Several days ago I witnessed an incident that left me…well, frankly dumbfounded.
I was in the seasonal garden area of a local hardware store (probably lost in never-never land) looking for more filler bedding plants for my planters. While contemplating what colour of lobelia would best suit the colour scheme, I heard a disturbing conversation on the access road into the parking lot. A young woman of East Indian descent (dressed very much like any other female patron in the store) was crossing the road. An older white man driving an SUV started yelling at her for walking too slow. The surprised women said something like, “Sorry, I’m just crossing the street.” The man shouted back, “In my country, we don’t do that.” Visibly shaken the women replied, “This is my country.” He angrily spat back, “No it’s not, you’re an immigrant.” I was so shocked at the altercation I was left almost speechless, however, I did manage to say loudly through the fence, “What an idiot” (possibly not my finest moment). Had the iron gates to the road not been locked, I hope I would have had the presence of mind to come to this women’s defence and speak to this man face to face.
As he roared away in disgust, I wondered about his own lineage. How far back did his ancestors settle in Canada? My guess… no more than 2-3 generations ago! Were they not immigrants too? This young woman may be a first or second generation Canadian. My parents are/were first-generation Canadians and to my knowledge have never experienced prejudice. I know for a certainty that I, as a second generation Canadian, have never been harassed for being an immigrant and I’m guessing that this man has never been the subject of a hate crime either.
Why is there so much hatred in the world? Do some of us really believe we are somehow superior to others? By a stroke of luck, some of us were born in a prosperous, democratic country. Does this entitle us to hold it over those less fortunate? I sincerely hope this is just some of the older, prejudiced segment of our demographic that carries this discrimination. My grandsons’ generation is being taught that bullying is not allowed in school or on its grounds. This zero-tolerance policy is during the school hours between 8-4 but what goes on at home? What biases do they hear there?
I know there have been many documented cases of racism and hatred that have gone viral online. However, I have not seen this first hand before and I found it shocking. I naively think that as Canadians we are better than this. But are we? In business, we are told that you are only as good as your weakest link. By that same measure does it mean as a nation we are only as good as our most despicable?
What would Martin Luther King Jr. think, after all this time, about the progress (or lack of progress) in race relations and prejudice around the world today?
How many more years must we go before we truly become inclusive…to see and enjoy the advantages of learning from other cultures? Let’s hope, as a society, we become more compassionate … sooner than later!
John Lennon wrote a song in 1971 about this issue and how he “imagined” a better world.