No one is born racist.

In fact, no one is born with any form of bias or prejudice. A newborn’s only ability is to cry – yet not all of them know how to do that either. The most vulnerable time in your life was when you were born because you were helpless and at the mercy of your caregiver, whether your parent, your guardian, a social worker, or a stranger who found you abandoned (harsh, but it does happen, unfortunately). As a baby, you are a blank page, or a blank slate, if you will. You’re new, untethered… perfect.

I wholeheartedly believe that we don’t understand just how privileged we are to have parents in our lives. There are people in this world with no parents, and the thought is heartbreaking. I think about my parents often, and I’ll admit, I catch myself focusing on what mistakes they made with me and all of their imperfections. Recently, I shifted my mindset to think of at least one thing they did right by me a day. For example, today, I wrote down how my father used to show me how to perfectly slice a tomato. It seems trivial to think about that at first. I mean, what does a tomato have to do with doing right by your child? But the tomato wasn’t the lesson here; the lesson was how he taught me to handle a sharp knife with care, and how graceful one has to be when handling a fragile object to produce perfection. Humans are much like tomatoes, with skin that guards and holds our soft, mushy feelings and emotions together. The knife symbolically represents how humans build relationships with each other by either cutting into the soul or sculpting something beautiful.

Preserving a child’s innocence is a parent’s first instinct, even if it means they must lie to protect them. In this case, the means, for a parent, always justifies the end, for the end is protecting a child’s fragile and immature emotions. I was 11 when I got my first dose of racism. It was subtle, and some may even think it was harmless. Ryan, a fellow sixth grader like me, had come up behind me in the school library while I was at a computer (much like what I’m doing now) and yanked my hijab (headscarf) off my head, almost choking me in the process. He laughed out loud and started shouting, “Look, everyone! She DOES have hair!” As an 11-year-old, I couldn’t describe how I felt; naturally, I thought the correct response was to chuckle with the group of bullies rather than confront them and tell them it was not OK. Today, I can tell you I felt small and violated. Don’t hate Ryan just yet! He later was overwhelmed by guilt and came over to apologize. Yet, he unknowingly influenced others to believe that it was OK to treat people who were different with disrespect and as lesser humans. 

Me! Grade 6, 11 years old (2000)

Today, I want to talk about one of those forms of disrespect. More specifically, I want to have an uncomfortable yet necessary discussion on racism and the shapes it takes across political spheres by highlighting my experience with racism and how it imprints itself on both the bystanders and those victimized by it.

As always, a disclaimer: It’s true that when we think of racism, we think of White people versus others, others being everyone who isn’t White. That race definitely takes the cake when it comes to racism, though. Congratulations to them, I guess? Anyway, I’m here to remind you that racism is neither exclusive to White people nor is it affiliated with a single political ideology. 

He’s a racist, she’s a racist, you’re all racist

It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.

Audre Lorde

Racism has been a trendy word for almost a decade, and it seems as though everything anyone says that’s distasteful is labelled a racist. You’re a racist, I’m a racist, we’re all racists! Y’ALL!!!!! The English language has over 171,000 registered words to date (wordcount.io)! For the love of God Almighty, diversify your lexicon. So let’s get some definitions out of the way before we begin, extracted from NASP Position Statement: Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism (2019)

  • Prejudice: Irrational or unjustifiable negative emotions… toward persons from other social groups…
  • Discrimination: inappropriate treatment of people because of their actual or perceived group membership and may include both overt and covert behaviours… microaggressions, comments… that reflect negative attitudes or beliefs about a non-majority group.
  • Racism: prejudice or discrimination against individuals or groups based on beliefs about one’s own racial superiority or the belief that race reflects inherent differences in attributes and capabilities. Racism is the basis for social stratification and differential treatment that advantage the dominant group (read the paper linked above for more on racism).

Racism votes for both liberals and conservatives

It seemed as though everyone who supported the Republican Party, also known as GOP (Grand Old Party), in 2016 was a racist because former President Donald Trump was the leader and labelled as a racist. Careful there, fellow Trumpettes, don’t come at me with your “he released more Black lives from prison” or “he loved Latinos” bullshit. One act of kindness or telling me you have a friend who’s Black doesn’t make you not a racist. In my post, Enough With the Woke Shit Already, I wrote that a racist is labelled when demonstrating continuous racist behaviour. The same could be said about being labelled as good, kind, generous, evil, or any abstract adjective used to describe a person. All that said, there’s no way that every Republican supporter was or is a racist. 

