The blatantly racist comment on Twitter was so uncreative, Zain Velji couldn’t help but snap back with humour.
The Calgary community advocate and campaign strategist’s response has since gone viral, with dozens of other Twitter users supporting him with jokes of their own.
“This example was so blatant, I wanted to point out to people this stuff exists and it’s increasing,” Velji told HuffPost Canada. “And that you can disarm with humour and it helps to make it easier for people to digest.”
The offensive tweet used racist stereotypes to suggest Velji rode a camel and lived in a cave.
He reported the comment to Twitter, but as of Monday afternoon, it has yet to be removed.
The exchange began after Velji had tweeted a video of himself on a CBC News Panel, weighing in on Alberta Premier Jason Kenny’s support of federal Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer.
The Twitter user posted the vile comment, and Velji responded facetiously that he uses a “camel valet service” called “HUMP” and that he doesn’t own but rather rents a cave, so it’s not technically his.
Others came to Velji’s defence.
“I’m proud of your response to this idiot,” one Twitter user said.
Over the last couple of days, the conversation has continued.
“He grew up in the neighbourhood where I live,” tweeted Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi. “I can confirm no camels or caves in NE Calgary. I can also confirm that all people of colour have jokes to disarm racists and aggressors. And that it would be so much better if we didn’t have to.”
In his line of work, Velji often weighs in on heated political topics, so he’s used to facing criticism but doesn’t deal with racism often. He’s also a co-founder of a volunteer organization called Everyone’s Canada, which promotes celebrating diversity, pluralism and multiculturalism.
He said he’s noticed increased polarization online paired with anonymity “is breeding a mainstream version of this rhetoric that makes it much more acceptable to throw out there.”
Velji said he is going to continue to draw attention to racism.
“People around me from other minority communities face it much worse,” he said.