A Confederate flag was reported displayed in a window of the new apartment building facing Memorial Park in Summerland. Hopefully the flag has an innocent explanation (maybe a new tenant needed a window covering and the flag was handy) similar to the noose in the NASCAR garage, rather than an overt display of racism.
As a result, I have been doing some soul searching about my own racial bias. As a privileged white male I have never been on the wrong end of discrimination. It is impossible for me to truly feel for the victims of discrimination as it would be similar for me to try to sympathize with the pain of child birth. Unless one lives through it, one cannot.
Usually when apologizing for one’s bias against an ethnic/racial group, the defensive reply is: “Some of my best friends are (insert minority group name here).” I couldn’t say that, because I have actually had limited interactions with any visible minority.
My very best friend in elementary school was a boy of Japanese heritage, but other than Stephen there were no visible minorities in my life until Grade 11. My brother and I were always amused when my mother would cook rice when the Yamamoto boys ate at our house and Mrs. Yamamoto cooked hot dogs for the Dorn boys.
It was a different time. Some of us may remember (especially those of British background) Robertson’s marmalade had a tin give-away doll called a “gollywog,” which is an incredibly racist caricature of a young frizzy-haired Black child of undefined gender. For a child, it was just another doll.
In high school we had one Black student. Rather than being discriminated against, he was a rock star as he was an exceptional athlete.
On a family vacation to Florida in the 1960s, we came across a gas station washroom labelled “Colored.” To a 12-year old it was a shock and an eye-opener. There were also segregated drinking fountains. I tested the water and both tasted the same.
In my adult life I have belonged to several service clubs. They have been exclusively white, despite no noticeable bias in these organizations and I am sure any new member would have been welcomed. Is it because people instinctively hang out in their own groups?
One of my regrets was my experience in my last place of employment. The company exported most of its product to the United States. Company policy was to not hire anyone with an accent or a non-anglicized name as it might upset some of our American clientele. Luckily I was fired for resisting the company’s other unethical practices, but I acquiesced to their hiring policy. Shameful.
Those in authority are questioned about systemic racism in their organization whether it is police or otherwise. To me, the definition of systemic racism is not a baked-in policy, but a system-wide phenomenon. This infers racism across the organization but it could be thinly spread. It matters little if the leaders admit to systemic racism or not as it is in the eye of the beholder: those who are discriminated against.
My own test of my bias is if I was alone on the street, my reaction to a group of Black youths approaching me would be a lot different than if they were white. I have no explicable reason for this. I have never had a bad
contact with Black people. I am influenced by what I see in the media though.
My point is these feelings are real and baked into our culture and I cannot suggest a “magic bullet” solution. I may be criticized for my truth I have outlined here, but I suspect it is little different from the experiences of the guys I hang around with.
In our country, change is only going to come when everyone has the same opportunity in life as a white male, hopefully to come with the newer generation.
John Dorn is a Summerland resident and retired tech entrepreneur.