Transcript: Irshad Manji: Rethinking Life on the Left | Jun 07, 2019

Nam sits in the studio. She's in her early forties, with shoulder length curly brown hair. She's wearing glasses and a gray blazer over a green shirt.

A caption on screen reads "Rethinking life on the left. Nam Kiwanuka, @namshine, @theagenda."

Nam says THE CALL-OUT CULTURE OF SOCIAL
MEDIA AND PARTISAN POLITICS
MAKES EVERY INTERACTION
POTENTIALLY EXPLOSIVE.
SAY THE WRONG THING, OR SPEAK UP
ON A TOPIC
THAT IS NOT DEEMED YOURS, AND
LOOK OUT.
IT'S ELECTRIC, BUT IS IT DOING
ANYONE ANY GOOD?
AUTHOR AND EDUCATOR IRSHAD
MANJI'S NEW BOOK
ASKS SUCH QUESTIONS. IT'S CALLED
DON'T LABEL ME,
AN INCREDIBLE CONVERSATION FOR
DIVIDED TIMES,
AND SHE JOINS US NOW.

Irshad is in her early thirties, with short dark hair. She's wearing glasses and a short-sleeved red t-shirt.
A picture of her book appears briefly on screen. The cover features a black silhouette of a person and a pet watching an orange sunset, seen from behind.

Nam continues WELCOME BACK TO TVO!

Irshad says I'M SO HAPPY TO BE HERE.

Nam says I THINK YOU'RE ONE OF THE FEW
GUESTS THAT WE'VE HAD HERE
WHO'S HAD HUGS FROM THE CREW,
AND EVEN LIKE, APPLAUSE,
YOU KNOW, SO IT'S NICE TO HAVE
YOU BACK!

IRSHAD SAYS WE HAVE A HISTORY.

Nam says WELL, UM, THIS BOOK IS SO
FASCINATING.
AT TIMES, IT MADE ME VERY
UNCOMFORTABLE.
AND THERE WERE TIMES WHEN I WAS
LIKE, "YES, PREACH!"
BUT YOU WROTE THIS BOOK AS A
CONVERSATION BETWEEN YOURSELF
AND YOUR DOG, LILY, WHO HAS
PASSED AWAY.

Irshad says YEAH.

Nam says WHY DID YOU FRAME THE
CONVERSATION BETWEEN YOURSELF
AND YOUR DOG?

The caption changes to "Irshad Manji. Author, 'Don't label me.'"
Then, it changes again to "Get rid of those labels."

Irshad says WELL, FIRST OF ALL, I DID NOT
WANT THIS BOOK TO BECOME A RANT,
AND I'M VERY CAPABLE OF ONE, SO,
UH, LET'S AVOID THAT.
BUT ALSO BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, IN
THIS BOOK, NAM,
I AM ASKING READERS TO RISK
HAVING
UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH
PEOPLE WITH WHOM THEY DISAGREE.
OR MORE TO THE POINT, WITH
PEOPLE WHO DISAGREE WITH THEM.
SO OFTEN TODAY, RIGHT, WE TAKE
DISAGREEMENT AS A SOURCE
OF BEING OFFENDED, AND WE ROLL
OUR EYES OR SNAP OUR FINGERS
AND WALK AWAY. UM, AND THAT DOES
NOT DO ANY GOOD.
BECAUSE IF YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO
SAY,
HERE'S AN IRONCLAD LAW OF HUMAN
PSYCHOLOGY.
TO BE HEARD, YOU MUST FIRST BE
WILLING TO HEAR.

NAM SAYS WHAT I KNOW...

IRSHAD SAYS YEAH, BUT BACK TO LILY
FOR A SECOND, RIGHT?

Irshad says SO, YOU KNOW, I WANTED TO ROLE
MODEL A CONVERSATION,
AND REALLY, ONE OF MY OTHER BIG
POINTS IN THE BOOK
IS THAT WE HAVE SOMETHING TO
LEARN FROM EVERYONE,
AND IN THIS CASE, THAT INCLUDES
MY DOG.
YOU KNOW, MY LABELS FOR HER WERE
"OLD" AND "BLIND."

A picture shows Irshad smiling as she hugs a tiny gray dog.

Irshad says BUT I'LL TELL YOU SOMETHING.
SHE...
IN ADDITION TO FACTUALLY BEING
THAT, SHE WAS SO MUCH MORE.
SHE WAS SASSY AND FEISTY. I
WOULD, YOU KNOW, CLAP MY HANDS
IN ORDER TO BRING HER IN ONE
DIRECTION,
AND SHE WOULD DECISIVELY MOVE IN
A DIFFERENT DIRECTION.
AND WHAT SHE REMINDED ME IS
THAT, YOU KNOW,
THERE IS SO MUCH MORE THAN MEETS
THE EYE, TO ANY OF US.
SO, WHEN YOU PUT THOSE TWO
THINGS TOGETHER,
I THOUGHT THAT, YOU KNOW, I
WOULD NEVER RAISE A HARSH WORD
TO LILY, THEREFORE, IN HAVING A
CONVERSATION WITH HER
IN THIS BOOK, AND HAVING HER
CHALLENGE ME, AND MY POSITIONS,
THAT WE COULD REALLY DO
SOMETHING SPECIAL.
UM, AND AVOID THAT POLEMIC.

Nam says BUT I'M ALSO THINKING THAT WHEN
YOU DO GET TO THAT POINT
OF CHECKING YOURSELF, UM,
AND SAYING... DOING SOME WORK,
HOW DID YOU GET TO THAT POINT
WHERE YOU SAID,
YOU KNOW, I NEED TO RETHINK HOW
I AM, YOU KNOW,
LIVING MY LIFE.

Irshad says WELL, THAT'S...

Nam says OR ENGAGING WITH OTHER PEOPLE.

The caption changes to "Irshad Manji, @IrshadManji."

