(except those neo-Nazi dudes, I suppose.)
In the wake of the International Day for the Elimination of Racism, today’s alleged Blood and Honour rally downtown, and Trayvon, I need to get get a few things off my chest.
First of all, I know you are “not a racist”. You keep saying so. That’s great! However, I tell you, it’s not enough. You need to be ANTI-racist. You need to do, say, and act in ways that show that you don’t passively accept our society’s greatest ill. You don’t have to be aggressive or confrontational; far from it. In my experience, a light touch can lead to some great conversations and a little enlightenment. Being a jerk about it shuts things down and makes closet racists even more so. Try to be gentle. A simple, “I don’t agree with that,” or “What do you mean?” will usually do. Continue with that conversation, even if it weirds you out. Believe me, it weirds ME out. But the outcome is usually good.
Let me tell you a story. An organization I used to work for had an employee who would often say problematic things. Terrible things. Once, in a meeting with one of our business leaders (she was in SALES!) she said, “Could you do something about the African guys who hang out on the sidewalk? They scare me.” My jaw dropped. But the fellow we were having our meeting with had a perfect response. He, an older German-Canadian man, said: “They are just socializing. If they’re doing anything criminal, you can call the police. But when an immigrant comes to Canada, he usually likes to find other immigrants to socialize with. It was the same when my family came to Canada from Germany. People weren’t very friendly, so we socialized with other Germans.” Gentle, factual, and firm.
Another thing: I’ve head a couple of times today, “why isn’t it OK to feel proud to be white?” Here’s my answer. There’s a Black History Month and an Asian Heritage Month. The history of minorities in Canada have until quite recently, been hidden or marginalized. This is a way to show their contributions to our society, plus there is an explicit invitation to those not sharing that particular background to join in and learn. Now, I would definitely argue that there ARE opportunities for white people to show pride in their background. It’s just so ingrained that you don’t even notice it! We just had St Patrick’s Day, for example. The Germans have Oktoberfest! And our Scandinavian history is acknowledged every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Feel free to bring me a lefse and acquavit on any of those days. If you are a white person and don’t feel enough reasons to celebrate your background, you are not trying hard enough, or you are taking it for granted.
But I don’t think that’s enough for the white supremacists. I think they mean me, and other people of colour AND those of you who aren’t racist, some harm. That’s the problem. You don’t get success from dragging other people down, but that’s exactly what they think is going on. Multiculturalism isn’t a zero-sum game; we all benefit in the many cultures, traditions, and languages that we bring to our society.
So please, let’s all work together to show the neo-Nazis that there are better ways to express themselves, and that we do not approve of their methods. We are the majority, we are nice but we would very much like to not have the crap beaten out of us, thanks!