York prof uncovers how racism boomerangs back to harm all in society

Joseph Mensah
Joseph Mensah
Joseph Mensah

Boomerang Ethics: How Racism Affects Us All is Geography Professor Joseph Mensah’s new book on racism’s concealed costs and consequences. Mensah co-wrote the book with Christopher J. Williams, senior research adviser at the Ontario Anti-Racism Directorate.

“That racism has adverse effects on ethno-racial minorities is self-evident, but not-so-self-evident are the hidden impacts of racism on all members of society,” said Mensah, who serves as a member of York University’s Senate and is the chair of the Department of Geography. “This book examines the causes and characteristics of racism in Canada, paying special attention to how it affects not only racial minorities, but also how it curves back, like a boomerang, to hurt the majority and, indeed, Canadian society as a whole.”

Mensah and Williams’ intellectual partnership drew them to issues of racism in Canada and how to best rectify these issues.

“The inspiration for this book comes from a deep-rooted desire to think outside the proverbial box for creative ways to redress the enduring problems of racism in society,” says Mensah. “Chris and I have taken on a number of trailblazing scholarly projects in the past, but this is, undoubtedly, our most ambitious, enjoyable project and, yet, tasking in its originality.”

The book is designed to be an invaluable asset for social science students who seek to comprehend the complex issues surrounding race and racism, as well as serve as reference material for teachers and anti-racist advocates who seek to find imaginative ways to combat racism in Canada.

Christopher Williams

“Until now, most scholars, policymakers, and advocates seeking to alleviate racism have relied mainly on the ethics of altruism and social justice to help curb it. It is our contention that such an approach is narrow, since it neglects the self-interest of members of the majority, who ultimately have the power to alleviate racism,” says Mensah. “At the same time, we do not call for members of the majority to eschew racism just because they have some pity, or compassion, for minorities; rather, our call is for them to do so also because racism is as morally wrong as it is at odds with their own self-interest in the long-run.”

In the words of Mensah, “we are not contending that members of the majority should help alleviate racism only because it affects them. Indeed, the eradication of racism from the standpoint of social justice remains important, even though it has not been very effective to date.”

The Harriet Tubman Institute along with the Departments of Geography and Equity Studies, in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies at York University, will host the book launch of Boomerang Ethics on Nov. 15 from 2:30 to 5pm in the Founders Senior Common Room, Room 305, Founders College. The event is sponsored by the event hosts, as well as the African Studies program, the York University Bookstore and Fernwood Publishing.

All are welcome to attend, and the authors will be available on site to discuss their work. For more information on the book launch, visit here.