Irshad says RIGHT, THAT'S A BIG ONE.
WELL, AS SOME VIEWERS WILL KNOW,
IN A PREVIOUS CHAPTER OF MY
LIFE, I'VE WRITTEN BOOKS
ABOUT THE NEED FOR REFORM WITHIN
MY FAITH OF ISLAM.
AND THOSE BOOKS HAVE TAKEN ME
AROUND THE WORLD, UH,
AND IN FRONT OF OFTEN VERY
HOSTILE AUDIENCES.
AND THERE WAS A POINT AT WHICH
MY HEALTH BEGAN TO SUFFER,
BECAUSE OF ALL OF THE NEGATIVITY
AND TOXICITY, YOU KNOW,
THAT I WAS INGESTING, FROM THOSE
KINDS OF INTERACTIONS.
BUT I ALSO KNEW THAT THE CAUSE
WAS ONE THAT I REMAINED
PASSIONATE ABOUT. AND SO I
DECIDED THAT INSTEAD OF
EXPECTING OTHER PEOPLE TO
CHANGE,
MAYBE I'M THE ONE WHO HAS TO
CHANGE.
AND I REMEMBER PREPARING FOR ONE
DEBATE ON
AL JAZEERA
TV,
IN WHICH I WASN'T BRUSHING UP ON
ALL THE CONTENT,
I WAS CHECKING IN WITH MYSELF
EMOTIONALLY.
AND I SAID TO MYSELF "IRSHAD,
WHEN SOMEBODY MAKES A GOOD POINT
WHO OPPOSES YOU, SAY THEY'VE
MADE A GOOD POINT."
"WHEN YOU NEED MORE TIME TO
THINK ABOUT SOMETHING, TAKE IT.
WHEN YOU DON'T HONESTLY KNOW THE
ANSWER TO SOMETHING
YOU'VE JUST BEEN ASKED, SAY SO.
AND... AND COMMIT TO FINDING OUT.
AND IN BRINGING SOME HUMILITY TO
THE TABLE, SEE WHAT HAPPENS."
WELL, WHAT HAPPENED IS THAT I
REALIZED THAT LISTENING
DOESN'T TRANSLATE INTO LOSING...
QUITE THE OPPOSITE.
THE TRUST THAT WAS BUILT AMONG
VARIOUS IMAMS IN THE AUDIENCE
AS A RESULT TO THAT APPROACH
MEANT THAT A FEW MONTHS LATER,
I WAS INVITED TO COME SPEAK TO A
GROUP OF IMAMS
ABOUT THE NEED FOR REFORM WITHIN
ISLAM,
AND WE'VE REMAINED ON VERY
FRIENDLY TERMS.
THE POINT IS THAT WHEN YOU
CAN LOWER
OTHER PEOPLE'S EMOTIONAL
DEFENSES,
YOU WILL HAVE A MUCH BETTER
CHANCE OF BEING HEARD.

The caption changes to "Connect with us: Twitter: @theagenda; Facebook, agendaconnect@tvo.org, Instagram."

Nam says I'M JUST THINKING OF SOMETHING
THAT YOU SAID A MOMENT AGO,
WHERE YOU SAID THAT DISAGREEMENT
DOESN'T NECESSARILY
MEAN DISENGAGEMENT. IT ACTUALLY
MEANS SOMETHING ELSE.

Irshad says RIGHT, AND THAT LISTENING
DOESN'T HAVE TO TRANSLATE INTO
LOSING.
IT'S VERY COUNTERINTUITIVE,
RIGHT? WE'RE RAISED SO OFTEN
IN A COMPETITIVE CULTURE, TO
BELIEVE THAT IF YOU TAKE
A STEP BACK AND JUST HEAR THE
OTHER PERSON,
THEN SOMEHOW YOU'RE BEING
COMPLICIT IN THEIR FALSEHOOD
OR IN THEIR WRONGNESS, WHEN IN
REALITY,
YOU'RE GIVING SPACE FOR SOMEBODY
TO EXPLAIN
WHERE THEY'RE COMING FROM.
AND IF YOU'RE TRULY INTERESTED
IN WHERE THEY'RE COMING FROM,
THEN YOU'RE ALSO GOING TO BE
GLEANING INFORMATION
ABOUT WHAT MATTERS TO THEM. WHAT
THEY VALUE.
AND WITH THAT INFORMATION, HERE
IS THE BEAUTY,
YOU CAN REFRAME YOUR OWN
ARGUMENTS IN A WAY
THAT THEY CAN FINALLY HEAR.
SO IN FACT, THIS IS NOT ABOUT
MERELY BEING NICE OR POLITE
OR EVEN CIVIL... LET'S FACE IT,
MUCH HARM HAS BEEN DONE...

Nam says ACCESSIBILITY POLITICS...

Irshad says YEAH, EXACTLY.
MUCH HARM HAS BEEN DONE IN THE
GUISE OF CIVILITY.
NO, THIS IS ABOUT BEING
EFFECTIVE.
WHEN YOU'VE GOT A MESSAGE,
YOU'VE GOT TO BE SAVVY.
AND THAT MEANS BEING HUMANE.
SOMETHING THAT I THINK THAT A
LOT MORE OF US
WHO ARE POLITICAL JUNKIES COULD
STAND TO LEARN.

Nam says WELL, LET ME READ SOMETHING FROM
YOUR BOOK.

Irshad says SURE.

Nam says YOU WRITE, UH...


A quote appears on screen, under the title "The problem with labels." The quote reads "SOME PEOPLE
OPPOSE DIVERSITY BECAUSE THEY ARE BIGOTS... OTHERS,
THOUGH, ARE SKEPTICAL OF DIVERSITY BECAUSE OF HOW WE, ITS CHAMPIONS, PRACTICE IT. WE'RE FIXATED ON LABELING, AND LABELING DRAINS DIVERSITY OF ITS UNIFYING POTENTIAL."
Quoted from Irshad Manji, "Don't label me." 2019-

Nam says UM, WHAT'S THE PROBLEM WITH LABELS?

