I made the mistake of watching the video. I’m sure you know the one I’m talking about: it involves tiki torches and chanting.
And while I’m not an American citizen, I felt real, visceral fear while watching the video. I imagined what it felt like to be surrounded by a horde of people, holding a sign like a shield and knowing all too well how these types of situations often end.
Early this year, Nazi imagery popped up in our city like a noxious weed. The community rallied together, but it became impossible for anyone to try to deny that racism exists here.
It is terrifying to think that the type of hate that was so apparent during the Second World War is showing itself so openly again. While I have an incredible amount of privilege, like so many others I also have intergenerational trauma embedded in my family history. The story of racism – of being put in animal pens and having fishing boats and transistor radios seized, of being interned – is as real as the slant of my eyes. It’s forever intertwined with my hard-to-pronounce last name. I’ve heard many others speak of how these images are impacting them physically, reminding them of their parents and their grandparents. Making them afraid for their children.
When I graduated from high school, I told people I wanted to change the world. People laughed at me: “How funny and idealistic! How naive!” But when I worked in social services, I trained hundreds of volunteers. These volunteers were often young women who wanted to be social workers, police or corrections officers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs. There was a retired VPD officer, a woman who had spent thirty years working in customer service, mothers and grandmothers. I had the opportunity to talk to these women about intersectionality and harm-reduction. I got to share my passion and compassion. And they taught me about their experiences, the things they knew, what they felt strongly about. They gave generously of their time, working with marginalized and vulnerable women. Many have gone on to be community leaders and have professional careers. These women have started families and businesses.
Do you laugh at me now if I tell that I believe that this is changing the world? Talking with our friends, family, neighbours, customers, supervisors, and volunteers. Sharing a vision of a world shaped towards compassion and inclusion. It may seem like this hate has emerged from nowhere like a tidal wave, but really it was small pebbles thrown into a pond, creating ripples that radiated outwards. And we need to turn the tide back by throwing in our own pebbles, creating even bigger ripples of inclusion and acceptance.
I am afraid. But the fear hasn’t paralyzed me.
I will continue to work on issues that I believe make a difference – truth and reconciliation, inclusion and equity, public spaces and public services. I will continue to speak loudly when I see injustice, when I hear words that contain ripples of hate. I will take care of myself by spending time with animals, eating green veggies, taking deep belly breathes. I know it’s hard to keep going, but I see the work so many people are doing in New Westminster, in Canada, and in our global community.
If you feel the need to act now, residents are gathering on Thursday at Moody Park for an Open Mic against Racism starting at 7pm. Let’s gather together to show our support and stand against hatred.
And if anyone needs a hug, Gus will be happy to oblige. He gives great hugs.