USA. Did Americans decide it was time to elevate some poor descendant of slaves and give him a shot? Or did Obama actually win because, oh I don't know, he knew what he was doing?

Muslim. Gay. Woman. Black. Am I the only one seeing a pattern here? Not a white heterosexual male in the bunch.

And so why is it that anyone who, through ability, knowledge, character and sheer determination, earns a position of power, either politically or in the private sector, becomes some kind of freakish "wow check this out" kind of news story? Because anyone who isn't a white heterosexual male shouldn't attain such things?

You're right: of course that's a ridiculous notion. Why then is it that we as a society continue to make a big deal when it happens? The simple answer: prejudice, bigotry, and racism.

Harsh, I know. But I believe this to be true. And it continues to be perpetrated by the media, as well as by the formerly marginalized groups who now lay claim to the very bastions of power that they could only once dream about.

So this morning on Canada AM, the story went like this:  "Calgary elected its first ever Muslim Mayor in a close race last night".

In my perfect world the story would have gone: "Naheed Nenshi, a 38 year old business professor, narrowly defeated two opponents to become Mayor of Calgary last night. Nenshi's platform included a promise to limit urban sprawl, and to make neighbourhoods more fun, safer, and greener. The mayor elect holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Calgary".

Now, I'm not bashing white heterosexual males here: I happen to love white heterosexual males! But when was the last time we made a big deal about one's religion, or the fact that he kissed his spouse prior to the start of a press conference?

We are all guilty of prejudice, bigotry and racism.  Every race, every gender, every sexual orientation. I guess it is too much to ask that we can all be judged only by our individual merits. Or maybe my ideal world is far too simple a place! I can dream though......

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