Irshad says OH, WELL, LABELS REDUCE EACH OF
US TO SOMETHING LESS
THAN WE ACTUALLY ARE, AND THE
PROBLEM WITH THAT IS NOT SO MUCH
THE LABEL ITSELF, ALTHOUGH
LABELS CAN IN FACT HURT.
IF I CALL YOU A RACIST, AND YOU
KNOW, IN YOUR HEART,
THAT WHAT CAME OUT OF YOUR MOUTH
WAS JUST CLUMSILY ARTICULATED,
AND HERE I AM BLUDGEONING YOU
WITH THIS VERY EXPLOSIVE,
EMOTIONALLY EXPLOSIVE WORD,
"RACIST,"
THAT CAN SHUT DOWN A
CONVERSATION RIGHT AWAY.
BUT IT'S THE BAGGAGE THAT GOES
WITH THE LABELS.
SO FOR EXAMPLE, I, AS A REFORM-
MINDED MUSLIM,
HAVE BEEN CALLED EVERY LABEL IN
THE BOOK.
FROM "STEAL JIHADIST" TO AN
"UNCLE TOM."
UM, AND I... THE THING IS, I
HAVEN'T PARTICIPATED
IN THE BAGGAGE THAT GOES WITH
ANY OF THESE LABELS, RIGHT?

NAM SAYS DO THESE LABELS HURT YOU?

Irshad says THEY USED TO HURT ME. THE REASON
THEY DON'T ANYMORE
IS NOT THAT I'VE BECOME NUMB TO
THEM,
OR I'VE DECIDED TO KEEP A STIFF
UPPER LIP, NO.
BUT BECAUSE I REALIZED THAT
SOMEHOW, I HAVE NOT
COMMUNICATED MYSELF WELL ENOUGH
FOR THE OTHER PERSON
TO UNDERSTAND WHERE I'M COMING
FROM. SO I OFTEN TAKE THE TIME
TO SAY "HOLD ON, IF THAT'S HOW
YOU SEE IT,
THEN LET ME JUST STEP BACK AND
EXPLAIN FURTHER."
OR WHEN I'M LISTENING TO
SOMEBODY, WHO, YOU KNOW,
CONFUSES ME ABOUT LIKE, WHY
THEY'RE SAYING WHAT
THEY'RE SAYING, UH, OR HURTS ME
IN HOW THEY'VE SAID
WHAT THEY'VE SAID... I AM READY
TO ASK THEM QUESTIONS.
NOT "GOTCHA" QUESTIONS, BUT
QUESTIONS ABOUT WHY
THEY BELIEVE WHAT THEY BELIEVE.
BECAUSE THERE IS SOMETHING ABOUT
THEM THAT I AM NOT GETTING.
HERE'S THE BOTTOM LINE,
AND I'M GONNA BE KIND OF
KENNEDY-ESQUE ABOUT IT.
YOU KNOW, ASK NOT HOW YOU CAN
CHANGE THE OTHER PERSON'S MIND.
ASK WHAT YOU'RE MISSING ABOUT
THE OTHER.
AND IN THAT WAY, YOU'RE BRINGING
A CERTAIN...
YOU'RE BEING HUMBLE ENOUGH TO
THEM, TO THEN DEMONSTRATE
TO THEM THAT THEY CAN BE THE
SAME IN THIS CONVERSATION...

NAM SAYS IT SOUNDS LIKE...

Irshad says AND IT'S NOT A SACRIFICE OF
POWER.
IT'S THE CLAIMING OF THE ABILITY
TO SET THE TONE.

Nam says BUT ALSO TO, IN THAT MOMENT, BE
ABLE TO TAKE A PAUSE,
BECAUSE THERE'S PROBABLY A LOT
OF EMOTIONS.

Irshad says SURE.
RIGHT.

Nam says AND NOWADAYS IT SEEMS LIKE, YOU
KNOW, PEOPLE ARE LIKE,
PEOPLE ARE ACCEPTING LABELS.
THEY WANT TO, UH,
BELONG IN A CERTAIN GROUP. YOU
KNOW, FROM NON-BINARY
TO PANSEXUAL. PEOPLE IN GROUPS,
THAT, YOU KNOW,
HISTORICALLY HAVE NOT BEEN SEEN
BY MAINSTREAM...
BY THE MAINSTREAM.

Irshad says RIGHT.

Nam says SO IF THEIR LABELS HELP THEM NOT
FEEL ALONE,
WHAT'S WRONG WITH LABELS?

Irshad says UM, FINE, AS I SAY, LABELS CAN
BE THE STARTING POINT
OF FURTHER DISCOVERY, BUT, YOU
KNOW, THEY... THEY ARE OFTEN
HARMFUL WHEN THEY ARE SIMPLY THE
FINISH LINE.
AND AGAIN, IT'S BECAUSE OF THE
BAGGAGE
THAT GOES WITH THOSE LABELS.
SOMEBODY WHO DEFIANTLY AND
DOGMATICALLY EMBRACES A LABEL
WILL FIND THAT MORE OFTEN THAN
NOT, UM,
ALL THE REST THAT THEY ARE WILL
BE VAPORIZED IN THE PROCESS.
AND YOU SEE, THE THING IS, WE'RE
NOT PRODUCTS.
WE ARE NOT INERT AS HUMAN
BEINGS.
WE ARE CONSTANTLY EVOLVING. SO
BE CAREFUL.
AS YOU ADOPT A LABEL FOR
YOURSELF, WHICH IS GREAT
AND ENNOBLING, IF THAT'S WHAT
YOU'VE CHOSEN,
BUT BE CAREFUL NOT TO FIX
YOURSELF IN TIME
OR FREEZE YOURSELF IN PLACE.

NAM SAYS DO PEOPLE CHOOSE THEIR LABELS
OR ARE PEOPLE GIVEN THOSE LABELS?

