Racism is alive and well in Lethbridge

Dr. Jo-Anne Fiske, Dean of Graduate Studies at the University of Lethbridge, listens as Dr. Trudy Govier, from the Department of Philosophy also at the U of L, speaks during the “Racism and discrimination in Lethbridge: what needs to be done?” information session held at the Lethbridge Public Library Tuesday night.

It’s not something to celebrate. It’s something to eradicate.

Racism is alive and well in Lethbridge, according to the Lethbridge Action on Racism Circle. The group, along with Amnesty International Lethbridge and the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs held a special information session Tuesday night at the Lethbridge Public Library to reveal the ideas and suggestions taken from two potlucks the group put on to discuss racism and discrimination, it’s impact in Lethbridge, and ways in which to eradicate it.

My husband and I attended this session and were happy, yet a little disappointed, with the turnout. My husband commented on how the majority in the room were Caucasian men and women, aside from a handful or more of visible minorities. I agree that it would have been good to see more minorities in the audience that night, but not necessarily the visible ones. It’s the non-visible ones, such as those in our gay and lesbian community and those living with mental illness, that don’t attend these types of meetings but still experience discrimination in some form.

Be it an off-hand remark or a store clerk paying extra attention to someone of a visible minority, racism and discrimination occurs everyday in our city and it is extremely unfair to the individuals that have face it on a daily basis. Hearing about instances where a woman wearing a hijab was told to “go back to Iraq, you terrorist!”, having it yelled to her from a car’s window as it drove by or a little girl chopping off her beautiful, black braids because other kids in her classroom teased her for not looking like them was difficult, but unfortunately not surprising.

Having lived in Lethbridge my entire life, I have seen countless instances where people who are different from what is commonly considered the norm get treated less-than and are scrutinized more over. Be it Aboriginals, Hutterites, the physically disabled, the mentally disabled, those with mental illness, overweight people, little people… any and everyone who is different from a Caucasian of “normal” height and weight has been discriminated against, and it is absolutely absurd!

Just as the Lethbridge ARC declared Tuesday night, I too believe that all this diversity should be celebrated as the norm and not the other way around. How boring life would be if everyone looked the same, talked the same, and acted the same. I am friends with many different people from all walks of life and I don’t discriminate against them just because their ethnic background is different or that they love a person of the same sex. These people are awesome, wonderful people I enjoy spending time with. It doesn’t change the fact that they bleed red, need air to live, and food in their stomachs just like you and me. They are not a virus set upon the world and people need to get over what prejudices they were taught as children or developed over time. They need to start thinking for themselves what these diverse people have actually done wrong to force them to continue their discriminatory thinking.

Also, talk. Discuss with your children about others in our community and why they are as valuable a part of society as you are. If you find yourself as the one guilty of a discriminatory thought or act against another, open a dialogue with that other person and get to know them better and gain a better understanding of what makes that person. Smile to a stranger in the grocery line – a genuine smile, not forced.

Make those different from yourself feel welcome so that hopefully one day they can go through it without feeling the sting and hurt of discrimination.

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