Racism remains prevalent today

Racism often hidden below a thin layer of political correctness.

“Oh no, here we go,” mutters the person blind to the colonial history of Canada now that, after six years, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has issued its report on the dark past of residential schools in Canada.

“Why won’t those Indians just put the past behind them, get a job, and start contributing to society?”

That is what “he” said to me. There are certain subjects usually left alone by those who should know better. Topics where we don’t really hear what some people think. Most people keep their ignorance to themselves.

“That was the past, get over it.”

I hate to point it out but these are not the opinions of some bygone era. These are attitudes held by some people, most who won’t admit it, in the here and now. Present and but a scratch below a thin layer of political correctness that covers our daily discourse.

This is what was said to me by someone I chatted with a few weeks ago who, frankly, should know better. An educated, employed, successful member of Chilliwack society.

He used the term “Indians,” even. Lots of people do. No, he wasn’t talking about people from India. I asked. But the fellow I was talking to suggested that when talking about our local Sto:lo population, he prefers “Indian” over “native” or “aboriginal.”

Apparently, I’ve learned, it is political correctness run amok when people suggest an objectively inaccurate term is just weird to use.

“You know where India is, right?” I asked the aforementioned fellow.

No comment.

“OK, you know the ‘Indians’ in this country have endured an attempted cultural genocide, right?” I pushed.

Get over it, was the response. Start paying some taxes.

I almost hate to write these words because they are true. Today many local Sto:lo folks are likely grappling with Justice Murray Sinclair’s report, its 94 recommendations, something that invariably will dig up the terrible wounds of what was endured at residential schools by parents grandparents and great-grandparents. The ignorance and hatred that led to a cultural genocide, a government-church led systematic “killing the Indian in the child” is done. It’s gone from our churches. It’s gone from our cultural institutions. It’s gone from our government.

But the sentiment does remain, if below the surface, that aboriginals should just snub out the last remnants of that language, drop the cultural practices, forget the drumming, the hunting and the fishing and the rest of it, and just be more like us.

There is, among us mostly white settlers, a belligerent sense of entitlement, but even more so, a disregard for those here before us.

“Political correctness” is a false label for what is simply correctness.

Now that the TRC report is out, it’s really time to get our collective white heads out of our asses, acknowledge the horrible truth that some of our ancestors took part in or at least acquiesced to, and reconcile.

This doesn’t mean saying “we are sorry you are upset” one more time. This means starting a process whereby individuals like the one I quoted above are forced to learn some history. Learn how children were stolen from their parents as government policy. This is big stuff, and it’s been buried for too long. What we should not do is let the ignorance of the “be more like us” sentiment carry on.

 

Those today who are blind what went on with the Indian School Act need to open their eyes.

Paul Henderson

Black Press