It has been interesting reading comments on my Facebook and toward others who work in the field of anti-racism. I have written many times about my own experiences. I also write of the compassion and greatness that I see throughout this province in work we are all doing through our governments, public, and private sectors, to support these culture shifts. We are seeing, and recognizing, that that we all have a collective responsibility for participating in that culture shift.
This work reflects how we treat all people, from those experiencing racism and sexual violence, to folks who live with disabilities, and gender inequalities. This province is a place where you should be safe, be successful and participate fully in society no matter who you love, the colour of your skin, who you pray to, or where you are from. This diversity is an asset to who we are as people now and genuinely makes life better for us and future generations. Our kids will look at how we handled the pandemic and how we treated each other at a time of crisis. Our time at this juncture will be remembered and taught to the future generations. We will reflect on our collective actions as a people for many years to come.
This leads me to the genesis of this article, which is about dismantling racism in this province. A constituent asked me about white supremacy and how folks protesting against vaccines and masking were categorized as white supremacists. I should defend their rights to their positions and that it was racist to call folks who are protesting in this manner white supremacists. Racism in any form is unacceptable, and the right to peaceful protest is imperative to democracy. The question I pose to this constituent and others is, why the need for some to carry Tiki torches and Stars of David? Why the swastikas and the confederation flags? Why are we using the language of the Holocaust to express our frustration over the pandemic? 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust, and using that language and conflating it with frustrations around mask-wearing and staying home is disrespectful to those who have survived and those who suffered true losses and under the Nazis. Why are we destroying pride crosswalks and not acknowledging the rights of all people?
I’m asking why because I have truly felt blessed living in this province as a woman of colour. Alberta is the best home I could know, and I feel, like most of you, that there is no better place in the world. I am asking because I am responsible for asking you and myself, “What can we do better?” because I have seen what better looks like in my lifetime. A woman wearing a Hijab should not have to look over her shoulder. A young South Sudanese girl who died by suicide, Abeg Kon should be honoured and remembered by her school, her peers, and her community so that she is not forgotten and that we address systemic racism and bullying at its core.
We should be enjoying each-others celebrations from Christmas to Diwali and everything in between, so that we advance as a society and ask what we can do to make it better. I make this statement because I know that is how most of us feel, and yet we are held hostage by a few that will try and take our individuality and expose it and use it against us and try and make us vulnerable. They will fail because collectively, we will expose the hatred and humiliation, and we will shine big bright lights and bring this discussion to the forefront.
I will end this article by highlighting my point of frustration. In Grand Prairie, June 24, 2016, a surgeon, who is a Caucasian South African doctor, took it upon himself to hang a rope in the shape of a noose on the door of an operating room. Dr. Wynand Wessels was determined to have using this action to show intimidation towards a black Nigerian doctor. I’m curious, those of you who have been following this story or are reading this for the first time, how would you interpret a noose? An investigation was done, the decision of the investigation was that the doctor was not motivated by racism, and this doctor continues to practice creating this toxic and racially charged environment. Evidently, there was not enough evidence to prove that this surgeon was creating a racist symbol. He hung a noose on the door of his fellow surgeon’s operating theatre. I wonder how many of us regular folks would feel about that? I would recommend reading the articles and see how this story has progressed. Still, as I spoke to friends and family across the province, it became clear to me that this is why our ethnic and indigenous brothers and sisters lose trust in our institutions and those who are in control of those institutions. How would you feel if someone put a noose on your door?
To all of the great Albertans who are truly great people, I want to thank you for your amazing contributions to our province in growing safe and caring communities and workplaces. You are all heroes to all of us, and you are in the majority, so keep strong and keep building. Racism is a disease, and you are the cure. You are the way through this, and you are amazing and resilient community partners, and I salute you. Keep shining those lights, no matter who tries to put them out. We will stay strong and carry on.
As always, I love to hear from you.