Confronting our own racial bias fosters true multiculturalism

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Canada is multicultural: it’s written into our laws, it’s touted worldwide as our strength, and it’s a way of life Canadians have embraced since it became official policy in 1988. 

It should come naturally to us.

The country was founded on a divided playing field, split between English Canadians, French Canadians, and Indigenous peoples. Since the 1960s, Canadian policies have largely embraced immigration from around the world. 

However, as multicultural as we are, we’re also a country that can’t avoid persistent racism. Acknowledging this is necessary to move forward into a more tolerant future.

Through Jagmeet Singh’s campaign for the federal NDP in this election, everyday Canadian racism has increasingly come to light. In Québec, a voter advised Singh to “cut his turban off [to] look like a Canadian.” Trudeau’s brownface scandal also raised questions about racism. Both Singh and Green Party leader Elizabeth May have called Canada a racist country. 

Many Canadians might rankle at such declarations, and seek to distance themselves from those seeming overtly racist. But accepting that all of us display racial bias in one way or another is the first step toward combatting racism in our country. 

The snap judgements we make before we get to know someone, the opinions or experiences we might assume others hold, and the missteps we might make on our paths to becoming more aware—‘racist parties’ included—run the gambit between mild to glaring examples of racialization. 

However, denying these thoughts occur to us in order to appear politically correct is an unproductive way of handling race in our country. 

Problematic perceptions don’t automatically mean everyone is ‘racist,' despite how some might feel when confronting their racial biases.  

These thoughts reflect the societies we’ve grown up in, which are, as has increasingly been proven through the rising alt-right, still in the process of becoming equal spaces for all.  

Exclusively celebrating Canada as a multicultural paradise can mask the realities of race in this country. This prevents real change. 

Accepting that race-based judgements occur in our own thinking allows Canadians to move toward true equality. Confronting why we feel the way we do can encourage thoughtful discussion, and a more informed perspective on the world around us. 

In light of events of real and violent racism close to home, Queen’s students should confront how racial politics play out on our own campus. 

As a community, we need to stand up for all students in the face of violence, but the first step towards making substantive change is to look inwards. 

Understanding our own perceptions can be the best way to understand others. 

Pamoda is The Journal’s Assistant Arts Editor. She’s a fourth-year Political Studies student.

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