I have found it very difficult to write this issue about prejudice, discrimination, and hate. However, I was born in the UK to parents that lived through two world wars. I don’t know if anyone quite knows the real cause of WW I. However, the root cause of WW II was the Reich’s belief in the superiority of the “Master” race and a hatred and fear of others. As a consequence, my mother wanted to make sure that I understood that I had an obligation. An obligation to confront hatred caused by racist, religious, or sexual / gender discrimination and prejudice.
“Hatred is the coward’s revenge for being intimidated.”― George Bernard Shaw
Nonetheless, it is dangerous territory and I run the risk of getting much wrong. The topical language changes every day and so I may inadvertently offend.
“In time we hate that which we often fear.” ― William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa, Oklahoma race massacre. Over an 18-hour period, a white mob killed approximately 300 Black Tulsans. Also, the mob torched 1,256 homes, looted another 215, and left 8000 people homeless. The trigger? Dick Rowland, a young black man, had stumbled into or had stepped on the foot of a white elevator operator! Fast forward 99 years to the George Floyd tragedy. Nothing much has changed. `
The discovery of the remains two hundred and fifteen indigenous children! These un-marked graves found at a government sponsored Catholic residential school in Kamloops, BC may just be the tip of the iceberg of Canada’s national shame. The Joyce Echaquan case demonstrates the disgraceful treatment of indigenous peoples based on prejudice. Not only in Québec, not only in Canada!
The rise in the number of attacks on people of Chinese descent. The Guardian newspaper declared Vancouver the “anti-Asian hate crime capital of North America.” Verbal harassment and physical assaults have increased. Behind this hyperlink is a BBC news article documenting the rise of Asian hate crime in the US.
The October 2018 mass shooting at Pittsburg’s Tree of Life Synagogue, brought increasing anti-semitism into focus. Across Europe, the US, the UK and Canada attacks on Jews, their homes, their institutions, and their communities have become daily events. There is little doubt that the recent Palestinian / Israeli conflict has fuelled the most recent rise. However, that is just an excuse for “Antisemitismus”, a term coined by Wilhelm Marr in the latter half of the 19th century. It replaced the much cruder “Jundenhass” or Jew hatred. To what purpose? To make it more acceptable to hate? One has to wonder.
In January 2017, Alexandre Bissonette murdered ten people at a Québec City mosque. And Sunday evening, June 6, 2021, a man in his twenties aimed his truck at a Muslim family of five out for a walk in London, Ontario. He killed four and the remaining victim, a nine-year old boy is in hospital. These two harrowing events underline the impact of Islamophobia given free rein.
Confront our own prejudices. Lyndon Johnson said “It is not just Negroes but all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry.” Johnson was a racist but he knew it was wrong. So, he became a civil rights hero.
We can become better consumers of information. I wrote about fact, fiction, and opinion in a previous newsletter. I understand that Facebook and other platforms can be a useful, even desirable tool in keeping up with family and friends. However, we must recognize the limitations. These platforms are not a good source of information. They become echo chambers, places we go to find others that agree with us. Worse, many ugly people spread hate with ease through these outlets, all to great effect.
We need to stop laughing at racist and homophobic jokes. We need to encourage friends and family to abandon their prejudices. If that doesn’t work, we may need to make courageous decisions about relationships and friendships.
We have to work at unwrapping issues. You may disagree with Israel’s policies vis a vis the Palestinian situation. So do many Israelis and many Jews outside Israel. A significant fringe of Christian evangelicals are pro-Israel as its existence is crucial for the second coming of Christ. A smaller sub-section of this group are anti-Jew. Are you pro-Israel? Similarly, this does not justify Islamophobia. Conversely, it is not anti-semetic to disagree with Israeli policies on Palestine.
Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction.
French mathematician, physicist (1623 – 1662)
We need political leadership and not leaders that pander to the public and foment hate. Québec’s Bill 21 on religious symbolism appeals to a majority of Québecois. Make no mistake, it appeals to many Canadians outside of Québec as well. However, popular support of something does not mean it is right. “Things” can be (and should be) secularized, people cannot. This kind of law has its genesis in fear, prejudice, and insecurity. Not one Canadian federal leader has shown any courage by standing up against Bill 21.
Careless political rhetoric and government actions such as the US Muslim ban, Bill 21, France’s March 2004 Law #2004-228, cannot and should not be linked to violent acts of Islamophobia. However, they do legitimize intolerance of others and contribute to an atmosphere of hate. Support politicians that stand up and defend human dignity and do not hide behind “the will of the people”
Our collective goal should be the elimination of prejudice, discrimination, and hate. However, we will likely have to settle for reduction and containment of these pollutants of the spirit. It is, perhaps, appropriate that Abraham Lincoln spoke these words just before the onset of the US Civil War. “We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
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