Written by Matt Humphrey, Published by CBC News

June 27, 2018

Brexit, Trump and Travel Ban Have Given License to Discrimination, Says Ryerson Prof

'People who hate certain groups now feel emboldened by the actions of the Republican Party'

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the most recent iteration of President Donald Trump's travel ban.

The ban restricts entry to the United States, to varying degrees, for citizens of seven countries: Iran, North Korea, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Venezuela. The decision comes days after the administration agreed to stop separating children from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border and start detaining them as families instead.

Both policies are examples of how life for people with brown-coloured skin has become more complicated in the past two years, says Kamal Al-Solaylee, a professor of journalism at Ryerson University.

Ahead of a lecture titled It's a Brown New World. Now What? at Vancouver's BMO Theatre Centre at 7 p.m. Wednesday June 27th, Al-Solaylee spoke with Stephen Quinn, host of CBC's The Early Edition, about multiculturalism.

How do you define what it means to be brown?

I did start with the very basic definition of someone who is not white and not black. Then I started looking at certain points of pressure, like the people who do cheap labour. And then certain anxieties around multiculturalism and Islam. So, I define it around issues but I never strayed from the basic thing of what your skin tone might be.

How has the situation changed in the last two years?

It's only a matter of just under two years, but you might as well think of it as decades of change. The first shock was Brexit, and the Leave campaign winning on largely anti-immigrant policies. Then Donald Trump gets elected. The first two things he did was to target Mexican workers and to hint at a travel ban, which he obviously got.

These two communities, which are at the heart of what I define as brown communities, have been largely offered to his base as bait. Strategically speaking, it was a very effective policy — his base has not one, but two groups they can call the enemy.

You've written that religion has been colourized.

Islam is a religion with more than a billion followers, and only some would be considered brown. And when you think of media images of that religion, it's almost exclusively the brown terrorist or the threatening veiled woman. All these things play up the fear of the other — our fear of a religious group.

The travel ban now offers a legitimate framework for discriminating against members of society who probably have nothing to do with whatever we fear about [Islam]. All one billion people become tainted, and when that comes from the top, it sends a clear signal.

Do you think Donald Trump has given tacit permission for people to be more openly racist?

Absolutely. It has given licence to feelings that were under-checked. It's a pot that is bubbling, and you let the lid off, and now all the steam is coming out. People who hate certain groups now feel emboldened by the actions of the Republican Party.

Multiculturally speaking, are we better in Canada?

We should celebrate what we've done right, but we shouldn't take this progress for granted. I do think we're vulnerable. The next federal election in 2019, I guarantee, will be fought on terms not unlike the 2016 U.S. election.

This interview aired during CBC's The Early Edition on June 27 and has been edited for clarity and length.

Journalism professor Kamal Al-Solaylee speaks with host Stephen Quinn to discuss his upcoming lecture titled It's a Brown New World. Now What? 7:55