Racism is ubiquitous

LET’S ADMIT IT: WE ARE RACISTS.
African Canadian actress, Rita Devereux, opened a workshop on racism with a following statement: “We must admit we are all racists. However we must never act on it.” If “racism” is too harsh a word, could it be “prejudice” or “fear of unknown?” Anyhow, racism is common.

Racism between Chinese, Korean and Japanese, for example, is not spoken about often but is there. When the Very Rev. Sang Chul Lee, of Korean ancestry, was elected Moderator of the United Church of Canada, he was asked if he had ever experienced racism. He said, “Not in Canada, but in Japan.” I knew a psychiatrist in Japan. He had to hide his background because of the prejudice against Koreans: even his wife hadn’t known it.

We must admit that racism is ubiquitous. One hears whispers about it between Blood and Cree nations. But we must treat it like cancer. We must acknowledge it’s there, lest it raises its ugly head unconsciously. If we acknowledge it, we can work on it: NEVER act on it. All of us are still learning to live with many unknowns in the Global Village to become one human family. We fear differences or unknowns initially but it’s natural. My daughter grew up with African and European friends in an African university community. One day, she was absolutely frightened when she saw a group of Chinese agriculturalists who arrived as foreign aid specialists. They were the first North-East Asians she saw aside from her parents. I had to remind her how she looked in a mirror. Funny but true.

It is more difficult when people do things differently that seem rude, and/or eat weird foods. When I came to Canada in 1958, I still found some Japanese Canadians, even a dentist’s family, hid their chopsticks when there was a knock on the door during the meal. I still hear hesitation when raw fish sushi was suggested. Until a hundred years ago, Japanese thought eating red meat was barbaric and yucky. So bad boys who wanted to eat anything forbidden cooked steak outside on a ploughshare, hence “Sukiyaki” – “Fried on a blade.” Franklin expedition did not have to end tragically if only English sailors ate raw fish like Inuit people.

People are different, neither good or bad. Just different. We should learn about them and their ways without contempt, disgust or fear.

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