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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Friendly Racism


I am part of the ethnic majority of Canada. I live in a small community where the majority of the population is also part of this ethnic majority. There are various ethnic groups here, however, the numbers are quite small in comparison to that of the majority. Elements of racism vary in emphasis and manner, nonetheless, they continue to subsist in the community. The notion of race superiority, can at times be difficult to distinguish, as it is often held privately or subconsciously, though positions of hierarchical dominance do exist. Most whites citizens would never claim racial superiority or hierarchical dominance, at least not out loud, that is. Nevertheless, this may not be due to the fact that they do not believe they are superior, but rather, they may be afraid of the public repercussions they would face in regards to making such a claim. Prejudices are probably the most common form of racism in my community. It is easy for people to have prejudices about others, as they can do so in the safety of like minded people and in the safety of their own thoughts, without ever being labeled a racist. 

For quite some time, my town enjoyed the operation of a local gas station and convenience store that had been run by a local white family. However, when they decided to sell the business, it was purchased by the convenience store chain, 'Mac's'. Immediately conversations carried throughout the community as to what type of ethnic group would be managing the store. Racial comments were made that were degrading and dehumanizing; proving the ignorant mind set that exists within this town. Discrimination, like the notion of superiority, is not as prevalent, as are the prejudices, nonetheless, it does exist and is evident from time to time. An example of this relates back to the convenience store. I clearly recall members of my community vowing to avoid, boycott and, in a sense, punish this establishment solely because the new managers were not white, but Iranian. Ironically, after a period of time, these individuals returned, albeit reluctantly, to shopping at this convenience store, because it offered better prices than other local establishments. 


The operation of power over other races, is again, difficult to notice. This may be due to the large gap in numbers between the white majority and those of differing ethnic groups. For instance, the gap is so large, that such occurrences would more than likely go unnoticed; perhaps, due to a lack of care on the behalf of the dominant, or, perhaps, due to the fear, the minority may have, of repercussions for expressing the occurrence. 
In general, the racism that exists in my community is predominantly a friendly racism, rather than a systematic racism. Racial bigotry is not apparently common, due to the Christian standards of the dominant ethnic group, which calls for a certain level of respect and fair treatment of all people. However, while the these standards are generally practiced, friendly racism is assuredly active and even a preferred form of racism.  It is a racial stance that, in essence, assures the standee that they can hold to certain racial perspectives; all the while, not get in trouble with religious leaders, friends, law enforcement, and, perhaps, even God, for their racial views and actions. 
While the concept of being 'racist' is typically regarded as negative and looked down upon in Canadian society, elements of racism continue to be apparent in almost all societal contexts in Canada. In today's day and age it is much more common to be aware of ethnicity as Canadian culture is becoming more and more ethnically diverse. While the dominant culture of Canada remains to be that of white, english speaking Canadians, people groups of other ethnicities are rising in numbers across the country. This rise in ethnic diversity can be seen as threatening, at times, to the dominant culture and even to other ethnic groups who may hold higher numbers within in any given population. An example of racial prejudices existing outside of my own ethnicity, would be a conversation I once had with a Sri Lankan friend of mine that lives in the same community as I do. We were discussing the arrival of a new doctor, who happens to be a Muslim from Pakistan, to which he adamantly warned me of an upcoming onslaught of muslims to our community.  'Just you wait!', he stated, 'It starts with one family; the rest will follow. Before you know it, there will be a mosque in our little town.' Even after I pointed out the racial overtones in his speech and mannerisms, he assured me once more of his opinions, stating that he had seen it happen before in his home country of Sri Lanka. Bearing witness to the prejudice attitudes of my friend, brought an acute awareness, that racism is not just the practice of one or two ethnic groups, but potentially the action all ethnic groups.
As disturbing and frightening as racism is; it is my hope that I and others can find communality in the fact that we all are human. It is my hope that, while we each have our own individual story and history within a certain ethnicity, we will remember how important it is not to negate or discredit the stories and histories of others; recognizing that we are all equally part of a narrative. A master narrative that is not controlled and written by any one ethnic group.

Have you ever been a victim of racism of any form?


4 comments:

dzejniex said...

Good stuff, as usual. :) Little Mosque on the Prairie...wouldn't that be something for our little town. Can't help but think it might not be a terrible thing...

I think one of the keys to unravelling racism is realizing that we are all racist to a degree. Not to be ok with it, but to realize that we are. Because as soon as we let ourselves off that hook of being somewhat racist we euphemize and call it politically conservative, supporting local business, banding together, or some other nebulous virtue. Owning up to our own prejudices and generalizations at least makes it possible to have an honest conversation about reformulating them.

CalledToQuestion said...

@ dzejniex

I agree. We all have prejudices but it is what we do with those prejudices that either becomes racism or overcomes racism. Your right, we need to own our prejudices and be honest with ourselves and the 'other' if racism is to ever be reduced or removed from within us and our society. Great thoughts!

Tim B. said...

Sorry for the late reply, I’ve been pondering this question and “relearning” how to ride a bike after 30 years. I was born and razed in the United States lived briefly in the deep south (Alabama). The racism there is different than what I’ve seen so far in Alberta. And yes I’ve been on the receiving end of racism at least twice since coming to Canada, one blatant the other shuttle. Won’t get into it here though, I can tell you I don’t like either side of it and like you I feel the same that we are all part of the family called Human. Good post. Thank you I like things that make me think.

My Little Warriors said...

Good thoughts Phil! I grew up in a fairly culturally diverse area... most of my neighbors where Asian,mexican, indian, hmong, and Africa-American.. my neighbood friends where Muslims... believe it or not, I was a minority as a white girl in the inner city. I was often looked down on because I didn't have "color" and I was considered "white trash" by those who had an ethnic group.. because they all had strong family ties but we did not. Some of my closest friends when I was young where Asian and African American. When we moved a little further out of the inner city and we started going to a "rich" church, I was also looked down on by my "white" peers because they all lived in huge fancy houses and their parents bought them everything they wanted and I did not come from a family like that. I was different from them economicaly. They were polite enough but I was never invited to be in their inner circle, and they never included me in things. Later on in life when I went to school in Canada I was baffled at the lack of diversity! No joke! And I felt like I stepped back in time... Seriously, it was a major culture shock. Anyway.. those are a few of my experiences with racism towards me. Now when I tell people about my past they all drop their jaws and can't believe I came from "THAT KIND OF LIFE"... they never would have guessed... So yet more forms of racism.. because surely if I grew up in the inner city and my mom was a single parent and we had to live on welfare and food stamps for a while that means I could never go anywhere or be anything worth while in life! Okay.. i'll end that there ;) I won't go into the racism within the church community.