Irshad says BOTH.
BOTH.
BOTH, ABSOLUTELY. AND AGAIN,
NONE OF THIS IS LIKE, YOU KNOW,
EASY-PEASY OR SIMPLE. UM, IT IS
A... IT'S A MATTER OF
CONSTANTLY INTERACTING AND
ASKING QUESTIONS.
NOT JUST OF THE OTHER BUT ALSO
ABOUT ONESELF.
FOR EXAMPLE, IF YOU SEE YOURSELF
AS, LET'S SAY, AFRICAN...
I'M BORN IN AFRICA, YOU'RE BORN
IN AFRICA.
IF THAT'S ONE OF THE LABELS THAT
YOU CHOOSE TO APPLY TO YOURSELF,
THEN REMEMBER THAT THAT WILL
HAVE CONNOTATIONS
THAT YOU HAVE NOT CHOSEN, SO
THAT OTHER PEOPLE WILL THEN
ASSUME THINGS ABOUT YOU.
AND UNLESS YOU'RE WILLING TO
QUESTION WHAT IT IS,
OPENLY AND HONESTLY, WHAT IT IS
TO BE AFRICAN,
YOU'RE GOING TO BE GIVING AMMO
TO OTHERS
TO DECIDE WHO YOU ARE IN THEIR
EYES.

NAM SAYS YOU MENTIONED SOMETHING IN
THE BOOK
THAT I'VE NEVER HEARD OF BEFORE,
YOU...
I THINK YOU IDENTIFY AS A
PLURAL? AM I PUTTING WORDS...

Irshad says OKAY.
I AM A PLURAL, THAT'S RIGHT.

Nam says SO WHAT IS A PLURAL?

Irshad says OKAY, SO, YES, YOU COULD
TECHNICALLY CALL THAT A LABEL,
BUT IN MY VIEW, TO TELL... TO
TELL YOURSELF,
AND TO TELL OTHERS, "WELL,
WHATEVER ELSE YOU THINK OF ME,
I'M A PLURAL," IS TO LEAP-FROG
OVER LABELS,
BECAUSE WHAT YOU'RE SAYING IS
"LIKE YOU, I AM A MULTI-FACETED
HUMAN BEING. I'M AN INDIVIDUAL,
AND I'M INTERESTED
IN HAVING YOU KNOW ME FOR ALL
THAT I AM,
AND NOT JUST A SLICE OF WHO I
AM."
AND PLURAL, OF COURSE, IS THE,
UH, THE ROOT OF PLURALISM.
RIGHT? DIVERSITY AND PLURALISM
ARE NOT NECESSARILY
THE SAME THING. IF DIVERSITY IS
ONLY ABOUT STICKING LABELS
ON ONE ANOTHER AND LEAVING IT AT
THAT,
THAT IS THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF
PLURALISM.
PLURALISM IS ALSO A WILLINGNESS
TO ENGAGE,
AND IT'S A... IT'S AN
UNDERSTANDING THAT DIVERSITY
OF VIEWPOINT IS AS IMPORTANT,
IF NOT MORE IMPORTANT,
THAN DIVERSITY OF COMPLEXION OR
GENDER OR RELIGION.
AND YOU KNOW, THE BEAUTY OF
INCORPORATING
DIFFERENT VIEWPOINTS INTO YOUR
UNDERSTANDING OF DIVERSITY
IS THAT YOU'RE NOT SINGLING
PEOPLE OUT NOW,
ON THE BASIS OF THEIR RACE OR
THEIR ETHNICITY.
YOU'RE SAYING THE VIEWPOINT OF
THE LOATHED
"STRAIGHT WHITE GUY" IS
IMPORTANT.
AS IS MY VIEWPOINT.
SO RATHER THAN FLIPPING THE
HIERARCHY ON ITS HEAD,
WHERE THE WHITE GUY WAS ONCE AT
THE TOP,
NOW HE MUST BE AT THE BOTTOM,
YOU'RE SIDE-STEPPING
ALL OF THAT, PUTTING ALL OF THAT
ASIDE TO SAY
"YOU HAVE A BACK STORY," AND I
WANT TO HEAR IT.

NAM SAYS I WANT TO COME BACK TO
THAT,
BUT WE'RE ALREADY RUNNING OUT OF
TIME.

Irshad says I KNOW, I KNOW. THERE'S A LOT!

Nam says OKAY, I WANNA... I'M GONNA GO
BACK TO THE BOOK.

Irshad says OKAY.

Nam says AND UH, YOU WRITE...

Another quote from Irshad's book appears on screen, under the title "Honest diversity." The quote reads "MULTICULTURALISM, WHICH MANY OF US EQUATE TO DIVERSITY UNDERMINES HONEST DIVERSITY."

Nam says WHAT IS HONEST DIVERSITY?

The caption changes to "We're doing multiculturalism wrong."

Irshad says HONEST DIVERSITY MEANS MOVING
BEYOND LABELS,
SO THAT YOU'RE NOT STUCK IN, UM,
YOU KNOW,
DEFINING WHO YOU ARE OR WHO I AM
BASED ON ANY SINGLE CATEGORY.
HONEST DIVERSITY INCORPORATES
PERSPECTIVE AND POINT OF VIEW,
AND THAT'S WHY, REGARDLESS OF
WHAT YOUR STORY IS,
IN A PLURALISTIC SOCIETY, YOUR
VIEWPOINT WILL MATTER.
AND SO WILL THE VIEWPOINT OF
THAT STRAIGHT WHITE GUY.

Nam says YOU ALSO WRITE SOMETHING THAT I
THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE WILL,
YOU KNOW, UH, I DON'T...

Irshad says CHAFE AT?

Nam says YES, UM, THANK YOU FOR THAT. BUT
YOU SAY THAT MULTICULTURALISM
UNDERMINES HONEST DIVERSITY.

Irshad says YEAH.

Nam says WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT?

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live."

Irshad says WELL, IT'S QUITE SIMPLY THIS.
MULTICULTURALISM, AT THE ROOT OF
CULTURE IS THE GROUP.
CULTURE IS HOW THINGS ARE DONE.
WHO DECIDES HOW THINGS ARE DONE?
IT'S THE MOST POWERFUL PEOPLE IN
ANY GIVEN GROUP.
AND IF WE'RE REALLY INTERESTED
IN PLURALISM,
THEN WE'VE GOT TO LOOK AT THOSE
INDIVIDUALS WITHIN GROUPS
WHO CHALLENGE THE STATUS QUO.
SO TOO OFTEN THOSE INDIVIDUALS
ARE DROWNED OUT, RIGHT?
BECAUSE IT'S THE GROUP THAT
MATTERS UNDER THE RUBRIC
OF MULTICULTURALISM.
REALLY, I THINK THAT
MULTICULTURALISM HAS HAD
ITS DAY, AND THAT INDIVIDUALS
WITHIN GROUPS ARE THE PEOPLE
WHO ACTUALLY DESERVE TO BE
HEARD.
ESPECIALLY THOSE WHO ARE
ADVOCATING FOR DIFFERENT WAYS
OF DOING THINGS WITHIN THE
GROUP.
AND THAT IS WHY PLURALISM IS THE
ORDER OF THE DAY
IN THE 21ST CENTURY.

