BUILDING BRIDGES: Youth keep an open mind

Friendships made while young can help avert prejudice later, writes columnist Taslim Jaffer.

My son was invited to a birthday party that took place the other day.

Some of the parents were sticking around, and I decided to, as well.

Near the start of the party, I struck up a conversation with one of the other parents who I’ve known for a few years now.

Children’s birthday parties or not, conversations with me generally go from ‘small talk’ to deep in minutes. It’s a classic habit of an introvert, in case you have an odd friend who does the same and you weren’t quite sure why.

And when I’m speaking to a first-generation Canadian, like myself, I find there are so many interesting things to talk about. When I was younger, it was almost like a relief to have someone on whom I could unload my frustrations about living in between two cultures: my South Asian one and my Canadian one. Now, as an adult, feeling more settled in an identity that includes both, I like to talk to others who have been through the same and have fared just as well. This was the case at the birthday party.

One of the topics we engaged in was the North American Muslim experience post 9-11.

A non-Muslim, he confided in me: “Some people in my family have an issue with Muslims. And I think that’s crazy because how can you have a problem with an entire group of people you don’t even know? What’s even more crazy is that they don’t realize there are some people out there who feel the same way about them, just because of the group they belong to.”

He was preaching to the choir, because I don’t understand it either. I don’t understand how someone can dislike an entire group of people, as though this group were not made up of individuals with diverse values, beliefs and ideologies.

But anyway, it happens, or I wouldn’t be writing this column.

The next point he made was right up my alley, too. He recounted a childhood experience of having only one black student in his elementary school. He got to know this boy and they became friends.

So later on, as they were growing up, and he would hear comments made about black people, it was easy for him to discount those messages; they did not hold up to this boy who he was friends with.

Now, had he not had this experience, this friendship, with a black person, who knows? Maybe some things he heard may not have sat well, but it might have been easier for his judgment to be swayed.

It’s difficult to speculate what might have happened had he not had this friendship. On the other hand, he was 100 per cent certain that getting to know this boy made it easy to see the absurdity in prejudice thinking.

Is it really that simple? Can one friendship really shift the way we think?

Look at your own life. Has being friends with people outside of your own ethnic background made a difference in your ability to keep an open mind?

If you haven’t been lucky enough to have such an experience yet, it’s an experience worth finding.

This is a really important time in the world’s history to test out this theory.

Taslim Jaffer writes monthly on multicultural connections.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A memorial to Hudson Brooks outside the South Surrey RCMP detachment. (File photo)
Officer who fatally shot Hudson Brooks recounts ‘absolutely terrifying’ incident

Const. Elizabeth Cucheran testified at coroner’s inquest Tuesday morning

Photo posted to facebook.com/HoratioAlgerCA.
Eight Surrey students among 170 Horatio Alger scholarship winners in Canada

‘Need-based scholarships’ given to high school students

File photo
Surrey council members give themselves a raise in secret meeting

A redacted report was subsequently posted to the city’s website

Students with Seaquam Secondary’s Delta Youth Advisory Council are collecting non-perishable food donations Feb. 1 to March 5 to help feed local families in need over spring break. (Delta School District/submitted photo)
Seaquam Secondary food drive to help feed 15 North Delta families

Donations can be dropped week days between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. until Monday, March 8

Jennifer Brooks with a stone tablet that adorns the memorial to her son Hudson, outside the South Surrey RCMP detachment parkade where he was fatally shot by police in July 2015. (File photo)
Coroner’s inquest underway to examine Hudson Brooks’ 2015 police-shooting death

Witness recalls ‘feeling scared’ for South Surrey man in moments before RCMP fired fatal shots

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

The incident happened in downtown Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
Castlegar teen recounts stabbing after stranger breaks into grandmother’s house

The unnamed teen survived a terrifying attack Feb. 21

(Black Press file photo)
Agassiz boy, 11, dies from ‘extensive injuries’: Homicide team

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

Most Read