COLUMN: Prejudice hits home here, too

Hate-spewed messages at Charlottesville shared north of border, writes Taslim Jaffer

The alt-right rally that took place in Charlottesville is not just an American problem, and we need to talk about what it means to us as Canadians.

The hate messages spewed on the streets of that city in Virginia also show up in my local media and in misguided comments by members of our own community.

I’m not sure if these residents identify as nationalists or white supremacists, but to this person of colour, the only difference between carrying a Nazi flag while yelling “Jews will not replace us!” and begrudging refugees, coming down hard on Muslims for ‘not speaking up’ against ISIS or looking down on new immigrants is the packaging.

While it might sound harsh to lump together a Nazi and someone simply ‘annoyed’ at refugees being allowed into our country, it’s worth examining the underlying implication of both thought processes.

One doesn’t need to be marching in the streets, yelling profanities and threats, to be perpetuating an ideology that alienates and discriminates.

Although, apparently, people here in our corner of the world did feel it necessary to join the American neo-Nazis in Charlottesville that horrific weekend. Yes, they crossed the border from Canada-stan – as they refer to our country – and travelled to the South to participate.

This past weekend, an anti-Islam group planned a rally in Vancouver within days of the domestic terrorism that took place in Charlottesville.

When I first heard about the rally, there was not a single cell in my body that was surprised. If the news shocked you, then let that be your wakeup call. And now that you’re ‘woke’ – a millennial term for being ‘aware’, a term coined by a generation hell-bent on destroying white supremacy – let’s consider what next steps should be.

First, be aware of your own prejudices. And then seek to destroy them.

Do whatever it takes – educate yourself, expand your social circle, and figure out ways to eradicate this concept of ‘other’ from your mind. See people who look different from you, speak different languages, eat different food, pray differently, as human beings and find a way to identify with them.

Then, use your voice.

The KKK are now marching without hoods, my friends and neighbours. This is not the time to be silent.

And silent we were not; some 4,000 Vancouverites made their way to Vancouver City Hall to counter-protest anti-Islam, anti-immigration and racist rhetoric, greatly outnumbering the original rally-planners.

But we don’t have to wait for counter-protests and rallies to use our voice. We must speak up every day and every time. Every time you see someone overlooked at the office because of the colour of their skin. Every time someone around you complains about immigrants stealing jobs. Every time you hear a generalized statement about any group of people.

Speak up. It is hard and uncomfortable, and you risk being mocked or alienated or being on the receiving end of someone’s anger. (By the way, this is also what it feels like when you’re being racially targeted).

Understand what privilege is.

Not everyone that has privilege wants it. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

I also recognize the privilege I have being a relatively lighter-skinned, non-hijabi Muslim woman. I speak English with a ‘Canadian’ accent. All these things make my life easier in some way.

I wish it wasn’t like that. But instead of pretending it doesn’t exist, I think I have a responsibility to ensure that people who are mistreated have equal opportunities.

I would hope that we could all look out for each other that way.

Use your voter power responsibly.

I know people who voted for U.S. President Donald Trump because they liked one or two things he represented. The racism didn’t affect them directly so it didn’t dissuade them from voting for him.

Understand a candidate’s entire platform and how it affects the marginalized people in your community. The integrity of a nation is truly determined by the way it treats ALL its people, especially the ones who need support.

This past weekend, a large group of Vancouverites showed the world we don’t tolerate bigotry. But let’s not get complacent and forget that there are those among us who have deep-seated fear and hatred for people they don’t know. Stay woke, eyes and ears open.

“It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, ‘Wait on time’” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Columnist Taslim Jaffer writes monthly on multicultural connections.

Building Bridges

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

 

Man gets escorted out of the rally area by several police officers after giving the Nazi salute. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press)

Signs of resistance held in a crowd of more than 4,000 demonstrators Saturday. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press)

Just Posted

South Surrey hikers discover decades-old campsite hidden in Golden Ears Park

Group reconnects with original campers through social media, returns log book

Surrey Santa Parade may be cancelled

Annual parade in Cloverdale has seen security costs skyrocket

South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce set to host ‘virtual town hall’ sessions

Video conferences aim to answer COVID-19 questions from business owners, residents

Cloverdale food bank sees surge in demand over short period

Lower Mainland’s newest food bank serves Langley, Delta, Surrey, White Rock

B.C. records first at-home death from COVID-19, but 70+ hospital patients have recovered

Total of 970 novel coronavirus cases in B.C., with the majority in the Lower Mainland area

BC Ferries able to restrict travel for sick passengers

Ferries working on schedule shifts to keep workers safe

Canada expands 75% wage subsidy to COVID-19 affected businesses of all sizes: Trudeau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

Pay parking suspended at B.C. hospitals due to COVID-19

Temporary free parking reduces need for keypads, contact

Helping those at risk, one piece of paper at a time through ‘isolation communication’

Simple paper tool during pandemic making its way across Canada thanks to social media.

‘Back to school, in a virtual way’ for B.C. students in COVID-19 pandemic

Province adds online resources to help parents at home

Canadian COVID-19 round-up: Air Canada cuts 15,000 jobs, 90% of flights

Comprehensive Canadian news update as of 2:30 p.m., Monday, March 30.

Most Read

l -->