Events south of the border have brought racism to the forefront of the American consciousness. African-Americans are being shot and killed by police officers at alarming rates, prompting protests and riots, and one of the nominees running for president continues to fuel the fires with xenophobic messages. Colin Kaepernick, a black quarterback who plays for the San Francisco 49ers, recently began a quiet protest against racism by choosing to sit or kneel during the playing of the American national anthem.
Here in Canada, we’ve seen videos posted online showing a woman wearing a hijab being subjected to racial epithets in a grocery store and, most recently, a black actor filming a public service announcement on the streets in Edmonton being repeatedly subjected to the “N word”.
The response in the two nations is substantively different. While many call out those exhibiting racism in the U.S., there is a cacophony of loud American voices decrying equality and tolerance. Kaepernick, exercising his constitutional right to freedom of expression, has been labelled a traitor.
In Canada, incidents of hatred are almost universally condemned because it not who we are or what we value.
The U.S. describes their country as a “melting pot”, where the expectation is that those new to the country abandon the language and culture of their former home. In Canada, we see ourselves as a mosaic, celebrating diversity and encouraging our newest citizens to embrace who we are as Canadians, while retaining the cultural identity with which they arrived.
As the presidential rhetoric ramps up, we will most certainly bear witness to yet more politics of division and exclusion from one of the candidates. As Canadians, we extend our hands to our newest neighbours, open, welcoming and ready to help, not balled into a fist with a finger extended.