February 22, 2011
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Contesting White Supremacy

School Segregation, Anti-Racism, and the Making of Chinese Canadians

In 1922-23, Chinese students in Victoria, British Columbia, went on strike to protest a school board’s attempt to impose racial segregation. Their resistance was unexpected at the time, and it runs against the grain of mainstream accounts of Asian exclusion in Canada, which tend to ignore the agency of the excluded.

Contesting White Supremacy offers an alternative reading of the history of racism in British Columbia, one based on Chinese sources and perspectives. Employing an innovative theory of racism and anti-racism to explain the strike and document its antecedents, Timothy Stanley demonstrates that by the 1920s migrants from China and their BC-born children actively resisted policy makers’ efforts to organize white supremacy into the very texture of life. The education system in particular served as an arena where white supremacy confronted Chinese nationalist schooling and where parents and students rejected the idea of being either Chinese or Canadian and instead invented a new category – Chinese Canadian – to define their identity.

By shifting the focus from discourses about the Chinese to discourses of the Chinese, this compelling narrative of adaptation and agency and racism and rejection offers a truly anti-racist  alternative to nationalist narratives and paradigms.


"A crucial contribution to scholarship. Featuring thorough documentation and previously underutilized Chinese-language sources, Stanley shows how white supremacy and anti-Chinese politics shaped the development of BC schools. He breaks new ground by analyzing how racism helped create a set of a consciously 'Chinese Canadians,' who were able to organize against discrimination and exclusion. In a world that continues to dehumanize those who are the targets of racism by reducing them to their victimization, Stanley provides an understanding of how individuals organized in resistance to white supremacy and used new forms of identity to claim a belonging for Chinese in Canada."—Henry Yu, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of British Columbia
UBC Press

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