A Nearly Invisible Minority and Extremely Special Pleading
VANCOUVER - Remembering the 1997 Blanche Royal Commission on the Status of Translucent-Canadians, Anemia Wan grows pale with anger. “That report solved nothing,” says the White Rock-based albinism activist, a past president of Albinos From Nanaimo: “It was a total whitewash.”
Over a bowl of White Spot chowder, Wan is reflecting on her three decades’ advocacy for the Canadian unpigmented. “In this supposedly colour-blind society,” she notes, “we albinos are a nearly-invisible minority.”
Wan, 38, says the controversial Earl’s human-rights case, wherein the restaurant chain stands accused of selling albino-themed food, proves that pro-pallidness campaigners can’t give up. “What are we supposed to do,” she asks, “just stand on equality’s battlefield, waving some kind of defeat flag? We albinos refuse to be the missing pieces of the cultural mosaic.”
Wan’s own life suggests that, if it’s hard to be white in rainbow Canada, it’s harder to be whiter. Raised in the village of Snowball, Ontario, of mixed African-Asian and Algonquin-Scots heritage, she remembers the childhood embarassment of attending weekend ECHL hockey games, carrying her prescription parasol. The home team’s name? The Whiteout.
“Their goalie was black, and so were their home uniforms,” Wan remembers. “So. You can imagine. He asked me out, I blush to recall.”
Wan and most of her differently-coloured comrades have compromised with Canuck society’s albinophobia, it seems. (Some albinos prefer the term “colour-challenged;” another faction defines albinism sufferers as “an uncolourised community.”) Commenters at the subculture’s online hub, www.whitewhitewhite.org, often praise Canada’s “near-total lack of painful sunshine” and “distaste for early-period Michael Jackson.”
But is this struggling community simply putting on non-rose-coloured contact lenses? Anemia Wan laughs at the idea, as her fellow-activist Flaxen Paley (commonly called “Whitey”) drops by the table with a Sprite-and-vanilla float for her old comrade. Sad but determined, the two identify five albino action items for the post-Earl’s world:
- Ensure the White Stripes break up;
- Make sure that “Wite-Out” is no longer used;
- Purge racists of whatever colour from the “whiter powerer” movement;
- Erect awnings over wheelchair ramps, and
- Boycott any and all Edgar or Johnny Winterses or impersonators.
Paley and Wan are fond, and huggers, it turns out. Experienced campaigners, they don’t expect that government will make albinos’ lives better anytime soon. “Everyone can see right through the BC Human Rights Tribunal,” says Wan. “They’re transparent.
Lyle Neff is a satirist and pugnacious pundit for The Propagandist