Friday, July 12, 2013
As a child living in Canada in the 1950s and 60s, I used to admire the black population of the southern USA, who seemed to overcome incredible odds and mistreatment. My parents, political animals who fought tenaciously for their causes and beliefs, encouraged me to explore these issues of injustice.
Growing up in a rural community, I had almost no exposure to any “person of colour,” whether it be black, or Asian, or Arab. However, I lived in an area where Metis (mixed native & white) were common, and a wealth of “Indian” friends and childhood associates of my father would visit for weeks at a time during our summers. I didn’t realize that these people, too, were “persons of colour.”
Interestingly, when my own children began learning about prejudice and racism directed toward black people, they asked me, “Dad, how come we don’t know any black people?” My response was, “You do. Your best friend, Crystal is black.” My oldest daughter thought for a moment, and then said, “No she isn’t. She’s brown.” My children had not thought to associate colour of skin with quality of character. I felt I had been teaching them correctly.
But my own experience, as a teenager, soon made me realize that our own First Nations people faced biases and barriers that stacked the odds incredibly against them. Our shameful residential schools program was just one such example. When I entered university, one of my classmates and friends was a fellow from Nigeria. Even though he graduated with excellent grades, he could not find a decent job in Winnipeg, or Toronto, or Calgary. He moved to Vancouver, and took a hospitality industry position. It was obvious bias.
So I began my anger and fight against injustice focused on race and colour of skin. But injustice is far from limited to racial prejudice. Religion is another easy target, and it is not always tied to race. Think of the Irish Catholic/Protestant wars, or the Bosnia/Serb crises. Then there is the issue of socio-economic disparity and bias.
My first job interview was a disaster, and I failed to get the “dream job” that I wanted as a copyboy with a local newspaper. Why? Although I had come well recommended by one of the departmental editors, I appeared for the interview with gaping holes in my only shoes, surplus army pants (wool khakis) and a sport shirt. It was the only and best outfit I owned, and my parents could not afford any better. Fortunately, I was able to borrow better clothes for my next interview with the competing newspaper, and I got the job.
Poverty creates huge barriers, in every country of the world. And poverty – socio-economic disparity – often correlates to a distinct way of speaking and presenting oneself. So, even when poverty is not at the forefront, its impact can cripple equal opportunity.
Recently, Malala Yousafzai, the girl shot by the Taliban for her insistence that girls had the right to be educated, too, spoke at the UN. She is just one example of the handicaps and barriers placed against women. Think it only occurs in the Middle East or Far East? Look at the primary issues of the day in the USA, with affirmative action legislation, and reproductive rights (exclusively the choice and realm of females) being trashed by men in power.
How about gay rights, or childhood & workplace bullying? These are injustices and biases that need to be defeated, too.
The idea for this blog originated with the idea of crowdfunding -- a method of raising funds for social causes by relying on the strength of social media. By talking about wide-ranging issues, and sharing solutions, we can make a difference. I will be posting every week, and will also post links and contacts for relevant issues. You are needed, too. Let me know what topics drive you, and let me make your issue one in which others csn help find solutions.