Like many others, we've been watching the news emerging from the United States with varying degrees of shock, outrage and horror as the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis, Minn. ignited wide-spread protests and riots across the country.
Floyd's death – deemed a homicide by Minnesota officials and an independent autopsy – has nearly unanimously been decried as an act of racism and police brutality. The homicide also appears to be the spark that lit the powder keg resulting from unhealed, systemic injustices as old at the United States itself. The history of racism in the U.S. begins with slavery and includes segregation, lynching, redlining and numerous other examples of inequality.
As Canadians, its tempting to feel that, while what is occurring in the U.S. is troubling, its not our problem. That would be a mistake. Although Canada's history is different from our southern neighbours, racism exists here too.
Just last week, our newspaper reported on the use of a racist slur in an act of vandalism at Windsong Heights School May 23. Privately, our reporters have witnessed acts of racism in the form of derogatory jokes and the casual use of racial slurs.
It's important to note that racism is not only anti-black. While the focus of the current moment is on that specific form prejudice, people of Asian, Middle Eastern, Indigenous and Latinx descent also bear the brunt of bigotry.
Now is the time to listen, learn and act. It is a time for empathy and understanding. It is a time to seek out resources – books, articles and lectures – that increase awareness of what racisim is and how to combat it. Especially if you are white – as are both the majority of our city and the entirety of our newsroom – it is a time to examine your own prejudices and understand how they contribute to systemic issues. It is a time to take a firm stand against discrimination and injustice.
For the second week in a row, we feel the need to denounce racism in the strongest possible terms. We must all stand in solidarity with groups that often face discrimination.