Protests in Red Deer show anti-racist education is needed

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Will our government stand up to white supremacists?

An anti-racism event that took place in Red Deer, Alberta, on September 20 last month was violently crashed by what protestors described as white supremacists. Watching the infiltration of a peaceful, anti-racist protest be radicalized by counter-protestors shows how far we need to go to combat racism in Canada.

The peace walk was organized by the Black and Indigenous Alliance Alberta and Red Deer Against Racism, who planned to represent discriminated groups in Alberta and protest racist attitudes in the province. It ended, however, withthe police separating these parties from counter-protestors, in a head-to-head yelling match where some protestors were attacked. The event, which was intended to promote the importance of equality among all people, resulted in disaster and violent ignorance.  

Watching people react so violently to an event meant to eliminate racism is sickening. Why is it that people are scared or angry at the thought of anti-racist events? I find it difficult to believe that racist individuals do not believe systematic racism exists. In fact, I think their violence is a way of disguising their fear that they will become a part of aminority group themselves. But then, if that is what they’re afraid of, why not advocate against discrimination? “All Lives Matter,” a stance repeated by those like these counter-protestors, is a hypocritical statement all on its own which ignoresracism and intergenerational trauma. If all lives did in fact matter, those who believed such a thing would be concerned for the endangered lives of Black and Indigenous people.

The thing I am most scared of in this world is a group of ignorant people like this, people who cannot accept issues of systematic racism, but accept and enforce white supremacy. They anger me to no end.

That being said, we all have a part to play. I cannot ever understand the effects of systematic racism on the level of a Black or Indigenous person because of my whiteness. For the same reason, I was uneducated about racism when I first began my post-secondary education. Although I did not go out of my way to enforce racist beliefs at the time, I did not go out of my way to prevent them, either. I realize now that it was foolish of me to remain motionless while watching discrimination and violence, like the kind in Red Deer, unfold in front of me. Even though I do not understand everything about systematic racism and racial injustices, I am still willing to learn and speak against it. I have some catching up to do. 

“Education trumps ignorance,” said my coworker Reese Estwick on the matter. In other words, not only do you have to be willing to learn what your faults are, you need to be able to unlearn them and re-educate yourself, so you don’t do harm again. 

In terms of further education on systematic racism, in light of racist attitudes in Canada, I would like to see the government act on funding more education on how to combat racist beliefs. I watched Prime Minister Trudeau walk in a Black Lives Matter peace walk, but how has he made real efforts to change previous policies that are harmful to Black and Indigenous communities? Jagmeet Singh was thrown out of the House of Commons for calling a Bloc MP racist, because that MP would not acknowledge the existing systemic racism in the RCMP. Singh was penalized because he called it out, so what does this say about our government?

I would like to see immediate action on the government’s part to eliminate systematic racism. Rome was not built in a day, and it will take time to impliment these policies. However, I also know the government has immediately reacted in other situations which do not involve racism, and I do not understand why equal rights and laws against discriminationand violence like the kind in Red Deer would not be at the top of their list.

The way the peace walk in Alberta was covered in the mainstream media also disappoints me. Although it is important to outline the details of what occurred during the interference of the event and the violence that occurred, focusing on the counter-protestors instead of the protesters themselves takes the publicity away from the original value of the peace walk. Furthermore, this fuels white supremacists’ egos, as they want to frighten people into parting with their anti-racist beliefs in fear of being harmed. I would like to see a heavier focus on the beliefs and goals of the peace walk demonstrators, for the benefit of Black and Indigenous communities they represent.

People explaining how their racist actions are justifiable infuriates me. Counter-protesters may claim they were offering an “alternate” or “opposite” perspective, but when it comes to white supremacist violence, “That’s not just demonstrating an alternate perspective, that’s just being racist,” Reese Estwick also said.

On Sunday October 4, the Black and Indigenous Alliance Alberta and Red Deer Against Racism in Alberta had a second go at their peace walk; it was deemed successful, and demonstrators could walk the streets without harm. However, a counter-protest still occurred, separated by RCMP.

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