The Black Lives solidarity demonstration at Maffeo Sutton Park last Friday. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)

OPINION: Listen, learn, lend voices to unite against racism

Problems at the core of our society need to be addressed, says former Nanaimo city councillor

BY GEORGE ANDERSON

Too often in Canada we parade our moral superiority by comparing ourselves with the United States of America, which is problematic. It creates a tendency to minimize or forget about the deep-rooted issues here at home.

The reality is racism, prejudice, and inequality are alive in Canada.

As Canadians we must not allow the bar to be set low, as our history is equally marked. We need to recognize the challenges those in marginalized communities face from being asked ‘where are you from?’ despite being born in Canada, to unfunny stereotypes. Some of these micro-aggressions can feel like death by a thousand cuts, which is made worse by being told to ‘lighten up’ because it’s just a joke.

RELATED: Racism is here too, say Vancouver Island’s black community leaders

Recent protests across Canada have made it clear that people are hurting, and they feel they’re not being heard, and rightfully so. As a black male, I can think of several instances where I have spoken with elected officials, even in our own community, who have discounted the racism and inequality that so many endure. They choose to believe it does not exist.

Whether it is Black Lives Matter, the LGBTQ2S+ or #MeToo movements, people are standing up because there are problems at the core of our society and they need to be addressed. Thus far, we have seen corporations and individuals make statements about their support for these groups, but statements made without objective goals are only platitudes. Symbolic gestures are a start, but action is needed.

The murder charge after the death of George Floyd has sparked discussions around defunding police forces. Perhaps this is a discussion we need to have in order to evaluate if better alternatives exist, such as the allocation of resources to community programs that address the systemic barriers that those who are privileged never face. When unaddressed, prejudice festers like a sore with a pernicious effect.

Often it is easier to ignore these issues than to face them straight on. It should not always be left to those in marginalized groups to set the table for these discussions. It is incumbent upon all Canadians to be courageous, rise up and confront these uncomfortable issues by listening and learning. We need to listen, we need to believe their stories, and we need to be willing to say enough is enough.

Just ask yourself; would you want your children or yourself to experience the same adversity that those in marginalized populations face every day? We may not always understand each other’s suffering through personal experience, but we can empathize and take action to create a better future.

RELATED: Racist comments hurled at two women in Vancouver Island restaurant

When injustices arise, history and fate seem to meet at a single time and in a single place where society must decide our next steps. We can choose between the status quo or to forge a new path forward. These marches across the world are just the beginning. It is up to us all to decide whether we choose to leave those who are suffering and in pain behind, or embark upon a new direction where actions can be taken to make all people feel safe.

Staying silent is a statement of apathy and we should not elect to be voiceless spectators in this moment, because now more than ever people need to be united to create a better society for all.

George Anderson is a lawyer and former Nanaimo city councillor.

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