Nam says DO YOU WORRY THAT PEOPLE WHO
MIGHT NOT LIKE THE IDEA
OF DIVERSITY, WHO DON'T LIKE THE
IDEA OF MULTICULTURALISM,
WILL CO-OPT WHAT YOU'RE SAYING
AND USE IT TO THEIR...
FOR THEIR OWN BENEFITS, FOR
THEIR OWN AGENDAS?

Irshad says SURE. UM, ONE HAS TO WORRY ABOUT
THAT, BUT WORRY DOES NOT MEAN
THAT YOU THEN SILENCE YOURSELF.
UM, MY POINT OF VIEW IS THAT ANY
TIME I SEE MY WORK
BEING EXPLOITED FOR INTOLERANT
OR DISCRIMINATORY PURPOSES,
I WILL ENGAGE ABOUT THAT, AND I
WILL REMIND THE PEOPLE
WHO ARE DOING THE EXPLOITING
THAT I DO NOT SUBSCRIBE
TO THEIR AGENDA, BUT RATHER THAN
JUST LEAVE IT AT THAT, I.E. RATHER THAN JUST CALL THEM RACIST OR SEXIST OR HOMOPHOBIC, I WOULD SAY TO
THEM, YOU KNOW,
WHY DO YOU FEEL THAT IT'S OKAY
TO TAKE THE INTENT
BEHIND THE WORK AND HIJACK IT
FOR YOUR OWN PURPOSES?
LET'S TALK ABOUT THAT, RIGHT?
AND THAT WAY, I GET TO
UNDERSTAND WHERE THEY ARE
COMING FROM, AND BELIEVE IT OR
NOT, I'VE DONE THAT
ON A FEW OCCASIONS NOW...

Nam says AND IT WORKS?

Irshad says BOTH ON SOCIAL MEDIA AND IN
PERSON, AND THEY OFTEN COME BACK
TO ME, SHEEPISHLY SAYING "THANK
YOU, I...

Nam says EVEN ON SOCIAL MEDIA?

Irshad says EVEN ON SOCIAL MEDIA.
UM, AND THIS IS EXACTLY WHY
WE'VE GOT TO BE COGNIZANT
OF HOW HUMAN PSYCHOLOGY WORKS.

NAM SAYS AND HOW DOES IT WORK?

Irshad says WELL, I'LL GO BACK TO THAT
IRONCLAD LAW.
IF YOU WANT TO BE HEARD, YOU
MUST FIRST BE WILLING TO HEAR.
AND IN ORDER TO HEAR, YOU'VE GOT
TO ASK QUESTIONS.
AND NOT IN INSINCERE, OR, YOU
KNOW, WIN-LOSE WAYS,
BUT IN WAYS THAT REALLY PROMOTE
UNDERSTANDING.
YOUR UNDERSTANDING, AND NOT JUST
THEIRS.

Nam says LET'S GO BACK TO THE BOOK.

Irshad says YEAH.

Nam says YOU WRITE "YOUNG WHITE PEOPLE
RISK BECOMING INVISIBLE IN THE AMERICAN TAPESTRY.
THEY'RE DENIED THE ETHNIC ROOTS THAT KIDS OF COLOUR
CAN CALL ON FOR RECOGNITION."
UM, WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT?

Irshad says SO THIS WAS SAID IN THE CONTEXT
OF A STORY ABOUT A YOUNG MAN
NAMED SAM, WHO, AFTER A LECTURE
I GAVE
AT THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA,
HE CAME UP TO ME.
EVERYBODY ELSE WAS GONE FROM THE
AUDITORIUM,
'CAUSE HE WAS, YOU KNOW, KIND OF
WORRIED ABOUT HOW THIS
WOULD COME OFF, AND HE SAID,
"YOU KNOW, WHY IS IT
THAT IN MULTICULTURAL SOCIETIES,
RIGHT HERE IN THE UNITED
STATES," HE SAID,
"THAT MY CULTURE, AS SOMEONE
FROM THE US SOUTH,
IS NEVER TAKEN INTO
CONSIDERATION?
WHY IS THE BEST OF MY CULTURE
NOT GIVEN ITS DUE?"
AND I SAID "WHAT IS THE BEST OF
YOUR CULTURE?"
AND HE SAID, "WELL, BELIEVE IT
OR NOT, IRSHAD,
WE'RE VERY HOSPITABLE. I MEAN,
YOU LIVE IN NEW YORK..."
WHICH I WAS, AT THE TIME, LIVING
THERE.
"HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU RUN
INTO TROUBLE ON THE STREET
AND SOMEBODY SAID TO YOU 'LET ME
HELP OUT?'."
AND I ACKNOWLEDGED THAT THAT HAS
NEVER HAPPENED.
AND HE SAID HERE, MEANING IN THE
US SOUTH,
"WE WOULD DO THAT, YOU KNOW,
EVERY MINUTE OF THE DAY."
BUT THAT IS NEVER TAKEN INTO
ACCOUNT BY ACADEMICS
AND ACTIVISTS WHO PROMOTE
MULTICULTURALISM.
SO HERE WAS HIS BOTTOM LINE
QUESTION.
WHY IS IT OKAY TO PROMOTE
AND PRACTICE INCLUSION, UM,
WHEN ACTUALLY, YOU'RE BEING...
YOU'RE PRACTICING EXCLUSION.
WHY DO YOU CALL IT INCLUSION?
AND THIS IS THE POINT,
THAT WHAT WE'RE DOING IS
FLIPPING HIERARCHY ON ITS HEAD,
BY NOW PUTTING WHITE PEOPLE AT
THE BOTTOM,
WHEN IN FACT, WE SHOULD BE
CHALLENGING HIERARCHY
AT EVERY TURN.

