From a divisive and unjust ban, to the terrorist attack on a mosque in Quebec, the last few weeks have been terrifying. I used to think we would be safe in Canada and that racism was more prevalent in America, but I’m not sure of that anymore. Whether it’s here or there, good or bad, where is this all leading?
Just a week ago I was in New York and was yelled at by a complete stranger.
“Go ahead and blow yourself up! I know what’s in your jacket!”
If you know me, you know that I don’t keep quiet about blatant racism, sexism, or homophobic remarks. But here, I was the target and was caught completely off guard. I’d be lying if I said I confronted the man who said this. At that exact moment, I froze. I had no idea what to do or think. I felt helpless and scared. I walked as quickly as I could back to the hotel.
Before this specific trip, I had been to New York about five times. Each trip had been different. The first few with family, and the last three on my own. Over the last few years of visiting, I’ve gotten to connect with some amazing people there. It made me see how beautiful the diversity and culture of New York really is. Each time I left, I couldn’t wait to come back.
I don’t know if I feel that way anymore… and it really fucking sucks. In all honesty, it wasn’t even what was said to me. It was the feeling I got when he said it. To feel like you are nothing but what they think you are. Here I was in this city I held so dearly, now counting down the hours till I boarded a flight back to Canada.
I had always associated a feeling of safety and comfort with Canada; it’s always been the place I call home. I was born in Calgary, lived in Edmonton till I was 21, and have been residing in Vancouver for the last seven years. I won’t lie and say I’ve never experienced racism while in Canada, but I’ve never felt scared or helpless. I always felt like I could hold my own, and not be overly worried.
Once my visit to New York was over, it was time for a week in Toronto. The moment I landed in Canada, I felt like I could breathe again. I was safe and in familiar territory. I didn’t feel judged. I was back home.
But while things were going great in Canada, all hell was breaking lose in America. It was scary to see that a ban was being put in place which would stop people from Muslim majority countries, coming into America. And while a lot of people stated that this was for the protection of the country, it was a big step backwards for humanity.
The week passed by, and I was now on the plane heading back home to Vancouver. I paid for WiFi during the flight to stay updated on the protests, and the ban getting blocked by the ACLU. I was so focused on America, I would’ve never thought I’d stumble across what I saw next.
Six people shot down during evening prayer at a Mosque in Quebec. I was disgusted, saddened, and heartbroken for the hatred and bigotry that spread to a country I used to feel safe in.
I’ve never felt so fuelled before. I’ve never felt so hopeless for where things could go. Even with all the amazing people that have united together and taken a stand for those who are being discriminated against, why has it even come to this? It’s only because of the bad, that there needs to be an outpour of good. Only when humanity is threatened, does it also need to be saved.
But we can be part of saving it.
I know you think that one person can’t make a difference, and you don’t want to get “political” on Facebook, but it’s really not about politics anymore. It’s about being humane. It’s about realizing that when you, yes you, take a stand and don’t keep quiet, it gives others the courage to do the same. That is how one person, becomes a group of people, uniting for positive change in the world. That can be a beautiful thing. So even with this unfortunate reality we face, and I say we because it affects all of us — we can all fight the good fight. Whether that is in a small or large capacity, it doesn’t matter.
What matters is that we can no longer ignore this reality.
So if you’ve been wanting to say something and haven’t, now is the time. If you’ve been wanting to protest in solidarity, get up and do it. Say something, get frustrated, and stand up for humanity. Because no matter the colour of our skin, the gender we identify as, or religion we practice, we’re all human. Let that be what unites us, rather than what divides us.