The recent huge outcry against racism in the USA has brought a fresh focus to policing in many parts of the world, and to cultural and racial differences. It brings me to consider the heart of racism and how that impacts me.
When you find yourself in strange waters, realizing you are visibly in the minority can produce a twinge of fear. Fear puts up emotional barriers that can block clear thinking and good judgement. Fear, I think, is at the heart of racism.
In a downtown Chicago restaurant, our family having been comfortably seated, I looked around and realized we were one of only two tables of white people in a huge busy noon dining room. Everyone else was black.
I had no reason to be afraid. I was just another paying customer. What was I afraid of? I’m not the type of person to be afraid of others. But I did feel very different there, and that can happen in other settings that are more culturally basedthan colour-based.
On another evening in Chicago, we missed a freeway ramp out of the downtown and found ourselves driving a different route on the darkened streets of what was then referred to as “the projects”. Just blocks from where we meant to be, life was very different.
My grandfather Fred Townson came to Canada as an underprivileged ward of England’s Barnardo Homes. As an adult, he dreamed of rehabilitating men in prisons to the point that the jail cells could be thrown open. As he told my grandmother, Fred had a vision of the love and kindness of God transforming those who found themselves in such desperate situations that they became criminals.
Eking out a living in prairie Manitoba, Fred never got to try out his vision to help with criminal reform, but he was a respected hockey coach and man of the community.
A culture that is interested in others rather than fearful and grasping – be it on a police force, within a government body, school, church or family circle – is the kind of culture I want to live in.
I am concerned for Manitoba’s First Nations communities. Dakota educator, Eugene Ross spoke to teachers at Goulter a number of months ago. He urged Virden to get to know their neighboursbetter. I agree.
There’s a tendency to stay within our own comfort zones, whether that be skin colour, culture, belief system or other community borders, but we need to get to know our neighboursand for Manitobans, that is often our First Nations communities.