NAM SAYS IS THAT WHAT YOU MEAN, WHEN
YOU WRITE, 'CAUSE YOU WRITE THIS...
"WE'RE IMITATING RACISTS, THE
ORIGINATORS OF THE RACE RUSE."
IS THAT WHAT YOU MEAN BY THAT?

Irshad says THAT IS WHAT I MEAN. YES, AND
AGAIN, YOU KNOW,
MANY PEOPLE WILL ROLL THEIR EYES
AND WANT TO WALK AWAY
FROM THAT POINT, BUT... BUT I SAY
TO THOSE PEOPLE,
THAT... ASK YOURSELF, WHY IS IT
THAT WHEN YOU'RE ANGRY
AND INSULTING, AND MOCKING, AND
BERATING OF OTHERS,
WHY IS IT THAT THEY DON'T LISTEN?

NAM SAYS I THINK SOME PEOPLE MIGHT
SAY THAT IN GENERAL, OUT THERE,
IN... IN THE... IN INSTITUTIONS,
WE TALK ABOUT SYSTEMIC POWER,
PRIVILEGE, AND ALL THOSE THINGS.
SO OUT THERE, UM,
THEY HAVE THE POWER.
BUT YOU ACTUALLY...

Irshad says WHO'S THEY?

NAM SAYS YOU KNOW, WHITE... YOU KNOW.
AS YOU SAID, WHEN WE FLIP IT,
I GUESS WHEN IT COMES TO WHITE
MEN, THEY ARE AT THE TOP.
UM, BUT YOU ACTUALLY HAVE A
DIFFERENT DEFINITION FOR POWER...

Irshad says THAT'S RIGHT.

Nam says AND FOR PRIVILEGE.

Irshad says YES.

Nam says WHAT ARE YOUR DEFINITIONS FOR
POWER AND PRIVILEGE?

The caption changes to "Power and privilege."

Irshad says AND I... I'LL GIVE YOU THAT
DEFINITION IN A SECOND,
BUT I WANT TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT,
YOU KNOW, YES, SYSTEMS...
SYSTEMIC DISCRIMINATION DOES
EXIST,
BUT HERE'S THE QUESTION I HAVE.
WHAT ARE SYSTEMS?
AND INSTITUTIONS, AND
STRUCTURES,
IF NOT THE PEOPLE WHO INHABIT
THEM?
AND THAT INCLUDES YOU AND ME.
SO IF THEY WAY WE'RE APPROACHING
CHANGE
IS BY DEMEANING OTHER PEOPLE,
THEN WE ARE NOT GOING TO
HAVE THE CHANGE, BECAUSE THEY
WON'T CHANGE. WHY SHOULD THEY?
IF THIS IS HOW WE'RE GONNA BE
TREATING THEM?

NAM SAYS AND I GUESS SOMEONE ELSE
WOULD SAY...

Irshad says YEAH.

Nam says THE LABOUR...
THE EMOTIONAL LABOUR...

Irshad says YEAH.

Nam says OF ALWAYS... BECAUSE EVEN
IN CANADA, WE'VE HAD
THE CHINESE HEAD TAX...

Irshad says SURE.

Nam says AN HOUR OR TWO OUTSIDE OF
TORONTO, YOU HAVE INDIGENOUS
COMMUNITIES WHO DON'T HAVE
ACCESS TO CLEAN WATER.

Irshad says DEFINITELY.

Nam says UM, YOU KNOW, UH, THE, ONCE
UPON A TIME,
BLACK MEN WHO WORKED ON THE
TRAINS WERE CALLED "GEORGE."
UM, THEY DIDN'T EVEN HAVE TO
LEARN THEIR INDIVIDUAL NAMES,
THEY WERE CALLED GEORGE. SO
WHY...

Irshad says WHY IS IT UP TO US?

Nam says YES.
WHY IS IT UP TO THE PEOPLE
WHO HAVE BEEN HISTORICALLY MARGINALIZED?

Irshad says BECAUSE WE HAVE POWER TODAY. AND
LET ME EXPLAIN.
THIS GOES BACK TO YOUR QUESTION
ABOUT WHAT IS POWER.
POWER IS THE CAPACITY
TO SET EXPECTATIONS OF WHAT
SHOULD BE,
AND THEN TO TRANSLATE THOSE
EXPECTATIONS INTO WHAT WILL BE.
IT IS UNDENIABLE THAT MUCH
SOCIAL PROGRESS HAS HAPPENED
OVER THE LAST 20, 30 YEARS. IN
OUR LIFETIMES.
AND THE FACT THAT WE'RE EVEN
HAVING ROBUST CONVERSATIONS
TODAY ABOUT THE PLIGHT OF
INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES
AROUND THE COUNTRY GOES TO SHOW
THAT, YOU KNOW,
WE ARE ON THE PATH TO MAKING
MORE PROGRESS, RIGHT?
SO IF... IF, YOU KNOW, EVERY
SINGLE SUSTAINABLE...
SUSTAINABLE CHANGE IN... ANYWHERE
IN THE WORLD, HAS STARTED WITH
DIFFICULT DIALOGUES, BECAUSE,
IF... IF YOU'RE DEMANDING CHANGE
WITHOUT THE DIALOGUE BEFORE IT,
THEN WHAT YOU ARE DEMANDING
IS THAT CHANGE BE IMPOSED ON A
CERTAIN GROUP OF PEOPLE.

Nam says AND WHEN WE...

Irshad says AND THAT IS NOT SUSTAINABLE.

Nam says UM, AND I GUESS THAT'S... YOU
ALSO WRITE ABOUT THIS PERCEIVED
INVISIBILITY IN THE AMER... IN
AMERICA RIGHT NOW,
FOR YOUNG WHITE MEN, LEADING TO
WHITE SUPREMACY?

