Beware the Signs of Racism in the U.S.A, and in Canada Too!

‘Each and every one of us must be vigilant. We must be ready to call out abuse of power and the mistreatment of others whenever we see it.’

A Commentary by Gary Screaton Page, Welland, Ontario

Posted June 3rd, 2020 on Niagara At Large

Sadly, there is nothing new in what we are now witnessing south of the border here.

In the mid-50s my two eldest brothers, in their late teens at the time, were approaching Chattanooga, Tennessee. As they drew closer, they came upon the roadside, the body of a black man who had been recently lynched: no charges, no trial, no justice, only death without mercy or regard to his humanity.

The late Eugene “Bull” Conner, a notorious racist who, believe it or not, was a ‘Commissioner of Public Safety in the State of Alabama, turned on fire hoses and sicked dogs on African American civil rights activists during the 1960s. These Bull Connor episodes came to mind for some again in recent days when Trump threatened to turn “vicious dogs” on people protesting the murder of George Floyd.

“Lynchings” continue in the United States today!

From when I was just a toddler, on my many trips to New Orleans, I saw the evolution of total segregation—white this and black that—to what looked like complete integration. Not! While there were visible changes on my last visit, most were superficial.

George Floyd dies under the knee of a now fired and charged Minneapolis police officer. Veteran civil rights leader Jesse Jackson called gruesome video of this killing “a lynching in broad daylight.”

Segregation is still a fact if not a visible one. Interestingly, on my last visit to New Orleans, I saw blacks eating at both counters in Maison Blanche’s on Canal Street. However, virtually no whites sat at what was the former black counter. Neither did they drink from what had been the black water fountain. Change was superficial.

Today, we see the remnants of segregation in Canada in the disadvantages under which people of colour labour compared to those of us who are white and, hence, more privileged. I see the vestiges of discrimination in the way some white children tease my bi-racial grandchild.

That is behaviour learned at home! I see it, too, in the greater death rate among non-whites to the ravages of Covid-19 and other evidence of disadvantage as in housing and business financing.

At one of many demonstrations against racism in Canada – this one in Toronto in 2017. It wasn’t all that long ago that we had a federal government in Ottawa – that of Conservative Stephen Harper – throwing out racially tinged tropes like ‘old-stock Canadians” vs. new immigrants, and “barbaric cultural activities” – even pledging to set up a hot line for people to call and report cultural activities they considered to be “barbaric.”

As we look South and see the ravages of racism and listen to the rhetoric of a President who divides rather than heals his country, who serves himself rather than his nation, who advocates violence and not peace, we may become smug north of the 49th.

Beware, the signs are here, too.

Canada is not free of racism either. We, too, have had our share of police abuse of power, even here where ten years of working police have shown me that by far the majority of police officers are true professionals who serve faithfully and courageously their communities.

Each and every one of us must be vigilant. We must be ready to call out abuse of power and the mistreatment of others whenever we see it. We must work to ensure fair opportunity for all regardless of race, colour, creed, or sexual orientation. As Gandhi said, “We must be the change we seek.”

Gary Screaton Page

Gary Screaton Page is a resident of Welland, Niagara who has served as a Chaplain for the Niagara Regional Police Service. In 2018, he received an Ontario Medial of Good Citizeship awarded to individuals for many years of contributing to the well-being of their communities.

This commentary originally appeared on Niagara At Large in response to the following post that you can read by clicking on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2020/05/31/the-horror-in-trumpland-its-my-face-man-i-cant-breathe/

To watch a recent CBC report on a Canadian take on all of this, click on the screen immediately below –

NIAGARA AT LARGE encourages you to join the conversation by sharing your views on this post in the space following the Bernie Sanders quote below.

“A Politician Thinks Of The Next Election. A Leader Thinks Of The Next Generation.” – Bernie Sanders

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