Let’s cut to the chase and talk about what everyone, okay almost everyone, has been talking about over the last week or so: white supremacy. The events that unfolded in Charlottesville, VA provided a platform for an international discussion surrounding white supremacy, a discussion that’s been much needed given the state of racial/ethnic relations in North America especially.
Let’s be clear though: although the tragedy of Charlottesville has propelled the white supremacist discourse to a larger stage, there have been many people (especially people of colour) who were already aware of the ways that white supremacy existed visibly (ie. in organized groups) and invisibly (ie. systems and structures) in their own nation’s context. That being said, permit me to share with you the top two reasons why Canadians should view the events that occurred in Charlottesville as a warning flare:
- White supremacy is alive and well in Canada. It is alive in overt ways through the mobilizing and organizing efforts of nationalist groups. Rallies are popping up in places like Calgary, AB, Vancouver, BC and Toronto, ON. (Read this CBC story for more detail: White Nationalist Groups on the Rise in Canada.) It is alive in covert ways through the systems, structures, and policies that were designed to privilege White people and marginalize racialized people. A group of Canadian NGOs recently testified to the reality of this to an international stage at the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD Committee). They submitted a joint statement, which concluded that Canada “... has failed to comply with its own domestic human rights laws regarding racial discrimination and Indigenous rights.” (Read more: NGOs Tell UN Panel Canada is Failing on Ending Racism: Paradkar, Toronto Star.)
- The global humanitarian crisis has resulted in Canada increasing in ethnic diversity. As I write this newsletter, Montreal’s Olympic Stadium has been converted into a temporary refugee shelter for asylum seekers. (Read more in this CBC story.) As beautiful as this may be, this provides a recipe for a quiet storm since the average Canadian has not unpacked on an individual level how white supremacy has shaped their perceptions on those who are different than themselves. The presence of vulnerable and identifiable people groups coupled with unaddressed (often latent and dormant) racial and ethnic prejudices and stereotypes offers the potential for pseudo-relationship formations, the development of insular cultural enclaves, and increased demand for integration and assimilation into white dominant culture.
I believe that there are two kinds of people in this world: those who learn primarily through personal experience and those who learn primarily from the experiences of others. Charlottesville and the United States as a whole is offering humanity a learning opportunity at great expense to themselves. This opportunity is no different than that which any other nation over the ages has offered during time of turmoil. The question is: what will Canada, and more specifically the Canadian church, choose to do with this learning experience? I pray that we will be introspective and choose to be proactive rather than reactive so that we can truly live as reconciled people that seek the shalom of the places where we live.
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