Irshad says YEAH, WELL, YOU KNOW, I THINK IT
WAS PROFESSOR JANICE STEIN
AT THE MUNK CENTRE FOR GLOBAL STUDIES
WHO POINTED OUT, A COUPLE OF
YEARS AGO, SHE WAS ASKED
"WHAT IS THE BIGGEST NATIONAL
SECURITY THREAT TODAY?"
AND SHE POINTED OUT IT'S YOUNG
WHITE MEN,
PARTICULARLY THOSE WHO SEE NO...
YOU KNOW, NO MEANING IN THEIR
LIVES.
AND YOU CAN SAY "OH, WOE IS ME,
WOE IS ME" AND SORT OF,
DERIDE THEM FOR FEELING THAT
WAY, BUT THE REALITY IS
THAT WHEN YOU AND I POINT OUT
THAT DIGNITY MATTERS,
AND WE'RE ACTUALLY TALKING THEN
ABOUT HISTORICALLY MARGINALIZED
COMMUNITIES, IF WE SAY THAT
DIGNITY MATTERS,
THEN EVERYBODY'S DIGNITY
MATTERS.
SO THAT WHEN WHITE YOUNG MEN ARE
NOT FEELING THAT DIGNITY
FOR THEMSELVES, LARGELY BECAUSE
OF THE WAY WE ARE
ADVOCATING FOR CHANGE, THEN WE
ARE ONLY CONTRIBUTING
TO THE PROBLEM, WE ARE NOT
CONTRIBUTING TO THE SOLUTION.

Nam says UM, YOU ALSO WRITE ABOUT HAVING
COURAGE, AND HAVING COURAGE
INVOLVES BEING WILLING TO OFFEND
YOURSELF.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT?

Irshad says THAT MEANS BEING WILLING TO ASK
SOMEBODY WHO HAS CRITICIZED YOU,
WHO HAS DISAGREED WITH YOUR
POINT OF VIEW,
"DO THEY HAVE A POINT?
SHOULD I BE THINKING MORE ABOUT
WHAT THEY'VE SAID?"
AND IN SAYING THAT, YOU ARE
OFFENDING, YOU KNOW,
THE SENSIBILITIES THAT MAKE YOU
SAY "NO, NO, NO, I AM RIGHT.
AND THEY ARE WRONG." WHAT YOU
ARE ACTUALLY OFFENDING,
AND THIS IS A GOOD THING, IS
THIS WIN-LOSE PARADIGM
THAT WE ARE ALL STEEPED IN.
YOU KNOW, THAT FOR ME TO WIN,
YOU MUST LOSE.
WHEN THE REALITY IS, AS BRUCE
LEE TRIED TO POINT OUT
TO HIS OWN MARTIAL ARTS
STUDENTS, UM,
THERE ARE ALWAYS WIN-WINS TO BE
GAINED IF YOU CAN RESPECT
THE OTHER, ESPECIALLY THOSE
WHO, YOU KNOW,
WHO ARE COMING AT YOU
WITH SOMETHING THAT
THREATENS YOU.
REMEMBER, IT'S YOUR BRAIN THAT
IS, UM, THAT IS...
BASICALLY SIGNALLING TO YOU,
"FEEL THREATENED."
BECAUSE OUR BRAINS HAVE NOT
EVOLVED THAT MUCH,
AND WHENEVER WE TAKE IN
INFORMATION,
THE FIRST PART OF THE BRAIN THAT
IS ENGAGED
IS THE PRIMITIVE PART OF THE
BRAIN.
AND THE PROBLEM WITH THAT IS IT
CAN'T DISTINGUISH
BETWEEN MORTAL DANGER AND MERE
DISCOMFORT.
SO WHEN WE FEEL DISCOMFORT, WE
OFTEN FEEL THREATENED.
THAT'S WHY WE'VE GOT TO OUTWIT
OUR OWN BIOLOGY.

NAM SAYS AND YOU CALL THAT AN EGO BRAIN?

Irshad says WELL, I CALL IT AN EGO BRAIN
BECAUSE OUR EGOS KICK IN, RIGHT?
BUT THE EGO IS NOTHING MORE THAN
A FUNCTION OF THE BRAIN,
AND IN ORDER TO OUTWIT IT, WE
CAN DO SOMETHING AS SIMPLE
AS BREATHE, SLOW DOWN THE BLOOD
RUSH IN YOUR BODY.
AND THAT WILL ALSO ALLOW YOU TO
TRANSCEND THE IMPULSIVE PART
OF THE BRAIN, AND TAP INTO THE
MORE EVOLVED PART.
THAT WILL ALLOW YOU TO RESPOND,
AND NOT MERELY REACT.

Nam says YOU ALSO SAY THAT, UM,
UNIVERSITIES, AND STUDENTS
AT UNIVERSITIES, SHOULD ALLOW,
SAY, A WHITE SUPREMACIST
TO COME TO THE CAMPUS TO SPEAK,
AND YOU SAY THAT INSTEAD
OF FOCUSING ON THEM, TO FOCUS ON
THEIR SUPPORTERS.
HOW DO YOU FIND COMMON GROUND
WITH SOMEBODY
WHO MIGHT BE HATEFUL TOWARDS YOU
BECAUSE OF WHAT THEY SEE
AS YOUR LABELS, AND IN SOME
CASES, BEYOND JUST VERBAL,
WHEN IT BECOMES PHYSICAL?

The caption changes to "Looking for common ground."

