There are people in North America who think one race is superior to another — that racism is not an ugly ideology but a recognition of ‘natural law.’ Fortunately they are a small percentage of the population — largely made of second-raters, delusional sociopaths and, frankly, morons. If you are one of them, you can stop reading now.
Far more prevalent are those who trick themselves into thinking racism doesn’t exist — either in America where is clearly does, or in Canada where it’s existence is equally obvious but somehow can be dismissed as not as bad as in the USA. This is not a shades of grey issue, folks. Racism and racist acts are destructive and damaging to society. We all lose when we allow racism to go unchallenged.
I know from personal experience that this is true.
I grew up in a typical Nova Scotia town. It was largely white and Christian and English. There was a modest sized black community (about 5% of the population) most of whose families had arrived after the American Revolution. In other words they had been there longer than most folk. They mostly lived in one neighbourhood referred to in polite company as the Hill. In less polite company it was called Coon Hill.
There was a slightly larger Acadian neighbourhood located on the far side of the tracks — you know, the wrong side of the tracks. It was hard to say which the upright burgers of Amherst disdained most — niggers or frogs.
At 14, I was largely oblivious. We were a white family who lived on the Hill and had previously run a grocery store — the only one in town who extended credit to black families. My father had become a deacon in the African Methodist Episcopal church — largely to help them overcome racist resistance to building a new church building. We were the only white family to attend. I was an atheist by this time but I liked the music and I liked the company. I had a lot of black friends.
But then something happened. I began to hear the words ‘nigger-lover.’ Behind my back, at first, but eventually to my face. These words didn’t come from the white trash of town but from the kids who lived in the nice part of town, the kids whose families ran the place. Kids I hoped to have as friends (a classic working class yearning to ascend the social ranks — sorry, but I was 14).
So I stopped going to the church, stopped hanging with my black friends. It was painful. Painful for me to do; painful to see the looks on their faces when I shunned them. Of course they had it worse — the taunts and exclusions (and the occasional violence) were far more pointed in their case. It cost them — education, jobs, self esteem.
Some recovered. One of my closest friends dropped out of school but he later returned — with help from some anti-racist organizations — to get his Master’s degree. We even reconnected for a while. But it wasn’t the same. Racism ruins everything.
And that’s ten minutes.