by Laurinda Lee-Retter, Founder
Last year, the world watched as the “Black Lives Matter” movement entered a global arena and evidence of racism became a mainstream topic of conversation. With the recent discovery of 215 bodies at the site of a former residential school and the attack on an innocent Muslim family in Ontario, it is heartbreaking to have to acknowledge the extent of racism in some parts of Canadian society.
It has reignited a conversation among the youth at Kind Karma, most of whom identify as minorities from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds, but this time many of them are sharing personal stories of racism that they have experienced and witnessed in their own lives.
"Most black people - they quit."
One of our youth, who attended a post-secondary program at George Brown College, told us of the time she returned to school for her second semester. She was greeted by a look of surprise from one of her classmates who said “Wow you’re back! Most black people – they quit.”
Another one of our youth chronicled the many times her brother, who looks Muslim (even though he’s not), was chased down the streets in her neighbourhood because people made assumptions as to his intent (which was to walk home). Since then, he has enrolled at university in London, Ontario and has been “jumped” for the same reasons – assumptions that he is up to no good.
One youth talked about her boyfriend who often looks like a “hippie” with long hair and baggy clothes. He’d often skateboard around his neighbourhood but was frequently stopped by police for doing nothing besides skateboarding. One time, they went so far as to physically assault him by forcefully grabbing his hair and even trying to break his neck with a karate chop.
"Denial is the heartbeat of racism"
- Ibram X. Kendi
I have had a lot of conversations in the last year about race and a common phrase I hear is “Well, I don’t think it’s really an issue in Canada – I think it’s more of an American thing.” But that couldn’t be farther from the truth and the sooner we can acknowledge that racism exists, the sooner we can move towards creating a more inclusive society.
One of our youth said:
“There are so many things I want to do but what people say about me because of my skin colour makes me not want to do it.”
That phrase broke my heart because no one should ever feel limited by what society thinks of them but especially not when those thoughts are based on false assumptions derived from skin colour, sexual orientation, ethnic background or gender. So I am sharing these experiences (with their permission) to either start or continue the conversation so that our future generation of leaders can truly reach their full potential in a society that accepts them for who they are.