Irshad says UH, NAM, SOMETIMES THERE IS NO
COMMON GROUND.
SOMETIMES YOU DO HAVE TO WALK
AWAY, AND I MAKE THAT VERY CLEAR
IN THE BOOK... HERE'S THE
DISTINCTION, THOUGH.
DO NOT WALK AWAY PREMATURELY,
BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW
WHAT CHANGE YOU'RE LEAVING ON
THE TABLE.
I TELL THE STORY IN THE BOOK OF
A YOUNG WOMAN NAMED GENESIS,
AND AN OLD, OLD, YOU KNOW, SORT
OF COMPANION OF HERS
FROM WAY BACK NAMED LOUIS.
HE'S A WHITE GUY WHO SUPPORTS...
SUPPORTED THE CONFEDERATE FLAG.
SHE'S A BIRACIAL, YOU KNOW, HIP
HOP ARTIST WHO ADVOCATES
FOR A MORE INCLUSIVE FLAG IN
THEIR STATE OF MISSISSIPPI.
AND WHEN SHE INVITED HIM TO THE
TABLE, TO SPEAK ABOUT WHERE
HE WAS COMING FROM, OVER TIME,
HE CHANGED HIS MIND.
NOW, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN SO EASY
TO LOOK AT LOUIS,
WHO I HAVE SEEN, YOU KNOW, IN A
DIRTY BALL CAP, RED BEARD.
YOU KNOW, YOU COULD HAVE EASILY
SAID "THAT GUY'S A REDNECK,
THERE'S NO POINT IN ENGAGING HIM."
BUT IT TURNS OUT THAT HE WAS A
LOT MORE NUANCED THAN THAT.
AND WHEN I ASKED HIM, "LOUIS,
WHAT MADE YOU CHANGE YOUR MIND
OVER THE COURSE OF A FEW MONTHS?"
HE SAID IT WAS "THE RESPECT THAT
GENESIS SHOWED ME.
THAT SHE WAS WILLING TO HEAR MY
SIDE OF THINGS.
THAT SHE WAS WILLING TO
UNDERSTAND WHY I BELIEVED
IN WHAT I BELIEVED.
AND IN SO DOING,
I REALIZED THAT I BEGAN TO CARE
MORE ABOUT HER
THAN ABOUT THE FLAG, WHICH I
SUPPORTED."
IN FACT, JUST A FEW MONTHS AGO,
LOUIS BROUGHT DOWN
HIS OWN CONFEDERATE FLAG, AND
PUT IT AWAY.

NAM SAYS THOSE TWO PEOPLE HAD A
HISTORY...

IRSHAD SAYS NOT REALLY, NAM. I KNOW
IT'S EASY TO THINK THAT
THEY HAD A HISTORY... THEY ONLY
REMEMBERED EACH OTHER
FROM ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, AND THIS
WAS 25 YEARS LATER.

NAM SAYS BUT IN ORDER FOR THIS
ENGAGEMENT TO HAPPEN,
I THINK, WHAT YOU CALL "MORAL
COURAGE," UM,
HOW... WHAT HAPPENS THEN... I
GUESS IT'S THE EXPECTATION
THAT ONE PERSON WILL BE ABLE TO
STEP BACK
AND LISTEN TO THE OTHER PERSON.
WHAT KIND OF TIPS CAN YOU GIVE
TO PEOPLE,
IF THEY FIND THEMSELVES IN THAT
SITUATION,
TO MAYBE HAVE THE MORAL COURAGE
TO STEP BACK AND LISTEN?

Irshad says YEAH, WELL... AND LET ME EXPLAIN.
MORAL COURAGE MEANS
DOING THE RIGHT THING IN THE
FACE OF YOUR FEARS.
AND OFTEN, OUR FEARS COME
DIRECTLY FROM OUR EGOS,
SO THE FIRST THING TO DO IS TO
SLOW YOURSELF DOWN.
UNLESS YOU'RE IN A LIFE AND
DEATH SITUATION WHERE YOU
HAVE TO FIGHT OR FLEE, YOU
REALLY CAN JUST
SLOW YOURSELF DOWN BY TAKING
THAT EXTRA BREATH.
AND THEN ASK QUESTIONS OF THE
OTHER PERSON,
RATHER THAN MAKING STATEMENTS.
AND THEN LISTEN TO WHAT THEY
HAVE TO SAY,
AND NOT TREAT THEM AS A
CARICATURE
SO THAT YOU'RE ALWAYS THINKING
IN YOUR MIND
"AH, BUT WHAT ABOUT THIS, AND
WHAT ABOUT THAT?"
RATHER, LISTEN AND ASK MORE
QUESTIONS BASED ON WHAT
YOU'VE HEARD. AND OVER TIME,
MAYBE EVEN OVER JUST A FEW
MINUTES, YOU WILL SEE THAT THE
TRUST IS BEING BUILT
IN REAL TIME, SO THAT AS THEIR
DEFENSES COME DOWN,
THEY, LIKE LOUIS DID WITH
GENESIS, WILL BE MUCH MORE
AMENABLE TO HEARING WHERE YOU'RE
COMING FROM.
YOU KNOW, I THINK THAT IN THE
LEAD UP TO THE NEXT ELECTION
RIGHT HERE IN CANADA, THIS MAY
BE A NEAT EXPERIMENT TO TRY.
YOU KNOW, FIND ONE PERSON WITH
WHOM YOU PASSIONATELY DISAGREE
ON AN ISSUE THAT IS GOING TO BE
RELEVANT TO THE NEXT ELECTION
AND DEVELOP A RELATIONSHIP
WITH THEM.
ONE HOUR, ONE WEEK, MEET OVER
COFFEE, SEE WHAT YOU LEARN.
AND MORE, PERHAPS, CRUCIALLY,
SEE HOW MUCH THEY LEARN
FROM YOU.

The caption changes to "Producer: Cara Stern, @carastern."

Nam says WELL, IRSHAD, THANKS SO MUCH
FOR BEING HERE.
I THINK THIS BOOK SHOWS PEOPLE
BEING UNCOMFORTABLE
DOESN'T NECESSARILY MEAN YOU
SHOULDN'T DO SOMETHING.

The caption changes to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

Irshad says THAT'S RIGHT, AND DISAGREEING
WITH EACH OTHER
DOES NOT HAVE TO MEAN DENYING
EACH OTHER'S HUMANITY.

NAM SAYS AND HELLO! YOU HAVE A BLURB
ON THE TOP OF YOUR BOOK
FROM CHRIS ROCK?!

Irshad says YEAH, I'M PRETTY
PLEASED ABOUT THAT!

Nam says WELL DONE! WELL DONE.

Irshad says YEAH, I'M PRETTY PLEASED ABOUT
THAT.

NAM SAYS WELL DONE. THANK YOU SO
MUCH FOR BEING HERE TONIGHT.
WE APPRECIATE IT.

Irshad says MY PLEASURE.

NAM SAYS THANKS.

Watch: Irshad Manji: Rethinking Life on the Left