Since the 1980s, it's been used to diminish and discredit efforts to reduce racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, ableism and other forms of discrimination. But despite people like Donald Trump declaring "I'm so tired of this politically correct crap," the efforts remain because the issues have not gone away.
Like most people that call this city home, I am deeply troubled by Sunday's shooting deaths in Toronto's Chinatown and the eight other gun-related deaths the city saw in January. This is obviously unacceptable, and police must be supported in their efforts to investigate and prosecute those responsible for these horrific crimes. That being said, most people would be hesitant to draw any clear conclusions about why we have seen a high number of gun crimes over the past month. Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association, the union that represents police officers, feels differently.
I am sorry to say that no one can promise that you will not face discrimination again as you re-establish yourself in this country. But I know that there will be many of us that will stand with you when it happens. You will be among those fighting to ensure our handling of this humanitarian crisis does not seed future shame and add to the list of times that fear and intolerance guided our actions.
Brandon was shot and killed not far from his hometown of Maniwaki, which has a population of about 4,000 people and is adjacent to the Anishinabeg (Algonquin) community of Kitigan Zibi, about 300 kilometres northwest of Montreal. His death went almost completely unnoticed in the media. Yet, a 17-year-old adolescent killed by the police in the context of a banal driving violation is newsworthy, particularly in light of the the fact that more than 50 people, most of whom were marginalized, have been killed in police operations in Quebec (and over 150 in Canada) since 2005.
Canada continues to make important strides toward more equality. But there are storm clouds on the horizon that endanger the continuing pursuit of true equality. What started as a legitimate change to bring about equality and transformation of how we viewed, treated and spoke about each other has now ossified into a rarely breached wall of silence, a silence reinforced by the onset of the West's indifference to its own good, bad or ugly -- but distinct -- societies, their values and norms. Call it white man's burden or guilt, a guilt for the sins of the past now manifesting itself in the white man's fear.
Before I talk about the wretched Muslims ruining America, I'm going to admit I'm not American. I am Canadian, which I realize is pretty unfortunate. To make up for this deficiency, I've always pretended to be American. I pretend because it is feels great to be "exceptional" and more civilized than the rest of the world. I pretend because it makes me feel safer to fear others who are different. I pretend because American Republican politicians aren't afraid to demonstrate their overt bigotry by generalizing an entire group of people. Now, it's time to finally stop pretending and fulfill my true destiny.
Such is the nature of our hyper-connected planet that events seemingly worlds away from our day-to-day lives can reverberate in our neighbourhood. That is the power and promise of social media - it makes the world smaller. The flip side, however, is that faraway events, like those in Paris, Beirut, Nigeria and Egypt, can embolden otherwise-marginal, hateful forces here at home.
A window of opportunity has opened where several provincial governments and Ottawa are enlightened and willing to partner to deal with problems. Eleven Muslim MPs were elected to Ottawa alone in 2015, and one is a cabinet minister. If the stars are aligned, what then are the key challenges that the community should take on?
The coordinated killings that rocked Paris over the weekend are an unspeakable horror. But we must not allow the horrific nature of this atrocity to drag Canada back into the racism, Islamophobia and war-mongering that characterized our last government. The burden to hold firm on the change that we demanded in the October election is jointly shared between Canadians and our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
A vicious cycle of hate seems to have been engendered where hatred of the West feeds the hatred of Islam. The way out of this hate is by looking within instead of pointing fingers at others. Some people do not care for such a nuanced understanding. They look for simplistic answers to complex problems.
There needs to be a concerted effort to confront the rise of prejudice that was encouraged by the Conservatives in their bid for re-election. Although Steven Harper has been defeated, the lingering "permission" given to bigotry needs to be challenged in every workplace and community across Canada. Canadians have never been immune to the corrosive influences of racism and anti-Semitism. At this point in history we are called upon to specifically challenge Islamophobia. The fact is that our Muslim brothers and sisters have been made to feel defensive about their faith and unsure of how their neighbours accept them.
I've been asked, "Where are you from?" more times at the bank than at any other workplace. The query is almost always followed by an individual's shock of how kind, efficient, or great my service was. In their mind, there's no way a black girl from [insert black country here] can be so nice at customer service.
While some political parties are more responsible for instances of blatant racism than others, no political party has committed to action on combating racism in Canada. Aboriginal and racialized realities of being heavily surveilled, unfairly carded in the streets, and higher rates of violence remain fringe issues.
New journeys often create surprises. Over the last few months, as I've gotten increasingly stuck on issues of Islamophobia and the fringe, extremist xenophobia in the Muslim world, this journey has been true to form. I've been struck by both the similarities between the two hate camps and their sheer resilience.
Be aware that, in our midst, a group of Canadian citizens are being dehumanized. History has shown us over and over again that this leads to oppression, hatred, and violence. Move past your knee-jerk reaction of protectionism. Don't be fooled by rhetoric. Understand that to that Muslim woman wearing the niqab, not being able to choose what she wears is oppression, even if it makes you personally uncomfortable.