Canadians are not a racist people. While all countries have bigots in them, the vast bulk of Canadians don’t make decisions on the basis of other people’s race. We’ve got the occasional white supremacist mother drawing swastikas on her seven year old’s arm before she hands them a pbj sandwich and sends them to class and more than a few anti-Semites equating Israel with Nazi Germany while pretending they’re just opposing Zionism, but for the most part Canadians don’t traffic in racism.
Our so-called “human rights” commissions notwithstanding, Canadians treasure our freedom of speech and so we accept that it requires us to allow the occasional crank to peddle holocaust denial or make nasty jokes about whichever racial group they blame for their inadequacies.
But we also have legal racism. The latest incident has been an aboriginal band government’s decision to evict twenty-six people from their homes because of the colour of their skin. Plainly put, they’re not the right race, so they’re not welcome. Or rather, they’re not welcome according to the aboriginal government. The spouses and common-law partners of the “undesirables” certainly aren’t happy about their loved ones being cast out for “having the wrong blood”, but they don’t control the government. Indeed, what kind of statement is the band making to those women about the legitimacy of those relationships when they use the coercive power of a government to break up their home. Bluntly it looks a lot like the attitude you’d see from segregationists in the early days of the civil rights movement. They weren’t fans of miscegenation either.
So what can be done about this?
Probably nothing. The sad truth is that we tolerate this kind of racism. I think it’s partly because it doesn’t affect most of us. We feel sorry for the woman whose spouse gets evicted because “they don’t like his kind”, but we won’t think about her at all in a few months. The other factor is that this kind of racism is tolerated all over the western world. As I wrote earlier, the EU’s hypocritical ban on seal products has a little racist exception for some if your skin is the right colour and your product fits a European stereotype of what your culture should be using seals for. We accept this kind of racism as normal.
We should not accept this as normal. While we can’t erase it overnight, we need to see it for what it is and call it by it’s true names. Racism and bigotry.