Rae: Challenging the hate, home by home

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A checkout person at a London store recognized my name on my membership card and had nice things to say about this column.

But what stayed with me from my conversation with Susan, was what she said about events in the world affecting her 12-year-old. “He’s starting to ask questions,” she said.

The riots in Charlottesville, Va., shed a light on the racism. The fallout from the American president’s response are still rippling.

We have experienced it in our own city, on a smaller scale. London saw an anti-Islamic group demonstrating in the city’s core last weekend, with hundreds more showing up to counter them.

Hopefully this signals a shift in the way we treat people, and ultimately, in the way we think.

Radicalism is not new. Radical racists are not new, but their numbers seem to be growing. There’s been lots of discussion suggesting that President Donald Trump has given them fuel and a platform.

I watched a video in which a reporter was embedded with the white nationalist group in Charlottesville. I was thinking, as a white person, I have never seen such vehement hatred and anger, nor experienced that kind of judgment because of the colour of my skin.

Social media and online videos have now put faces to the people, I considered until now, uneducated rednecks. I guess it was easier and more convenient for me to believe the only people who think their race is the right race must be those without the benefit of an education. I was wrong.

In the weeks that have followed that public display of “white pride” in Charlottesville, we have heard much commentary about who these people are, and that they are thriving and growing here in Canada.

I was unaware. So were many of my friends and colleagues.

As I chatted with Susan in the checkout line, I wondered what the conversations might be like with her 12-year-old, or with any 12-year-old for that matter.

What questions might they be asking? It might depend on the social climate of a home, the conversations that had already happened, the family’s own experiences, currently and in the past.

No one knows what goes on behind closed doors and why people hold tightly to the positions that they do. We rarely understand what kind of oppression and hatred afflicts people.

That 12-year-old would surely be influenced not only by their parents’ view life, but also by the things the child would hear at school or from cousins and neighbours, and see on social media and television. But also by the marginalization they might have already felt.

Do we presume to know the entire racial background of a person we meet just because of what they look like in our eyes? It would be equally wrong to presume to know sexual orientation or invisible disability. But these are assumptions that many of us make, every day.

Everyone has a unique lens in which they view what is happening in the world.

When a 12-year-old begins to “ask questions,” it’s the perfect time to discuss the things that unify us, rather than the things that divide us.

Change starts at home and in our own hearts.

Shauna Rae is a London freelance writer.


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