Among the top 10 news stories for 2020 selected by The Herald was “Racism in Summerland.”
This is a result of this summer’s single incident of racist graffiti on the house of an Indo-Canadian family. The incident and its fall-out received wide coverage in mainstream media including Vancouver newspapers and CBC radio. The displaying/selling of U.S. Confederate regalia around the same time was a result of ignorance and not motivated by bigotry.
For the record, even a single racist incident is not acceptable.
The District of Summerland successfully lobbied the provincial government into funneling $7,500 to fund a “Conversation on Racism” in Summerland to start sometime in 2021.
Being a white male, I have little experience with racism, so I am curious about the intended benefits of the proposed “conversation.” I assume it will be similar to a “Truth and Reconciliation” exercise held in post-apartheid South Africa or in Canada recently about the shame of residential schools.
On one side we will have the well-intentioned participants who have the lofty goal of eliminating racism in Summerland. (Apparently the town is a hotbed of bigots as the district’s roadside digital signs encouraged travelers to help stop racism). It may include those who have unfortunately been the victims of racism. Their participation may be helpful to determine how prevalent the problem is. The conversation is not likely to include the other side, the racists among its participants. Will it actually solve anything? Will it generate a report with actionable items?
The conversation exercise has a “Kumbya” feeling to it.
To add perspective, out of a population of 11,095 in Summerland, there are 435 people who self-identified as members of a visible minority in the 2016 Statistics Canada census. There are 25 blacks in Summerland, one of whom is the mayor.
My own very unscientific theory is racism is behaviour learned (inherited?) at a young age and as a result is not likely to change with time. This prompts the hope that our salvation is with the upcoming generation.
In a racist country, South African-born comedian Trevor Noah relates in his auto-biography, kids were teased in his primary school for being tall or short, fat or skinny, but not for the colour of their skin. This had changed by high school.
The fairly-recent acceptance of differing types of sexual orientation is a direct result of the advocacy of a younger generation. Are they more accepting of visible minorities? Could the $7,500 be better directed to an elementary school anti-racist program similar to the DARE anti-drug abuse program?
I believe Summerland is no better or worse than any other small town in Canada when it comes to bigotry. The consequence of the media hype of the original incident, the roadside signage, year-end news stories, and now the proposed conversation, it would seem to the outside world Summerland has a bigotry problem. The conversation will keep the wound festering into 2021.
Mackey, the guidance counsellor in the TV cartoon “South Park,” is famous for his advice “Drugs are bad, OK?” with no further elaboration required.
We can all agree, racism is bad, OK.
John Dorn is a retired tech entrepreneur who resides in Summerland.