Eliminating Racism in North America

Saleha J Khan is a human rights and social justice educator with more than 15 years of experience in training with law enforcement and public service sector working with diverse  communities in Ontario and abroad.

As March 21st comes…like it does every year, I wonder what people are doing on that particular day.

This is the day when No Ruz, New Year is celebrated across various cultures; when spring makes an official entrance on calendars and our eyes search for its first signs; and when many organizations acknowledge and celebrate the International Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Why was such a date chosen for such a heavy, weighty recognition? Isn’t this a symbolic date for new beginnings across cultures and regions?

Diverse Group of People In Circle

Why even have this date? We live in North America, in a time of “post-racial” America, when we had a black man as President of a Super Power in the West. We have put up with Black Lives Matter, when truly all lives matter. We have made sure that we have helped and offered our hand and opened our land to persons of colour and those of very different values and cultures, those of ideologies and faiths that we don’t understand and don’t necessarily agree with in the first place.

We have allowed people to come in to our land, to share some of our resources and to accommodate their practices in our communities.

Isn’t this enough already?? What else is expected of us Canadians? After all we also have rights and we need to ensure that our systems, our values, our history remain intact.

The issues of racism is seen as a dated concern; currently, public school students are surrounded by visibly different peers and are bombarded with information, especially via social media, that is replete with diverse appearances, lifestyles and expressions of diversity. Don’t we have enough color and color differences in front of us that we at times feel the need to actually turn blind to this color in front of us.

We are all humans after all…aren’t we? Doesn’t the essence of human rights direct us in the first place towards equality for all?

Then why are you, reading this, reacting in this way?

There are those who are reading this and agreeing with most if not all, and wondering why does this bother others around them?

There are those who are reading this and feeling measures of discomfort at different levels inside and wondering where is this conversation going?

Commentary above is an invitation to dialogue, to explore and to ask questions of ourselves and of our allies and detractors.

That is one of the objectives of recognizing such a date…expand our brains and allow us to engage in some mental gymnastics. After all, that is how we become the kind of Canadian we want to become.