Bigots, leave the room - Vancouver is trying to have an adult conversation about affordability
Dear Brad Saltzberg
I’m not sure how many Vancouverites know who you are, but anyone with a public profile and email address is probably aware of your anti-Chinese rantings. They used to be made in the name of "Putting Canada First", before that organisation chucked you out last year for using fake identities to further your agenda. So you set up your own “Cultural Action Party”, and have continued your lonely lament about the supposed marginalisation of the white race in Vancouver.
It’s been a while since I bothered to respond to your frequent emails.
But I was rather disappointed – no, nauseated, actually – to see that you have been seeking to piggyback on the burgeoning debate about housing affordability in Vancouver, and the role that is played by foreign money (What possessed you to CC me to that bulk email last week, distributed to dozens of real estate, municipal and provincial figures? Did you think bygones were bygones and that I would bask happily in your praise for my reporting ? Or that I would chuckle at your witty use of photos to single out real estate agents with Chinese faces?).
I should have known that you would seek a role in the affordability debate. I saw you at the May 24 rally for affordable housing. There you were, in a bulky leather jacket, looking every inch the gatecrasher at the prom. You roamed the sidelines, seeking out TV crews and other journalists, and a couple of them interviewed you. Did you tell them your real name, so they could check your dubious past activities? You have used at least four names in your public dealings, so it’s a fair question. Do you go by Brad Saltzberg now? Or is it Salzberg? Or Pascal Brody? Or Paul Bradley? It's a common tactic of your kind, to create the illusion of widespread support.
I’m not terribly worried that the seeds of your bigotry will find fertile ground among those legitimately concerned about the role of foreign money in Vancouver’s housing market.
But it does worry me that those trying to stamp out the debate will use the presence of you and your scant brethren to scare off respectable would-be participants in the conversation. Not long after the rally, an unnamed provincial official popped up in the Vancouver Sun to associate the affordability issue with the reprehensible anti-Chinese “head tax” of yore. It’s a tiresome move, and it’s been called out before. No wonder he or she wanted to remain anonymous.
There now exists a room in Vancouver’s public sphere where housing affordability and the role of foreign money are being openly discussed. This is largely thanks to the likes of activist Eveline Xia, researcher Andy Yan and others whose ethnicity helps defuse the tactics of the race-baiters and the fearmongers alike. And just last week, a community group called the Friends of Hong Kong held a forum about the role of foreign capital in Vancouver's market - and complained that cries of racism were muzzling the debate.
Yet various members of government and the real estate industry still insist on guarding the doorway, telling those who wish to enter this room that it is filled with bigots. No one in their right mind wants to be called a bigot. And so, pretty soon, if the gatekeepers are allowed to hold sway, the only people in the room will be ACTUAL bigots.
It’s a cowardly tactic, intellectually weak and self-interested.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to simply enter the room, identify the overwhelmingly outnumbered racists and throw them out? Not for those whose goal is to cut off the discussion entirely.
Wouldn’t it show more faith in the nature of Vancouverites – who are generally kind, and inclusive and thoughtful – to simply cut off a racist thread when it emerges on the loom of the conversation? Not for those who would rather that decent people worry about spurious accusations of racism, than worry about Vancouver’s housing affordability disaster.
Discussing the impact of foreign wealth and wealth-determined immigration on the housing market is a very different proposition to opposing Asian immigration on the grounds of its sheer Asianness, as you do, Brad. Faced with Vancouver’s globally remarkable influx of millionaire migrants, most of them Chinese, you remain fixated on their Chineseness. Yet their impact on affordability is, in fact, all about their millionaire-ness. It’s the nature of their money, not the nature of their skin, or culture, that fuels unaffordability in Vancouver.
And the victims of the affordability crisis are just as diverse as Vancouver itself.
I don’t know who appalls me more, Brad. Those like yourself who characterise the issue of unaffordability as part of an assault on the white race, or those in priveleged positions who seek to spray the entire conversation with the skunk-stink of your bigotry.
What I am trying to say, Brad, is that it’s time for you and your ilk to leave the room. It’s time for the self-appointed gatekeepers to step aside. The adults are trying to have a conversation.
The Hongcouver blog is devoted to the hybrid culture of its namesake cities: Hong Kong and Vancouver. All story ideas and comments are welcome. Connect with me by email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @ianjamesyoung70.