Similarly, everyone who supported the Conservative Party of Canada in 2019 was considered racist. The left-winged parties – Democratic Party in the US and the Liberal and New Democratic Parties in Canada – use famous political marketing strategies to draw attention away from their dirty politics. They consistently instil a fear that a vote for the opposition is a vote towards racism because the opponent is racist. How did they do that, you ask? Simple, the left is notorious for its two-step strategy: 

  • Making empty social and feel-good promises playing your emotions into believing that you are a victim in this world and they’re here to save you.
  • Vilifying the opposition as the Big Bad Wolf coming to eat your hopes and dreams and repeatedly telling you that they’re the reason for your victimhood until you believe it. Don’t believe me? Here’s the lovely former Liberal MP for Ottawa, Centre, Catherine McKenna, telling the small-town folks how they lie and lie until people believe it! 🙂 Not her finest moment, for sure.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. I’ve said many times that politics is a dirty game. I’m sure politicians start with good intentions, but their campaign quickly becomes about winning a seat instead of the best interest of the people they want to represent. Right-winged political groups aren’t any different, by the way. The saddest part about dirty politics is the populous that falls for these tricks and does the dirty work for the party it supports. I had the pleasure of experiencing two racist moments from both political wings, getting a taste of the shit resting nicely on both ends of the stick.

A tale of two parties

The White-knight-and-shining-armour kind of racist

While running my little federal electoral campaign in 2019, I was dragged into a social media war on racism between a White liberal and a White conservative. Race matters here, hence the labels, so bear with me. The White conservative had told the Liberal that he had a friend who supported him and tagged me. For the record, nobody likes to be tokenized, so please don’t do that to your friends. If your opinions can’t stand on their own and you have to drag your person-of-colour friend, then it’s probably time to reflect on your behaviour. I read the thread and decided, whatever I’ll bite. Interestingly, the little leftist social justice warrior attacked me by saying I was dumb, naive, and didn’t know what I was talking about. The best part of their attack was that I wasn’t dark enough to have an opinion on racism, my experience was not valid, AND that minorities like me are worse than White Supremacists. OH MY GOD, WOW! Please, tell me more man-with-the-big-words-to-compensate-for-the-little-pebbles-between-your-legs. This type of racism is thinking you know better than the race you think you’re protecting. At that moment, this Liberal became the very thing they claimed to despise.

The You-people kind of racist

I met an older man – about 85 – while canvassing one night. He was shaking with anger mustering the strength to tell me something. Eventually, he said, “I hate you and your kind, but I have to vote for you because the “others” are worse.” I wasn’t surprised. The guy was as White as a Tylenol pill with a thick Scottish accent. The others, meaning other political candidates, were darker skinned than me, the Liberal originally from Pakistan and the Conservative originally from Egypt. Agh… I could have snapped, told him I didn’t need his vote and walked away. But he was shaking and on the verge of tears; I knew his racism was deep-rooted in some irrational fear that “my kind” was out to get him. So I asked him why with compassion.

I wasn’t going to take his vote or donation without at least talking through this. We sat at his kitchen table for an hour, and he explained how we were out to get his freedom and that this wasn’t what he fought for in World War II. He fought for freedom and was afraid his freedom was disappearing. Then he said, women have no place in politics, but I’ll save the sexism topic for another time. I asked if I could hold his hand, to which he consented. I held his hand with both of mine, looked at him as he was crying, and said, “You fought for freedom and equality for all, including the vulnerable who couldn’t fight. Look around you; you fought for all of this and the beautiful diversity that came from the victory. It may not look like what you envisioned, but it’s what you fought for. You fought for me to be here today.” I left there feeling extremely sad because I was exhausted from all the public judgement and scrutiny. It was a painful yet humbling experience.

I want to add that the older man came to see me a couple of weeks later to apologize and tell me that he likes me and thinks I’m a lovely lady. He then whispered in my ear, “I still don’t like your people very much, though.” I laughed and replied, “One step at a time. I accept your apology.”

No one is born racist

No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

Nelson Mandela

No one is born racist. We’re born with a blank slate, and life starts to etch our lessons onto that slate. Based on our experiences, we develop views and opinions that may be prejudiced, discriminatory and racist. Who, how and where you were raised contribute to how you perceive people and life. We are nurtured in this world by people we look up to and rely on showing us the ropes. And then, we build armours based on the uncontrollable variables we experience in our lives; for example, losing our job, home, or worse, a loved one. These experiences and circumstances can impact the way you see the world. As such, you may feel inclined to argue that racial habits shouldn’t be your fault if all these circumstances influence your perception. However, there comes a time when you’re old enough to take ownership of your life and dictate your narrative instead of allowing it to dictate you. Racism is learned, not inherited, but so is love, and it all comes back to choice. So what’s your choice going to be?

References

Dexter, A. (2022, July 11). How many words are in the English language? – word counter. – Word Counter. Retrieved October 16, 2022, from https://wordcounter.io/blog/how-many-words-are-in-the-english-language

Image by Sergio Cerrato – Italia from Pixabay

Prejudice, discrimination, and racism – national association of school … (n.d.). Retrieved October 16, 2022, from https://www.nasponline.org/x26830.xml

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