The Star reports this morning about U of T political science student Evon Reid (pictured). Reid applied for a job at Queen’s Park as a media analyst earlier this month and was waiting to hear back when an e-mail from Aileen Siu, a part-time contract employee (whose contract is probably about to end prematurely), landed in his inbox on Friday morning. Siu’s e-mail simply read: “This is the ghetto dude that I spoke to before.”
The e-mail was forwarded from Siu to another employee, but, according to The Star‘s original article, was copied to Reid accidentally. While no-one from the cabinet office where Siu worked had met with Reid face-to-face, they had spoken to both Evon and his Jamaican-accented mother over the phone.
Unsurprisingly, heads are rolling: Siu is insisting that the e-mail was “internal,” was not about anyone “outside [her] circle of friends,” and that “[she] don’t even know what nationality he is,” though, according to The Star, she “acknowledged that the term [“ghetto”] was negative.” Cabinet office manager Craig Sumi called and apologized on Reid’s machine, and now Giles Gherson, the cabinet officer’s deputy minister of communications and, coincidentally, The Star‘s recently-fired ex-Editor-in-Chief, is trying to arrange it so that he can apologize in person.
Reid (pretty far from whatever negative connotation of “ghetto” Siu was talking about—he has a belt clip for his Blackberry, after all) tried to avoid the “racism” angle today, telling The Star that “this isn’t a Confederate flag in a pickup truck…but it’s the kind of private view that affects decisions about someone like myself in the job market.”
Of course, politicians have jumped on the opportunity to treat Siu’s comment exactly like it was a Confederate flag in a pickup truck. PC leader John Tory is insisting that Dalton McGuinty apologize himself for the mistake, with NDPer Paul Ferreira agreeing and urging “sensitivity training” for all government employees. The correct response, though? Keep Reid’s name in the hat for the media analyst job, ditch Siu or—if she actually doesn’t think she was doing anything wrong—give her sensitivity training, and, ya know, try to avoid hiring people who think that “black” and “ghetto” are synonyms. A low-level part-time contract employee saying something extremely stupid is not an example of a systemic problem of racism in the Ontario government. In fact, it’s the kind of situation to which Hanlon’s razor applies perfectly: never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.
UPDATE (07/25, 8:00 p.m.): Aileen Siu has resigned.
Photo of Evon Reid from his Facebook profile.