For the average person, a typical day consists of waking up, going to work and then heading back home – seldom taking the time to think about what is happening in the world around us. Individual problems and concerns keep us just busy enough to go about our day, without the need to look up from our phones, listen to another person’s problems or read the news. At times, we are each in our own bubble, and within that bubble it can be easy to disregard that things like sexism, homophobia and racism exist. And while we may understand it is a problem, if it’s not happening directly to us we tend not to concern ourselves with it.
Earlier this summer a Muslim woman was attacked while shopping at a grocery store in London, Ontario. She was attacked because of her cultural and religious beliefs. The Muslim woman was attacked by another woman who, for no apparent reason, flung insults and punches towards her. According to the CBC this is an ongoing trend as this is the third racially charged attack in London in the last 8 months. I’m sure we all want to claim how progressed our society is becoming, yet racism is still a major problem. In Canada and even in the U.S. the amount of reported hate crimes have been going down. But the people who are being targeted have changed dramatically over time.
From 2012 to 2014 the rate of hate crimes towards Muslims went up by 54 reported cases. This is likely due to the number of immigrants who came to Canada during this time. According to Stats Canada, from 2002 to 2014, Canada accepted 347,479 refugees. Our society is changing and becoming a bigger melting pot of cultures. With the dangerous state that the Middle East is in we have gotten more and more refugees. The acceptance of said refugees has caused a stir within Canada, and ignorant people have acted out because of it.
Racism has been a problem for years and yet when a hate crime makes the air waves we are all shocked and surprised. Why are we so stunned? “Its 2016 this shouldn’t be happening,” we like to say in agreement. Yes, I agree it shouldn’t be happening but what have we done to combat racism? When nothing incredibly disgusting happens the conversation stops. It isn’t until something like a mass shooting in the U.S. happens that the conversation is suddenly at its loudest. That’s the problem – we stop the conversation when the problem isn’t in our face, or when we think we have someone to place blame on.
In the U.S. the conversation picked up again recently with the shooting of two African American citizens by police officers. Within the states it is an institutional problem; for example, according to the ACLU ( American Civil Liberties Union) white and black citizens almost equally smoke as much weed, however African American citizens get arrested for it 3.78 times more than their white counterparts.
The way that society operates is to point out everyone’s differences, and to put everyone into a box in order to uphold current social orders. It’s like they NEED to know if you’re not white, so they can decide how you will be treated. Almost every media job I apply for has me check off a little box at the bottom stating that I am a visible minority. My rich culture and background has been reduced to a little box at the bottom of a page. This may or may not be for my benefit, but the problem lies in our need to separate and draw lines between people. Why does it matter if I am a visible minority? Will the fact that I’m Asian impact my skills or hard work? No. But for some reason the government feels it is important to keep separating us. We’ve come a long way from the days of insitituional segregation, but the underlying need to remind us of our differences is still there. The majority of Caucasian people I know understand the importance of getting rid of racism, but most of them will never truly know what it feels like to be affected by it.
Even one small incident can change how someone sees the world. Take for instance a baby girl who is adopted by a German and Italian couple. When the girl grew up she met and fell in love with a man who is of Japanese background. She was excited to show him off to her family. The young woman quickly realised how big of a mistake that was. During dinner one evening, her family sat around the table and told racist jokes at her new boyfriend’s expense. Things started to quiet down, until years later when their son was born. That baby boy’s “Grandmother” refused to hold him or love him due to his skin colour. His own “Grandmother” refused to know him and all because of something completely out of his control. I experienced that, and at such a young age it taught me how racist and unfair the world can be. We need to be seen as one race, the human race. So when the media stops talking about those names, those attacks and those protests we need to stand up and refuse to let the conversation disappear from our lips.